Two Years of Steady Referrals Almost Ruined My Business................................................................................ Why Small Businesses Fail, part one: Procrastination.......................................................................................... Why Small Businesses Fail – part two: Competition............................................................................................ Why Small Businesses Fail, part three: Marketing............................................................................................... Why Small Businesses Fail, part four: Clients...................................................................................................... Why Small Businesses Fail, part five: Employees................................................................................................ Why Small Businesses Fail, part six: Versatility................................................................................................... Why Small Businesses Fail, part seven: Location................................................................................................ Why Small Businesses Fail, part eight: Cash Flow.............................................................................................. Why Small Businesses Fail, part nine: Mindset................................................................................................... Why Small Businesses Fail, part ten: Planning.................................................................................................... Get Your G.A.M.E. On!........................................................................................................................................ Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #1: Document Management........................ Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #2: Email...................................................... Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #3: PC Security............................................ Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #4: Data Storage.......................................... Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #5: Calendar/Task Management.................. Top 5 Tools You’re Probably NOT Using – But SHOULD BE! #1: Messaging............................................... Top 5 Tools You’re Probably NOT Using – But SHOULD BE! #2: Collaboration/Groupware....................... Top 5 Tools You’re Probably NOT Using – But SHOULD BE! #3: Email Campaigning................................ Top 5 Tools You’re Probably NOT Using – But SHOULD BE! #4: CRM....................................................... Top 5 Tools You’re Probably NOT Using – But SHOULD BE! #5: Task Management................................... Resources...............................................................................................................................................................
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Dedication To my hero, my mentor, my confidante, my first and finest example â€“ my mother, Ruth A. Phillips. By awakening my love of learning and reading by the age of 4, she has given me the greatest gift Iâ€™ve ever received: my prodigious, inquisitive, productive mind. If you find anything of value within these pages, you have her to thank.
Acknowledgments Of all the significant people in my life, three groups of people especially contributed to this book becoming a reality. First are friends since high school, that know me well enough to keep me in line: Susan HargettRock, Michael Perlmutter, Jeffrey Fernandez and James W. Fry III Second is my first business coach, Franne McNeal, from whom I get the WII.FM maxim (see the “WHAT” section of the “Clients” chapter), and my peers from Operation Hope: Stephanie Penceal, whose invitation first brought me before the Small Business entrepreneurial community; and Pedro Barry, my friend and colleague who provided me a steady platform to discover and develop the concepts revealed in this volume. Finally, my Blue Tech Initiative consortium partners: Trevaughn Bynum, George Williams, Jr., Alvin Thomas and most especially Elruby Thomas, who first planted the idea to expand my workshops and PowerPoint™ presentations into what would become my Small Business CPR™ curriculum.
Foreword to the Second Edition When I wrote the first edition of this book almost two years ago, I had very simple goals in mind. First, I just wanted to have written a book. Writing a book helps establish your reputation, burnishes your brand and positions you as an expert. So, yeah… all of that. Second, I had been invited to France to participate in a two-day lecture series on Entrepreneurship, sponsored by the US Embassy and the French Ministry of Finance. As a “subject-matter expert”, I felt it would be more impressive if I could announce from the stage that I was a published author, and quote from my book as I spoke on stage (that’s me in the Twitter post below, holding the microphone, in the conference center of the Stade de France in St. Denis). So for those two reasons, I basically rushed the first edition of this book into publication, literally finishing it and uploading it to Amazon.com from a hotel room in France, only a few days before the actual event. Like all things that are hurried along, it wasn’t really ready for prime time: ● It wasn’t fully proofread ● Some chapters were incomplete ● None of the resource links (more on this below) had been verified I had written a book, and could claim to be a published author, but I didn’t put any effort into selling the book because I knew it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Time passed, things happened, and I finally decided to put in the effort to make this the book I knew it could be, and always wanted it to be.
As difficult as writing a book is, re-writing a book is, in may ways, even more challenging. You can be pretty motivated to write the first draft, especially with motivation like I mentioned above, but editing and updating is basically a chore. Nobody is impressed by the fact that you’ve re-written your book - so you’d better have good reasons inspiring you, or you just may never get it done. It took me a while (almost a year and a half) to find my inspiration. In my case, it was simply remembering why I felt I had to write this book in the first place. Starting a business from scratch is extremely hard to do. There’s no way to sugar-coat it: if you don’t have prior knowledge, an experienced partner or an MBA, you’re probably going to fail. Period.
I almost did, and I talk about that in the introductory chapter, “Two Years of Steady Referrals Almost Ruined My Business”. To make a long story short, after two years of what seemed like success, I found out I was doing it wrong, and nearly crashed and burned. It took a lot of discovery to figure out what I didn’t know and needed to know, and after a while I figured that lots of other people were probably going through a similar struggle. So why not take what I had learned and write… well, something like a field guide for Small Business beginners.
Me, with the group of “experts américains”, in the U.S. Embassy in Paris, 20 September 2016
This second edition of “Do Business BETTER!” is that field guide. All of the chapters are complete, and have been (to the best of my ability) proofread for spelling, grammar, clarity and accuracy. But most important (and the reason I’m even writing this foreword) are the resource links. As I explain in introduction, this book was originally a series of blog posts I wrote 6
As I explain in introduction, this book was originally a series of blog posts I wrote between 2009 and 2012. Since blogs are on the Internet, I added value to the articles I write by embedding links in the text. Links that explain concepts you may not be familiar with. Links that expand concepts and ideas by taking you to other websites that explain things in much greater detail, allowing me to keep the original post brief and clear, while still giving you a lot more information that you can explore whenever you choose. Also, since I was writing about business from a practical point a view (a field guide, not an outline), I also added links to software you could download, templates and worksheets, illustrated tutorials and videos that would show you how to use the many tools I had selected and made available for you and Your Small Business success. Giving you a set of tools with no explanation of how to use them effectively would be like… giving you a free plane but no flying lessons. This was all fine when the chapters in this book were posts on a blog site. Even the digital versions of the book could have the links be “clickable”, just as they were on my original website. There were still two major problems, though. The first problem was that the links were all from articles that were four years old or more when I published the first edition of this book. The Internet changes rapidly, and by the time I began editing this second edition I discovered that nearly half of the links were either dead or obsolete. So I had to go through all 311 resource links, one by one, and verify that there was an actual live website at the end of that click, and that it was still relevant. I wound up revising nearly 40% of those 311 links. Some because the original site was no longer there. Others, because too much time had passed and the information was out of date. Still others because my intentions had changed since I wrote the original article. Rather than just providing interesting tidbits, I decided that most of the links should be resources, not just references. Rather than just a static version of Wikipedia, I wanted this book to truly be a field guide, giving you “news you could use”. So each link had to provide real value to somebody trying to launch a Small Business, rescue an existing business from the brink of failure or, as the title states, someone simply trying to “Do Business BETTER!” So every single resource link - all 311 of them - has been verified or updated to make this book, without exception, the most valuable item in Your Small Business success arsenal. I can safely say that if you read this book, and check out all 311 resource links, you will end up with more practical, applicable knowledge and understanding that a newly graduated MBA. Plus, you’ll have a set of actual tools - programs, web-based apps and resources, templates, worksheets, study guides, tutorials, video series - that will surely help you to “Do Business BETTER!” should you apply and use them all. But after doing all this, there was still one glaring problem left - what about the people who buy the book in print? In the PDF or eBook versions, the links a clickable since they’re digital documents on your computer screen. But you can’t click a link on a printed page. And NOBODY is going type 311 links into their browser. Some of these links look like the result of a cat walking across the keyboard - good luck copying that off the page, and typing it in without making a mistake. I knew that the true value of this second edition was in these 311 7
without making a mistake. I knew that the true value of this second edition was in these 311 updated resource links… how would I make them easily available to EVERYONE, even those who chose to buy the physical book? Well, good thing technology is my trade. I went back over all 311 resource links, and created QR codes for every single one of them. QR codes are those funky little boxes that look like a chessboard got run through a food processor. Scan them with an app on your smartphone, and that pattern is translated into the resource link, so you can just tap it on you screen and open the link in your phone’s browser, or copy the link and email it to yourself, in the case of an app or program to run on your desktop or laptop computer. Was that a lot of work? Yes, of course. It took more than a week, and it makes the “Resources” chapter of the printed version look kind of funky. I had to stagger the positioning of the QR codes to make it easier to scan the precise one you wanted. I also left the printed links themselves in place so you could confirm that the QR code you scan with your phone is indeed the one you want. So, let me wrap things up, before I write another book just in this foreword. This second edition that you hold in your hand (or are reading on your screen) is the real deal - the “field guide” for Small Business success. As you read the book, and you see the footnote number near a word or phrase you’d like more information about, please flip to the “Resources” chapter at the back of the book, find that word or phrase with the matching number, and click or scan that link. You’ll find a wealth of valuable information there. Many of the sites the links will lead you to have, themselves, other links. So while I’ve provided you with 311 resources, those resources will put thousands of other resources at your fingertips. All of which will help you avoid failure, find success, and “Do Business BETTER!”
Two Years of Steady Referrals Almost Ruined My Business It was never my idea or ambition to start a business, or become an Entrepreneur. It wasn’t my idea to be a Technology professional either, and that’s what I did from 1993 until I started my consultancy six years ago. Let me explain. I was always pretty smart and, being a Black child raised in the 1970s in a family that prizes education and achievement, I grew up expecting that I would definitely go to college, and then into a credentialed profession like medicine, engineering or into a “good corporate job”. The summer after I graduated high school I met a kid from New Jersey who somehow persuaded me to consider playing the electric bass guitar. After a distracted year and a half of community college, I took the plunge and boarded a train “down the shore” to begin an eightyear stint trying to be a rock star. I made music. I had fun. I made friends. I did not make any money. Eight years later, I was in another community college when I got the call from my cousin that changed my life. Me (calling collect, from a pay phone): “Hey, what’s up?” Him: “Not much… you working?” Me: “I am SOOOO not working. Why?” Him: “Well, I’m working here at Lehman Brothers, and there’s a position open for a UNIX System Administrator.” Me: “Ummm… the only thing I understood about that last sentence was ‘Lehman Brothers’ and ‘job’. I’m an unemployed musician who hasn’t worked in two years. What makes you think I could possibly get that job?” Him: “Look – I see the people they’ve got working up here. None of them are any smarter than you. If they can do it, I’m sure you can. Come on up to the city, and I’ll get you prepared to pass the interviews; I KNOW you can do this.” I thought he was crazy – turns out he was right! Five interviews later I was hired for what would be a three-and-a-half year tenure, and my career as a technology professional began. Since then, I’ve worked as a contractor at FANNIE MAE in Virginia, the check printing company Deluxe in Minnesota, worked full-time for Paine Webber (now UBS) during the Y2K conversion, and was running late for work at a tech startup in Manhattan’s financial district on September 11, 2001. That was the first time catastrophic events altered the course of my professional development. It took a few years for New York – and me – to recover from the effects of the World Trade Center towers’ destruction and the aftermath. By 2006 I started the process of forming an LLC at the advice of friends from high school who were a bit shocked that I hadn’t formed one already. Some of them had done so themselves; most of those that did had some success, but also struggled in ways that I honestly didn’t think I wanted to. 10
I always found the next job. I taught myself IT on a job where the “try before you buy” probation salary was almost twice what I’d ever earned before. Each new position practically doubled the previous salary, and what stopped me from finishing with the LLC was a subcontracting gig that turned into my six-figure salary as IT Manager for Gwathmey Siegel and Associates, Architect. GSAA’s client roster included Steven Spielberg, Jerry Seinfeld, The United Nations, Yale University and the W Hotel chain. I used to joke that “my employers are millionaires, whose clients are BILLIONAIRES, so the only way I’ll ever get laid off is if the entire economy crashes”. That was funny in 2006; that was history in 2009. After letting 12 architects go, they finally laid me off and, for the second time in my professional life, catastrophic events drastically affected my plans. I was confident I could still “find the next job”. I had nearly twenty years of experience and an impressive resume… I’d have to take a pay cut for sure, but I’d get by. Or so I thought. The first job offer that came in asking me to do four job titles worth of work for 80% of my IT Manager salary I dismissed without consideration. By the fourth such offer, I realized that the market had shifted beyond anything I’d ever seen before. It seemed like a good time to finalize the LLC, and go independent. At this point I’d like to tell you that I faced the hard times, struggles and discouragement my friends had before me, found strength in adversity, and learned “all them valuable lesson” I’m passing on to you all right about now. That’s not what happened, though. While in the last month of my IT Manger position at GSAA, I was still dabbling in music, playing bass in a band founded by a lawyer friend I met back in the early days when we both worked at Lehman Brothers. A passing conversation with a guitarist who occasionally sat in with us on lead guitar gave me a phone number which resulted in my first lead, and my first customer. That customer provided a few years of steady work, and referrals which resulted in business as well, some of which yielded OTHER referrals. “Shangri LA!” I figured. This was as it should be; all I had to do was keep answering the phone, taking the jobs, doing the work and making the money. I was doing nearly as well as I would’ve be doing had I found “the next job”. Then… the phone stopped ringing. For more than two years I’d had a steady stream of work and, though I picked up the occasional “one-off” customer by networking, attending conventions and meet-ups and the like, after the first year I kept so busy that I’d let those activities fall by the wayside. Suddenly, two things became immediately obvious: 1. I didn’t know how to MAKE the phone ring 2. I didn’t know what I was actually SELLING 11
I considered the previous two years and realized that although I’d been doing a lot of work, I hadn’t been doing BUSINESS. I was accepting incoming work requests, but I wasn’t going out and getting customers. I didn’t know how to do that. When people asked me “What do you do”, I didn’t have much of an answer. I knew what I could do, and what I had done… but I couldn’t describe it in a way that would make people want to BUY it. The year that followed I was as broke as I’d been back in my itinerant musician days. After absorbing the shock of what I had learned, I knew I had a lot of blank spaces to fill in. I was beginning what I call my “Entrepreneurial Journey”. It’s the path that I and everyone who intentionally – or reluctantly – decides to take the plunge and start a business finds themselves stumbling upon. Like most other “accidental entrepreneurs”, I started out thinking that since I was good at doing something, I’d be good at a business of doing that thing. For two years, my experience seemed to prove me right. What I learned in that third year is that there is no such thing as “a business of doing something well”. Nobody pays you for how well you do it. People pay you to do something FOR THEM. You give them something they want and/or need, and they give you money in exchange. It really is that simple, although I know there are some of you reading this who think I just told you that what you DO is not important. To be clear, that’s not what I’m saying. In order to create the business that I clearly hadn’t built, I set about looking at what business really was, and trying to figure out what the fundamentals – the basic components – of business were. Was it possible to… generalize a short list of “things to know” or “things to do” that could get me started? I had plenty of time, and Internet access; my Entrepreneurial Journey was now about finding… a method. I got back into networking and attending Small Business events, and was introduced to Harlem Business Alliance and the fact that they paid for professional presentations that benefited their members. I took what I was learning about business fundamentals, combined it with a lot of tips about how tech provides a competitive edge, and did a series of two-day presentations. They were not only popular, but it seemed that I knew what I was talking about. So much so that, after each presentations, I would be asked if I had a book, and upcoming workshop, a webinar… you know: Product. By now you might have noticed that a lot of the milestone events in my Entrepreneurial Journey come about by the choices and suggestions of outside parties. At one of the HBA presentations I met my future business consortium partner Elruby Thomas. At a retreat in the Berkshires in 2012, we formalized our joint partnership consortium, Blue Tech Initiative (BTI) with our partner George Williams, Jr. During this retreat, Elruby observed that my presentations were not just a series of one-off 12
During this retreat, Elruby observed that my presentations were not just a series of one-off PowerPoints, but the structure of a curriculum, perhaps? Like my IT career and playing the bass before that, I now found myself creating a Small Business development curriculum. In addition to being the founder of Gotcha Techs Harlem, Elruby is a graduate of Operation Hope’s Entrepreneurial Training Program. In 2012 she was invited to be a guest speaker at the first session of the Fall cohort in Harlem, and asked George and me to join her. Our presentation was more successful than my HBA slideshows were; we were asked to permanently present for sessions of each ETP. Elruby’s and George’s Entrepreneurial Journeys took them away from speaking and presenting, but I had found my stride. The germ of the curriculum idea blossomed into Small Business CPR, which explores the most basic fundamentals of business success. To operate effectively and, we hope, successfully as well, a Small Business must have: ● CONSISTENCY of Product Quality ● PREDICTABILITY of Product Delivery ● REPLICATION of Product Consistency Like any system, this is a somewhat arbitrary list, although I promise you that I discovered those fundamentals and grouped them without realizing they spell “CPR”. It’s fitting that it spells out a life-saving technique, but it was not intentional. CPR is cool, but that’s the highest-level understanding of the thing. Strategy, but not tactics. I’ve developed CPR and its many underlying principles over four years of presenting for the initial session of Operation Hope’s ETP in Harlem, and launching the Brooklyn and Bronx cohorts with my good friend and the New York Small Business Coach, Pedro Barry. During this tenure some of the thoughts and concepts began to come together, forming the germ of the Small Business CPR concept. Like any good educator, I developed a graphic which introduced the core concepts underlying the entire curriculum, which I call “The Pyramid of Business FundamentalsTM”:
I use this graphic in the same way Robert Kiyosaki uses his “Cash Flow Quadrant” to speak to the fundamental principles of his “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” concept. I usually white board this, and introduce each fundamental from the top down during the initial session of the Operation Hope ETP. During these sessions I learned that most “accidental entrepreneurs” are eager for actionable understanding – they don’t just want you to tell them WHAT, but to show them HOW. So although I’d shared CPR and the Pyramid with over a hundred people at various stages of their Entrepreneurial Journey (mostly beginners, though), I wanted to give them something they could use… give them a way to get things done, and not just understand them. In this book, I explore operating a business in a way that I hope helps you understand and appreciate the challenges, and find a way to manage these challenges and operate your business more effectively and more profitably. To cover all the principles and concepts contained within the CPR curriculum would be nearly a thousand pages long and read like a textbook – so I chose to “Keep IT Short and Simple”, and reverse-engineer the typical business development approach.
Doing WORK, or Doing BUSINESS? Any time somebody pays you to do something, that’s work. We may use the term “doing business” in these cases, but there’s a difference between a paid gig and a business venture. There are five fundamental things you MUST be doing to be considered “doing business”: 1. DEVELOPING a Product 2. COMMUNICATING a Value 3. CREATING a Market 4. ENGAGING a Customer 5. MAKING a Sale Product doesn’t just apply to hard goods, or retail and wholesale ventures. Services are Product too. You don’t pay your dentist because they went to a good school. You pay for someone to put in a crown for $300. Trades like medicine, architecture, construction, etc. are accustomed to “productizing” their services; the newbie Small Business owner does not think this way. Why should we? Most of us have been employees up until now. I always knew how to get the next job, but I had no idea how to get the next customer. I had to figure it out though, and quickly. The approach I took was the result of my experience as an System Administrator for nearly a quarter century How Does it BREAK? Managing IT is all about what you actually know. I learned early not to be afraid to say “I don’t know”. In order to know how a piece of equipment truly works we need to know its limits, not just how it’s expected to work. If we can, we “torture test” equipment to see what happens when it’s pushed way beyond its intended limits. This is called “testing to failure”. I’d like to tell you that this is why I chose to write a book on Small Business failure… except that’s not what happened. I started a blog around 2009 and in my search for things to write about, I found Connie Holt’s “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” article from a few years before. She presented these reasons as a bulleted list: I decided to expand each reason into an article of its own. This made it easy to pick a topic when I decided to write my first book last year. I’d simply compile the ten articles I wrote, add two five-part series I wrote as a bonus, and have a book. Except that’s not what happened. The articles are a fine introduction to each “component of failure”, but they didn’t offer anything actionable. What are you supposed to do about these things? How? Because Small Business owners and operators are BUSY, and don’t have the time to “figure it out”. They look to experts, or at least to people more up on the subject than they are, to show them the way. 15
So what I’ve done with each of the original “Ten Reasons Why…” articles is followed them up with three new sections: ● The WHY: this section looks into why this is a component of failure, and why it might affect your business ● The WHAT: knowing why is not enough. What are you supposed to do about it. This section explores strategic viewpoints, to make the “WHY” section relevant to you and your Entrepreneurial Journey ● The HOW: This section provides tips and tactics for applying the strategic approach of the “WHAT” section… or one of your own I didn’t intend for the individual components of failure to be linked or interrelated, but as I was writing the sections for each component I saw the connections and relationships, which makes it all richer and more valuable content than simply republishing ten blog posts. Even that was not enough, though, so I’ve added a few bonuses, to make sure the book is something you can USE, and not just understand. BONUS ONE: The G.A.M.E. Plan I want this book to be of practical utility: a workbook, not a textbook. So I’ve included content I normally present as a workshop - the G.A.M.E. Plan approach to getting things done, both in business and life in general. This is an advanced workshop concept, usually comes after several basic workshops. The content of those workshops is mostly in the ten failure component articles and their follow-up sections, so you’ll be well prepared by the time you get here. While what I present here is more than just an outline, it’s not quite the full workshop content. However, combined with the content of the preceding chapters, you should have the tools to create an effective way of doing business, and not just getting paid to do work. BONUS TWO: The “Five Tools” series While I was blogging, I also wrote two tech-focused series, reviewing tools I felt were either pretty much standards that might be underutilized, or tools that were more advanced - “power user” tools that I felt Small Businesses had better get busy with. These series were written a few years ago, so some things have surely changed, but the tools and advice are still sound. I’ve edited a few because thing HAVE changed considerably in case of those particular tools, and they needed the upgrade. Do Better Business This book is an example of the old saying “the teacher teaches what the teacher needs to know”. This is the book I wish I had read when I first started, even with those two years of steady referrals. I would have managed my cash flow better. I would have sought referrals, actively 16
referrals. I would have managed my cash flow better. I would have sought referrals, actively encouraged them. I would have figured out how to turn my services into Product much sooner. Most important, I would have gotten to work learning how to Do Business, and Do Business BETTER!
Why Small Businesses Fail, part one: Procrastination You’re only as good as your word. Missing deadlines, arriving late for meetings, forgetting to follow up or follow through – these are all symptoms of procrastination1, and all key factors of Small Business failure. As a Small Business owner2, operator or employee, you cannot afford to slide down procrastination’s slippery slope3. Since word of mouth4 is the most effective low cost marketing strategy5 (and a rich source of revenue and referrals), you must be perceived as someone who:
● Keeps their word ● Honors their commitments ● Values their customers’ and clients’ time You may be familiar with the expression “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail“. Here is its procrastination-related corrolary: “If you fail to show, you show to fail”. Free yourself of the voice in your head, which is telling you some variation of the following: “I work for myself, therefore – ● Noone is the boss of me” ● I set my own schedule” ● My time is my own” ● Why must they nag me – I’ll get it done (eventually)” The phrase “it’s only time” is a complete falsehood: time, to a great extent, is all there is. As an independent entrepreneur, or as an employee, you either bill for time directly, or the time required to perform your task (or make your goods) is a major factor in your compensation. Time is, in many ways, your most valuable asset. Timeliness is also an aspect of quality, which is a perception in the client’s or customer’s (or employer’s) mind, NOT an objective quality of the work performed or goods created. As a computer service professional, a hard-won lesson is that the job isn’t done until the client perceives it as done. I could have fixed it weeks ago, but if I wait for weeks to tell the client, only at that moment is it done as far as they’re concerned.
And let’s face it — the person paying for the job, not the one performing it, is the one who must be satisfied. Don’t take too long to understand that, if you want to stay in business… Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. firstname.lastname@example.org The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper © 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com
Related articles ● You’re the Boss: Top 10 Reasons Small Businesses Fail6 (boss.blogs.nytimes.com) ● 15 Ways to Grow Your Business Fast7 (www.entrepreneur.com) ● The Role of Strategic Thinking in Business Planning8 (bia.ca) ● A Simple 6-Step Process to Starting a Small Business9 (www.entrepreneur.com)
The WHY - What makes me waste time? “Fear of Getting **it Done” ♦ Rocket Brain Science We get high from discussing our plans, and involving others in those discussions. That rush comes from a brain chemical called dopamine. Our IDEAS, especially when we discuss them, are perfect -- transforming them from intentions into actions, and producing results is the complete opposite. It's ugly, difficult and lonely. We have to spend a lot of time alone, isolated from family and friends almost by design. The same people who eagerly chatted with us about our plans quickly grow weary when we go on and on about the millions of minor details it takes to make those plans reality. We interpret this as failure, and experience the opposite of a dopamine rush -- our brains are, in fact, drained of dopamine when failure occurs. This causes us to become addicted to the thrill of talking about our plans and ideas, but avoiding any actual WORK on them, since the false starts and dead ends associated with any real effort leave us drained and depressed instead of excited. ♦ GOOOOOAL! ● DON'T focus on your feelings - focus on your GOALS ● STOP thinking about how much work, how many steps or how much time the effort will take. START thinking about the RESULT of your hard work and diligent pursuit of your GOALS ● DO break up lengthy or complicated tasks into smaller sub-tasks that are easier to do and get done. ● MAKE A RITUAL of rewarding yourself for the "little victories" of completing your sub-tasks. In other words, reprogram your own dopamine cycle. ● REMEMBER: GOALS without ACTION are FANTASIES! ♦ Time IS Money The TAKEAWAY: treat time as if it were a resource more valuable than a six-figure line-ofcredit... because it IS! Reference: Procrastination and Dopamine Receptor Density10
The WHAT - Time, the Immutable Business Asset “The ULTIMATE Equal Opportunity” ♦ Make Your Time Count – and ADD UP If you ever attended one of my Small Business workshops, you'd know that I refer to Time as the "Immutable Business Asset" because, unlike most other assets like cash on hand or access to capital, natural ability or skills based on training and/or experience, Time is distributed to all of us EXACTLY THE SAME, regardless of who we are, what we do, whether we're just getting started or if we're seasoned pros. It's important for me to make this point, and important for you, the reader, to understand this because while we've all heard the term "sweat equity", we don't really spend much time investing that equity wisely, or examining our current rate of return on the time we have, the time we spend and the time we invest. ♦ The Clock is a Level Playing Field ● Everyone has the SAME AMOUNT OF TIME ● Everyone consumes time at the EXACT SAME RATE We don't waste time so much as SQUANDER it. The value of "SWEAT EQUITY", therefore, isn’t how many hours we put in, but HOW we put in the many hours. We should manage Time like MONEY: ● Use a TOOL ● Be INTENTIONAL ● Just as there is no "free" money, you have no "FREE" time. It's either spent or invested Demand a RECEIPT - don't let any of your Time go unaccounted.
The HOW - From To-Do to Task “To dos are a wish list: Tasks are ASSIGNMENTS” ♦ Forget about Remembering To avoid failure, we start with our most abundant asset: our TIME. We must INVEST it. I’ve found that using some kind of system helps create new habits. Habits are really nothing more than conditioned behavior – self-programming, if you like. Toward this end, I’ve developed the S.W.O.R.D. approach to time management. This is a concept I usually cover in a one-day workshop, but I’ll share the basic overview with you here: ● SCHEDULE the task ● WRITE it down ● OBSERVE the Schedule ● REMIND yourself ● DO the task ♦ If it's not on the list, it doesn't exist We must intentionally, responsibly USE Time. Every minute of our productive hours should be scheduled and accounted for as if we are lending people Money. In truth, we're doing something much more valuable: with our Time, we're trading the commodity so precious, it is what MAKES our Money for us. ● Use an Electronic Calendar ○ Pick it yourself: Google Calendar (our recommendation), Microsoft Outlook -heck, the calendar built-into your iPhone. CHOOSE one, and use it consistently. DO NOT depend on your memory - memory is never as good as we think it is, and we've got better things to do with it than memorizing dates, times and places ● Confirm ALL appointments, meetings, assignments, et al with the person who assigned you the task, and/or those you will be meeting/working with ○ "Let's get together sometime next week" is NOT a scheduled meeting -- it's just an intention. SCHEDULING a task, a meeting or an appointment is actually a formal process: we use the acronym R.E.A.C.T. to recall the steps in the process: ■ REVIEW the proposed schedule ■ EXCHANGE available dates, times and locations ■ ACCEPT the schedule that works for all parties ■ CONFIRM the acceptance verbally ■ TRANSCRIBE the schedule in your calendar ● USE CALENDAR INVITES. For everyone to be on the same page, there has to be 22
● USE CALENDAR INVITES. For everyone to be on the same page, there has to be only ONE PAGE ♦ Time is an Asset – Tasks are its currency Nobody keeps an effective budget by dumping all their money in an unsorted pile. Sadly, this is how many of us treat our time, keeping track of our tasks (if at all) freeform in various pen-andpaper notebooks or, even worse, on a scattered assortment of sticky notes. Your business is what you do, and the time it takes you to do it. Treat that time, and those tasks, as if they were your most valuable possessions. They ARE! They’re the very reason you get paid; not your knowledge, experience, expertise, talent, skill or sales ability. Those are the reasons you get hired - what you DO is why you collect your fee. You don’t have to use formal task or project management software: that sort of thing is often full of unnecessary features, and you end up wasting more time trying to figure out how to work it than saving any time at all working with it. You must, however, use some sort of system, for many reasons. ● Avoid repeating yourself. If you don’t write things down, you’ll end up forgetting the workflow and solutions you’ve already created, and constantly “reset to zero”, starting from scratch and reinventing the wheel that’s already rolling steadily down the road. ● Stop wasting time - find the one right way to do it, then do it that way. Part of “doing business”, and not just “doing work” is acquiring the expertise that comes with experience. Your plumber, mechanic, electrician or contractor doesn’t simply know more about their field than you do - they’ve got years of experience that give them the “seen it/done it” toolkit of “I see what the problem is” solutions. After a few years, you should have a catalog of such solutions yourself, regardless of your trade or profession. Recording your tasks as you go is how you build up your own unique playbook. And that readily available knowledge is why you’ll be able to charge more for your services, while actually taking less time to provide the services you’ll be paid to deliver. ● Keep track of what you’ve done. For accounting purposes - come tax time, you won’t remember what you’ve done or purchased that’s deductible. For training purposes - how can you onboard emplyee #1 if you can barely explain what you’ve done, what you do or how you do it? ● Verify that you have, indeed, been doing business. Do you want to take on partners? Raise funding from outside investors? How will you justify their investment of time and/or money, if all you have to show for years of effort is a collection of paid invoices and a box of sticky notes? Both partners and investors will want to see that there’s a real business there, and not just an independent hustler soliciting the next job. ● Boost that dopamine level. As we explained in the “WHY” section above, our dopamine level either compels us to procrastinate, or inspires us to avoid doing so. Hard work and tough tasks deplete our dopamine level; reflecting on the work we’ve successfully complete, and reviewing our progress from initial concept to project completion actually boosts our dopamine level, and is a solid reason for having an organized record of the work we’ve done. We can make a regular exercise of looking 23
organized record of the work weâ€™ve done. We can make a regular exercise of looking back, going over our collection of small victories and realizing that we arenâ€™t just spinning our gears, or shaving our nose to a nub pressing it firmly against the grindstone.
Why Small Businesses Fail – part two: Competition Are you the best at what you do? Among the best? Anywhere close to the best? Wherever you rank in comparison to your competition, are your existing or potential customers11 or clients aware of how you compare? As importantly, how accurate an assessment do you have of where you rank amongst your competitors12? Remember: our ideas are like our children – we love them because they are our own. But as any honest parent will tell you, sometimes we must face some brutal truths about ourselves. Before you can match or exceed the competition, you have to understand who the competition is. How many competitors do you have? This is not an abstract question about hypothetical competitors “out there, somewhere” in your chosen field: this is about who your potential clients might consider13 in addition to, or instead of, you? More importantly, it’s about who your existing customer or client might consider doing business14 with instead of you. To remain competitive, you have to assess the competition: the “business school” term for this is “competitor (or competitive) analysis15”. Who else is doing what you’re doing? How saturated is your market? Even if you don’t operate from a physical (brick and mortar16) office location, most of your customers/clients are probably local. Examining the competition is also helpful in determining whether your pricing is too high or low for your market, and is a good source of ideas for new goods or services to offer. You have probably heard the phrase “there’s no loyalty in business anymore17“. This is usually said in reference to employer loyalty – gone are the days that “no one gets laid off at IBM”, and such. There’s no such thing as a guaranteed steady job, regardless of trade. There’s also no such thing as automatic customer loyalty18. Just because they’ve “always done business with you19” doesn’t mean that they’ll be back tomorrow, to replace the product or renew the contract. Business, especially in today’s economy, is about relationships. Just as apathy and ignorance about other potential suitors can lose your sweetheart’s affection, inattention and unawareness of competitors can lose business. Make no assumptions, and court your clients20, existing and potential, as if you were a newlywed on honeymoon. 26
In many ways, the stakes are even higher… Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. email@example.com The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper © 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com
Related articles ● Keep stroking clients, or they’ll flee21 (theglobeandmail.com) ● 3 Keys to Competing22 (blogs.forbes.com) ● 10 Essential Features of Every Good Business Website23 (mashable.com) ● Startups: Dealing With Competition [TNW Entrepreneur]24 (thenextweb.com) ● Why Is Change Important in an Organization?25 (smallbusiness.chron.com)
The WHY - There are other fish in this pond “Competitors are NOT Enemies: they are PARTICIPANTS in the Sport of Entrepreneurship” ♦ Game ON! If you're like most of us, this is your first voyage into Entrepreneurship. You've probably had jobs before, perhaps even a good career, until something happened that either caused you - or forced you - to strike out on your own. So you have the skills and abilities you developed during your career, but no real experience at RUNNING A BUSINESS. Why, then, do so many "Small Business Development" courses, workshops and programs treat you as if you just graduated Wharton or Harvard Business school with an MBA, top of your class? You know how to be an employee, and do a job; you don't how to find customers, develop products and pricing, or sell the skills of people like you who do the work. But you know who does know how to do these things? All the people who've been doing the BUSINESS you've recently chosen to undertake. While you may have just jumped into this pond, there are plenty of fish who have been swimming around in here for a while, some of whom are doing quite well. What are the rules of the game? For that matter, what is the GAME being played? At the start of your Entrepreneurial Journey, we have many ideas and assumptions, but little practical experience. Many of the fish swimming in this pond have the experience and field-tested methods we lack. They also have scars from mistakes we don't have to make. Why not study them? They may be bigger than you, but most of them are not sharks, and while they might compete for the same meals as you, YOU are not the meal they're after. Instead of ignoring them or avoiding them, swim up close and follow them for a while. You'll either discover the "best practices" of you industry, or learn many "don't let this happen to you" lessons from a safe, second-hand distance. Either way, you're bound to learn many valuable lessons - including which way the current is flowing, and how to avoid getting caught up in the undertow.
The WHAT - Study the game you're playing “To Bend - or Break - the Rules, first You must LEARN them” ♦ Watch and Learn There's so much hype in the world of Small Business development. If you've been at this for any length of time, you've heard people tell you to be a game changer - an innovator or a "rule breaker" - as if everybody is the next Steve Jobs, Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg. What they don't tell you is that most of the mavericks and rule breakers are the bones floating past you as you work to keep up with all the other fish still actively swimming along in your new pond. The truth is that most of the "rules of the game" exist because they are what WORKS. MOST game-changers and rule-breakers end up failing because they believe that can invent a whole new game, or because they aren't familiar enough with the game being played to understand what the rules are, or why they exist. At the beginning of our Entrepreneurial Journey, we must balance our enthusiasm with humility. MOST businesses will never break any records, or lead their industry. What they WILL do is predictably earn a profit, and justify the effort and energy the owners and operators invest. In any pond there are only one or two "big fish" - and even those fish usually play by the rules. ♦ Slow and Steady Playing by the rules is not simply "going with the flow", or blindly following a course of action simply because "that's how we've always done it". Playing by the rules is about navigating the currents, weathering more than a few storms and passing by the remains of those who thought the rules didn't apply to them. The economic crash of 2008 is a perfect example of entire industries (real estate, investment banking) defying the VERY RULES set in place to avoid the disaster they ended up creating. There IS a point at which taking risks and moving in a different direction than the other fish can yield successful results, but that's usually NOT at the very beginning of our Entrepreneurial Journey. When we just enter the pond, we don't have any idea how deep it is, how far it is to the other shore or what dangers lurk beneath the surface. That's NOT the time for taking risks: that's the time for charting the waters and proceeding with caution. ♦ Safety in Numbers What is the extent of our market? What product mix will gain traction - and what products will gather dust on our shelves, however appealing they might seem? We can't lead the hunt, or 29
will gather dust on our shelves, however appealing they might seem? We can't lead the hunt, or break off to find new hunting grounds until we're familiar with the waters we're swimming in. Strike out too far too soon, and you could find your Small Business among the bones floating past the new fish, serving as a cautionary tale instead of an example of success. Copy the examples of the big fish leading the pack. They are, after all, the Big Fish because they've been doing it for a while, and clearly have been doing things right. Attend networking events and join chambers of commerce, especially where industry leaders speak and offer the benefit of the "scars and stars" they've gather in their journey. Feel free to crib from your more successful competitors' playbook - don't flat out imitate, of course, and do not steal intellectual property or trademarked material. That said, imitation is not only the sincerest form of flattery, it's a proven method of fasttracking success. Why re-invent the wheel when you can simply find new uses for the wheel that was perfected long before you arrived on the scene? You're not swimming in a race AGAINST the other fish. You're swimming in the same waters they are, for the same reasons: to survive and thrive. REMEMBER: there is strength in numbers, and wisdom in crowds...
The HOW - Watch, Look, Listen, Learn “Little fish don't lead the hunt - they follow the BIG FISH to the Feast” ♦ It's called "school of fish" for a reason - study well ● WHO are the Biggest Fish in your pond? ● HOW do the other fish deal with them? ● HOW do THEY deal with the other fish? ● WHAT are the other fish doing that works? That DOESN'T work? ● WHAT DID the other fish do in the past? WHY did they stop? Did it NOT work, or did it STOP working? ● HOW do CUSTOMERS deal with the Biggest Fish? With the other fish? ● WHAT is the "Word on the Street"? ● WHAT are the biggest complaints about the Biggest Fish? Even (especially) about the most successful ones? ♦ Swim where the current leads you These may not be the typical questions in a “Small Business 101” workshop, but they are the questions that will help you learn as you swim with the Big Fish. It's not enough to simply head in the same direction - you must NAVIGATE the waters you find yourself swimming in, or you are just wandering aimlessly. That might lead you to an occasional meal, but it will not yield consistent profit or guaranteed success. In sports, you become a champion by training hard, mastering the fundamentals and mimicking the greats. Why should business be any different? Learn all you can from the performance of the other fish in your pond, Big and small, success and failure. We can break the loop of "trial and error" by adding "Discovery and Progress" to the end of that cycle. ♦ Do Your Due Diligence ● Google - create alerts for news on the Big Fish and other major competitors ● Yelp - how are the Big Fish rated? What do their customer say, positive and negative ● LinkedIn - how big a professional footprint do the Big Fish have? Do they have any groups? A page for their business? Do they post often? Ask/answer questions? ● Facebook - check out their Page and any groups they have created or participate in. How many "Likes" do they have? Do their posts get many comments? Do the Big Fish talk/respond to their community, or lurk mostly? ● Twitter - how often do they tweet? How many followers do they have? How often are 31
● Twitter - how often do they tweet? How many followers do they have? How often are they re-tweeted? Who do the Big Fish follow/re-tweet? ● YouTube - do they have a channel? What kind of videos do they post? How popular is their channel? How many subscribers do they have? ● Wayback Machine - check out older version of the Big Fish's websites. How often did they change? How much did it change?
Why Small Businesses Fail, part three: Marketing A handful of business cards and a no-frills website are no longer a sufficient Small Business marketing strategy26. The word “marketing” typically brings to mind expensive media campaigns, billboards and the services of highly-paid advertising27 firms. Clearly many Small Businesses have neither the time nor the resources (money, personnel, expertise) to take this approach to marketing, but that doesn’t let them off the hook. Many Small Business28 owners and operators either have prepared a business plan, or know that they should. But many are completely unaware of the need to prepare a marketing plan. New clients won’t find you just because you want their business, and even existing customers and clients would benefit from an understanding of your full range of goods or services, and a constant reminder that they are available. Small Business entrepreneurs and “solopreneurs” are quite busy, especially in today’s economy. It’s easy to consider a marketing strategy a “nice-to-have”, rather than a “need-tohave” element of doing business. But consider this: why do well-known, successful corporations spend millions of dollars each year on marketing? Even though we are already familiar with the coffee shops, fast food restaurants and supermarkets we do business with, they still expend a lot of energy reminding us of their brands, their offerings and the overall “feel” of their products and establishments. Marketing is not advertising, although advertising is a component. Advertising is about what goods or services you offer, price and availability. According to Wikipedia, “Marketing is used to identify the customer29, to satisfy the customer , and to keep the customer.” While Small Businesses may not have the budgets of large corporations, they have a greater need to focus on acquiring new customers, and retaining existing ones. McDonald’s or Walmart can survive a considerable decrease in clientele30 (not that they would enjoy it). For a Small Business, losing even a few clients can spell disaster. Since they don’t enjoy the regional or national visibility of major firms, they cannot depend on product or brand recognition that brings in customers at random. Look to as many free or low-cost resources as possible to promote your business and market your offerings. Social media, such as twitter, Facebook31, LinkedIn32 and such are not just for kids: they can provide a range of exposure once available only via television or radio advertisements. Low34
provide a range of exposure once available only via television or radio advertisements. Lowcost “real world” techniques, such as focused flyer distribution, bulletin boards and welldesigned business cards are not to be overlooked. Email marketing sites such as ConstantContact33 and MailChimp34 are a hidden treasure: MailChimp allows you to create mailing lists of up to 2,000 addresses, and send up to 6,000 messages each month. With templates, autoresponders (no longer free) and video tutorials available, it’s a secret weapon I recommend as an indispensable Small Business marketing resource. You still need a strategy, which requires more detail than can be provided in a blog post. These tips, however, can help point you in the right direction: ● Determine the focus of your offering ● Identify the value proposition to the customer ● Maintain a consistent message ● Develop a memorable catchphrase or tagline Remember: marketing is about the impression you make in the mind of the existing or potential client or customer. Business is about relationships – marketing starts the conversation. Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. firstname.lastname@example.org The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper © 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com
Related articles ● Survival Tips for Solopreneurs35 (inc.com) ● Don’t Look Now, But Small Business Is On The Brink Of Something Big36 (businessinsider.com) ● Small businesses cautiously optimistic37 (blogs.constantcontact.com) ● Allocating Resources to Help Small Business Grow38 (blogs.constantcontact.com)
The WHY - You Sell to Those You Serve “People buy what They WANT - NOT what You Sell” ♦ It IS All About Me Marketing is not, primarily, about selling. Marketing answers the question "What's in it for Me?" (see the “WHAT” section of the “Clients” chapter). Marketing spreads awareness and understanding of your brand and brand values, and informs the public how your brand satisfies their wants and needs, and speaks to their values. ♦ Make Your Mark(et) Marketing is not ADVERTISING. It isn't about your PRODUCT, or Your COMPANY. It's about the VALUE you offer to your MARKET. It is the initial exchange in the ongoing conversation that SALES is. Marketing is not the style; it's the substance. Logos, typefaces, color schemes, snappy sales copy and eye-catching multimedia content are merely elements of an effective marketing campaign - they are the bricks, not the building. An effective marketing campaign tells your brand story (see the “WHY” section of the “Location” chapter), then provides evidence that your business lives up to your brand story. ♦ Start the Conversation Marketing is not PROMOTION. You promote your business to those who have already bought from you. Marketing is the valuebased conversation that LEADS to the "buy" choice (see the “BTI Pyramid of Business Fundamentals – 21st Century Sales Conversation” graphic in the Introduction). Promotion is reminiscing after the fact, to ensure that your brand remains "top of mind". MARKETING must engage the prospective buyer in the initial conversation, speaking to their interests and values. It must be as if we read their minds and wrote the perfect script to engage them.
The WHAT - Self-fulfilling Profit, See? “Don't ask ‘How much can I make?’ - ask ‘How many can I SERVE??’” ♦ Who Do You SERVE? "Market" defines both the people you seek to serve and the messages you use to connect with them. Your "marketing" doesn't just speak to your audience of potential customers - it creates it. Profit is the result of selling value at a price that is affordable to the buyer, and leaves YOU money after you’ve covered ALL Your costs. Trying to “be profitable” is doing it backwards. Focusing on money will never work – it’s what I refer to as attempting to “pick people’s pockets”. Think like a buyer instead of like a seller, and consider the following when preparing your marketing strategy: ● WHO wants what you’re offering? ● WHY do they want it? How badly? ● Can they get what you offer somewhere else? From someone else? ● Have they ever bought what you offer before? ● WHY should they buy it from YOU? You should answer ALL of these questions. Creatively of course – answer them in your “brand conversation”. That’s what Marketing is: a conversation based on value. Though you may use the same media (audio, video, printed flyers, etc), Marketing is not about selling your product. In fact, Marketing is not about your product. Marketing is about You beginning the value-based conversation between you and Your potential buyers. Effective Marketing speaks in terms of the BUYER’S values – their “desires and requirements”. Always remember: Marketing starts the conversation, NOT the sales pitch.
The HOW - Create the Crowd You Cater To “You have no market 'waiting for you' - You have a market waiting for you to CREATE it” ♦ Nothing grows until you plant it A basic misunderstanding about Marketing is that your buyer community – your MARKET – is “Out There, Somewhere”, and all you have to do is find the right combination of magic phrases and captivating images to open their eyes, capture their attention and win their business. Wrong, wrong, WRONG! A profitable market is not something you discover, or stumble upon by luck: you create your market yourself. Effective marketing is not a request to surrender cash but an invitation to receive value. It's about the value you provide and the needs and desires you fulfill on behalf of the market you seek to serve. ♦ Time to Market NOBODY ever wakes up eager to give you their hard earned money. No one cares about you, your business or you need for cash, fame or a sense of fulfillment. I don’t write this to offend you or discourage you – my aim is to manage your expectations, and set a realistic view I wish I’D had when I first went independent.
While it’s true that none of your potential or existing customers are losing much sleep worrying about YOUR worries or concerns, EVERYBODY has wants & needs, and Effective Marketing seeks to satisfy these – IN THAT ORDER. Your Marketing – Your Brand Story – must speak to these wants and needs so that your customers and clients recognize not that THEY are YOUR Market, but that YOU are the fulfillment of their desires and the solution to their requirements.
Why Small Businesses Fail, part four: Clients Every Small Business owner, operator or employee should be aware that it costs much more to acquire a new client39 than retain existing ones. But old or new, client management is essential to your Small Business economic health. A key reason Small Businesses fail is that they fail to appreciate the distinction between clients and customers40, or they take their clients for granted, chasing after the sale but never following up after the payment clears. Yet there are a few simple, low-cost activities that can help you turn clients into customers, and find new business with your existing clientele, such as: ● An informative, interactive website ● Customer satisfaction41 surveys ● Email campaigns42 (and autoresponders43) ● Cross-promotions and value-add44 upselling45 ● Favored customer discounts ● Customer loyalty cards, coupons or programs Business is about relationships – court your clients like a romance. Remember: there is much more to client management than the sale. Otherwise, it’s just a consumer relationship. A wellestablished brick and mortar shop46 can survive on “one and done” client relationships (know as turnover, or churn47); a service business, a startup or an online venture must attempt to capture customers48 – those people (or companies) that adopt a custom of doing business with you on an ongoing basis. Customers will support your business, well beyond spending their money with you once, and moving on to your competition (usually, without notice). To cultivate such a connection, you must get to know your customers’ needs. Examine your financial records49, invoices and communications to determine: ● Who your best (most profitable) customers are ● How much business they do with you, on average ● What goods or services they purchase most ● What related goods or services might appeal to them. 40
“Customer service” is one of the single most important overlooked practices of Small Businesses. We’re not just talking about handling complaints, and correcting the occasional error in order fulfillment50. This is about developing lasting relationships that can make the difference between prosperity and bankruptcy. These relationships BEGIN with the sale, but do not end there. If, for you, a successful purchase is the end of your active concern… that may be why your customer retention rates51 are lower than they could be. Just as your relationships with family, friends and loved ones can go cold from neglect, you must put a sincere effort into nurturing your customer relationships. Find new ways to relate to them, but be careful of crossing into the “spam zone”. You want them to appreciate the constant contact, not dread and avoid each new phone call or email. Focus on the value you add to their lives and businesses52; it’s okay if this takes some time and effort. What have you got to lose — except opportunity, revenue… and clients? Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. email@example.com The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper © 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com
Related articles ● 5 Unique Ways to Increase Customer Retention53 (www.superoffice.com) ● Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers - Harvard Business Review54 (hbr.org) ● The Truth About Customer Experience - Harvard Business Review55 (hbr.org) ● The 7 Fundamentals Of Sustainable Business Growth56 (www.fastcompany.com) ● How Insider Perks’ Brian Searl Got 9,000 Twitter Followers57 (www.businesspundit.com)
The WHY - Sales is a Conversation “Sell them what they WANT, GIVE them what they Need” ♦ The “Buying Impulse” People buy based on perceived value, usually triggered by an emotional response. It’s what I like to call the “ooo, aah!” factor. Despite what we may think, appealing to logic, common sense or even a sense of thrift is NOT what moves people to buy. We know from our own personal experience that people buy over-priced things, things they can’t really afford, and buy based on a momentary impulse. Heck: the term “buyer’s remorse” exists for a reason! Successful entrepreneurs aim to avoid this type of regret (and request for refunds!!) by learning to think like their buyers and offering value that appeals to their buyers’ wants as well as their needs. ♦ Always appeal to Emotions I’ve used the phrase “desires and requirements” to remind us that both emotion and logic affect people’s buying patterns – and that the EMOTIONS DOMINATE. Trust me: as an technology professional, this lesson was hard to learn, and is an extremely valuable distinction. Weight loss and addiction treatment are multi-billion dollar industries because we are ruled by our emotional impulses. While I am definitely NOT suggesting that you manipulate people, I DO recommend that you focus on the emotional appeal of your Value Offer, whatever it may be, whether you sell hard goods or provide intangible services: ● BENEFITS, not features ● VALUE, not price ● SOLUTIONS, not products ♦ Sell PRODUCTS, not Feelings Let’s not get it twisted, though you appeal to emotions to invoke the buying impulse – you DO NOT sell emotions. You CAN’T, unless you’re a comedian or a dramatic actor. I stress this point because too many people – including so-called business coaches – misunderstand the nature of the buying impulse. It isn’t that people will be satisfied if you only appeal to what they want, but don’t actually sell them something they can use. Emotions fade – ask any teenager that used to be “madly in love”. Appealing to desire sparks the interest, and gets prospective buyers to pay attention and move further along the sales funnel. That spark WILL fade, unless something substantial remains in the wake of the afterglow. 42
The key to customer/client satisfaction is what happens AFTER they buy: in the fulfillment, in your Follow-up and Follow-through. The SALE is the buyer’s choice to do business with YOU; buying – the actual purchase – is just a transaction, an exchange of money for value. HOW you deliver that value, and how you make sure the buyer is satisfied, is a major factor of success. Ignoring the aftermath of the sale is a key component of failure for businesses of all sizes. Fulfilling requirements produces long-term satisfaction, justifies the purchase in the buyer’s mind and, very importantly, helps avoid dreaded buyer’s remorse. Small Businesses, especially start ups, cannot afford to issue refunds. Forget about the damage to your professional reputation: you’ve usually spent that money before the purchase transaction is complete, and quite literally HAVE NO MONEY to return to a dissatisfied customer who insists they want their money back. So please – don’t confuse APPEALING to emotions to focusing ONLY on emotions. Desires are the KEY; Requirements are the DOOR the key unlocks.
The WHAT - It's the CLIENT, not the MONEY “You must always be having the RIGHT conversation” ♦ Talk to ME …at the RIGHT time, depending on where you are in your sales cycle (see the “HOW” section of the “Location” chapter). What are you saying in you sales conversation other than “buy my product”? Who are you talking to? A person whose wants and desires you truly seek to fulfill – or a target whose money you aim to transfer from their account to yours as swiftly as possible. Buyers understand that you’re in business to make money… at least, they’d BETTER, or you’ll have a hard time making any sales. As I’ve stated in the WHY of Marketing, your need for money is not your buyer’s concern. So what, then, ARE your buyers’ concerns? Do you actually know? In order to avoid failure and achieve success, you must APPLY these concepts, not merely understand them. ♦ Ask Me Anything ● Short, focused surveys. ○ DON’T try to eat the elephant in one bite! Ask a few essential questions – 2 or 3 at a time. Too many questions cause people to abandon surveys, which defeats the purpose ○ RESPOND as quickly as you can, whenever possible. Either directly to each respondent, or display a page with all results. Try to automate individual replies and display group results in a graph or chart. ● Think like a buyer ○ Remember: you must always have everyone’s favorite radio station tuned in: WII.FM = What’s In It For ME? ○ The Customer is NOT always right, but the customer IS the one who determines what a “job well done” is. Where the Customer isn’t right, it is your job to EDUCATE them, NOT to “correct” them. ● The Client is not a source of Revenue, but someone that you serve VALUE. ○ Clients do not exist to consume your product; your product is a delivery mechanism by which you serve them the VALUE that appeals to their DESIRES and fulfills their REQUIREMENTS. ● Your job is to keep the Sales Conversation going, by every means available ○ NEVER ASSUME that because you got a response that prospective buyers are still paying attention. They may answer your surveys, watch your webinars or attend your workshops… and promptly forget it all within the next 24 hours. 44
○ attend your workshops… and promptly forget it all within the next 24 hours. They’re busy people, and you are NEVER their main priority. ○ It’s YOUR JOB to close the deal, and make the sale. Not to “make a pitch” or “overcome objections” – these are tired, 20th Century concepts that are too much work even when they are effective. Treat sales as an ongoing, value-based conversation, and you will experience greater success with considerably less effort. Ignore this, and you WILL fail more often than you can afford to.
The HOW - Serve, DON'T Sell “Sincerity is the KEY to Success - once you learn to FAKE THAT, you've got it made” ♦ ACTION, not Attitude Before we begin – I’m joking about the “learn to fake that” thing. That’s just my way of pointing out the fact that, well… nobody can read your mind, so they can’t tell if you FEEL like you’re being sincere. People judge you by what you DO. When your actions line up with what you said they would be, this is judged to be “sincerity” – “Wow; that guy really means what he says”. This is the ONLY evaluation that matters to the people you do business with. They’re not your counselor, your analyst or your confessor – they won’t probe any deeper than what they see and hear you do and say. ♦ You ARE Who You PRETEND To Be More accurately, you are who you APPEAR to be – to Your Clients, Customers and future Buyers. Nobody can read your mind, so your words and actions are literally the only way they have to determine if you are sincere and, more importantly, trustworthy. I find it important to bear this in mind when having a bad day, or a rough patch of days. Regardless of my mood, and whatever the circumstances, I can still show up on time and do what I said I was going to do. ● Don’t whine ○ Remember what we learned in the Marketing chapter: NOBODY CARES ABOUT YOU. Your job may be tough. You may have had a bad night… you may be having a bad day. So what? Keep it to yourself, do the work and get paid. Even if your client actual does care about you as a person, save the chatter for after the job is completed, and the value has been delivered. Trust me: that way, you’ll both feel better. ● Don’t vent ○ I cannot stress this enough: do not EVER lose your cool when you are in service to the client. Bite your tongue, take a walk, count to ten… do whatever you have to do. Much repeat business and potential referrals has been lost because of an onsite temper tantrum. ● Don’t overshare ○ You may have heard of the “Know, Like and Trust” factor, and how it influences potential buyers to choose to do business with you. This doesn’t mean that your 46
○ potential buyers to choose to do business with you. This doesn’t mean that your clients have to know every little detail about you. You want them to see you as a competent professional – too many personal details may negatively affect their impression of you. And the worst part is, you may never know what line you crossed, or which detail soured the deal. So keep it professional, and let your clients do most of the sharing. ● Remember: be personable, but not too personal ○ Being friendly is good for business, but don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re out to DO BUSINESS, not make friends. I’m not saying be distant and impersonal, but be cautious not to get caught up in every little detail of your clients’ lives. At best, you’ll end up wasting time in idle conversations when you should be getting the work done. At worst, you could find yourself being forced to take sides in family squabbles or marital disputes. And there’s simply no profit in that. ♦ Keeping it Real I’m not recommending that you become a robot, or a business-minded drone. Be yourself, of course. Be pleasant and friendly, and have your clients look forward to doing business with you. It’s quite natural – in fact, it’s to be expected that, especially when you’re just starting out, your confidence will waver, and you’re likely to be unsure of yourself. You may feel like you’re faking it (I address this further in The WHAT of the Mindset chapter) , but this doesn’t mean you’re a fake. How you feel doesn’t matter – to anyone but YOU, that is. Remember: if you don’t APPEAR to be a professional, focused on delivering quality and provide value, then the client will perceive you as you FEEL you are – uncertain, inexperienced and hard up for money. And NOBODY wants to do business with that.
Why Small Businesses Fail, part five: Employees Many Small Businesses are “solopreneurs58“, so this post won’t apply to them… right now. Hopefully, many of these one-person enterprises will expand, and gain staff members or working partners. But there are those Small Business which have employees59: managing them well can determine the difference between success and failure. Your employees are the face of your business – usually the first people your customers60 and clients will have contact with. To most of them, your employees ARE your company. How well your employees understand the mission and focus of your business, and whether these employees treat your clients with courtesy and respect, shapes the reputation and public image of the company and brand you work hard to establish. Just as you should never take you clients for granted, you cannot afford to overlook the importance of training and managing61 your employees. Treat them like mere “workers”, and they will only be in it for the paycheck, unconcerned with the effect they have on your clients who, without exaggeration, ARE your business. You must treat your employees as the partners they are62 – enroll them in the dream, the long-term goal63, and not just the shortterm pay-off.
It has been well established that people will take a job that pays less if they feel they will be treated more respectfully, included in the decision-making and provided greater challenges and opportunity to prove themselves. They’ll actually work harder and longer if they feel they have a stake64 in the ultimate outcome. Think about it: How many times have you dealt with the rude bank teller, the argumentative 48
Think about it: How many times have you dealt with the rude bank teller, the argumentative customer service representative or the condescending auto mechanic? Is this the type of person you want to be the face of your business? An employee treated as a mere “worker bee” is likely to be frustrated and spend each day watching the clock, feeling miserable and unappreciated. It costs you nothing to treat your employees with respect, courtesy and interest. Satisfied employees65 are your ultimate promoters – their enthusiasm will be infectious and have a powerful impact on your customers, face-to-face, over the phone and even in email communication. An involved employee instinctively understands the value of quality customer care, and won’t have to be constantly reminded to follow up and follow through. The return on investing in your employees will have a measurable effect on your bottom line, your customers’ satisfaction and client retention. By contrast, a dismissive attitude of “my way, or the highway” is the surest way to guarantee that both your employees and your clients take you up on your offer… to take their time and money elsewhere. Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. firstname.lastname@example.org The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper © 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com
Related articles ● How to Be a Business Leader for Your Small Business66 (www.thebalance.com) ● How Many Jobs Do Small Businesses Really Create?67 (www.fundera.com) ● How Does Employee Engagement Improve the Bottom Line?68 (smallbusiness.chron.com)
The WHY - Businesses Do NOT Create Jobs “Why are you even THINKING of hiring somebody?” ♦ Where Do Jobs Come From? I know, I KNOW – Small Businesses are the “engines of job creation”. Anyone familiar with my Small Business development work knows that the effect they have on families and communities is why I’ve made them my exclusive focus. It’s why I’ve written this book. So how can I say that Businesses – Small or large – don’t create jobs? Too often I’ve seen business plans written and ventures begun with more focus on titles, salaries and job descriptions than on products, markets and revenue. Many a failed business venture has spent MOST of its capital investment on paying people to “do jobs” instead of on infrastructure, development or marketing. A two-person startup less than a year old doesn’t need a Executive Director, a Department Head or a Vice President of anything! How about selling some product, acquiring twenty solid customers or reaching a tangible financial milestone first? You’d be surprised how much venture capital is wasted on imaginary business structures that, in hindsight were pure fantasy from the beginning. ♦ Who’s Working Here? Businesses do not exist to create jobs: they exist to create value, and sell it to customers and clients. If we’re lucky, we will do so much business – create great value and sell it to many customers – that the WORK REQUIRED to service these customers will become more than one person can handle. THAT is where jobs are created. Business success creates jobs. Even then, if the person you thinking about hiring does not add MEASURABLE, ONGOING value to your business, or if they don’t at least FREE YOU UP to do the work of acquiring more customers and MAKING MORE MONEY, then what you’re looking at is a sub-contractor or a short-term consultant… but NOT an employee. Ask yourself the following questions about your business: ● WHAT do you DO? ● WHAT do you Need DONE? ● WHAT do YOU need to NOT be doing? ● What type of person do you WANT to be working with? ● What type of person do you NOT want working with you? 50
First of all, you must know the answer to ALL OF THESE QUESTIONS before you’re ready to even think about hiring a full-time employee. ♦ Burned by the Churn “Churn” is the term to describe continual employee turnover – think teenagers at a fast-food restaurant. Large-scale businesses can afford to deal with the process of employee intake and separation, interacting with the government (income tax withholding, social security and disability payments and more), but a for Small Business, the cost in time alone can be disastrous. And we haven’t even considered a troublesome employee who either brings legal action against your company or behaves badly on the job and costs you short-term business or, worse, a longtime customer. There is a LOT MORE to “job creation” than applications and interviews. Until you are very aware of exactly how your business functions, and unless there is a job for someone that, by being done, helps you run your business more efficiently and profitably, DON’T hire anybody. One of the biggest mistakes a Small Businesses can make is creating work for someone and calling it a job.
The WHAT - Create Partnerships, NOT Payroll “People, like TIME, are either EXPENSES or INVESTMENTS” ♦ You hire people to help YOU, not Them Be VERY CLEAR about one thing: your business is not a charity, or a community development project. You may want to do good things, “give back” to your neighborhood, enhance your culture or empower your community. These are all good things – but none of these are what business is about. Business is about providing VALUE to people who will BUY it from you. Employees are people who will help you do that. NEVER give anyone a job as a favor, out of sympathy or to make good on any sort of obligation. You WILL FAIL if you do this. Employees have to be MEASURABLY worth more than you pay them, or you CAN’T AFFORD THEM. No business degree is required to understand this: it’s simple math. ♦ Screen for Success Unless you’ve previously worked in Human Relations or Recruiting for an established firm, you probably have no experience screening candidates or interviewing prospective employees. This book is too short for me to try to write a chapter on how to do this, but I can offer guidelines I’ve received over the years that may help. ● Look for Solution-Minded People ○ Look fo people who can assemble the facts and tools at hand and create a new way to do things or a a more affective approach. Don’t just hire a clone of yourself – take on someone who is good at doing the things that need to be done that you either struggle with or avoid. Effective hiring is about building a team, not making copies. ● Look for Contextual-Thinkers ○ You want people who can take ALL the input – facts, figures, emails, conversations, experiences – and create a map of the terrain against which you plan your brand strategy and plot your entrepreneurial journey. Contextual thinkers may not “do the work” as much as the Solution minded types, but they provide the context and structure in which solutions are created and implemented. ● Reporting for Duty ○ As the saying goes, the job’s not over until the paperwork is done. Most of our “paperwork” may be digital these days, but we still need to provide documentation of what we’ve done to make sure we get paid for doing it. Estimates, diagnostics, progress reports, status updates, invoices are all the “tangible artifacts” of every venture, ESPECIALLY service-based businesses. 52
“tangible artifacts” of every venture, ESPECIALLY service-based businesses. Find someone who can “write it down” from a BUSINESS perspective, showing how the work performed or promised is relevant to Your Small Business – and to your customers and clients. ♦ Grow Your Own If what you’ve read so far leaves you feeling a bit overwhelmed or discouraged, don’t worry – it’s supposed to. Hiring the wrong people, or hiring people at the wrong time or for the wrong reasons is a major component of failure. Large firms have entire departments devoted to screening, interviewing and training employees because that’s how important it is. As a Small Business owner or operator you don’t have departments, or individuals, to do any of this for you. Since you’re going to have to learn how to do this yourself while you also run the business, why not develop the required insight and perspective “on the job”. Internships, used properly, are an excellent way to “filter out the champs from the chumps”. Contact local high schools and community colleges, chambers of commerce and community development centers. Consider the JOB POSITION you’re looking to fill, NOT the work you need done in the short term. An intern can be more than just a “warm body” – an internship is a way to create the job position on the fly. You can test your assumptions and observe the results before you commit to anything specific. Firing people is more difficult than hiring them, so you will want to be sure before you take on your first employee. Not only will you make sure you understand the actual skills, roles and responsibilities of the job, if you’re lucky the interns that help you create the jobs may become the employees that (ful)fill them.
The HOW - Do what you do BEST, Delegate the REST “Employees are there to Do BUSINESS, NOT just to Work” ♦ Rally the Team, Coach Employees are people. They’re sometimes referred to as “resources” or “assets” in standard Business Development literature… and as Small Business owners and operators, we often focus more on the job title than the actual people to whom the titles apply. CAUTION: we ignore the human element of the people we hire at our peril. Have you ever sat with a friend while they complained about a job that had a good salary and an impressive title? This is a common occurrence – the term “disgruntled employee” produces a nod of understanding from most people because we’ve all at one time either been one, or have known one. Money and position by themselves, it seems, aren’t the only things required to provide a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment for many people who work for a living. In fact, research has shown that they aren’t even the most important things. It’s well known that people will leave a job for less money and a less impressive job description if, in the new position, they feel respected, appreciated and well-utilized. People work for a living, it’s true, but they don’t work just to toil aimlessly, or be treated like a cog in a machine. ♦ Smells Like Team Spirit In the first chapter of this book I mention the foundation of my Small Business development curriculum, CPR – Consistency, Predictability and Replication. Those are the fundamentals of effective business: CONSISTENT Quality, PREDICTABLE Delivery and REPLICATING the method of Predictably delivering that Consistent quality. There is also Employee-based CPR: ● Competence ● Pride ● Responsibility Employees need to feel COMPETENT in what they do. “Throwing them in the deep end and seeing if they float” may be a tough-love way to teach swimming, but it’s a sure-fire way to breed insecurity, resentment and contempt in any employee you treat that way. Few things make people feel worse than not being able to perform the tasks assigned to them, help out a customer or answer their questions. Employees also need to have a sense of PRIDE in what they’re doing. I sat in a small park 54
Employees also need to have a sense of PRIDE in what they’re doing. I sat in a small park space in Manhattan this summer, and commented to the person sweeping up the leaves that he must feel like Sisyphus, pushing the block up the mountain only to have it roll down the other side and cause him to start all over again. His response was quite informative – he said that sweeping up the leaves and trash, and emptying the garbage cans not only justified his position (and his SALARY), but he felt that he added value to those of us who used the park each day. He was PROUD of his job – and I left that spot seeing not “the guy who sweeps up”, but an employee who felt fulfillment and a sense of pride in what he was doing. Finally, employees need to feel a sense of RESPONSIBILITY. Have you been at the register at a retail chain store or a fast food restaurant lately and been greeted by a disinterested cashier with their cell phone stuck to their ear… and an annoyed look as you approached? You may have felt there was no excuse for that extremely poor customer service (and there WASN’T!), but there were also no CONSEQUENCES for such shabby behavior. They clearly had no sense of RESPONSIBILITY to serve you well as a customer of the company they worked for: to them, you were just a person interrupting their phone call, and their job was nothing more than a paycheck to them. ♦ Businesses Don’t Work – PEOPLE Do! If terms like “grunt”, “warm body” or “anyone with a pulse” come to mind as you consider candidates for a position with your Small Business, not only are you likely to get the kind of careless clone mentioned above, but YOU won’t be instilling Employee-based CPR in the minds and hearts of the person you hire to fill that position. It’s up to YOU to not only select the right person for the job, but to train and inspire them to “be all they can be”. In my twenties, during my “itinerant musician” phase, I worked a job on the loading dock and in the stockrooms of a Macy’s in Eatontown, New Jersey. The Vice President of the store, Tony, stands out in my mind to this day as the example of inspirational management. When he needed you do perform a task, he never told you what to do, never issued orders. He’d come up to you, sometimes put his arm around your shoulder and say, sincerely, “Cornell, could you do me a favor…?” Now of course it was a bit ridiculous for him to phrase it that way. After all, it was my job to do the thing he’d ask me to do, and refusing to do so would, in the long run, have gotten me fired. But even then I understood that this was his way of showing respect - he acknowledged that I wasn’t just a grunt or a warm body, but a person, and he treated me as he’d want someone to treat him. The other thing about Tony was how he led by example. As VP, his was a suit-and-tie, office job. Sometimes, however, we’d get a truck in with a larger load of merchandise than normal, and an extra hand would be required. Tony would take off his jacket, roll up his sleeves… and the most experienced of us would be hard pressed to keep up with him. He not only showed that he’d come up from the ranks and was no stranger to the loading dock or the stockrooms, but also that he wasn’t above getting dirt under his fingernails and working up a sweat. So when he 55
that he wasn’t above getting dirt under his fingernails and working up a sweat. So when he asked you to “do him that favor”, you not only did so willingly and eagerly - you were proud to do your level best to meet his approval. He had earned your respect, and instill a sense of pride and respect within you by doing so. What makes people show up eager and willing to work hard is an idea worth working for, a clear understanding of the work that needs to be done, a method for accomplish that work… and appreciation for a job well done.
Why Small Businesses Fail, part six: Versatility Though many Small Businesses are one-person operations, in today’s economy, none of us can afford to be “one-trick ponies69“. Even if you can’t diversify your staff (especially if you work alone), you’d do well to diversify your skills. Every solopreneur has a specialty, but don’t focus exclusively on the thing you do best. What happens if the market shifts, or your existing clients have had their fill of the good or service70 you specialize in? Begin by ignoring the voices in your head that say “I can’t…”, “I don’t…”, or “I’m only…”. You are an entrepreneur – something you may not have imagined being even a few years ago. Whether it was always your dream, or the result of a layoff due to the “Great Recession71“, here you are! Don’t let the challenge of expanding your capabilities defeat you as success draws near. Next, consider improving your business-critical skills, such as: ● Business communications ● Planning ● Financial management ● Networking72 There are many courses available, locally and online, designed especially to assist Small Business owners, operators and employees in enhancing their business related skills. Here in the New York City area there are two courses I highly recommend. For absolute beginners, Operation Hope73 offers a 12-week Entrepreneurial Training Program, which covers the basics concepts of writing a business plan, analyzing your market and competitors, choosing a business type and much more. For a more intensive, comprehensive approach, NYC Business Solutions’ FastTrac New Venture74 course is little known asset. This is a free, month-long course which, according to their website, is especially designed to: 58
“…help you perfect your business concept, write a strong business plan75 and access resources to complete your launch.” If you’re in New York City, and are in the first year or two of starting your Small Business, you MUST enroll in one of these courses. The benefits are immeasurable – and how can you beat the price? Consider also what you are good at that you could do for others, perhaps on an informal or advisory basis? Are you a good writer? Lend a hand to fellow solopreneurs and Small Business owners/operators/employees by proofreading drafts of their business communications. Better at managing money? Although you may not be an accountant, you might have advice, tips, spreadsheets, or prior budgetary management experience that would prove useful to friends or colleagues struggling to stay on top of their financials. Success in today’s economy requires more than focusing on your core specialty; it increasingly involves thinking beyond direct financial76 compensation. Lending assistance to those who may benefit from your versatility is an excellent way to gain word-of-mouth77 recommendations and/or discover referral partners78. It’s basic human nature to help those who help us. And unselfish devotion to others, as contrary as it may seem, is an often overlooked component of professional and financial success. As we’ve mentioned79 several times in this series, business is about relationships. As with any relationship, sincerity is a key aspect of forming those which last and flourish. Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. email@example.com The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper © 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com
Related articles ● Survival Tips for Solopreneurs80 (inc.com) ● FastTrac Leading to Start-ups and Job Creation Across the Nation81 (citystartuplabs.com) ● 21 Selling Strategies for Growing Your Small Business — Interview with …82 (adriansjournal.blogspot.com)
The WHY - Your CORE SKILLS Are Not Enough “One-trick ponies are in trouble when that trick falls out of favor” ♦ It’s Not What You Did, It’s What You DO I have a friend since high school who worked for a tech company called NetManage back in the ‘90s. In the days of Windows ’95, PCs were standalone machines that did not connect to networks. To create PC networks most companies bought NetManage’s premier product, a “network stack” that provided that function. Business was booming and my friend, being one of NetManage’s chief coders, had a good job and a nice salary. Then Microsoft released Windows XP which had, among other features, perfected it’s own network stack. Although NetManage had other products, in short time they went from riches to rags as Microsoft had just eliminated their primary revenue source. The company took quite a loss but continued doing business – many coders however, my friend included, found themselves suddenly seeking work elsewhere. Many felt that NetManage’s network stack was better – some say Microsoft stole some of their code. Either way, they were not prepared for the abrupt changes caused by their #1 partner suddenly becoming their #1 competitor. ♦ Don’t Get Comfortable Market analysis is something we’re told to do when writing our business plans, but we’re rarely advised to continue analyzing our market(s) once our plans are in effect. As the anecdote above reveals, markets don’t stand still. Have you used a floppy drive lately? An audio or video cassette tape? You still save digital information, sound and movies on portable devices… just not any of these. Imagine if you were a startup that had just developed cassettes that were better than BetaMax – just as Compact Discs hit the market. Complacency can be a business-killer. In the 1980s I lived on the “Jersey Shore” when the end of the cold war resulted in Fort Monmouth closing. Dry cleaners, diners and many other peripheral businesses suddenly found themselves without the bulk of their customer base, and most had no “Plan B”. This is what I refer to as the “Golden Client Conundrum”. If you get too much of your business from one deep-pocket client, whatever your trade or industry, you’re not doing business, you’re doing contract work. Profitably, perhaps, but that sort of contract has a tendency of ending without any advanced notice.
♦ Shift and Pivot Velcro was an afterthought. Krazy Glue was an accident. Many a business has survived by not quite abandoning their business model… but adjusting or updating it. You have to be prepared to shift to “Plan B”… or create one once it becomes obvious that “Plan A” isn’t working. This scenario is what most of us think of when we hear the statistic that “50% of startups fail within the first 5 years”. Does that mean that even if you do everything right, you’re still doomed? Not necessarily. Think of Versatility as… Flexibility in this case. Your Small Business must study the market, the competition, the economy, and not only be prepared to pivot, but have a plan on where to pivot, how to and when.
The WHAT - Give the People what They WANT “Don't sell anything other than SOLUTIONS - regardless of what the invoice says” ♦ The Rainmaker Effect Another high school friend has been working in tech longer than I have. He’s a multiple patent holder, familiar with the core protocol that controls telephone call routing, and has traveled the world – literally – doing what he does. He’s helped close multi-million dollar deals between major corporations involving tech so dense it would make MY head spin. Just don’t ask me what his title is, or for a job description. My friend is a rainmaker. He’s the ultimate Contextual Thinker type from the “WHAT” section of the Employee chapter. He knows enough about the tech to talk to the geeks in the lab, he’s worldly enough to hob knob with upper management and their investors, and business savvy enough to rub shoulders – or trade elbows – with the middle management execs who think they run the place. He always manages to negotiate a consensus view when everyone else involved has given it up as lost. ♦ Make it RAIN ● Be Attentive. Be alert for what people are REALLY thinking about, REALLY talking about and REALLY asking for. Listen beyond their words; read beyond the text. ● Be Creative. Don’t just think outside the box – change the context entirely, if need be. ● Be Fearless. Recommend someone else, in or out of your firm, if it best fulfills the clients wants and needs. Be known as “the fixer”, the solution provider. ● Joint venture partners are KEY! Versatility doesn’t mean only that you know how to do it – it means you know how to GET IT DONE!
The HOW - Always Be Communicating “It's NEVER about You – EVER” ♦ The Customer isn’t Thinking about YOU As a Small Business owner, you probably know your customers and clients quite well, compared to a larger firm or a corporate chain. The “personal touch” is actually a distinct advantage Small Businesses have; their larger competitors are more distant and impersonal because of their size. I warn entrepreneurs to be careful not to confuse being friendly with being friends. You customers may like you, but they don’t wake up thinking about how they can give you their money. Their thoughts are focused on their own wants and needs – the “desires and requirements” mentioned in previous sections. Talk about your sales offer from the point of view of your CUSTOMERS’ interests and values, and in terms of the BENEFITS they will receive, not how good you are at delivering them. ♦ What Have You Done For ME, Lately? ● Don’t just be “Versatile” – be DEPENDABLE ○ Your clients really don’t care how clever or capable you are. They care about what you can DO for them, HOW MUCH it will cost and HOW WELL it satisfies them. Possessing a diversity of skills won’t impress them – being the one who GETS THINGS DONE will. ● Focus on the RESULTS ○ Don’t stress or focus on HOW MUCH you do – you won’t get any credit for how hard you worked to prepare to Do Business. Your clients have more to worry about than how many hours – or years – it took you to acquire the skills you put to use in their service. They only care about listening to that radio station WII.FM (see the “WHAT” section of the “Clients” chapter). ● Revenue, NOT Recognition, is Your Reward ○ I’ve sat with friends and business associates after-hours and listened to complaints of feeling unappreciated. Sometimes it felt as if they were discussing a romantic relationship that had cooled off. As Small Business owners and operators, we tend to have closer, more personal relationships with our customers and clients than larger firms do. But we must take care not to cross the line (as I mentioned in the “HOW” section of the “Clients” chapter). When it comes to Doing Business, if you get paid your rate, that’s all the appreciation you’ve got coming to you. It’s also all you’ve got any right to expect – if you want love and affection, get a puppy. 63
Why Small Businesses Fail, part seven: Location You may be familiar with the age-old expression that the three keys to success in Real Estate are “Location, location and location“. Clearly building family housing in the middle of an industrial zone is not likely to attract buyers. Similarly, Your Small Business must be located, well… as close as possible to prospective customers. A tattoo parlor in a retirement village might attract curious onlookers, but probably not enough buyers to keep you in business. A shop specializing in infant and toddler wear in a location populated by childless professionals is likewise doomed to failure. The strategic importance of location in the physical world may be somewhat obvious, but what about in the virtual world of online business83? “Location?” you might ask. “Isn’t online everywhere??” Well, yes and no. In the case of launching an online business, location applies to the likelihood of your website being seen and visited by your prospective customer or client. “If you build it, they will come84” applies only to that baseball movie starring Kevin Costner. Many online Small Business owners and operators make the mistake of believing that once they’ve built their shiny, “Web 2.0” site, their work is done. The stark reality is that merely having a website, however welldesigned, simply isn’t enough to guarantee a steady stream of paying customers. A website in the forest of the Internet that has no traffic makes no money. There are almost 4.5 billion registered websites - more than one for every two people currently alive. That’s “billions”, with a “B”. This means that many websites languish in obscurity, receiving no traffic whatever. Clearly, steps must be taken to increase the likelihood of attracting potential clients to your site. Here’s a short list, by no means exhaustive, of traffic building tips: ● Register your site85 with the major86 search engines87 - (you can do this yourself – don’t wait to be noticed) ● Use “meta tags88” and keywords89 properly90 (click the links for guidance) ● Create a Google My Business listing91 (this is the equivalent of a listing in the local phone book yellow pages - on steroids!) 64
● Here is HubSpot’s list of fifty online local business directories92. ● Post comments in popular blogs and include backlinks to your website. Just as you cannot take your existing clients or customers for granted, you can’t take your potential clients for granted either. Businesses, Small and large, depend on the steady flow of activity from clients old and new to survive. The Internet, fast, interactive and virtual, allows Small Businesses to compete at a level that may be impossible if they are required to maintain a physical facility. But even a virtual storefront must be properly maintained, or it will soon display the digital equivalent of a “Going out of Business” sign. Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. firstname.lastname@example.org The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper © 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com
Related articles ● How Google Analytics Can Help You Run A More Successful Small Business93 (wptangerine.com) ● Using Social Media for Small Business94 (www.thebalance.com) ● Why Small Businesses Have the Social Media Marketing Advantage95 (www.ducttapemarketing.com)
The WHY - You Don't FIND Your Market, You CREATE It “Marketing develops the Brand Story you tell - Market Analysis determines the audience you tell that story TO” ♦ Sell Me a Story “Branding” originally was burning a mark into the hide of cow to prove ownership. Over time, the concept of associating an image with a particular owner or company grew beyond the cattle trade to every type of business. So effective was this practice, pretty soon the right image could launch an otherwise average product or company into public recognition, and into the mental realm of capturing “mind share”. You want your business to occupy space on the front shelf of people’s minds. What places and keeps you there is not so much how amazing a logo image you have or how clever your tag line is – it depends on how well you tell your brand story. In the 1980s Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy’s, became the face and spokesman for the company. By then, most consumers were aware that his daughter – nicknamed “Wendy” – inspired him to create the hamburger chain. In fact, she was the pigtailed girl in the company logo. Now, instead of just an illustration there was a person attached to the story. Now when they looked at the logo they saw Dave’s daughter instead of a stock image. They remembered his unpretentious demeanor and found themselves feeling more favorably about Wendy’s as a fast food option. More importantly, the public now viewed the Wendy’s chain differently. Wendy’s market share increase over 600%, and Dave Thomas joined his mentor Harlan “Kentucky Colonel” Sanders and Orville Redenbacher as successful homespun “non-actor” pitchmen. Hamburgers are hamburgers – Brand Stories Move Markets. ♦ Give ‘Em Something to Remember You don’t have to have a national food chain, or one of your children as company mascot to have an effective Brand Story: ● Be Honest: Don’t exaggerate, and DON’T LIE. The true story of your Brand should be enough ● Be Original: I know I said to follow the Big Fish in the “Competition” sections, but that doesn’t mean IMITATE them. Follow them to the Market, but march to your own drumbeat so that you’ll stand out once you arrive 66
● Be Human: Leave the jargon and over-blown terminology in the 20th Century where they belong. People don’t want to do business with, well… “a business”. They want to Do Business with PEOPLE, who appeal to their desires, and understand their needs. Nobody ever said to an office building “wow, man… you really get me” ● Be Conversational: TALK to people. WITH them, not at them. Leave the pitches in the ballpark. Your current and future buyers have seen enough commercials – give them straightforward, honest dialogue. It’ll reach them, and move the conversation closer to them choosing to buy ● Be Brief: Don’t jabber on unnecessarily. I will take this much from the standard 20th Century sales approach: “Don’t sell past the close”. Also, learn to shut up and listen. The 21st Century Sales Conversation is a conversation, NOT just a fancy term for a modified sales pitch ● Be Of Service: Say something useful, that the prospective buyer can take away even if they don’t buy right at that moment. That’s a sure way to let them know you’re not just pitching them. And it’ll keep them in the conversation ♦ Story Moves Markets Brand story vs. traditional marketing is the difference between saying "this is who we are... really...", and announcing "THIS is Who We REALLY Are!". As the saying goes - “Facts TELL, Stories SELL”. Small Business marketing efforts often fail because Small Businesses do not know their brand story. Therefor, they are either justifying their existence or auditioning for the role. Brand story is not about telling “the truth” or “reporting the facts”; it’s about telling the story of your brand to those predisposed to believe it. The whole world is not your customer – tell your story to those inclined to hear it, and you’re more likely to find a crowd that contains the buyers you’re looking for. Brand story is an essential tool in creating your market – that’s why I usually mention it and marketing in the same context.
The WHAT - Find Where Your Market is, And BE There “Profiles, Analytics and Demographics” ♦ Who are the People in Your Neighborhood It truly is all about the customer. There’s no business without them. Here in New York City, I walk along high-market streets like Fifth Avenue and see shuttered businesses and “For Rent” signs on recently renovated store fronts – proof that prime real estate itself doesn’t guarantee success. Too many business are trying to sell the right product to the wrong market. Opening a store front just because you found a spot and can secure the funding is an equally sure road straight to failure. Have you looked around at who lives there, who works there, who shops there and what businesses are THRIVING there? “It seems like a good idea” or “I think people would buy this” is not a product launch strategy. “This looks like a good neighborhood” is not a reason to burden Your Small Business with the challenges and responsibilities of maintaining an office or a store. The content of this section is for online businesses and those of you considering renting or buying a physical Location. For those of you who have already set up shop offline, take what works for you anyway, and adjust for you current situation. Location is about where the CUSTOMERS are – NOT where you wish they’d be. This applies to websites as well as storefronts. Designing a website that “looks good to me” is as likely to result in failure as opening a storefront simply because you like the location. ♦ What Do You Know (About Your Customers)? It still surprises me how many people start out on their Entrepreneurial Journey without really thinking about WHO they will be selling TO. So many seem to think that the… the strength of their convictions, or the power of their enthusiasm or belief in their PRODUCT will somehow shine through to people, who will come running with fists full of money to throw at their feet. It’s not that they don’t understand the concept of focusing on the buyers’ wants and needs – it’s that they’re caught up in the DREAM of Doing Business, rather than the PLAN. Most business plan templates include a “Market Analysis” section, yet few Small Business courses or programs explore or explain what that means. Since we create the Market we sell to (see the “HOW” section of the “Marketing” chapter), start by analyzing WHAT you are offering for sale: ● WHO is it of value to? 68
● What WANTS and NEEDS does it satisfy and fulfill? ● Is there a similar PRODUCT being sold? ● What is a reasonable PRICE? ● WHERE would your Brand Story most likely be heard? They won’t come just because you build it. Focus on the Product and not the BENEFIT to the customer, and you might have an BetaMax or an Apple Newton on your hands. Superior Product is not what sells – appeal to the buyer’s wants and needs if you want a hit. Fail to, and you’ll watch nothing but tumbleweeds floating past your front door, real or virtual ♦ Paint a Picture (for Yourself) At some point we have to turn the anonymous notion of our Market into REAL PEOPLE that we are having REAL CONVERSATIONS with. While technology cannot create or define our Markets for us (wouldn’t you love that app?!!), it can us help examine who we are already doing business with, and reveal the Market that has chosen to Do Business with us: ● Social media profiles ● Social media discussion groups ● Website analytics ● Email campaign tool demographics ● Customer satisfaction survey results We want to be the “go to” for our customers, clients and prospective buyers. Whether that is our physical storefront, our website, or a “Location” as old school as our phone number or email address, we want to capture “mind share” and be known as Contributing Members of the onand offline communities the people we Do Business with belong to.
The HOW - Sales is Part of an ONGOING Conversation Join In “CONVERSATION is Listening & Responding - NOT waiting for your turn to speak” ♦ Be Here NOW A few years ago, I was cold-called by a guy from some investment firm. He was not only working from a script, he wasn’t paying any attention to my response. I decided to have a little fun with him. At a certain point he asked “do you have a pen and paper?” I’m an IT guy – I always have a pen and paper… nearby. Hardly pausing for breath, he said “Okay: write this down”. I told him I couldn’t, which of course made him ask why not. “Because I don’t have the pen and paper in front of me. You asked if I had a pen and paper: you didn’t ask me to grab them, and you didn’t check in with me to make sure that I did”. This confused him: my response wasn’t in the script, and he became frustrated, then angry, and finally hung up the phone claiming he was “doing me a favor” with his unsolicited attempt to fleece me for money. I did a lot of phone sales work when I was in high school. I know the pressure to plow through the script for fear of hearing “No!” from the person on the other end of the phone at the first pause for breath. My sympathy doesn’t mean that the steamroller approach is going to work on me, though. It turns me off within seconds, since it’s clear that the caller isn’t paying ANY attention to the most important person on the call: ME. ♦ Connection Comes Before Conversion We’re in what I call the “post-Mad Men” age. After seven years of that TV show, we’ve look behind the curtain and have seen the tricks and tactics used to con us into buying stuff we don’t actually need. Those old-fashioned, high-pressure tactics no longer work on most people… and I was never a fan of them even when they did. It felt too much like fraud to me, and is the source of buyer’s remorse and, worse, refund requests, which can kill a Small Business just when it seems to be finally turning a profit. DON’T try to “sell” people. If you were any good at it, you’d be reading a book on Small Business sales techniques, not Small Business failure. The most important Location for you is on your current and future buyers’ list of trusted vendors and reliable sources. You want to listen for what they want and need, and position Your Small Business in front of those desires and requirements. 70
As I pointed out in the “Pyramid of Business Fundamentals” diagram in the Introduction, ALL BUSINESS IS SALES. Having said that, Doing Business is NOT “selling stuff to people”. Offering value that is worth more to people than the money you ask for – THAT is what sales is in the 21st Century. You always want to stay in the value-based conversation with your customers, clients and prospects. Don’t be afraid if you don’t “close” after the first conversation: in fact, don’t expect to. The length of time to “close the deal” – known as the “sales cycle” – is ALWAYS longer than you think it will be. Be prepared for that (more on this in the next chapter, “Cash Flow”). I can’t stress this enough: Doing Business is about providing value, NOT making money. If you’re desperate for money, you need a JOB, not a Small Business. It will take time – years, probably – before your Entrepreneurial Journey becomes a profitable venture. Stay engaged in the value-based conversation, and you’ll always be in the right Location. It’s pretty simple to stay in the conversation, as long as you’re willing to put in the work: ● Pick up the PHONE ○ Nothing is more effective than a conversation. Face-to-face is probably number one, but phone calls are a very close second, and in some cases are better. Not everyone has the time to take a meeting, but most can probably take a call, especially in this modern cell phone era. ○ If you’re afraid to pick up the phone, you’ve got a real communication problem. To be honest, I don’t want to do business with anyone I can’t – or won’t – talk to on the phone. ● Email – it’s not just for SPAM ○ We ALL have an email address, yet we tend to use it as an afterthought. It can be a powerful communications tool with a systematic approach and a bit of help from technology. In the bonus chapter “Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #2: Email”, I explain how to use email more effectively and discuss a free tool that turns GMail accounts into a CRM platform. ● Surveys are NOT just for asking questions ○ The problem with most surveys it that they offer no feedback – they just ask a bunch of questions without explaining what’s in it for YOU. Most people see surveys as excuses to collect private info for resale. Create short, relevant surveys and, most importantly, RESPOND QUICKLY. This keeps the conversation going, and shows your customers, clients and prospects that you really are listening (see the “WHAT” section of the “Clients” chapter).
Why Small Businesses Fail, part eight: Cash Flow It’s odd: the purpose of starting, running or working for a Small Business is making money. Yet managing money is almost universally the one thing most neglected, ignored or feared by Small Business owners, operators or employees . Quite often, you’ll hear some variation of the phrase “I’m not really in it for the money” – as if a focus on the financials is dishonorable or morally objectionable. But if you consider it for just a moment, that’s like a doctor saying “I’m not really that interested in practicing medicine“. Whether you’re a Scrooge-like materialist or a post-modern hippy at heart, the purpose of starting, running or working for a business is profit. Many people, regardless of their financial status, avoid dealing with their finances. Debt consolidation commercials fill the air, and stories of multi-million dollar celebrity bankruptcies have almost become cliché. But managing Small Business financials96 doesn’t require advanced calculus skills — just an understanding of basic accounting97 concepts, and a strategic use of technology. You have to manage your money — Small Business financial management is more than having a positive bank balance. Cash flow becomes critical when there is a delay between the money you’re owed (accounts receivable98) and the money you owe (accounts payable99). This is where many Small Businesses experience cash flow100 problems — they know they’ve got the money coming in, but they miscalculate and end up overdrawn. After all, that's why it’s called cash flow — it’s dynamic, and fluid. The informal running total many of us depend on to manage our personal finances doesn’t scale effectively, and bouncing a check to a distributor or supplier can affect your credit rating, or worse, the survival of Your Small Business. Below is a short list of software & websites to help you manage Your Small Business financials: ● Mint.com101 ● WaveAccounting.com102 ● QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition 2010103 ● DWMBeanCounter.com accounting tutorial104 Of course, technology is not a magic bullet. The best accounting program is useless if you don’t… use it. This is why I recommend starting by creating a Mint.com account. Mint.com allows you to reverse-engineer your budget: you provide read-only access to your 72
Mint.com allows you to reverse-engineer your budget: you provide read-only access to your bank accounts and credit cards, and it automatically categorizes your deposits and expenses. After a few months, you have a graphical breakdown of your cash flow: once you see where your money goes, and what your spending patterns are, you can then properly manage Your Small Business budget going forward. Mint.com is run by Intuit – the company behind QuickBooks, the de facto standard in bookkeeping software. While Mint.com is my preferred budgeting tool, providing charts and categorization that help with Small Business budgeting, WaveAccounting.com can’t be beat for fully managing you Small Business finances. It links to your personal and business bank accounts and credit card accounts, allowing you to create invoices and reconcile them against bank activity. Most impressively, it allows you to scan your receipts, so you can store them as images for your records while it converts them into digital data that it imports for calculations, and exports in spreadsheet format. If you have fewer than twenty active clients (so far), QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition 2010 allows you to manage your billing and invoicing in the same format used by most accountants (Yes: it’s old. But if you use the link above, it’s free - and accounting hasn’t changed that much since 2010. Besides, you’re not looking to become an accountant - at most, you’ll need to manage your Small Business financials in a format that a real accountant can import and process on your behalf). Using QuickBooks requires an understanding of basic accounting principles, which is why I’ve included one of the best introduction to accounting tutorials as the final link in the short list, Dave Marshall’s Bean Counter website. The Bean Counter site has been online since 2002, and offers the simplest introduction to basic accounting principles you’ll find without taking a course or buying a book. As with the software, it’s only useful if you actually use it. Which is a choice only you can make. But your cash will flow, either way. The question is… in which direction? Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. email@example.com The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper © 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com
Related articles ● 6 Must-Know Accounting Tips for Your Small Business105 (www.patriotsoftware.com) ● 9 Tips to Get Your Small Business Accounting Practices in Order106 (www.fundera.com) ● Cash Flow Management Tips for Your Small Business107 (due.com) ● 20 Ways to Manage & Increase Small Business Cash Flow108 (www.moneycrashers.com)
The WHY - Follow the Money “If All Business is SALES, then Money is how we measure Effectiveness” ♦ Where it Flows and Goes Most discussions about Small Business finance is about credit scores, loans and five-year projections in a business plan. Long before the five year mark, most Small Businesses get tripped up by day-to-day cash management. Many a business has gone under with thousands of uncollected dollars owed to them – money that’s on the books, but not in the bank! We don’t handle our personal expenses based on our annual income, but on our weekly or biweekly paycheck. Yet too many Small Business owners will close a deal and forget the time lag between the amount in the contract and the balance of their business’ bank account. Profit is the long-term goal of every business; solvency is the breath keeping the business alive until the big payoff. ♦ By the Numbers ● What do you spend to “keep the lights on”? ○ You must know, down to the decimal if you can, the actual cost of running your business. Estimating is for grocery shopping, or splitting the restaurant bill with friends. You are Doing Business – you don’t want to fail because you couldn’t make payroll or cover this month’s lease while awaiting an outstanding payment after closing that big deal. That’s why it’s called cash flow… you have to actively keep track of it. ● Where does that money come from, in the short-term? ○ You cannot depend on one or two big money clients, or always landing that lastminute huge contract. Your landlord, your utilities, cell phone carrier, Internet service provider and other vendors will shut you down while you wait. They aren’t concerned with your promises of future windfalls – they also have bills to pay. ● Do you have an actual written budget (daily, weekly)? ○ Keeping the numbers in your head is a bad plan, even if you are a one-person operation. Do you really want to spend the time and mental effort trying to recall how much the Internet bill is, and when it’s due? Write all that stuff down somewhere – even better, create a schedule with reminders and put it in whatever electronic calendar you use. You ARE using an electronic calendar… aren’t you?? ● Do you invoice your clients? Or still operating on verbal agreements? ○ It’s not about whether you trust your customers. It’s about removing all the doubt 74
○ It’s not about whether you trust your customers. It’s about removing all the doubt and misunderstanding, and making it easier for you to get paid. Furthermore, an invoice reminds your customers of WHY they’re paying you. REMEMBER: debts are like produce in the minds of those who owe you money. They have a limited shelf life, and they diminish in value over time. ● Do you send receipts? Or just check your bank/credit card transactions? ○ Receipts help your customers and clients manage their money. Providing a record of payment helps them write YOU off as an expense. Like invoices, it also gives you an opportunity to remind them of the VALUE you provide… not just how much you cost. ● Do you adjust your prices? Or are you charging the same price/rate as when you first started Doing Business? ○ Everything costs more than it did five years ago… do your prices and fees keep pace with the cost of living? You are not doing your customers and clients any favors if your prices are so low you cannot profitably provide the goods and/or services they depend on you for. Don’t get greedy, of course… but make sure your prices are adjusted regularly so that the amount you have left over after all costs (your profit margin) keeps pace with reality.
The WHAT - Measure, Map, Manage “...otherwise, Everything you do is just a GUESS” ♦ Field of (Revenue) Streams How can you tell if you’re doing well if you can’t compare now to then? Business is Sales, Sales is Money, and Money is Numbers. Are you keeping score? Don’t be afraid to write it down, record it and review it. ALL of it. Is it hard work? Maybe… but you’d do it if it was your job, right? Well, as a Small Business owner or operator, it IS your job. Unless you have hired someone to do it, you ARE the bookkeeper. Don’t say that “math is hard” or you “hate numbers”. Do you like money? Then you’d better start managing it. Small Business math is quite simple. It’s really just the four basic functions – add, subtract, multiply, divide. If you’re like me, the problem isn’t that it’s complicated, but that it’s BORING. As we discussed in the “WHY” section of the “Procrastination” chapter, breaking it down into smaller tasks, taking breaks when needed and celebrating small victories when completing each part helps you leverage your “dopamine buzz cycle” to your advantage. ♦ Break it Down The easy thing about managing cash flow is that everything is a number, so it can be imported into a spreadsheet to make it easier to sort, count, calculate, collate and compare. You don’t have to become an accountant to handle cash flow effectively – you can start slowly, with just a few top-level basics: ● Monthly bank/credit card statements ○ A major reason why you should stop getting paid by cash or check is that electronic payments are automatically recorded and categorized. These records can usually be downloaded as a spreadsheet, which you can then import into a bookkeeping or accounting program, or emailed to your accountant who can do that for you. ○ In addition to improved record keeping, you will be able to review your cash flow with whatever frequency suits you - daily even, if you prefer. At first, you will probably feel uncomfortable, as most of us are raised and trained to feel awkward when dealing with money. GET OVER YOURSELF. If you manage to, you’ll quickly find that by regularly reviewing your financials, you’ll get better at not only managing money, but making it. ● Money people owe you: Accounts Receivable ○ Invoicing is a great help here. Use some sort of electronic system (more in the next section) so you can update them, marking off the ones that are paid and 76
○ next section) so you can update them, marking off the ones that are paid and seeing, at a glance, those that are still outstanding. ○ Don’t get paid all at once. Payment plans not only decrease the chance that a customer or client will renege on a payment, it gives you a steadier and more predictable cash flow. It may feel nice to get it all at once, but you’re more likely to spend it all at once playing catch-up. A steady flow of incoming money also helps stabilize your minimum balance, which can ease the pressure of fees and penalties from your bank. ○ Delinquent payments. This is where invoicing earns it keep, so to speak. Having a written (digital) invoice to reference gives you a record of non-payment in the event that you have to pressure the stragglers to pay up. It’s not you trying to collect a personal debt: it’s the about the customer’s professional obligation to deliver payment for services rendered or goods sold. ○ Hopefully it never comes to this for Your Small Business, but proper invoicing provides a record of money legitimately owed to Your Small Business should you have to write off a deadbeat client. Uncollectable debt is tax deductible… provided you can PROVE IT. Too many Small Businesses end up getting beat for money owed to them because of poor (or NO) record keeping ● Money you owe people: Accounts Payable ○ Yes: we are all somebody else’s accounts receivable. Your business expenses are also tax deductible. It’s what accountants call CODB… the Cost Of – what else? – Doing Business. You can’t really claim it if you don’t keep good records, because an IRS audit can hit you with an unexpected bill from Uncle Sam if you write of things you can’t prove later on. My accountant told me years ago that Small Businesses that do their own taxes are most likely to be audited not because the government expects fraud, but incompetence. They EXPECT you to make mistakes and to not be able to prove what you deduct. ○ Communicate with your debtors. Your vendors and suppliers are likely to be local businesses themselves, or you may have relationships with an actual person managing your account. LET THEM KNOW if you run into any short-term cash flow woes. They won’t listen to a sob story forever, but they will understand when you tell them the truth. Tell them the plain facts and let them know you’re willing to work out a plan to make good on your debt. From their point of view, ANYTHING is better than $0.00. ○ Don’t be late! Rotate your payments if you have to but PLEASE – avoid the credit score kill “past 90 days due”. Shuffle things around during lean times, but keep paying. If you’re in communication as mentioned above, you may be able to work out a partial-payment plan. Paying on time but not the full amount doesn’t affect your credit score nearly as bad as paying late, or not at all. And your debtors will appreciate any amount greater than $0.00, given a choice.
The HOW - Use a Tool, NOT Your Memory “Work hard MAKING money, NOT managing it” ♦ Dashboards WORK There’s a reason all the dials and gauges on cars, trucks and planes are gathered together and placed right in front of you. This helps you see all relevant information without taking your eyes off the task of actually driving the thing. Think of Your Small Business as a vehicle you’re driving toward the destination of positive cash flow and increased profit. The easier it is to keep an eye on your money without being distracted from daily operations, the better it is for you AND the customers you serve. Rather than think of money management as a chore, chose a set of tools that serve as your Financial Management Dashboard. Then schedule a set time on a regular basis to review these tools, and before you know it will become a habit, and money management will be just another thing you do in the course of Doing Business ♦ Short List for the Long Run ● Mint.com – for your Master Overview. Trust me: when you see the view of your financials Mint.com provides at a glance, you’ll wonder how you ever considered doing business without it ● WaveAccounting.com – you could use this the way I recommended using Mint.com, but I find this better for bookkeeping. You can create a read-only account for your accountant, and it will be much easier managing your money, tracking expenses and deductions and doing your taxes. A major win provided by this FREE resource is the ability to take a picture of your receipts and convert them into digital information, as well as preserving the picture of the original. Say goodbye to the shoebox full of paper your accountant will thank you! ● PayPal/Square/Stripe – Get Paid With PLASTIC! Stop taking checks… Period. This is the 21st Century – don’t let anyone tell you they “only use checks”. Nonsense: they DO NOT book airline travel, rent cars or reserve hotel rooms with checks. Even if your customers don’t have credit cards, EVERY bank now issues debit cards. Even PayPal has a business debit card. Electronic payments hit your bank account 3-5 days faster, and companies like PayPal have more clout to resolve payment disputes than you do, and provide a sense of security for customers who might otherwise be hesitant to give out their credit card number. ● Bundle invoicing with payments – PayPal has a very good invoicing function; WaveAccounting.com allows you to send invoices and reconcile them against multiple bank and payment card accounts. Whichever you chose, you MUST formally invoice your customers and clients. Invoices make the debts “real” to those who owe you. They 78
● your customers and clients. Invoices make the debts “real” to those who owe you. They also give you a “bad cop” you can play “good cop” against. I never, EVER say to a client “you owe me money”. I say “there’s an outstanding invoice still open for payment”. Both phrases mean the same thing: the second one is a lot easier to hear, and helps remove some of the personal embarrassment that stops people from acknowledging their outstanding debt and paying what they owe. ● Set terms of payment in writing – NEVER leave it up to your customers or clients to pay you “when they get around to it”. On your invoices state in writing when payment is due – I usually use “Net 15” or “Net 30” (the number of days after receiving the invoice payment must be made before it’s considered late). Also, tell them what the penalty for late payments is. 1 or 1.5 percent of the invoice value is typical. You don’t have to enforce this – for your good customers who simply fall behind a bit, you can waive the fee and appear generous. For the true deadbeats, you have something in writing you can collect on if things end up in small claims court. You can’t impose such a penalty retroactively. ● Details, details – REMEMBER: an Invoice is more than a bill. It’s a detailed description of WHAT you have done, and WHY they must pay you. Don’t write a book, but 3 – 5 bullet points don’t hurt. You not just letting them know what they owe, and by when: you’re reminding them of the value you provide each time. ● Say “Thank You” – on every invoice I issue, I thank my customers and clients for the opportunity to do business, and provide value. I really mean it, every time. Nobody HAS to do business with me; I want them to know that I appreciate it, and I want them to consider ME the next time they need a similar or related service. It’s all part of the Ongoing Conversation.
Why Small Businesses Fail, part nine: Mindset It takes a lot of hard work, focus and persistence to launch a Small Business. Starting with an idea, and (perhaps) some skills, a plan is prepared, financing secured, details dealt with… and a business is born. The problem is, in the time required to travel from concept to reality, too often Small Business entrepreneurs get stuck in the attitudes and assumptions109 adopted at the beginning of the journey. Business plans and financial projections are usually developed long before the business is created. But during that time, demographics change, markets shift and economies worsen or improve. Since business plans and financial projections are rarely revisited (or consulted) during this period, Small Business entrepreneurs may find themselves operating based on inaccurate or outdated assumptions. In addition… there are the basic human traits of pride and stubbornness. Being confronted by the need to re-examine a business plan110, or recalculate financial projections, there may be a tendency to become defensive, resisting these suggestions, rejecting this well-intended advice as unwanted and unwarranted criticism. It has often been said that success has a thousand parents, and failure is… umm, an orphan. While the expression implies that many people will take credit for a successful venture after the fact, in this case let us take it to mean that a successful Small Business entrepreneur will not hesitate to consult mentors, advisors and other experienced individuals to seek advice and guidance as they develop their venture from concept to reality. Nearly every one you know may consider themselves experts on all manner of business-related topics, and even the few of them who actually are may be too familiar to you (or with you) for you to feel comfortable seeking their advice… or heeding their (many) unsolicited words of wisdom. This doesn’t mean that you need to, or ought to, go it alone. There are many excellent sources of guidance and counsel – a few good places to start are listed below: ● SBA111 ● SCORE112 ● Local Business Networking113 groups
Small Business owners and operators, especially the “solopreneurs” and self-styled mavericks, will have a tendency to “Do it My Way114“, in the words of the classic tune. While this may seem like a good idea intuitively, if you find yourself struggling to break even after more than a few years, the facts clearly indicate otherwise. Don’t be afraid to seek advice. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong, or that you’ve failed. If we each knew all the answers, the economy wouldn’t have crashed in ’08, and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. The fact is, half of all Small Business startups will fail within their first five years115. You obviously don’t want Your Small Business to fall within that statistic. So, as much as it may bruise your pride, remember to keep an open mind… or you may soon be faced with closing shop for the last time… Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. firstname.lastname@example.org The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper © 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com
Related articles ● 60 Top Entrepreneurs Share Best Business Advice and Tips for Success116 (www.ryrob.com) ● When to Get Small Business Advice from the Pros117 (www.sba.gov) ● 50 Reasons Why Some Businesses Fail While Others Succeed118 (www.successharbor.com) ● 7 Misconceptions About Entrepreneurship119 (www.entrepreneur.com) ● 5 things to know about growing brand value through social listening120 (www.dixeaton.com)
The WHY - Change is the Only Constant “Lifelong Learner: Welcome to the Club” ♦ Startups Grow Up If Your Small Business does not fail/has not failed, you will move beyond the startup phase. You may flounder, flail or flourish, but time will pass. You must be prepared from the start(up) to enter different phases of development, and to manage them effectively Don’t wait until you NEED certain skills to begin acquiring them. “Luck” has been defined as the moment when Preparation meets Opportunity. Most of us have little control over the Opportunity part, but we can all take steps to Prepare ourselves. THIS is why you study your Competition, analyze your Market, survey your Customers and work on your Versatility – to learn what you KNOW, discover what you DON’T KNOW and find out what you NEED TO KNOW. Nobody is an instant expert, and one thing that most successful people have in common is that they have FAILED more than most people have TRIED.
The WHAT - Improvise, Implement, Improve “The thing about "Fake it 'til you Make it" is that you're calling yourself a FAKE” ♦ The 3 “IMPs” All startups start up with little experience, knowledge or proven methods: but they are NEVER "fakes" - they are pioneers, inventing the methods that build success through daring, hard work and incalculable investments of tears, blood and sweat equity. Rather than use the term, “fake it ‘til you make it” to imply winging it until you gain experience or come up with a plan, I prefer to refer to what I call the 3 “Imps”: ● Improvise: You aren't “faking” anything: you're inventing it as you proceed, through expectations, experimentation and evaluation. ● Implement: You can't fake success - or failure. Nothing gets done without action. Whatever your concepts or theories, you have to put them to the test to discover whether they are false starts or best practices. ● Improve: Just doing is not enough. If you don’t examine the results of your implementations and adjust accordingly, you may have years of “busy-ness” with very little business success. ♦ Build On the Go While EVERYTHING you do as a startup is new, NONE OF IT is fake. Creating it as you proceed isn’t fake – it’s resourceful. This is why we must measure everything: to see what works, what doesn’t work, and where we need to make adjustments (see the “WHAT” section of the “Cash Flow” chapter). The flip side of this is “Just because it WORKED, doesn’t mean it WORKS”. What you do to GET business isn’t always what you must do to KEEP business, or to GROW it. You may cut prices to entice customers to Do Business with you instead of a competitor. This may work at first, but you’ll have a hard time making a profit – or staying profitable – if your Entrepreneurial Journey is a constant “race to the bottom”. It isn’t just your finances you’ll want to keep a record of. Chronicle what you do, and how you do it: how else will you learn what works and what doesn’t work. You won’t be able to remember every detail of work you did six months ago, and you’ve got better things to do with your memory and free mental space than keeping track of minor operational details (see the “HOW” section of the “Procrastination” chapter). 83
Recording how you actually Do Business also helps you see where you could use help. Review the list in the “WHY” section of the “Employees” chapter. This is where the answers to those questions come from. Don’t be afraid to face the fact that you don’t know it all – the most important phrase I learned, early in my technology, were the three simple words “I don’t know”. I found that nobody likes a know-it-all. And people trusted me more when I admitted the limits of my knowledge, then went out and FOUND OUT what I didn’t know. This way, when I said that I DID know something, they could be sure that I wasn’t just trying to look good – I’d actually done the research and found the answer instead of just guessing. ♦ Learn as You Earn NEVER stop learning. Of course, as a busy Small Business owner, operator or solo entrepreneur, you might not have the time to go back to school full time or read a bookshelf’s worth of material. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still study, learn and increase your knowledge and understanding in ways that will help you save time, make money, expand your customer base and increase profits. ● Take courses. Once a week at a local community college. Online at your convenience. There are more ways to “take a course” now than there ever were. Take advantage of whichever ones suit you time, temperament and study habits ● Attend Workshops & Webinars. These are not only great ways to learn useful things in a short amount of time, they’re also excellent networking opportunities. You can meet potential clients, joint venture business partners and even investors depending upon where, when and why you participate ● Subscribe to Newsletters. There are so many options you can easily find yourself overwhelmed with “analysis paralysis”. Still, they are short and relevant publications that will easily repay you for the time you invest in reading them if you choose the right ones. And they’re delivered directly to you email INBOX, making them ideal to fit into your schedule, however busy you may be ● Join local Chambers of Commerce. So many entrepreneurs completely overlook this valuable resource, or see only a potential source of clients, ending up disappointed when there’s no immediate payoff. Chambers of Commerce not only typically provide speakers, panels and workshops specifically aimed at improving the odds of success for local businesses, they are an excellent environment for getting known in your local economic community and getting the word out about Your Brand ● Social Media discussion groups. LinkedIn and Facebook discussion groups are an untapped gold mine of knowledge and networking. The keyword here is “social” - these groups don’t pay off if all you do is lurk inactively or, even worse, only ever comment to hawk your wares and crudely attempt to hustle business without making any contribution to the community or the conversation. Whether you’re a social media champ or chump depends on your being a good guest, as if you were at a party at someone’s home or business IRL - “In Real Life”. Behavior that would be rude and boorish face to face is 84
business IRL - â€œIn Real Lifeâ€?. Behavior that would be rude and boorish face to face is no more welcome or tolerated online.
The HOW - The Business Model Canvas “It's not whether you have a Business Plan, but whether you have really planned a BUSINESS” ♦ Am I Doing This Right? A lot is made of writing a business plan. EVERY business development course emphasizes it, templates are available for download and the Small Business Administration website has a form where you can write one section by section over as long as six months. In my work with Operation Hope’s Entrepreneurial Training Program, I don’t hide the fact that I’m not a fan of business plans for startups or Small Businesses in their first few years of Doing Business. While conducting research for this book I confirmed something I began to suspect in the five years that I’ve been leading ETP sessions: there is no direct connection between business plans and Small Business success. I’m going to say something controversial: Small Businesses don’t need a business plan. Not to start Doing Business – at first, a business plan is speculation, a “first, best guess”. The business is new, and nobody really knows what the Market is, which products or services will sell… and most five-year financial projections are pure fiction. The Internet document “77 Failed Startup Post-Mortems” collects the first-person accounts of business failures written by the founders themselves. Many of these were business that were well-financed, were in business for years, had websites, customers, apps… everything that looked like success from the outside. Many of them had business plans, as they wouldn’t have secured hundreds of thousands – in some cases, millions – in venture capital and angel investing without them. What many of these businesses had in common was that they did not evaluate the IDEA of their business, to see if it was viable. If it was a feasible concept, that would lead to a sustainable, profitable business. The missing element is what’s known as a Business MODEL. ♦ Modeling Your Business In 2010, Alex Osterwalder wrote a book called “Business Model Generation”. This book details a method for testing a business concept to determine whether it’s the basis of something sustainable and profitable, or if it’s just a good idea. Business plans don’t do this – in fact, they’re written with the assumption that the concept will work, and simply set out to write down the details. 86
Business plans were originally intended for EXISTING business looking to expand or enter new markets. They were not intended for newbies, or new businesses. But they were the only tool available, so theyâ€™re being taught around the world to people who are years away from finding any value in the process of writing them. The Business Model Generation process asks the business creator to consider nine factors: 1. What is your Value Proposition? 2. What are your Customer Segments? 3. What Channels communicate/deliver your Value Proposition to the Customer Segments? 4. What Relationships have you/must you form with each Customer Segment? 5. What Revenue Streams will result from delivering your Value Proposition to your Customer Segments? 6. What Key Resources are required for you to successfully Do Business? 7. What Key Activities must be performed? 8. What Key Partnerships must you form/maintain? 9. What is the Cost Structure of your business? These are the key questions which must be asked and answer - and revisited - on a regular basis to determine whether you have really planned a business, or are just pursuing a pipe dream. Osterwalder also developed a one-page chart which allows you to display these nine key questions and there answers in an easily viewable graphic to help ensure that you set out on the right track, and stay on course. The best resource for developing your own Business Model is https://strategyzer.com. Create a free account, and gain access to the Business Model Canvas diagram and 29 other free resources which will take you from initial concept to final delivery of a successful business. Stop dreamingâ€Ś start Doing Business!
Why Small Businesses Fail, part ten: Planning We find ourselves ending at the start: the Plan. While many are aware of the need for a well-crafted business plan, few businesses of any size have actually completed one. There are several valid reasons: a thorough business plan is a complex document, requiring much more than expertise in tradecraft and knowledge of the potential market segment. One- and five-year financial projections121, competitor analysis122, growth plans, best- and worst-case scenarios, – even an exit plan – are all part of a comprehensive business plan123. Many Small Business124 entrepreneurs, especially in the current economy, have entered into their business ventures more from necessity than desire125. Down-sizing and layoffs, it seems, create more Small Business than a burning desire126 to “go it alone” and brave the rigors of competition. Yet as the saying goes, “failure to plan is planning to fail“. You may never have the time to draft a complete business plan – but then you’re probably not seeking a commercial loan or investors at this point. Still, there are steps you can take to give yourself a guide, to ensure that you’re operating on more than just “a wing and a prayer“. SWOT Analysis127 This is a simple document – usually a page or two – though it may take some time to prepare. It is an acronym that stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats“. If you prepare no other document or plan, I urge you to prepare a SWOT analysis. Take a serious look at the business you’re in or are planning to start or enter into. Strengths: What qualifies you to start a business? Seriously; it must be more than just “I got laid off“, or “I’ve always wanted to do XXX“. Are you REALLY qualified to pursue this line of work right now? If not, how quickly can you get yourself up to speed, and what would it take.??. I don’t ask this to discourage you, but ask you to consider the training, advice, mentoring128 and networking opportunites129 available that can enable you to answer this question positively. 88
But whatever you do, don’t operate blindly with a false sense of optimism: entering into a business venture without proper qualification can cost you more than you’re prepared to pay — in time, money and reputation — and even expose you to litigation. Weaknesses: This is the inverse of your qualifications. I’d actually focus on this first. You’re probably more aware of why you should enter into your chosen business than why you shouldn’t – after all, noone starts a business expecting to fail. Still, an accurate assessment of your deficiencies and shortcomings automatically maps out a course of action130 to enhance your skills, increase your knowledge and make up for whatever you determine you lack. Opportunities: This may seem clear, but think beyond the obvious. If you’re creating custom clothing, might you have an opportunity to repair antique items as a side business? What partnership opportunites131 are there? Could you conduct a free course at a local college or community center, that would allow you to establish a reputation as a valuable local resource, demonstrate your skill… and discover potential clients132 in the process? Here is where thinking “outside the box” is most important. Look beyond the surface, and think creatively — try to see things you wouldn’t ordinarily consider when dealing with just your core competencies. Threats: Competitors133. Lawsuits from upset customers. Negative online reviews. Disgruntled employees or partners damaging your reputation. Noone wants to dwell on these unpleasant things, but better to consider them in advance and prepare a strategy134, than to be blind-sided and have an otherwise profitable business fail because of unanticipated threats to its existence. There is also the Strategic Business Plan135 which, as its name implies, is a more focused document than a full-blown business plan. Where a comprehensive business plan is usually drafted when starting a business with, among other things, appealing to a bank or series of investors in mind, the strategic plan136 is devised for the business owner, and possible partners or employees, to map out the course of action for a few years. It is everything from a mission statement to a declaration of intent — it says “this is who we are, why we’re here and what we’re doing“. It’s a good exercise to prepare it, and review every six months or so, to either revise it or simply to make sure you’re still on track with your original… plan of action. Plan the work, and work the plan. That’s the fundamental key to success… or at least, a good way to avoid outright failure. And that’s been the purpose of this series – not to discourage you, but to point out some of the roadblocks, and help you chart a path over, around or through them. Good luck to you all. And keep reading – there’s more good stuff to come... Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. email@example.com The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper © 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com
Related articles ● Building A Business Continuity Plan137 (brighthub.com) ● Two Weeks to Startup — Day 4: Write Your Business Plan138 (entrepreneur.com) ● 15 Ways to Grow Your Business Fast139 (www.entrepreneur.com)
The WHY - Your Work is NOT Your Business “While you're working on your Business Plan, you'd better plan to WORK ON YOUR BUSINESS” ♦ What’s the Plan, Man? When I say “plan” here, I don’t mean a “business plan” with an Executive Summary, Mission Statement, Financial Projection and all that, but an actual plan – a step-by-step approach to getting things done, and Doing Business. Most business plans are not that, and most businesses never formally plan out what they do. This is why I stress writing things down, measuring results so you can manage not only expectations, but outcomes. Can you explain to someone unfamiliar with your business or concept exactly HOW it gets done? This is important when the time finally comes to approach partners or investors, but long before that, it’s an essential requirement when considering taking on employees, as I mentioned in the “Employees” chapter. It’s also important for YOU, the Small Business owner or operator, to prevent the overwhelming feeling of getting in over your head. REMEMBER: most of what a business plan contains – Market & Competitor analysis, vendors and supply chains, financial projections and such – are not “what you do”, but ARE directly connected to HOW you get it done. Without YOU, supplying that “HOW”, they’re all just parts of a puzzle waiting to be assembled.
The WHAT - Draw a Map “Your Business Plan is NOT a loan application!” ♦ What’s Your Destination All Business Is Sales – the exchange of Value for Money. What is the Value and, more to the point, what is the vehicle that will deliver that Value. In other words, where are you going, and how will you get there. I like to say that the only person who gets your money simply because they want it is probably holding a gun on you. There are many questions you need to ask – and answer – to ensure that Your Small Business gets to the point where, when you DO seek a loan or solicit investors, you not only can make a convincing case, but can turn that money into profit and not just expensive debt. ♦ Planning the Path ● WHERE are you going? ● How LARGE will you grow? How FAST? ● Will you Build or Buy your infrastructure? Make or Manage? ● Will you SPECIALIZE or DIVERSIFY? ● How will you keep track of this Market you’ve analyzed, created and served? ● How will you TELL your BRAND STORY? WHO will you tell it to? ● How will you burnish your BRAND? ● How will you DEFEND your BRAND, and deflect TARNISH? If it was as simple as finding the right product to sell, or service to offer, every franchise would succeed, and every start-up would prosper. We know that’s not the case. There are so many variables: staffing, vision, product mix, brand awareness, market reception, prevailing economy, funding and finance and so much more. We cannot control all the variables, but we can at least attempt to understand as many as possible, manage those we can, and seek help with all the rest. Don’t be overwhelmed by what it takes to Do Business, but don’t take anything for granted either. It IS hard work - that’s why there’s profit for those who stay the course, stick with it through the rough parts and get it right. If there were any shortcuts, I’d be writing those down instead of writing this. Actually… I’d probably have taken those shortcuts myself, and wouldn’t be writing this at all!
The HOW - Don't Plan to Fail: Plan FOR Failure “You won't avoid Failure by IGNORING it” ♦ Calculating “Risk assessment” a standard part of most “Business 101” courses and a typical business plan section, is better thought of as “Failure Prevention Discovery”. Calling it Risk Assessment makes it sound like something only actuaries and investment bankers are concerned with. All business is risky. That’s why those who succeed are rewarded with profit. Just as athletes study not only the fundamentals of their sport, but their own weaknesses to better learn how to win, every Small Business would benefit by studying failure to better learn how to experience success, which we could think of as “NOT-Failure”. It’s the difference between “Not trying to fail (passive)” and “Trying to NOT-fail (active)”. You can hold your breath and toil vigorously, hoping for luck and good fortune to keep failure away from the path of your Entrepreneurial Journey. But that sounds pretty risky to me, like a championship team hoping that the team they face in the playoffs is simply not as good as them, rather than studying that team’s abilities and preparing to win. ♦ Train for Success ● Brainstorming – Worst/Best case scenarios, and how to deal with them ● Contingency planning – Prepare for EVERYTHING, including overwhelming SUCCESS (yes: some business fail because they experience MORE SUCCESS than they were prepared to handle) ● Insurance – Better to have it and not need it, than the other way around ● Versatility check-in – always be prepared to pivot In the end, focusing on failure is not defeatist, doomsaying or pessimistic. We study FAILURE to learn HOW to attain SUCCESS.
Get Your G.A.M.E. On! Getting Things Done is actually pretty simple: just have a clear idea of the THING(S), and know precisely what you mean by DONE. This is usually the problem, especially in business. We do stuff, but not officially. We don’t really write things down, take notes or keep records. Yet we consider what we do “Doing Business”. Most Small Businesses operate by instinct and intuition: a "wing it and fling it" approach. Clearly defined tasks with visible, obvious objectives not only make businesses run more effectively (a.k.a. PROFITABLY), they make them more easily scalable. Business is deliberate action. The best business is repeatable – that’s why the franchise and affiliate models are prominent examples of success. All businesses should be repeatable at least to the extent that a newly hired employee is quickly and easily trained, and trained well. I’m sure most of you reading this book are not quite ready to staff your Human Resources department or write a comprehensive operations manual for every business process, but we must begin somewhere. Let’s start with a method for breaking… anything, EVERYTHING down to the point where you can write a step-by-step plan to get it done. You may have a lot of different “things” to be done. You might have a lot of steps. However it looks for you, this is a method that will definitely WORK for you. ● Goals ● Actions ● Measurements ● Evaluations The best systems are usually simple. You set GOALS. You determine ACTIONS to accomplish these goals. You take MEASUREMENTS of the results of your ACTIONS. You perform EVALUATIONS of your MEASUREMENTS. Easy to say, I realize. You know well enough by now that I won’t just leave you hear to figure it out on your own. This is just the introduction: each element of the G.A.M.E. Plan is explored separately in the following sections.
G - is for GOALS Goals: what must you accomplish to be successful? Objectives, not intentions Objectives are what you WILL do, such as “increase customer base 5% by the end of the next quarter”. “Get more customers” is an intention. Success begins with Goal Setting Goals aren’t a wish list. Goals are more than a “to do” list: Goals are a “TO BE DONE” list If you don't know WHAT you're doing, you don't know what to DO It may seem like just a good suggestion to set deliberate Goals, write them down and record your success rate… but how ELSE will you really know how well you are Doing Business? ● ALWAYS Objectives: NEVER intentions, inputs or deliverables. Only objectives are measurable: intentions are aspirational; inputs are actions, not outcomes; deliverables are business-speak gibberish. ● Objectives put a "stake in the ground", and provide an actual outcome to aim for. Something that either will or will not be accomplished. ● Objectives eliminate ambiguity, and help to avoid scope creep in long term projects. Objectives ensure that all participants are on the same page, and understand where and when "finished" is. There is no "mission accomplished" moment without objectives.
A - is for ACTIONS Actions: how do your goals become reality? Until your Goals become Action items, you're dreaming, not planning. Actions are activity with Intent. Move beyond "winging and flinging" into deliberate effort designed to move you inevitably toward success. ● This is why Goals must be identified, and not merely objectives. For each Goal, answer the question "what must I do to achieve that Goal?" ● It's not enough to have a few, disconnected actions: you must have a course of actions. Take your time, and plan it as you would plan a vacation: supplies, logistics, travel and personnel must be factored in. ● Associate Actions with the Goals they are designed to fulfill, and develop the shortest list of essential Actions possible. Always seek efficiency. The point is not to create a todo list, but to make sure you do everything required to accomplish each Goal. Knowing HOW to do it is capability: knowing WHAT to do and WHEN is competence. A prospective buyer might consider you based on your capabilities, but most will hire you based on your competence.
M - is for MEASUREMENTS Measurements: how much? How often? How soon? How well? Technology helps us do the "grunt work" of searching, sorting, counting and comparing. Everything from how much we spend to how quickly our customer base is growing can be tracked and calculated - but we've got to do the math! ● The Measurement of an action's success goes well beyond merely checking it off the todo list as "done". Things can be done poorly, can be done only partially or not actually done at all. ● There must be a target or ideal outcome against which the results of each Action can be compared. This is "conducting business", as opposed to merely "doing work" ● Just as you associate each Action with the Goal it is designed to fulfill, each Measurement is the scale against which you assess these Actions. ● Measurements are usually taken after the fact, with no clear idea why. G.A.M.E. Measurements are created in the context of the Goals and Actions which precede them, and which they exist to either validate or refute.
E - is for EVALUATIONS Evaluations: if you don't know where you've been, you don't know how you got here, or where you're going. STOP stumbling blind, and proceeding by accident. Move beyond fear, doubt and hesitation and succeed with intent! ● It's NOT "trial and error": it's "trial and error and Discovery and PROGRESS". We so often fall short of our goals because, in the phrase "trial and error", we place ourselves in the mental construct of an eternal cycle of "attempting and failing to". ● Evaluations are not grades: they are assessments of performance. Evaluations determine how effectively and efficiently you have implemented the recently completed phase of your G.A.M.E. Plan. ● Evaluations are the reason G.A.M.E. Plan Measurements are based on the Goals and Actions that precede them: you are Evaluating how successfully your Actions accomplished your Goals.
Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #1: Document Management Other than email and surfing the web, most of us use our computers to create electronic documents140. Letters, proposals, contracts and invoices, a lot of time is spent creating documents that will be printed or attached to emails. Most of us are familiar with word processor141 basics: bold, italics, changing fonts and text color. To the typical Small Business owner, operator or employee, there isn’t much more to document management than all that and, maybe, spell checking. But the documents you print or attach to emails sent to your clients, partners and vendors represent Your Small Business. And the time you spend searching for a particular document, or creating an appropriate document from scratch could be put to better use performing tasks more directly related to what you do for a living — even if that’s creating documents. Just as document creation tends to be a pretty basic Small Business task, there are a few fairly basic things that can make managing your electronic documents142 simpler, saving you a lot of time and effort. Centralize How often do you find yourself playing the “where the heck did I put that document again” game? Many of us tend to save the document we’re creating in any random folder we happen to be in at the time. Or we have a desktop cluttered with dozens of documents, some relevant, many hopelessly outdated, and all scattered amongst downloaded programs, pictures, MP3s and who knows what all. The “File/folder” metaphor dates back to the days when paper files were stored in beige “manila” folders, kept in the drawers of metal filing cabinets. Files weren’t usually just stuffed willy-nilly into unlabeled folders and stuck into whatever drawer was closest: there was a logical structure which made it easy to remember where you placed a particular file, simplifying retrieval at a later date. Create a special folder for your documents – that is, after all, why Windows has a “My Documents143” folder by default. Place all document subfolders beneath that folder 100
Documents143” folder by default. Place all document subfolders beneath that folder (whatever master folder you choose), and name these folders something that makes it easier to remember where you put things. Remember: creating documents is pretty straightforward. It’s when you get to the point that you have dozens, or hundreds of key documents, it’s finding them that becomes the problem. Naming convention Logical names should apply not only to folders and subfolders, but to the actual documents they contain. “Document 1”, “Contract document” or “Bill’s file” is not going to help you when you’re looking for it seven months later. There are several approaches you can take when naming files, especially now that we’re past the “eight letters, a dot, and a three letter extension” limits from back in the DOS/Windows 9x days. You could go crazy, making each filename a story: “Contract for February 2012 widgets and gadgets.doc“, but that’s not terribly practical, and it’s hard to sort through a folder with hundreds of files with names like sentences. A simpler approach is to use naming elements that are reasonably self-explaining, and combine them as elements of file names – “vendorcontract.doc“, “client-app-lic.xls“, “bank-proposal.ppt“, etc. Versioning The naming convention examples make it easier to distinguish vendor contracts from client application licenses, and keeping documents in folders named for each vendor and client helps avoid confusion… but this assumes you’ll only have one contract per vendor, or a single client app. You can, of course, add more elements to the file name – “vendor-maintcontract.doc“, “client-acctng-app.xls“, and so forth – but another area of confusion is when you have different versions of the same document. Why might this happen? Several reasons, actually, from different wording or styling to different people working on drafts of the same document. What usually ends up happening is that the document is saved in different locations (typically with the exact same file name), leading to confusion. You can always check the date the file was last saved or modified, but the newest document isn’t alway the “ultimate” version – sometimes, the most recent modifications don’t improve things… but if you step away for a few days, it can be hard to remember. An easy(er) way of keeping track of things is to add an element to the file name that lets you know which version is which. A simple naming convention is to add date elements to the beginning of the file name: “2011-03-14-vendor-maint-contract.doc“, “2010-12-28-clientaccounting-app.xls“, etc. While this may seem a bit clunky, an immediate advantage is that the files will naturally sort from oldest to newest automatically. You can also use other versioning elements: “initial-draft-vendor-service-contract.doc“, “bobs-version1-client-finance-app.xls” and so on. Just as long as the elements you add are consistent, and help distinguish one version from another. 101
consistent, and help distinguish one version from another. Templates Discussing versions leads naturally to the final point about basic document management: you will often create the same type of document again and again. Vendor contracts, client agreements, welcome letters, negotiations, inquiries, etc.
Often, unfortunately, we have a tendency to start fresh with each attempt, forgetting that we’ve been down this road before, and probably did a good job of it sometime in the past. A helpful tip is to create a “templates” subfolder, and when you’ve created a particularly good document – well formatted, good language, etc. – make a copy of it, and place it in this folder. The next time you need a similar document, just replace the names, addresses and other info, rather than rewriting the whole thing from scratch. A good practice is to replace these elements in the template copy, with “placeholder” text like FIRST-NAME, ADDRESS, COMPANY and such. Then, when composing the document, copy the template into the client folder and just search and replace these elements. Also, don’t forget to change the template file name to something like “vendor-contractTEMPLATE.doc” to avoid sending out the wrong version. I like using the capital letters to help visually distinguish the templates from the actually working copies of the documents to be delivered. You don’t have to make your own templates, however. Here are a few good, free sources of templates available online: ● Microsoft Office Templates144 ● Open Office Templates145 ● Google Docs Templates146 (must be logged in to a GMail or Google Apps account) ● Samplewords Templates147 (http://www.samplewords.com) ● Frugal Entrepreneur Free Business Templates148 (frugalentrepreneur.com) These are all excellent sources of templates for all kinds of documents a typical Small Business would need. In fact, I highly recommend starting with a template for important documents, especially when doing business. Certain types of documents have standard formats and expected phrases, that help distinguish you as an experienced professional. In this digital age, many of the people you do business with will know you only by the documents you create and send them. Managing them well, as simple as they may seem, can 102
documents you create and send them. Managing them well, as simple as they may seem, can
be a key element in Your Small Business success. Related articles ● 13 Painless Ways To Organize, Store, And Get Rid Of Paper Clutter149 (makespace.com) ● How to use Libraries in Windows 10150 (www.geeksinphoenix.com) ● How To Organize Your Small Business Records151 (www.dummies.com) ● Creating Order From Chaos: 9 Great Ideas For Managing Your Computer Files152 (www.makeuseof.com) ● How to Organize Your Files…and Remember Where Everything Is, Part 1153 (blogs.sitepoint.com)
Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #2: Email INBOX. Reply All. Attach file. Blind CC. When most of us think of email, what comes to mind is how it works. “Is my INBOX full?” “I can’t open that attachment” “I hope I did(n’t) hit ‘reply all‘…!” Rarely do we consider email, a tool as commonplace now as the telephone and postal mail, to be much of a business asset. Everyone has it now, so it’s no longer a big deal, and it’s pretty much taken for granted these days. But this simple tool, properly exploited, can be leveraged in several ways as a most powerful, cost-effect strategic asset. Here are a few tips on how you can use email to work more effectively and efficiently, as you grow Your Small Business: ● Free Outlook154 substitute ● “Freemail” accounts as SPAM catchers ● Apply email filters to avoid “INBOX” overload ● Consolidate multiple email accounts Free Outlook substitute Mac users have Mail155, and those on the Linux platform have Evolution156, but on the Windows platform157, most folks think they have no alternative but to buy Microsoft Outlook. As recently as five years ago, free Windows-based alternatives were either unavailable or inadequate, but much has changed. Thunderbird by Mozilla158 – the folks who brought you the Firefox web browser – makes a fine substitute for Outlook: in fact, there are many who find it to be a superior choice. Like Firefox, it can be extended and modified by a multitude of addons, that allow you to schedule email for later delivery, extract attached files and photos with a single click, and translate words and phrases just for starters. By simply providing your email address, username and password Thunderbird will set up your email accounts automatically. “Freemail” SPAM catchers 104
No longer regarded as amateurish, many of us have a free email account, often as our primary account. GMail159, Outlook.com160 and Yahoo! Mail161 accounts provide huge INBOXes (GMail and Outlook.com give you 15GB; Yahoo! Mail provides 1TB). Since you can create as many “freemail” accounts as you choose, I like to use them as SPAM catchers. Sometimes you need a valid email address to register at a website to download a useful document, or free software. A link is sent to your email account which must be clicked to complete the transaction. You know they want the email address so they can bombard you with sales offers and other unwanted information. Or, they sell you address to other marketers, who will flood your INBOX with endless SPAM. So… create throwaway freemail accounts specifically for that purpose. Use them only for registering at these types of websites; check them for the necessary links, and ignore them otherwise. GMail, Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) and Yahoo! Mail have pretty good SPAM filters162, and flush most SPAM after 30 days. Apply Email Filters Ok… that takes care of the unwanted email. But if you’re like me, you receive a ton of email that you actually want, and may occasionally lose a particular message because it gets “lost in the INBOX overload“. Well, don’t depend on the INBOX – that’s just the default location. Filtering allows you to have your incoming email sorted automatically according to whatever rules you apply – who it’s from, specific words in the “Subject:” line or the body of the email itself – to place the message in a folder (or apply a Label, in the case of GMail) of your choice. Each folder or label will display the number of unread messages they contain – make an effort to review the most critical messages, and this will provide a visual cue of newly received emails, and help you manage your INBOX overload. Below are links to explaining how to create filters in the most popular email clients and freemail accounts: ● Outlook filters163 ● GMail filters164 ● Yahoo! Mail filters165 ● Thunderbird filters166 ● Evolution filters167 Aggregate multiple email accounts On smartphones like my Android168, I currently access seven email accounts (not all of the email accounts I have – just the most essential active ones) at once. I have a master “All Inboxes” view, that shows me emails from every account as they arrive, collected in a single 105
Inboxes” view, that shows me emails from every account as they arrive, collected in a single view. I can, of course, also view each account individually. The way I work, my smartphone is my laptop, my laptop is my desktop, and my desktop is in storage. Most of you, I’m sure, spend most of your computer time on a laptop or desktop computer… but if you have more than one or two email accounts that you deal with during your work day, “one view to see them all” is an advantage you must experience. The moments you save not having to click out of one account and into another adds up to minutes a day, hours a week, days a year of time saved, that can be better spent doing something more productive. Microsoft Outlook, by default, displays all your emails in a common INBOX, while also providing methods for you to separate them by email account169 – but this assumes you’re using Outlook. For those of you who don’t, can’t or won’t, we suggest using our preferred free alternative – Mozilla Thunderbird170. Thunderbird gives you the ability to manage all your email accounts – freemail and paid – with a single application. You can view them as separate accounts, but a distinct advantage is the “Unified Folders” virtual folder. This collects all the email from all your accounts into a single location – just like my smartphone does. A free plugin, Account Colors, allows you to choose a different font and background color for each email account (GMail, Outlook.com, Yahoo, AOL, company email, whatever), so you can distinguish which email belongs to which account, even as you’re viewing them all in a consolidated view. The best of all worlds - and something even most smartphone apps don’t do. Email, properly used, is an extremely economical strategic Small Business asset. Few tools combine its low cost, vast reach and minimum requirements – nothing more than a computer, Internet connection and web browser is really required. In addition, unlike the telephone, email automatically provides a record of your communication with co-workers, employees, clients and partners, as well as an inexpensive method of file sharing. Commonplace and ubiquitous, few tools we use everyday are as versatile and powerful as email. Take another look at that overloaded INBOX, and take advantage of one of the most powerful tech tools at your command. Related articles ● How to Get Busy People to Read Your Emails171 (www.scrubly.com) ● Want Your Email Seen? 16 Spam Filter Rules to Avoid172 (blog.boomerangapp.com) ● How To Block Spam With A Secondary Email Account173 (ghacks.net) ● How to Wipe Out Spam Email in Your Inbox174 (lifehacker.com) ● 5 ways to stop spam from invading your email175 (www.pcworld.com/article) ● Spam Blocking in Microsoft Outlook – A Tutorial176 (brighthub.com)
Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #3: PC Security If you’re like most people, keeping your computer secure is a task similar to dieting – you’ve heard a lot about it, everybody you know has an opinion, yet no matter what you're doing, you've got the feeling you’re still not doing it right. We can lock our computers down so tight that nothing gets done without a half dozen pop-up windows asking “Are you sure?” after every mouse click. Or, we throw caution to the window and shut all that “annoying” security stuff off, which makes it much easier to get work done — until the next virus or trojan hijacks our machine, and we’re offline for days (or weeks) trying to clean up the mess and make up for the lost time. Real-world PC security177 falls somewhere comfortably between “front door wide open” and “Def-con 1“. The problem is, most articles on computer security discuss theory, not fact. Rotating “strong” passwords sounds good on paper, but in the real world it means you’ll create a password so complex you’ll have to write it down to remember it (which is like putting the front door key under the doormat), only to have to change it several times a year. What you actually need to do is assess the level of security required178 for the real-world risk you're defending against. You need a stronger password for your GMail or Yahoo! Mail account than your personal workstation, because your web-based email179 account is exposed to the world, while your personal computer is only vulnerable to whoever has physical access to it. Until, of course, you connect to the Internet, or install software from an untrustworthy source. Which brings us to the “real world PC security short list“. Three things you must do, or be prepared to do, to have reasonable security as you surf the web and expose your computer to the risks – and benefits – of the global Internet: 1. Use hard-to-guess passwords for all important assets 2. Use a software firewall at all times 3. Use ONE anti-virus program180, and update it regularly
Passwords181 The best way to protect your computer, email accounts, online banking and such is to make a “hard-to-guess” password. Given enough time, opportunity & resources, all passwords are crackable, so don’t go crazy trying to create a password that would require a supercomputer to defeat — you’re not securing the president’s nuclear launch codes. You just need to keep the script kiddies and automated password cracking182 programs out. A simple method of creating passwords both hard to guess and easy (for you) to remember without writing them down is to combine two words & use a substitution method. For example: start with “crack” and “this“. Join them with an asterisk, so you now gave “crackthis“. Next, swap an “@” for the “a“, “#” for the “h” and an exclamation mark for the “i“. Your password is now “cr@ckt#!s“. No brute force dictionary hack is going to crack this: it would literally take going through every combination of ten character combinations until the one you created was randomly stumbled upon. Yet, you should be able to remember it (relatively) easily, since you know what you started with, & what you combined & substituted to get the end results.
Software firewall/Anti-virus program I’m going to save time (and column space) here, and just make a recommendation: Microsoft Windows Defender183. It’s good, it’s free, and since this post is about PC security, it built-into every version of Windows from Windows 8 to Windows 10 (if you’re still using Windows 7 there’s Windows Security Essentials — but 7 will soon be going the way of Windows XP, so you really do need to upgrade for a variety of reasons). Now if you’ve read this book straight through from the beginning, may be surprised that I don’t provide a short list of options here. There are other free anti-virus and firewall programs that are about as good as Windows Defender, and you may be using them. If so, please continue. But the focus of this post is security as a business process, not as a technical consideration. For those of you who aren’t using anything, and thus are unfamiliar with activating and configuring a software firewall, Windows Defender’s advantage is that it provides a best-ofbreed antivirus program AND automatically activates and configures the built-in Windows firewall184, saving you the headache of closing the firewall too tight, and helps you avoid the risk of finally shutting it off because the frustration of calibrating it becomes too great a disruption of your workflow.
When all else fails Even when you do all of the above, your computer may still become infected. PC security is an arms race, and a constant compromise between locking your computer down until it becomes unusable, and leaving that one thing open that lets the badguys in. Before that happens, do yourself two favors. First, download and install Malwarebytes Antimalware185. Install it and upgrade its definitions. Make a habit of upgrading the definitions every other week, just as a force of habit. Why? Because if your computer ever does become infected, this most likely may be the only program that will clean up the infection — but the security definitions MUST BE UPDATED to deal with the newest infections, which pop up faster than bad pop songs on iTunes. The second favor is to bookmark these free, online anti-virus scanners in your browser of choice: ● Trend Micro Housecall - http://housecall.trendmicro.com/186 ● Panda Security Activescan http://www.pandasecurity.com/homeusers/solutions/activescan/187 ● Bitdefender online scanner - http://www.bitdefender.com/scanner/online/free.html188 ● Eset online scanner - http://www.eset.com/us/online-scanner189 ● F-secure online scanner - http://www.f-secure.com/en_EMEA-Labs/securitythreats/tools/online-scanner190 If you are running Windows Defender (or another anti-virus/firewall combination) and your computer becomes infected anyway, it will most likely be a trojan – software that masquerades as something harmless and buries itself into the operating system itself. Definite signs of a trojan infection are that your antivirus program stops working, and your browser is blocked from connecting to the Internet. That’s why you need Malwarebytes already installed and updated – you’ll need to run it to kill the trojan, and restore functionality. After an actual infection, I like to be double, triple sure that all traces of scum-ware have been removed. That’s where the above websites come into play: they are the best online antivirus scanners available. They’re all free, and are online services offered by the best anti-virus companies in the business. I recommend that you run more than one of them to ensure a clean machine – the truly paranoid among you can run them all. In closing, remember that security is a process, not a program. It’s how you do what you do 110
In closing, remember that security is a process, not a program. It’s how you do what you do that keeps you secure. For further details on this subject, check out my FREE eBook, “4 Things You MUST Know About Computer Security191“, available to read online or download to your hard drive. And don’t forget to scan it after you download it — trust noone. Related articles ● Top Security Resolutions For New PCs192 (brighthub.com) ● How To Make Your Firewall More Secure193 (brighthub.com) ● How to Choose and Remember Great Passwords that Live in Your Head: Video Edition [Video]194 (lifehacker.com) ● HackerProof: Your Guide To PC Security195 (businessinsider.com)
Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #4: Data Storage I remember in 1994, I was working as a systems administrator196 for a Wall Street firm when the first 1 gigabyte Seagate hard drive arrived. All the sys admins dropped what we were doing and rushed to the lab, to gaze in awe at this miraculous device. “Can you believe it?” someone remarked, “they’ve managed to fit an entire gigabyte on a single hard drive!197“ I imagine this anecdote is amusing even to the non-technical folks out there. My Android smartphone has 32 GB198 of storage, and that’s not even the top of the line. Terabyte hard drives – a thousand gigabytes – are now available for $100 or less — considerably less than the 1 gig drive we ogled like a fan perched at the velvet rope for a glimpse of his favorite superstar actress. Large format hard drives are marvelous; we can store digital pictures, movies, MP3s of our favorite songs with ease, and room to spare. Data Protection Of course, the more we store on a single device, the more we stand to lose if (and when) that device fails. Although modern computers are infinitely more stable and dependable than the clunky boxes we were using in the ’90s, hard drives are the parts most likely to fail simply because they have the most moving parts, and those parts are moving all the time. How do we protect ourselves against data loss199, when we’re storing hundreds – or thousands – of gigabytes?? Back in the 1990s, we backed up data on 8 millimeter tape - the same tape used for mini video camcorders. This was fine when 10 or 20 gigabytes was a large backup set, but simply won’t do for a Small Business backing up ten times that — or a hundred times as much data to protect! The simplest method we recommend is to use an external hard drive200 unit – attachable via USB connection201 – as the target of your computer’s built-in backup utility. While this is the typical method most Small Businesses use, when they DO backup their critical data, we suggest a twist – backup your data about once a week, and detach the external hard drive between backups202, storing it in a safe location away from the computer you’re backing up.
Into the Cloud Another change since the bygone days of the 20th century is that cloud storage has become less complicated and much more affordable. Our recommendation for Small Business is CrashPlan203 - designed for backing up tens and hundreds of terabytes for mid-sized corporation, their business model is not to charge for the amount of data stored, but how much data is transferred over any given period of time. In layman’s terms this means that once you’ve uploaded the bulk of your data, you only pay for the incremental changes you back up into the cloud, which is usually only a few hundred megabytes at the most. Full disclosure though - the initial backup will take several days even with high speed fiber optic Internet access, since that first level will contain every file and folder you wish to protect. These days, that could be a few terabytes for even the smallest of Small Businesses. That’s why we recommend cloud backup as a mandatory part of your data storage infrastructure. Your data IS your business, and all it takes is mechanical failure, a sudden power surge or the sprinklers in your office accidentally being triggered for even a few minutes, and you could lose years worth of data. If you’re like the (sad to say) few Small Businesses that have any sort of backup solution204, it’s probably a network-enabled drive or a USB device you plug into the systems whose data you’re protecting - in either case, these devices are usually in the same location as the systems they’re intended to be a backup for. So they’ll be hit with whatever catastrophe affects your mission-critical205 PC or server. While this will provide what we call “oops proof” protection accidentally deleting or overwriting a file or folder, it won’t protect you at the “OMFG” level - absolute disaster. Don’t let your company crash just because your hard drive does - treat your data as the repository of you most valuable asset - the time you’ve put into growing your Small Business from an idea into a thriving enterprise. Statistics show that businesses that suffer as little as a 24 hour interruption of operations because of data loss are likely to fail completely within the following year. Plan ahead - back(up in)to the future… Related articles ● Top 5 Small Business Data Loss Prevention Tools206 (nordic-backup.com) ● A step-by-step guide to backup strategy for small business207 (www.solarwindsmsp.com) ● Best practices to back up your data208 (www.techrepublic.com) ● 3-2-1 Backup Strategy Best Practices [Infographic]209 (www.neweggbusiness.com)
Top 5 Tools You’re Probably Using – But Could Use BETTER! #5: Calendar/Task Management I had a client a few years back – an office with about five people working in it. You could stand up at your desk and turn around 360 degrees and see the entire company in the sweep of your glance. While I was there working on low-level installation and configuring, I couldn’t help but overhear something occur more than once: an important meeting scheduled with a client had to be rescheduled because one or more staff members had a scheduling conflict. What? Everyone that worked in the office was in view of each other, and within earshot. Even more puzzling, everyone had Microsoft Outlook210 installed on their computers. What, I finally asked, were they using to manage inter-office scheduling. Answer: NOTHING! Time Management is Asset Management I’m not a shill for Microsoft, but Outlook is the corporate standard for good reason — in addition to being an email client211 (which is all they were using it for) it’s a contact manager212, a task scheduler, and has individual and group calendar capabilities. Don’t think I’m picking on Small Businesses, though — most of the larger firms and corporations I’ve worked at and for didn’t use Outlook for anything but email either. Outlook isn’t the only viable candidate for task scheduling213 and shared calendar management: Google Calendar214, leveraging the iCal215 standard, is a great FREE alternative, which interacts natively with almost any smartphone, making it an even better mobile solution than stationary desktop-based Outlook. As I often say in situations like this, “It’s not the tool you choose, it’s the tool you USE“. Task management216 and calendar (appointment) management about more than just making checklists. Making sure that appointments are kept and tasks don’t fall through the cracks are essential aspects of providing superior customer service217. They’re also areas in which Small Businesses tend to fail miserably218 since, if they manage them at all, they usually depend on memory or old-fashioned, 20th Century pen and paper 114
them at all, they usually depend on memory or old-fashioned, 20th Century pen and paper methods.
Managing your appointments, tasks and to-do lists manually, by some paper-based method is a non-starter in the 21st Century business environment. ● You can’t copy and paste ● You can’t search ● You can’t import or export email addresses, phone numbers and website URLs219 ● You can’t easily categorize or prioritize your activities ● You can’t share your schedule with multiple co-workers ● You can’t see, at a glance, available free time to schedule the activity of several people Task Management = Return on Investment Let’s face it: most Small Businesses still aren’t in a position to increase their staff or budgets. Increasing efficiency and eliminating wasted time and effort are simple, accessible ways to step up your customer service game. Google Calendar allows you to create alerts for your scheduled appointments220 that will send you reminders by email, popup messages or SMS text messages delivered to your cell phone. I use Google Calendar’s alerts to help me not “airhead221” important meetings. I create email reminders five days, three days and one day before each appointment. Two hours and one hour before each appointment, I have text reminders sent to my cell phone number. It’s like having the most efficient executive assistant constantly shadowing me, keeping me on track with my schedule (see the “HOW” section of the “Procrastination” chapter). So I can concentrate on the important things222: attending the meetings on time, and providing superior customer service to my clients. To-do lists that track to my phone keep the “what I have to do next” literally at my fingertips. So very little falls through the cracks. And tasks that are tracked in a system like Outlook, Google Calendar or some other computerbased/online system, roll forward until they’re canceled or completed. Thus, fewer important things are overlooked or forgotten. And I don’t double-book my time anymore, which used to happen when I managed my schedule on paper or, even worse, by “remembering” them. Because a mind IS a terrible thing to waste — on the trivial details of task and time management. Let you computer and your Smartphone223 do the grunt work — so you can focus on the stuff you get paid for. Related articles ● A list of the 51 best plugins and add-ins for Microsoft Outlook224 (www.mxhero.com) 115
● Why I moved from Microsoft Office 365 to Google Apps – Part One225 (tubblog.co.uk) ● Latest Zoho Calendar Updates: Sync for Google Calendar, Birthday Calendar226 (zoho.com) ● How to Sync Google Calendar with Outlook227 (www.techadvisor.co.uk)
Top 5 Tools You’re Probably NOT Using – But SHOULD BE! #1: Messaging If you’re like most Small Business owners or operators “of a certain age”, your view of Instant Messaging228, if you have one, may be similar to one of the following statements: ● Instant Messaging is for kids ● I have an email account – what do I need messaging for? ● It’s too complicated ● I don’t have time for that nonsense ● What good could this messaging stuff do for my Small Business? I’m sure most of you reading this can relate to at least one of the statements above; the last one asks the question which is, in fact, the topic of today’s post. Business, as I’ve mentioned in the previous series, is about relationships. Relationships, in turn, are about communication. I’m sure it’s no secret that email is an essential Small Business tool — if nothing else, it has allowed Small Businesses to save on postage and shipping costs once required to provide instant communication. Where it once took a special delivery or overnight package delivery229 (and still took at least a day) to ship critical documents to a business partner, vendor or client, we can now attach a PDF or word processor230 file to an email, and the relevant party receives it almost instantly. Thus the “instant” in instant messaging — “IM“, as it is commonly known, combines the quickness of a phone conversation with the permanence of text. This second component is not to be overlooked, or taken lightly. How many times have you spoken with someone about a previous conversation, struggling to recall an important detail that neither of you can remember now, because you weren’t recording the call or taking notes? IM-ing is nothing but taking notes, real-time, as you engage in conversation. Even with a stenographer on hand, you would still probably miss much, and usually only capture your side of the call. With IM, the transcription IS the conversation and, in addition, you have the benefit of: ● Including links to relevant websites ● Transferring electronic documents231 and digital images 118
● Copy-and-pasting information from emails and existing documents ● Creating a “paper trail” for reference and auditing purposes In addition to these benefits, IM helps reduce the occurrence of “foot-in-mouth disease232“: since you type your responses before you transmit them, you have a few seconds before you click “Send” to decide if you want to forward what may amount to an emotional outburst, rather than a well-chosen response. Google and Yahoo! have standalone chat clients233 and clients built into234 their emails; Facebook235 and MySpace accounts have built-in chat as well. Blackberry, Android and iPhone smartphones all have apps that aggregate all your chat clients into a single location, allowing you to appear online to all your various chat partners. In addition, there is a stand-alone chat tool - All-in-One Messenger236 - that does the same thing from your desktop. And there’s even the legacy application ICQ237, which was one of the first ever chat clients, long before either GMail or Facebook even existed. Being able to communicate with your Small Business clients, partners and vendors as quickly as a phone call, with the permanence of text, the ability to embed web links and transfer files may be a novel concept to you, but you must certainly appreciate the possibilities it presents. Consider it from the perspective of business objectives, not just technology. The strategic business advantages should be quite obvious — if you’re getting the message. Related articles ● Top Web-Based Messengers for Chat238 (www.lifewire.com) ● Facebook and LinkedIn – The Modern Age Lead Generation Tools For Your Business239 (www.smedio.com) ● How to block text messages on iOS and Android240 (www.digitaltrends.com) ● 50 Popular Internet Acronyms/50 Text Messaging…Abbreviations241 (www.smartwords.org)
Top 5 Tools You’re Probably NOT Using – But SHOULD BE! #2: Collaboration/Groupware A key advantage of technology is that it allows us to do things faster and more efficiently – like typing a business letter. Remember “White-Out“? Or carbon paper? Most Small Businesses are “solopreneurships242” — one person operations — but 75% of all small businesses243 have up to 20 people working for them. Yet the tendency exists to conduct business as if the two, or five, or more people in the business are working by themselves, in isolation. I have several clients who complain that something as simple as scheduling meetings requires tremendous effort — even in a shop where everyone sits within arm’s reach of one another! A distinct value of today’s technology is the ability to coordinate our daily activities. It’s a matter of using what’s already there. Any office that uses… er, Microsoft Office (with Outlook244) has calendar functions built right in, that allows everyone in the – office – to see everyone else’s scheduled appointments, search for free time within the day, and link these schedules with the contacts in their address books, and send and coordinate invitation via email. In addition, every version of MS Office245 since the 2003 version provides the ability to share the editing of word processor documents and spreadsheets, with annotated markups of who made which changes when, and the ability to merge all changes into a final version for release and distribution. For those of you who don’t feel like dropping a bundle on the full MS Office package (which costs about $230), you can get the web version, Office 365, for $72 per user per year. This way, you can set up three users will the full blow MS Office set of tools Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook - for the price of installing it on one user’s PC. Google used to provide similar functionality for free, with no installation requirement except the web browser of your choice. It was called Google Apps Standard246, and it gave you the ability to set up 50 email accounts under your businesses domain name (I did this for my “communit.us” domain), with over 15GB in each inbox. Unfortunately, the days of “free” are behind us. However Google now offers “GSuite247”, which is basically everything the former product used to provide, only now the price is $50 per user per year. 120
In addition, using the online Google Documents248 function, you can create and edit documents online, share the editing tasks with your Small Business partners or co-workers, and even see their editing real-time, coordinating the work effort from anywhere in the world you have access to the Internet. A step further in complexity is the free application “eGroupware249”, which brings this functionality and more in-house. Run on a local computer in your company using the free Linux operating system250, you can set up a web-based central command, coordinating email accounts, multiple contact lists, tasks list, time sheets, document and project management. (their website really pushes the commercial and cloud versions, but you’ll want the free “Community Edition”) The best thing about eGroupware is how it all coordinates – schedule a task, associate it with a client of vendor from the address book, link it to a meeting event in the calendar, and tie it all together with an existing project, which provides a simple but effective “GANTT chart251” that visually maps your progress, and even keeps a running total of the cumulative time of the overall work effort. Of course, none of this works if you don’t use it, and that does take a bit of learning how even if you just use Microsoft Office, Word and Excel more efficiently. But as a Small Business owner252, operator or employee, knowing how is the value you bring to your clients — if they could do it themselves, they would, and save the money they pay you. Isn’t it worth investing whatever time it would take, to bring added value to your Small Business itself? Groupware allows you to do more, with less, more efficiently — isn’t that worth investing a little time to learn how? Related articles ● Google Launches Drive Plug-In For Microsoft Office253 (techcrunch.com) ● 15 Social Media Collaboration Platforms254 (www.freshminds.net) ● Ultimate Selection of 60 Tools for Business Owners255 (www.smallbusinessbranding.com) ● Google Docs secrets: 20 power tips256 (www.macworld.com) ● You can Play Videos in Google Docs now257 (news.softpedia.com)
Top 5 Tools You’re Probably NOT Using – But SHOULD BE! #3: Email Campaigning I remember attending a meeting when I was IT manager for a New York architectural design firm258, and learning that the most important application was not the one that did the drafting, drawing and 3D design… but was Microsoft Outlook – their email program259…! Not surprising, once you consider it. Unless we can communicate260 with our clients, colleagues, co-workers, vendors and peers, there IS no business. The days of mailroom workers patrolling the aisles with carts, picking up and delivering physical mail all day are not even in the active memory of many of today’s Small Business owners and employees. Email is king and, as such, is easily taken for granted. So looking at email as a Small Business “power tool” might strike you as a bit strange, initially. Plain old, boring email — huh? But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Back in the old-timey days of carbon paper261 and Correct-O-Type, there used to be this thing called “Direct Mail262 campaigning“, in which colorful brochures, fliers, postcards and the like were physically mailed to targeted audiences throughout the land. Only a fraction of recipients ever responded, but if you sent out thousands (or tens of thousands), a return of even a small percent of the total more than justified the effort and expense. Well email, for the most part, is free. And with the proper resource, preparing the equivalent of a colorful flier or informative brochure is child’s play (and for the technologically challenged out there — enlist the aid of your actual children in this effort: they were practically born with joysticks or game controllers in their hands). Many of you may be familiar with Constant Contact263, the popular email campaign website. In fact, if you’ve recently received an email invitation to an event that was well formatted, with graphics, nice fonts and such, check the bottom of that message — odds are good it was sent from a Constant Contact account. As good, and as popular, as Constant Contact is, I prefer and recommend (and use) MailChimp264. … I have no idea why they call it that, but who cares what it’s called: ● It’s FREE 122
● Each free account can have up to 2,000 email accounts in its combined lists ● Each account can deliver up to 12,000 mailings each month ● It has a wealth of video tutorials to walk you through every step of setting up email campaigns ● It has a wonderful selection of templates for all occasions, edited as easily as a word processor document ● It’s the only free email campaign site I’m aware of that has autoresponders. (MailChimp no longer offers autoresponders with the FREE accounts.) ● Did I mention it’s FREE??? For those of you who read the previous series “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail“, you may recall that I mentioned MailChimp in the third chapter – Marketing. Since then (less than a month ago) MailChimp has doubled the number of outbound emails per month from six to twelve thousand. This means that if you have a targeted list of, say, 400 people, you can send each of them an email a day. For FREE. The real advantage of email campaigning is the autoresponder265. In short, it is a predetermined series of emails delivered on a schedule – every other day, every week, once a month, whatever. As new people are added to your autoresponder list, they’re automatically put at the top of the list, and get the first email – say “Welcome, Valued Customer of [INSERT YOUR BUSINESS NAME]”, then the second, and third, and so on, according to schedule. AUTOMATICALLY. So once you’ve set up the emails, and the schedule, you just add new names to the list. How are you doing this now? Manually, by mail merging word processor documents — if at all?? C’mon now, join the 21st Century…already in progress. MailChimp may not offer autoresponders for free anymore, but there is a free solution available. For those of you who have a website built on the WordPress platform (and I don’t recommend any other platform, to be honest), there is a plugin called “Mailpoet”. While not as sleek and sexy as MailChimp, Constant Contact, Mad Mimi or other third-party alternatives, Mailpoet is my new email campaign platform of choice for several reasons: ● It’s FREE ● It’s built-in to your website, reducing the number of open tabs and active accounts you have to deal with to get things done ● It allows you to integrate pages and blog posts from your website as newsletter content, allowing you to “write once, use many times”alued customer ● Properly configured, the emails come from YOUR EMAIL DOMAIN, not a thirdparty however trusted it may be ● It is the only FREE solution I’m aware of that provides autoresponders - automatic, timed-sequences of emails to targeted mailing lists 123
● Did I mention it’s FREE??? It’s a well-known metric of business that it takes an average of seven contacts to convert a lead into a customer266. Will you remember to follow-up seven times with every new lead you encounter? Will you have the time?? With a properly designed autoresponder campaign, you don’t have to. And this doesn’t just apply to converting leads… business is about relationships, remember? How about a valued customer267 autoresponder campaign? Not pitches, and upsell attempts — just send an email every third week, with some helpful advice or amusing anecdotes, coming from you, and reminding your existing customers that you value them — and hopefully, jogging their memory of how much they value you and Your Small Business. Wondering how to get new business from your old clients? Remember, it’s about relationships. And as with personal relationships, it’s usually out of sight, out of mind. So use email campaigning not just to pitch and sell, but to stay “top of mind“ with your most valuable resources – the people you’re already doing business with. Related articles ● The 25 Best Email Marketing and Newsletter Apps268 (zapier.com) ● A Bigger Platform for Small Businesses: Introducing Facebook Ad Campaigns269 (mailchimp.com) ● 12 Facebook Ad Content Ideas Can Make You Stand Out Of The Crowd270. (www.designomate.com) ● 25 Simple Ways to Grow Your Email List271 (blog.hubspot.com)
Top 5 Tools You’re Probably NOT Using – But SHOULD BE! #4: CRM As is the recurring theme of these series, business is about relationships. Some time ago major corporations and the software companies that serve them realized it was time to bundle that concept into application form. So, just as Outlook bundled email, contact management, scheduling and task management (even though few of us use it to its full potential), the many aspects of managing the efforts of acquiring leads, tracking communication with them, converting them into paying customers and figuring out how much money they’ve made (or cost) your business was bundled into a class of software. This type of application is called “CRM” — which stands for, simply enough, “Customer Relationship Management272“. There are many different CRM applications, both free and commercial of various levels of complexity, but the basic elements of CRM are: ● Contact Management273 ● Associating contacts with companies or, as they are often called, “accounts274“ ● Distinguishing between potential customers275 (“leads”) and actual clients ● Tracking the level of engagement in the “conversion276” process (nurturing the relationship of converting a “lead” [potential] into a customer277) ● Associating accounts/contacts with your company’s revenue stream Now many of you, especially you solopreneurs out there, may consider CRM to be overkill — “I have a list of my customers, I call or email them often, and I have a spreadsheet (or maybe Quickbooks) to track what I earn and what I owe. Why“, you might ask, “do I need to introduce yet another program into the mix?” Well… ask yourself a few questions: ● Have you ever met a prospect at an event, or had one referred… and then somehow, failed to follow up and convert them to a paying customer? ● Have you ever taken things to the next level – an actual phone call or meeting – but never closed the deal, despite a positive feeling at the end of the initial encounter? 126
● Have you ever hesitated to follow up with a lead you had contacted in the past because you couldn’t remember where you had left things during you last encounter — or couldn’t remember exactly when that last encounter was? ● Do you find yourself staring at a stack of business cards, without a clue as to who most of those people are, where you met them, or whether they are prospects, vendors, or potential referral partners…? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you can see a bit of the value of the CRM approach. More that just a particular program, CRM is the approach of tracking the entire flow of the relationship, from initial encounter throughout the lifetime of the business relationship: ● When and how did we meet? ● Does this individual prefer phone calls, emails or face-to-face meetings ● How interested are they in doing business? How hard can I “push“? ● When was our last encounter? ● What was the mode (call/email/meeting) and result of our last meeting? ● When should I follow up… and how? ● How much business am I doing with my existing customers? ● Which customers are costing me more than I make doing business with them? (this question is almost never asked, regardless of business size or type)
You could attempt to manage all of this, and more, with a manual process consisting of various unassociated emails, word processor documents, spreadsheets, untracked phone calls and quickly forgotten physical encounters, but that’s what you’re doing now. How’s that working for you? We’re in the 21st Century – already in progress, as I like to say – and isn’t it time to get past the excuse that technology is too complicated or time consuming to learn. In this “Great Recession278” economy, every business, small and large, needs every competitive advantage at their disposal. If you fail to convert a potential customer, or exploit business opportunities with your existing clients, you’re leaving money on the table. Is your business doing that well? Can you afford to do that? You don’t have to jump head first into the CRM mix, and it need not cost you anything but the time to learn how to integrate CRM into your current work flow. There are many choices of CRM software279, both free and commercial. Most CRM software is designed for larger businesses, and might overwhelm the solopreneur 127
Most CRM software is designed for larger businesses, and might overwhelm the solopreneur or SOHO280 organization just getting started with this type of application. But this doesn’t leave you without options. I recommend: HubSpot Sales281
HubSpot Sales, formerly called Sidekick, is a free web-based tool and a Google Chrome browser extension for GMail:
The key feature of HubSpot Sales GMail extension is that it notifies you when someone opens an email that you’ve sent them. This is important when you’re at a critical stage of negotiation, 128
an email that you’ve sent them. This is important when you’re at a critical stage of negotiation, or whenever you need to know whether an email has been read. It also connects to a website that creates accounts based on the people you send emails to, making it simple to ease your way into using a CRM without the overhead – and mental overload – of incorporating a major new system into your way of Doing Business. When you’re ready to take the plunge and use a full-blown set of CRM tools, HubSpot is there for you as well, with their HubSpot CRM Free282 suite.
The amazing thing about this suite - and the reason why we recommend it - is that it provides a set of tools for FREE - the HubSpot Growth Stack283 - that are easily worth paying for. Of course, HubSpot hopes that you will (eventually) upgrade to the paid versions of these tools, but it could be a while before you ever outgrow the free version, especially when they’re provided by one of the industry leaders in marketing and sales:
Whatever you do, pick a tool or buy one, and start using it. There’s gold to be mined in the business cards and email addresses you already possess: don’t leave money on the table that belongs in Your Small Business bank account. Related articles ● What is CRM???284 (www.thebalancecareers.com) ● Why Every Small Business (Yes, Even Yours) Needs a CRM System285 (sba.thehartford.com) ● 4 Ways You're Misusing Your CRM Data286 (www.entrepreneur.com) ● 7 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience Strategy287 (www.superoffice.com) ● Sixteen Ways to Find Customers288 (www.businessknowhow.com)
Top 5 Tools You’re Probably NOT Using – But SHOULD BE! #5: Task Management Business is about relationships – how you relate to your clients, vendors, co-workers and partners. This has been the recurring theme of the series published so far this year. One relationship has been somewhat overlooked so far – how you relate to the effort required to do the actual work289 that is Your Small Business. Whether you produce a product for sale, sell products produced elsewhere, provide a service or offer advice as a consultant, the work you must do to produce a salable end result can be reduced to a series of individual steps290, commonly referred to as “tasks“. While the work ends up “getting done”, and money is made, most of us would find it difficult to describe precisely how the work is actually accomplished.
This seems so obvious that it is often… no – usually taken for granted. “What do you mean, how do I get the work done?291 I… just… well, I just do it.” That’s a sufficient answer from a hobbyist, but one of the major reasons Small Businesses fail to “scale up” — to quickly add a significant number of new hires in a hurry — is because there is no formal work process. This is also the main reason why, when facing a sudden deadline, chaos ensues among even the smallest of businesses — a two or three person shop — because not only is nobody on the same page: no-one knows what the page IS… Most Small Businesses begin with one person doing something they’re good at. They typically take on one client at first, slowly building up their client base through word of mouth 132
take on one client at first, slowly building up their client base through word of mouth recommendations from that first satisfied customer. Before they know it, their business is up and running. But before too long, they’re overwhelmed with the effort required to get things done, because they never formally approached how they do what they do. Simply getting things done292 is acceptable at first; certainly better than NOT getting things done. But a business is not “things done“ — a business is a predictable method of producing a quality result, in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost. If it takes too long, the client loses patience, customers of their own, or even their business. If it costs too much, the client complains, balks… or sometimes refuses payment or may even sue you. This is why managing the tasks required to perform the work is crucial to overall Small Business success. Nobody suggests hiring an “efficiency expert”, with a clipboard and stopwatch, or writing a thousand-page “how-to” manual. But tracking the work done, and the work to be done, accomplishes several essential and easily overlooked objectives: ● It provides a checklist293 to ensure critical tasks294 are not left undone ● It lets you know when (and if) the work is actually done295 ● It provides a record296 of how repeated (and repeatable) efforts were accomplished, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel ● Over time, it gives you a way to show others how to do things297 without having to physically supervise them, or take time explaining things when you could be getting other work done. ● In some cases, it gives you a tangible checklist to show the client or customer the “progress so far“, or proof that the required work has actually been done298 Some professions relate to task management299 more naturally than others: construction, architecture and those involved in some sort of manufacturing process usually spend time preparing lists of tasks in advance of the actual work effort, or receive task lists from clients, subcontractors or some sort of site supervisor. But for those of us who work alone, or in less formally detailed professions or industries, “getting along the way we always got along” is usually viewed as good enough. But this is the 21st Century, folks: are you in business to do “well enough300“, or are you trying to grow Your Small Business, to thrive and expand? This will not happen by accident, and you will not magically discover a secret recipe, even if you’re in the food services industry. Task management is not about a particular program, but a particular approach. You can use something as simple as the calendar and task list functions in Microsoft Outlook301, GMail302, Mozilla Thunderbird303 or other similar email/calendar/task/contact list application. The fundamentals of task management are actually quite basic: ● Associate jobs with clients – this helps track what you’re doing for whom, and helps you keep them in the loop as the work progresses ● Break down jobs into tasks – the fundamental, individual effort; the distinct “thing to do” that can’t be broken down any further 133
● Arrange the tasks into a logical sequence – to get the overall job done in the most efficient (least time + least cost) manner. Parallel tasks (doing more than one thing at once) are acceptable, where possible ● Schedule each task – this ensures that you actually get them done, and prevents “double booking” time conflicts ● Check off completed tasks – this not only prevents duplicated effort, but gives you visual evidence of moving closer to the job getting done All of this can be accomplished with nothing more than an email program like the ones described above. Most Small Businesses will never need a full-blown project management tool, with GANTT charts, priorities, resource overload tracking and the like. But some may ultimately benefit from more formal task management than an email program’s task lists can provide. They may need to arrange tasks and dependent sub-tasks in a “parent -> child” structure, coordinate the effort of several people, comment or annotate tasks, track milestones and more. In such cases, there is one good, free task management applications I recommend: Asana.com304
Asana is web-based, flexible and extensible. It’s simple enough to be used as a “to-do” list for one person, powerful enough to manage multiple projects, with tasks and sub-tasks for entire teams. It’s email driven, with alerts and updates keeping all team members on the same page. You can even provide select access and notifications to clients for just the tasks or projects you choose. Should you need GANTT charts305, there is a plugin structure306 that provides that and more, allowing you to make Asana work the way you Do Business, rather than having to spend time 134
allowing you to make Asana work the way you Do Business, rather than having to spend time and money learning a complicated new system. As with CRM, don’t get caught up on which one to choose. There are quite a few options, and many of them are FREE, so check them out and find the one that fits. Remember: it’s not the tool you choose, it’s the tool you use. Related articles ● Best Free Project Management Software to Consider in 2018307 (financesonline.com) ● How to Better Track the Tasks You Delegate to Others308 (michaelhyatt.com) ● Get More Done in Less Time: How to Organize Your Small Business For Success in 9 Steps309 (www.infusionsoft.com) ● 10 Tips For Organizing Your Small Business This Year310 (smallbiztrends.com) ● Searching For The Perfect To-Do List App311 (medium.com)
procrastination - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrastination
Business Owner - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_business
slippery slope - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slippery_slope
of mouth - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Word_of_mouth
marketing strategy - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing_strategy the Boss: Top 10 Reasons Small Businesses Fail https://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/05/top-10-reasons-small-businesses-fail/ 6 Youâ€™re
15 Ways to Grow Your Business Fast https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/306049 8 The Role of Strategic Thinking in Business Planning - https://bia.ca/the-role-of-strategic-
A Simple 6-Step Process to Starting a Small Business https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/299688 10 Procrastination and Dopamine Receptor Density http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/intrinsic-motivation-and-magical-
customers - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customer
who your potential clients might consider https://sba.thehartford.com/marketing/top-5-reasons-your-small-business-may-be-losingcustomers/
competitor (or competitive) analysis 138
competitor (or competitive) analysis -
http://managementhelp.org/mrktng/cmpetitr/cmpetitr.htm 16 brick and mortar - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brick_and_mortar_business
thereâ€™s no loyalty in business anymore http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-end-of-loyalty-shock-and-awe-for-manyamerican-workers/
loyalty - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loyalty_business_model
always done business with you http://sbinformation.about.com/b/2009/03/29/maintaining-customer-loyalty-during-cut-backs.htm 20 court your clients - http://sbinfocanada.about.com/od/customerservice/a/Customer-Service-
Keep stroking clients, or theyâ€™ll flee https://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-marketing/keepstroking-clients-or-theyll-flee/article626574/ 22 3 Keys to Competing - https://www.forbes.com/sites/augustturak/2011/02/02/3-keys-to-
10 Essential Features of Every Good Business Website https://mashable.com/2012/02/09/website-must-haves/#ZOSW.nbgb8qF 24 Startups: Dealing With Competition [TNW Entrepreneur] https://thenextweb.com/entrepreneur/2010/10/24/startups-dealing-with-competition/
Why Is Change Important in an Organization? http://smallbusiness.chron.com/change-important-organization-728.html
strategy - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing_strategy
advertising - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advertising
Business - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_business
customer - https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/09/10-tips-buildingcustomer-focused-business.html 30 clientele - https://profitworks.ca/blog/sales-tips-for-small-business/384-how-to-build-trustwith-your-customers-seven-practices-every-small-business-owner-should-embrace.html
31 32 LinkedIn
Facebook - https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/253158 - https://marketingthink.com/10-steps-to-use-linkedin-for-small-business/
ConstantContact - https://marketingthink.com/10-steps-to-uselinkedin-for-small-business/ 34 MailChimp - https://mailchimp.com/resources/guides/email-marketing-field-guide/
Survival Tips for Solopreneurs - https://www.inc.com/marlatabaka/survival-tips-for-solopreneurs.html 36 Donâ€™t Look Now, But Small Business Is On The Brink Of Something Big -
Small businesses cautiously optimistic http://www.wfmz.com/news/lehigh-valley/local-business-owners-weigh-in-on-confidence-insmall-businesses/333513168 38 Allocating Resources to Help Small Business Grow https://www.fastcompany.com/1702810/allocating-resources-help-small-business-grow
it costs much more to acquire a new client https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers 40 distinction between clients and customers - https://communitsolutions.com/cream-rises-
Customer satisfaction https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Customer_satisfaction 42 Email campaigns - https://www.lyfemarketing.com/blog/small-business-email-marketing/
autoresponders - http://www.smallbusinessbranding.com/430/emailautoresponders/ 44 value-add - https://www.business2community.com/marketing/basics-value-added-
45 46 brick
upselling - https://www.groovehq.com/support/upsells and mortar shop - https://smallbiztrends.com/2018/01/2018-brick-and-mortar-
brick and mortar shop - https://smallbiztrends.com/2018/01/2018-brick-and-mortar-
churn - http://www.evergage.com/blog/how-calculate-customer-churnand-revenue-churn/ 48 capture customers - https://www.websitemagazine.com/blog/mastering-customer-capture-
49 50 order
financial records - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_statement fulfillment - https://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/fulfillment
customer retention rates https://www.salesforce.com/hub/service/customer-retention-rate/ 52 businesses - https://medium.com/@isaacrudansky/stop-trying-to-do-something-youre-
5 Unique Ways to Increase Customer Retention https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-retention-tips-with-crm-software/ 54 Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers - Harvard Business Review -
The Truth About Customer Experience - Harvard Business Review - https://hbr.org/2013/09/the-truth-about-customer-experience 56 The 7 Fundamentals Of Sustainable Business Growth https://www.fastcompany.com/3049856/the-7-fundamentals-of-sustainable-business-growth
How Insider Perksâ€™ Brian Searl Got 9,000 Twitter Followers http://www.businesspundit.com/how-insider-perks-brian-searl-got-9000-twitter-followers/
employees https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employment#Employees_and_employers 60 customers - https://www.nbrii.com/employee-survey-white-papers/the-relationship-between-
training and managing - https://www.thebalance.com/hr-leadershipstrategy-4073603 62 partners they are - https://www.nextiva.com/blog/why-you-should-view-your-employees-as-
long-term goals - https://www.thebalance.com/the-ultimate-guide-tosmall-business-goal-setting-2951416 64 they have a stake - http://smallbusiness.chron.com/employees-affected-
Satisfied employees http://www.salesboom.com/small_business_advice_guide/employment_hr/employee_motivatio n.html 66 How to Be a Business Leader for Your Small Business https://www.thebalance.com/business-leadership-for-small-business-2948499
How Many Jobs Do Small Businesses Really Create? https://www.fundera.com/blog/small-businesses-job-creation 68 How Does Employee Engagement Improve the Bottom Line? http://smallbusiness.chron.com/employee-engagement-improve-bottom-line-15482.html
one-trick ponies - http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-a-one-trick-
or service - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goods_and_services
Great Recession - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Recession
73 74 NYC
Operation Hope - https://www.operationhope.org/hibrooklyn Business Solutionsâ€™ FastTrac New Venture -
75 76 financial
business plan - https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/247574 - https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/01/small-business-finance-basics.html
word-of-mouth - https://referralrock.com/blog/word-of-mouthmarketing/ 78 referral partners - http://www.sideroad.com/Sales/referral-partners.html
we’ve mentioned - https://communitsolutions.com/top-ten-reasonssmall-businesses-fail_10/ 80 Survival Tips for Solopreneurs - https://www.inc.com/marla-tabaka/survival-tips-for-
FastTrac Leading to Start-ups and Job Creation Across the Nation - https://citystartuplabs.com/fasttrac_startup/ 82 21 Selling Strategies for Growing Your Small Business — Interview with … http://adriansjournal.blogspot.com/2011/02/21-selling-strategies-for-growing-your.html
online business - https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/175242
you build it, they will come - https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0097351/
Register your site - https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/submit-
major - https://search.yahoo.com/info/submit.html
87 88 meta
search engines - https://www.bing.com/toolbox/submit-site-url tags - https://www.google.com/webmasters/#/utm_medium=et&utm_source=us-en-et152
tags - https://www.google.com/webmasters/#/utm_medium=et&utm_source=us-en-et-
keywords - https://business.tutsplus.com/tutorials/seo-basics-cms-29010 90 properly - https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo/how-search-engines-operate
Google My Business listing - https://moz.com/blog/how-to-optimizeyour-google-my-business-listing 92 fifty online local business directories https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/10322/the-ultimate-list-50-local-business-
How Google Analytics Can Help You Run A More Successful Small Business - https://wptangerine.com/google-analytics-can-help-run-successful-smallbusiness/ 94 Using Social Media for Small Business - https://www.thebalance.com/social-media-small-
Why Small Businesses Have the Social Media Marketing Advantage - https://www.ducttapemarketing.com/small-businesses-social-media-marketing/ 96 Small Business financials - https://www.gnucash.org/features.phtml#oth-feat
97 98 accounts
accounting - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accounting receivable - http://www.wikinvest.com/metric/Accounts_Receivable
receivable - http://www.wikinvest.com/metric/Accounts_Receivable
accounts payable http://www.wikinvest.com/metric/Accounts_Payable 100 cash flow - https://www.thebalance.com/cash-flow-analysis-for-small-business-
Mint.com - https://www.mint.com/
QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition 2010 155
QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition 2010 -
http://www.majorgeeks.com/mg/getmirror/intuit_quickbooks_simple_start_free_edition,1.html 104 DWMBeanCounter.com accounting tutorial -
6 Must-Know Accounting Tips for Your Small Business https://www.patriotsoftware.com/accounting/training/blog/6-accounting-tips/ 106 9 Tips to Get Your Small Business Accounting Practices in Order -
Cash Flow Management Tips for Your Small Business https://due.com/blog/cash-flow-management-tips-for-your-small-business/ 108 20 Ways to Manage & Increase Small Business Cash Flow -
stuck in the attitudes and assumptions - https://qz.com/145359/itstime-for-companies-to-stop-thinking-like-startups/
plan - https://www.sba.gov/tools/business-plan/1
SBA - https://www.sba.gov/
Business Networking - https://www.thebalancesmb.com/better-smallbusiness-networking-2951705
Way - https://jennyshih.com/2014/08/effd/ 157
first five years - https://www.fundera.com/blog/what-percentage-ofsmall-businesses-fail 116 60 Top Entrepreneurs Share Best Business Advice and Tips for Success -
When to Get Small Business Advice from the Pros https://www.sba.gov/blogs/when-get-small-business-advice-pros 118 50 Reasons Why Some Businesses Fail While Others Succeed https://www.successharbor.com/why-some-businesses-fail-while-others-succeed-02132015/
7 Misconceptions About Entrepreneurship https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/291082 120 5 things to know about growing brand value through social listening - https://www.dixeaton.com/blog/entries/5-things-to-know-about-growing-brand-value-through-social-listening
financial projections - https://www.score.org/resource/financialprojections-template 122 competitor analysis - https://www.bigcommerce.com/blog/how-perform-competitive-
comprehensive business plan - https://www.thebalancesmb.com/acomprehensive-business-plan-outline-for-small-business-2951557
Business - https://cemi.com.au/node/93
more from necessity than desire https://readwrite.com/2012/07/05/accidental-entrepreneurs-meet-the-new-breed-of-startupfounders/ 126 create more Small Business than a burning desire -
SWOT Analysis - http://www.quickmba.com/strategy/swot/
networking opportunites https://smallbiztrends.com/2015/08/commandments-of-business-networking.html 130 maps out a course of action - https://www.leadershipreview.net/business-skills
maps out a course of action - https://www.leadershipreview.net/business-skills
partnership opportunites https://www.thebalancesmb.com/wanted-100-referral-partners-2948464 132 discover potential clients - https://www.huffingtonpost.com/jackie-nagel/create-
Competitors http://www.infoentrepreneurs.org/en/guides/understand-your-competitors/ 134 prepare a strategy - https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-
Strategic Business Plan - https://www.thealternativeboard.com/whatis-a-strategic-plan-and-why-does-your-business-need-one/
plan - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_planning
Building A Business Continuity Plan https://www.brighthub.com/computing/smb-security/articles/30288.aspx 138 Two Weeks to Startup â€” Day 4: Write Your Business Plan -
15 Ways to Grow Your Business Fast https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/306049 140 electronic documents - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Document_management_system
electronic documents - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Document_management_system
word processor - https://support.office.com/en-us/article/basic-tasksin-word-2013-87b3243c-b0bf-4a29-82aa-09a681999fdc 142 managing your electronic documents - https://www.thebalancesmb.com/creating-a-
My Documents - https://www.thebalancesmb.com/computer-filemanagement-tips-2948083 144 Microsoft Office Templates https://templates.office.com/?legRedir=true&CorrelationId=948616a3-739a-4555-9113-9b2110
145 146 Google
147 148 Frugal
Open Office Templates - https://templates.openoffice.org/ Docs Templates - https://docs.google.com/document/u/0/?ftv=1&tgif=c
Samplewords Templates - http://www.samplewords.com/ Entrepreneur Free Business Templates - https://frugalentrepreneur.com/free-
13 Painless Ways To Organize, Store, And Get Rid Of Paper Clutter - https://makespace.com/blog/posts/organize-store-get-rid-of-paper-clutter/ 150 How to use Libraries in Windows 10 https://www.geeksinphoenix.com/blog/post/2016/07/06/how-to-use-libraries-in-windows-10.aspx
How To Organize Your Small Business Records http://www.dummies.com/business/start-a-business/business-plans/how-to-organize-yoursmall-business-records/ 152 Creating Order From Chaos: 9 Great Ideas For Managing Your Computer Files https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/creating-order-chaos-9-great-ideas-managing-computer-files/
How to Organize Your Filesâ€Śand Remember Where Everything Is, Part 1 - https://www.sitepoint.com/how-to-organize-your-files/ 154 Outlook - https://products.office.com/enUS/outlook?legRedir=true&CorrelationId=244b237f-521b-4982-a62b-
Mail - https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204093
Windows platform https://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/10-great-new-features-inwindows-10-1267365
by Mozilla - https://www.thunderbird.net/en-US/features/
GMail - https://www.google.com/gmail/about/ - https://www.pcworld.com/article/3034250/data-center-cloud/what-you-need-
Yahoo! Mail - https://www.lifewire.com/yahoo-free-emailservice-1174437 162 SPAM filters - http://www.toptenreviews.com/services/internet/best-free-email-services/
Outlook filters - https://computers.tutsplus.com/tutorials/tame-youroutlook-inbox-with-subfolders-rules-and-filters--cms-20590
filters - https://zapier.com/blog/gmail-filters/
Yahoo! Mail filters - https://www.wikihow.com/Create-a-Filter-inYahoo!-Mail 166 Thunderbird filters - https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/organize-your-messages-using-
Evolution filters https://software.grok.lsu.edu/article.aspx?articleid=4468
separate them by email account - https://www.howtooutlook.com/howto/sortmail.htm#filtered_views
Thunderbird - https://www.thunderbird.net/en-US/
How to Get Busy People to Read Your Emails https://www.scrubly.com/blog/how-to-email/get-busy-people-read-emails/ 172 Want Your Email Seen? 16 Spam Filter Rules to Avoid https://blog.boomerangapp.com/2017/06/want-your-email-seen-16-spam-filter-rules-to-avoid/
How To Block Spam With A Secondary Email Account https://www.ghacks.net/2011/03/14/how-to-block-spam-with-a-secondary-email-account/ 174 How to Wipe Out Spam Email in Your Inbox - https://lifehacker.com/5713914/how-to-
5 ways to stop spam from invading your email https://www.pcworld.com/article/3072435/data-center-cloud/5-ways-to-stop-spam-frominvading-your-email.html 176 Spam Blocking in Microsoft Outlook â€“ A Tutorial https://www.brighthub.com/computing/windows-platform/articles/111626.aspx
PC security - https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikekappel/2017/11/08/5ways-to-improve-your-small-business-cybersecurity/ 178 level of security required - https://www.csoonline.com/article/3239644/data-breach/5-
web-based email - https://www.paubox.com/blog/business-best-
practices-email-security 180 anti-virus program - https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2388652,00.asp
program - https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2388652,00.asp
Passwords - https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/08/password-policybest-practices.html 182 password cracking - https://www.cso.com.au/article/630001/how-hackers-crack-
Microsoft Windows Defender - https://www.microsoft.com/enus/windows/comprehensive-security 184 Windows firewall - https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/70699-turn-off-windows-defender-
Malwarebytes Anti-malware https://www.techradar.com/reviews/malwarebytes-anti-malware
Micro Housecall - http://housecall.trendmicro.com/
Panda Security Activescan http://www.pandasecurity.com/homeusers/solutions/activescan/ 188 Bitdefender online scanner - http://www.bitdefender.com/scanner/online/free.html
189 190 F-secure
Eset online scanner - http://www.eset.com/us/online-scanner online scanner - http://www.f-secure.com/en_EMEA-Labs/security-
4 Things You MUST Know About Computer Security https://issuu.com/communit/docs/4_things_you_must_know-security 192 Top Security Resolutions For New PCs - https://www.brighthub.com/computing/smb-
How To Make Your Firewall More Secure https://www.brighthub.com/computing/smb-security/articles/31237.aspx 194 How to Choose and Remember Great Passwords that Live in Your Head: Video Edition [Video] - https://lifehacker.com/5667944/how-to-choose-and-remember-great-
HackerProof: Your Guide To PC Security http://www.businessinsider.com/hackerproof-your-guide-to-pc-security-2011-2 196 systems administrator - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/System_administrator
on a single hard drive! http://www.explainingcomputers.com/storage.html 198 GB - https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/memory-sizes-gigabytes-terabytes-petabytes/
data loss - https://www.business.org/it/cyber-security/what-is-dataloss-and-how-can-your-business-prevent-it/ 200 external hard drive - https://www.bestbuy.com/site/shop/external-hard-drives-with-backup-
hard drive - https://www.bestbuy.com/site/shop/external-hard-drives-with-backup-
USB connection - https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-a-usb-port-818166
CrashPlan - https://www.crashplan.com/en-us/business/
solution - https://communitsolutions.com/what-is-backup/
mission-critical http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/mission-critical.html 206 Top 5 Small Business Data Loss Prevention Tools - https://nordic175
5 Small Business Data Loss Prevention Tools - https://nordic-
A step-by-step guide to backup strategy for small business https://www.solarwindsmsp.com/blog/step-step-guide-backup-strategy-small-business 208 Best practices to back up your data - https://www.techrepublic.com/article/world-backup-
3-2-1 Backup Strategy Best Practices [Infographic] https://www.neweggbusiness.com/smartbuyer/visualized/321-backup-strategy-best-practicesinfographic/ 210 Microsoft Outlook - https://support.office.com/en-us/article/video-use-the-scheduling-
email client - https://www.techradar.com/news/the-best-free-email-
manager - https://lifehacker.com/tag/contact-management
task scheduling - https://wheniwork.com/blog/how-to-manage-yourtime-as-a-small-business-owner/ 214 Google Calendar - https://www.geekchicago.com/blog-categories/top-8-google-calendar-
iCal - https://blog.mysoftinn.com/2017/01/16/what-is-ical-and-how-itmay-benefit-you/ 216 Task management - http://under30ceo.com/a-practical-guide-to-task-management-for-
Task management - http://under30ceo.com/a-practical-guide-to-task-management-for-
customer service - https://sba.thehartford.com/marketing/customerservice/ 218 Small Businesses tend to fail miserably http://www.organizationdirect.com/2012/10/22/better-time-management-for-entrepreneurs-and-
URLs - https://www.verisign.com/en_US/websitepresence/online/what-is-a-url/index.xhtml 220 create alerts for your scheduled appointments https://www.howtogeek.com/howto/41498/how-to-take-control-of-calendar-reminders-in-gmail/
221 222 concentrate
airhead - https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=airhead on the important things - http://www.passionforbusiness.com/articles/why-
Smartphone - https://www.infusionsoft.com/business-successblog/growth/apps-tools/how-to-run-a-small-business-from-a-smartphone 224 A list of the 51 best plugins and add-ins for Microsoft Outlook https://www.mxhero.com/blog/list-of-51-best-outlook-email-add-ins-plugins-complete-resource-
Why I moved from Microsoft Office 365 to Google Apps â€“ Part One - http://www.tubblog.co.uk/2013/02/21/why-i-moved-from-microsoft-office-365-to-googleapps-part-one/ 226 Latest Zoho Calendar Updates: Sync for Google Calendar, Birthday Calendar -
Zoho Calendar Updates: Sync for Google Calendar, Birthday Calendar -
How to Sync Google Calendar with Outlook https://www.techadvisor.co.uk/how-to/software/sync-google-outlook-calendar-3500196/ 228 Instant Messaging - https://gotrunk.com/the-business-benefits-of-instant-messaging/
229 230 word
package delivery - https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/300361 processor - https://www.macworld.com/article/2452620/ten-essential-things-you-
electronic documents - https://www.xero.com/us/resources/smallbusiness-guides/business-management/paperless-office/ 232 foot-in-mouth disease https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Chronic%20Foot%20in%20the%20Mouth%
chat clients - https://www.business.org/software/apps/best-instantmessaging-services-for-small-business-project-collaboration/
into - https://www.lifewire.com/top-email-chat-clients-1949828
235 236 All-in-One
Facebook - https://www.wikihow.com/Use-Facebook-Messenger Messenger - https://www.cnet.com/how-to/reduce-all-your-chats-to-a-single-app-
All-in-One Messenger - https://www.cnet.com/how-to/reduce-all-your-chats-to-a-single-app-
237 238 Top
ICQ - https://icq.com/windows/en Web-Based Messengers for Chat - https://www.lifewire.com/top-web-
Facebook and LinkedIn â€“ The Modern Age Lead Generation Tools For Your Business - http://www.smedio.com/facebook-and-linkedin-the-modern-age-leadgeneration-tools-for-your-business/ 240 How to block text messages on iOS and Android https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/how-to-block-text-messages-in-ios-and-android/
50 Popular Internet Acronyms/50 Text Messagingâ€ŚAbbreviations - http://www.smart-words.org/abbreviations/text.html
businesses - http://thesolopreneurlife.com/how-to-start-your-solobusiness-the-insiders-guide/ 244 Outlook - https://support.office.com/en-us/article/share-an-outlook-calendar-with-other-
MS Office - https://products.office.com/enus/?legRedir=default&CorrelationId=03f7840c-5a08-4f55-96ec-f850f5ba6d68 246 Google Apps Standard - https://www.wired.com/2012/12/free-google-apps/
Google Apps Standard - https://www.wired.com/2012/12/free-google-apps/
GSuite - https://gsuite.google.com/together/?userbenefits_activeEl=tab-connect 248 Google Documents - https://blog.spinweb.net/how-to-collaborate-with-google-docs
249 250 Linux
eGroupware - https://www.egroupware.org/en/egroupware-17-1/ operating system - https://www.blaize.net/2017/02/setting-up-a-linux-based-home-
GANTT chart - https://www.workamajig.com/blog/gantt-charts-projectmanagement 252 Small Business owner - https://sect.score.org/blog/how-collaboration-tools-can-help-your-
Google Launches Drive Plug-In For Microsoft Office https://techcrunch.com/2015/07/21/google-launches-drive-plug-in-for-microsoft-office/ 254 15 Social Media Collaboration Platforms - http://www.freshminds.net/2011/03/social-
Ultimate Selection of 60 Tools for Business Owners http://www.smallbusinessbranding.com/3135/ultimate-selection-of-60-tools-for-businessowners/ 256 Google Docs secrets: 20 power tips https://www.macworld.com/article/1157802/business-software/googledocs.html
You can Play Videos in Google Docs now https://news.softpedia.com/news/You-can-Play-Videos-in-Google-Docs-Now-176906.shtml 258 New York architectural design firm - http://www.gwathmey-siegel.com
email program - https://www.mithiskyconnect.com/blog/why-to-useemail-as-a-platform-for-mission-critical-operations/ 260 Unless we can communicate - https://blogs.constantcontact.com/benefits-of-email-
carbon paper - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_paper
Mail - https://www.entrepreneur.com/encyclopedia/direct-mail
Constant Contact - https://www.constantcontact.com/index.jsp
autoresponder - https://westwooddigitalmarketing.com/blog/top-10autoresponders-and-email-marketing-tools/ 266 seven contacts to convert a lead into a customer - https://www.marketo.com/lead-
valued customer - https://blog.kissmetrics.com/true-love-withcustomers/ 268 The 25 Best Email Marketing and Newsletter Apps - https://zapier.com/learn/email-
A Bigger Platform for Small Businesses: Introducing Facebook Ad Campaigns - https://mailchimp.com/resources/resources-for-partners/bigger-platformsmall-businesses-introducing-facebook-ad-campaigns/ 270 12 Facebook Ad Content Ideas Can Make You Stand Out Of The Crowd http://www.designomate.com/blogs/facebook-ad-content-ideas-can-make-you-stand-out-of-the-
25 Simple Ways to Grow Your Email List https://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/32028/25-clever-ways-to-grow-your-emailmarketing-list.aspx 272 Customer Relationship Management - https://www.infusionsoft.com/business-success188
Relationship Management - https://www.infusionsoft.com/business-success-
Contact Management http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Contact+management
potential customers - http://startitup.co/guides/234/who-are-yourpotential-customers 276 conversion - http://greatperformersacademy.com/entrepreneurs/10-easy-tricks-that-will-
converting a â€œleadâ€? [potential] into a customer https://blog.kissmetrics.com/15-psychological-triggers/ 278 Great Recession - http://www.mcall.com/business/mc-biz-great-recession-small-
CRM software - https://financesonline.com/best-free-crm-softwaresolutions-consider-2017/ 280 SOHO - http://www.dummies.com/business/start-a-business/business-plans/tips-for-a-
HubSpot Sales - https://knowledge.hubspot.com/hubspot-saleschrome-extension-user-guide/getting-started-with-the-hubspot-sales-chrome-extension
CRM Free - https://www.hubspot.com/products/crm
HubSpot Growth Stack - https://www.hubspot.com/products/growth-
stack 284 What is CRM??? - https://www.thebalancecareers.com/what-is-crm-2917373
Why Every Small Business (Yes, Even Yours) Needs a CRM System - https://sba.thehartford.com/marketing/why-every-small-business-needs-a-crmsystem/ 286 4 Ways You're Misusing Your CRM Data - https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/302080
7 Ways to Create a Great Customer Experience Strategy https://www.superoffice.com/blog/customer-experience-strategy/ 288 Sixteen Ways to Find Customers -
the effort required to do the actual work https://teamweek.com/blog/2017/11/small-business-task-management-best-practices/ 290 can be reduced to a series of individual steps - https://blog.amazingmarvin.com/break-
how do I get the work done? - http://smallbusiness.chron.com/listtasks-running-small-business-21161.html 292 getting things done - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done
things done - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done
checklist - https://www.gazprom-energy.co.uk/blog/get-organised-theultimate-checklist-of-tasks-for-small-businesses/ 294 critical tasks - https://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/files/TIME_MANAGEMENT.pptx
work is actually done - https://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/5-incrediblyeffective-ways-to-work-smarter-not-harder.html 296 provides a record - https://www.sweetprocess.com/workflow-management/
a way to show others how to do things https://www.business.qld.gov.au/starting-business/planning/business-planning/processesprocedures-standards 298 required work has actually been done -
task management - https://smallbiztrends.com/2014/06/bestpractices-small-business-operations.html 300 well enough - http://www.hcp.com/why-just-being-good-isnt-good-enough-anymore
Microsoft Outlook - https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/use-outlooksimple-task-project-management/ 302 GMail - https://business.tutsplus.com/tutorials/gmail-tasks-for-email-productivity--cms-27518
Mozilla Thunderbird - https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/creating-
GANTT charts - https://asana.com/apps/instagantt
structure - https://asana.com/apps
Best Free Project Management Software to Consider in 2018 https://financesonline.com/best-free-project-management-solutions-consider-2017/ 195
to Better Track the Tasks You Delegate to Others - https://michaelhyatt.com/how-to-
Get More Done in Less Time: How to Organize Your Small Business For Success in 9 Steps - https://www.infusionsoft.com/business-successblog/growth/planning-strategy/how-to-organize-a-small-business 310 10 Tips For Organizing Your Small Business This Year https://smallbiztrends.com/2014/01/tips-organize-your-small-business.html
Searching For The Perfect To-Do List App https://medium.com/the-mission/searching-for-the-perfect-to-do-list-app-934a04f6328