bookmark_borderBiggest Entrepreneurial Obstacle

  1. Company X is already doing it – So what? There’s plenty of business to go around, and even if you’re interested in a very saturated and competitive market, there are still many ways to stand out and align yourself with the rest of the industry. There are multiple leaders in plenty of business sectors, and joining the ranks just depends on how hard you’re willing to work.
  2. It’ll never work/I’ll never pull it off – Wow, nice effort. You’ve already defeated yourself without even doing the research it takes to find out if a business venture is possible. If you start out with that attitude then you’re right, you’ll never pull it off. How will you make it if you never even try?
  3. Too much of a risk – As the old saying goes, without risk there can be no reward. Your mission is to take as much risk out of the equation as possible by planning, planning, and then planning some more. Have solid projections, do your homework, and if things don’t go the way you expect them to, there are always options to minimize the financial burden of selling off a company. If you know what COULD happen ahead of time you’ll be much more prepared for any situation that DOES happen.
  4. Not educated enough – OK…so educate yourself. In my opinion it’s no longer necessary to have a college degree in order to be successful. Passion can outperform education anyday, and if you’re truly passionate about what you’re doing it’s definitely possible to educate yourself on just about any topic. While a college degree or similar training is a huge headstart to success, real world experience can be just as beneficial.
  5. Worrying about what others think – So many times I’ve heard people tell me they had a great idea for a business, shared it with (insert negative person’s name here), and (insert negative person’s name here) said it wouldn’t work because (insert negative reason). Has this person ever conducted business in this industry? Then how do they know what will or won’t happen? It’s a good general practice to listen to the opinions of others in an attempt to gain wisdom, as long as you remember that they’re just that: OPINIONS. Make up your own mind and trust your instincts.

I am by no means saying I have followed through with every business idea I’ve ever come up with. Some ideas really aren’t as good as you originally thought they would be after you do the research. But if you never even put the work into the initial phases of starting a business, you’ll never find out if you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

bookmark_borderGet Started With Referrals

Unfortunately, that proximity to customers isn’t enough to keep you in business. To grow your business, take advantage of your great service by gaining customer referrals from existing customers.

I know. Asking for referrals feels pushy. However, do you really have a choice? Think about it. You are in business because you think your product or service will help people. Most people like to help others. They enjoy passing along a good tip about a great product or service. By asking for a referral you are actually doing them a favor. So ask your customers after you have given them great service – Who is a person you know who would benefit from having our product/service?

Other than providing great service, another way to make a personal connection with your existing customers is to send a newsletter. Instead of sending the average, boring email that most businesses send, focus on success stories of your existing customers. Explain how you solved a problem that one of your customers faced. Explain why solving that problem was important to them and explain how you solved it. Then include a testimonial from the customer.

When you look for products or services for your business or even in your personal life don’t you find it helpful if you see how someone else had a success with a service?

Lastly, ask the person who gave you a testimonial to name any people they know that are in a similar situation.

Formal referral programs seem old fashioned, however they are still effective. A formal referral program can be as simple as mailing 50 business cards to each one of your customers and explaining to them to pass them on to friends and write their names on the back of it. If a new customer walks in with a name written on the back of your business card, that person will receive a reward from you.

Strike up alliances with ancillary businesses. Have you ever had a doctor refer you to a specialist? Think about it. There are businesses that are in a similar situation as the generalist doctor. In pest control I have found small pet stores that I partner with. When one of their customers complains about flea infestations, the store owner tells them that he knows a great pest control company that can help them with their flea problems.

Here is the way I got in touch with pet store owners. I asked a current customer with a pet to recommend a pet store to me. Then I asked the customer to call the owner of the store to let the owner know that I will call. Now, when I called the owner already knew who I was and how we were connected.

Don’t ask for referrals right away. You need to build a relationship with the store owner first. Show him that you can provide value by finding him referrals first or helping him in some other way. Once you have built the relationship you can approach him with your strategy on how your company could help his customers. To make the offer appealing let him know that you are willing to provide discounts to the customers he refers.

bookmark_borderBrainstorming and Innovation

The only chance today of a brainstorming session coming up with a brilliant original solution would be to have someone in the group who is already a creative genius who can speak up, defend their concept against politically correct and status quo bias and personally persuade the group to yield to their idea. Still, this type of person is a true ‘Thought Leader’ and a legitimate thought leader hardly needs a brainstorming group or any group for that matter in the first place.

Brainstorming isn’t working anymore for innovation, and you can get better creativity from a YouTube Cat Video these days. Corporate R&D Departments aren’t producing much either considering the huge sums of money they spend on the innovative process. Those who predict the future so they can see into the looking glass aren’t much better using their methodologies.

Let’s take the Futurists of the World Future Society (WFS) as an interesting case study. The WFS has seminars to teach you how to think like a Futurist, symposiums with special emphasis on trend projections and innovation. Isn’t it interesting how all the members of the WFS are always on the same page, and how their predictions are nearly always incorrect (90% of the time)? Why is this? Maybe it’s because when you teach people to think a certain way, they lose the creative edge or ability to do high-level original thought, as you are confine their thought process to logical thinkin?g (left brain thinking) when the students who wish to focus on innovation need to be both left and right brain thinkers.

How are we going to get back to an America that is robust in original thinking and overflowing with new ideas – a nation that is so innovative that we can’t even hold back the rapid changes of our society and civilization? How can we lead the world into the future if we can’t even innovate our way out of plastic bags? Please consider all this and think on it.

bookmark_borderBusiness Intelligence

Ever changing marketing trends and targeting customers through their behavior and traffic patterns is the driving force for integrating business intelligence tools that provide greater insights than the way we previously used manual marketing forecasts. Actionable information that business managers and corporate executives can access in order to make informed business decisions can affect the organization’s overall performance and growth.

Yet how do you determine what is the best software to apply to your organizational needs? If you’re searching for a buyer’s guide for software services based on their merits, you can find some transparent and reputable review sites to help you uncover the best software tools for cloud computing, forecasting, benchmarking, mobile, predictive analytics, big data, and visualization.

Dashboard software creates data visualizations (graphs, charts, metrics) that monitor client interactions, revenue, reports, and scorecards. Although dashboard software monitors client reactions, customer relationship management (CRM) and BI Tools are not to be confused. CRM is a database that stores customer sales history and interactions, which you could segment for greater productivity and profitability. Business intelligence tools combine software for customer acquisition and retention. Together, the two can impact real-world numbers through testing and experimenting.

Business Intelligence technologies and analytic tools give more accurate reports while saving time and money. With the capability to analyze historical data and forecast a holistic view of their market, organizations need to understand analytics in order to make their company compete efficiently while understanding big data in real-time to deliver an optimal customer experience.

bookmark_borderGreat Marketing Ideas

Sometimes someone comes up with a great idea and the only weakness in the idea is that it relies on the weather. In this case, a sports betting software operator decided to buy 7,000 golf size umbrellas which had in very large print their website address, telephone number and the tag line “bet on sports today”.

The idea was that instead of spending money on a national television commercial during a football game, they could get better advertisement at a fraction of the cost by using umbrellas.

The execution of the promotion would have female models at all of the entrances of a stadium giving out umbrellas to ticket holders for free. The only uncertain part was that the promotion would have to be done on a rainy day. The theory was that as the rain would start to fall, people would open their promotional umbrella and when the television crew would film the crowd, that company would get instant television advertising via the opened umbrellas!

Since hiring a crew of model and someone to manage them had to be done in advance, that company relied on the weather channel to give them the best day to run the promotion.

On game day, the weather was perfect for umbrellas as it was a cloudy day and according to the weather channel, there was an 86% chance of rain. All of the umbrellas were passed out and everyone in the company was waiting for the rain to come.

The rain never came…

Giveaways and contests are a great way to bring attention to your brand or company. People love to win and get free stuff which is why stores and businesses know that this is a good way to get to a clients’ heart. One department store in Costa Rica decided to give pressure cookers to every person that came and bought $50 worth of merchandise in their store.

Someone in marketing did the math and figured that based on the store’s daily sales, they would need around 100 pressure cookers. The store’s marketing department did everything right to promote this giveaway by letting people know about it via newspaper, internet and radio ads.

On the day of the promotion, it looked like this promotion was a winner. There was actually a line of people waiting for the store to open that day to get their free pressure cooker. Within hours, they had run out of pressure cookers and that is when things turned ugly.

Customers were demanding their pressure cookers and unfortunately, the marketing genius behind the promotion forgot to add to the promotion a disclaimer that would protect the store in case they ran out of stock. Since they did not have such a disclaimer, the store ended up having to give out vouchers to receive the pressure cooker at a later date. The total number of pressure cooker they ended up giving out was a whopping 432!

Even though they got a lot of publicity out of the promotion, it took them 2 months to get back their return on the promotion. The good news though is that it did increase brand trust for the store.

The moral of the story is to always make sure to have the proper promotional terms and conditions that also include a disclaimer unless you want to end with a very low return on investment.

bookmark_borderTrials Of An Internet Entrepreneur

Little did I realize that life on the Internet is quite a bit different than the world of absolute truths that I exist in as an Engineer. Everyone is presented as an expert but few people seem to agree on any given topic. How can perceived reality differ so greatly?

The truth of the matter is, that Internet Reality is defined by the search engines and the algorithms they use to present it, and I doubt very seriously that the folks that really
understand it will divulge their secrets anytime in the near future. Therefore any understanding of the reality presented, can only be reactive in nature and speculative at best. I made numerous mistakes in setting up our first store before this concept really sunk in. Without realizing it, I was trying to use an approach which may have been functional, but did not work well with the search engines and therefore would have always limited our success. I finally came to the conclusion, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.

My mistakes began at the very beginning, when I purchased a third party PHP shopping cart and loaded it on to a reputable hosting company. Based on everything I was told, this should
be a “Walk in the Park” and we should be selling product any day. I was soon to find out that I required a working knowledge of PHP to modify the shopping cart and even worse, my page requests timed out as often as 60% of the time. Now in all fairness to the software industry, I’m sure there are many quality solutions being offered today. The problem is, which do you buy?

In utter disgust, I turned to a suggestion seen at WorldWide Brands and chose to open up a Yahoo Store. I also purchased the first edition of Online Store Profits and followed it step by step as I created our store and was quickly up and running. From there I purchased Arelis for our link management software and IBP 8 for our site optimization and marketing. Lastly I
purchased IDevAffiliate for our affiliate tracking and management needs. I’m sure there are many other effective options that can be chosen, but these are the ones that have worked well for us. Our search engine visibility and subsequent sales continue to improve, and in general “Life Is Good” and we are pleased with our selections.

bookmark_borderAbout FOB

FOB origin indicates that the ownership of the goods is transferred as soon as in gets out of the hands of the seller. If shipping of the goods is required then it is the buyer’s responsibility and he or she has to bear the expenses. This type of transaction is often referred to the city name like FOB Boston, FOB San Francisco, etc.

FOB destination, on the other hand, indicates that ownership of goods is transferred to the buyer when the original products reach the doorstep of the buyer. Here, the seller has to arrange for the transportation of the goods for which either he pays or charges the buyer for the expenses. The seller also has to be liable in case the goods suffer any damage while en route.

FOB comes more into the picture when there are wholesale or B2B shipments of large goods.

There are four ways in which the FOB term is included in the documents for shipping:

  • FOB (place of origin)- Freight Collect
  • FOB (place of origin)- Freight Prepaid
  • FOB (place of destination)- Freight Collect
  • FOB (place of destination)- Freight Prepaid

It is important that the shippers understand the FOB designations well especially in case of damages to the goods. Some of the receiving docks totally deny the delivery of the damaged goods without accepting the damage notation. However, when a shipment is designated properly, it is clear that the damage risk has to be borne by the seller or the buyer. In such cases, there is no question of confusion.

The term is particularly important for those companies who are engaged in shipping huge quantities of goods. A clear concept of the FOB term helps in understanding the liability of the party regarding the safety in the delivery of the shipment. It also helps the buyer and the seller in knowing which party owns the materials at a particular point of the shipping cycle. This information is also helpful for the accountants who can maintain instant records of the transactions on the basis of FOB. Moreover, the term is also useful in proper logistics management.

If you are falling in the nexus of any state which charges selling taxes on shipment, then FOB can be your friend. For the packages which have FOB origin marked on them, the buyer pays the freight charges directly by contracting with a shipper. Thus, the seller has no role here. The buyer does not have to bear sales taxes as he has already paid the freight charges which most of the states consider exempted.

When people find the term quite complex to understand and interpret, they often take the help of professionals who are expert in the field. This ensures that you comply with the terms without any faults and the shipments get managed quite fast. FOB incoterms is another interesting aspect which the shipping industry must pay attention to and know about in details.

bookmark_borderStart a Service Business

First clients

You should understand that getting your first client is your first milestone. What you need to do is serve your first few clients very well. They should be happy. Moreover, if you want to develop a strong relationship with the clients, make sure you give them a discount.

Find a Focus

You should be different from other service providers who offer similar services. If you don’t be different, you won’t be able to make a difference. As a result, your product will not entice the potential buyers. Your clients should be able to differentiate your products from those of your competitors. This is what we mean by finding a focus.

Blogging and social media

For marketing, blogging and social media are your best tools. You should create and publish content that can validate your expertise. Today, your marketing is a lot cheaper than it was a few years ago. In the past, people had to get through strict editors and publishers in order to get the word out about their expertise. They had to write books and articles as well. Nowadays, you can post on Twitter, Facebook and your own blog. So, you don’t have to rely so much on editors and publishers nowadays.

Logo and look

We suggest that you choose your logo wisely and spend on it after a lot of thinking. Actually, your website and logo should be professional and this is really important. Nowadays, it’s not about stationary or business cards anymore. This is your representation.

Don’t overspend

It’s not a good idea to spend the money you don’t have. As a matter of fact, you will get tons of suggestions that can help you make more money later on, such as marketing programs and mail lists.

bookmark_borderBest Way to Promote a Business

Plan your attack. Define who your best prospects are, and then determine the best way to reach them. Be as specific as possible. Is the decision maker the CTO of the company, the director of human resources, or a 37-year-old working mom? Will you find them on Twitter, Google+, Pinterest or Facebook? What about in-person networking at local business meetings? Will they be searching for your type of product on Google or Bing? Do you want to start promoting your business to them at the start of their buying cycle, or when they’re about ready to pull out their credit card and make the purchase? Write your answers down, and refer to them before you start any new marketing tactic.

If you don’t have a website, get one set up. If you can’t afford to have someone custom-design your website, put your site up using one of the companies like SiteSell.com, E-business Success. Simple. Real or Get a site, Get found. Get customers. That provide templates and tools that make it easy to create a basic website.

Set up a listing for your business in search engine local directories.

Google and Bing both offer a free listing of local businesses.

To get listed on Google, go to Google My Business.

To get listed on Bing, go to Bing Places for Business