bookmark_borderTime Management For Solo Entrepreneurs

  1. Put your to-do list in writing and prioritize it. Studies show that people who write their lists down are 90% more likely to complete their list than those who do not.
  2. Be realistic about how long it takes to get things done. Block out a reasonable amount of time on your planner, especially if it’s an appointment where there’s driving time to consider.
  3. Schedule time with yourself, without interruptions. If that means closing your office door and letting your voicemail take phone messages, then that’s what you need to do. Do this at your most productive time of the day. Are you a morning person? Start your day out with some quiet time by yourself, when you’re the most productive and focused.
  4. Don’t multi-task. That’s right! These days, people have found that they’re much more productive when they’re allowed to focus on one task at a time, rather than constantly juggling a dozen different projects at once. Think about it – don’t you feel like you’ve actually accomplished something when you can cross things off your list?
  5. Are you a “yes” person? Learn to say no. Sometimes adding just one more thing to your to-do list means staying at work an extra hour. Ask yourself if you really have the time and energy to handle one more task. Don’t guilt yourself into it, especially if you’ll feel resentful later, for having done it.
  6. Do you work at home? Don’t let common distractions sidetrack you. That basket of laundry will still be there at the end of the day.
  7. Try to combine like tasks. If you have lots of phone calls to make and emails to respond to, make all of the phone calls first, then tackle the emails.
  8. Keep all your contacts in one place, within easy reach. Do whatever works for you, whether you keep an address book in your day planner, in Outlook, in your PDA, or on your laptop. You need to have fast and easy access to phone numbers and email addresses.
  9. Use waiting time productively. When waiting for an appointment or traveling, catch up on reading trade magazines, writing correspondence, or jotting down creative ideas for marketing your business.
  10. At the end of each day, plan for the next day. Write down tomorrow’s to-do list, prioritize it, and then clean off your desk.

bookmark_borderSmall Business Grants

There are many types of grants offered by the Governments and other financial institutions that include individual grants for personal necessities, business grants for starting new business, education grants for funding education and many more. Grants are always a feasible option to support existing business or financing new business in all fields. While the United States government does not offer direct grants for supporting small business there are many state development agencies, non-profit organizations, intermediary lending institutions and local government, which offer grants to expand and enhance small businesses.

Small businesses always play a significant role in the economic growth of a country and that is the reason governments are always ready to offer financial resources to facilitate small business. You can receive small business grant to start up any type of business. From carpet cleaning, photocopying, private tutoring services to day care business you name any business and these agencies have the grants for you. All U.S. citizens and residents are eligible to receive U.S. Federal Government, State Government and Private Foundation-funded grants and loans. Apart from this these grant programs do not require credit checks, collateral, security deposits or co-signers. Small business grants are easily available. Anyone who is 18 year old and thinking about going into business for himself or wanting to expand his existing business can apply for the grant. Grants varying between $500.00 to $50,000.00 can be obtained from these agencies. Usually there are larger payments for business start up costs. If you are an entrepreneur than you can use the privileges provided by the government. Small business grants are the ideal way to fulfill your dreams of becoming a business owner.

bookmark_borderEntrepreneurial Inspiration

For four of his teenage years, from 1872 to 1876, Milton Hershey served as an apprentice to a Lancaster, PA candy maker. After his apprenticeship, Hershey decided to start his own candy business. Armed with an in-depth knowledge of the business, he worked on building his business for six years. Unfortunately, despite his hard work, the business failed.

Undeterred, Hershey moved to Denver, CO and found a job with a candy maker who taught him how to make caramels. A year later, he returned to the East Coast and launched a second candy business, focusing on caramels, in New York City. This business also failed.

Despite two failures in the candy business and on the brink of bankruptcy, Hershey was convinced he would eventually succeed. As such, he returned to Lancaster, PA and started another caramel business. This business was successful. But rather than continuing with caramels, Hershey become interested in chocolates and dedicated himself to learning about and inventing ways to manufacture chocolate. As a result, he sold his caramel company and launched Hershey Chocolate Company. Just over a century after launching the company, Hershey’s firm (now called The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY)) generates annual revenues in excess of $4 billion.

Milton S. Hershey was raised in rural central Pennsylvania and lacked a formal education. Despite this, and despite failing twice at the same business, Hershey maintained entrepreneurial passion, drive and perseverance. As history has shown, these factors were enough to transform Hershey from a failure to one of the great entrepreneurs in history.

bookmark_borderSources of Sales Leads

The customer who let your contract lapse or failed to include you in their selection process did so for any number of reasons. Yes, sometimes your company made an unforgivable mistake or did something equally fatal. Often, it’s subtler. Either way, if you give up on them, they’re likely to remain former customers forever.

If you take the initiative and reintroduce yourself, you might find out-

  • Your company was perceived to be unsuitable for a reason that is not currently valid. (Your prices weren’t competitive; now they are. You didn’t offer a one-stop-shop experience; now you do. The salesperson who used to cover that territory was abrasive; his/her replacement is well-liked.)
  • Or the decision-maker who blackballed you or was unshakably loyal to your competitor is no longer there.
  • Or the person who used to routinely include you in the company’s selection process has moved up or moved on, and the new person doesn’t know you to include you.

Possible outcomes: a renewed relationship, news that you truly aren’t a match anymore, or a frosty shoulder.

Similarly with failed sales, they may not have chosen you when a particular decision was made. That doesn’t mean they’d never consider you again, but it’s your responsibility to stay on their radar. If they are marketed to by a sufficient number of companies in your category, they might not include you the next time they open their selection process. By writing them off, you turn “no” into “never.”

Some companies are very good about asking departing customers for an exit interview and asking failed sales for a post-selection debriefing. Unfortunately, many of these companies assign this task to the salesperson or account manager the customer or prospect just rejected. That’s cruel! Think about it:

  • It’s very difficult for one adult to say directly to another, “This is how you disappointed me,” or “This is where you fell short.”
  • If a former customer or failed sale is willing to be candid, the average salesperson or account manager is likely to get defensive in response. In other words, they reward candor with an argument.

Instead, feedback from lost customers and failed sales is better solicited from the VP of Sales or Account Management (or Operations). What at first blush sounds like an unwise use of very valuable time turns out to be the best way to isolate root causes and reduce the number of future lost customers and failed sales.

You may ask why a former customer or failed sale would cooperate and offer honest responses to these questions. The answer is simple:

Companies need vendors.

If you lost the customer or the sale for reasons that can be addressed to their satisfaction, you might be the vendor that offers the best deal the next time they need your product or service.

Once your team members get past the understandable discomfort of asking for candid feedback and guidance, you might win (or win back) relationships you thought were lost forever.

Ann Amati, Principal, Deliberate Strategies Consulting, helps companies use guidance from their current and past customers to grow future sales. She has a 20-year track record of using deep-dive interviews to create positive turning points in her clients’ relationships with their customers.

bookmark_borderPlans For Business Venture

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Present the business mission statement here. Include as well the date the business was formed; the leadership team and other key management personnel; the credentials or experience that make you and the leadership team uniquely qualified to launch and successfully run the venture; the business legal structure (LLC, Sole Proprietor, or Corporation); the products and services; one or two key competitive advantages; a concise overview of sales projections; and the amount of capital needed if recruiting investors or obtaining bank financing is a goal.

BUSINESS DESCRIPTION

It’s traditional to present a brief description of your industry and its outlook, nationally and regionally. Give the details of your products and services and briefly discuss how they’ll be used by target customers. Identify whether the venture is B2B, B2C, or B2G. If the organization holds a patent, review the competitive advantages that it will convey. Have there been any technological advances that will help or hinder the enterprise? Divulge the details here.

MARKETING

This element is a big tent that encompasses sales, product or service distribution, competitors, advertising, social media, PR, networking, branding, customer acquisition and pricing. Plans written for a small organization will spotlight the role of marketing because for Solopreneurs, success hinges on identifying and reaching paying clients, as well as pricing the services advantageously.

FINANCE

Whether you’re wealthy enough to self-finance or the venture is small and not especially demanding of capital investment, the leadership team nevertheless needs to know with a reasonable degree of certainty how much money will be required to achieve important goals.

The plan might be written to support financing for the acquisition of new office space, additional staffing, or manufacturing equipment. Bank loans typically require a business plan to demonstrate how the investment money would be used and how the organization will generate funds for loan repayment.

If the goal is to attract investors, they’ll need to be convinced by the projected sales revenue figures (as will the bank), so they’ll know when their investment will be repaid and when to expect profits if they are made co-owners of the business. A break-even analysis, projected income statement, projected cash-flow statement and projected balance sheet are required by those who will need significant money.

OPERATIONS

How will day-to-day business processes function? Tell it here, along with providing the organizational chart, the business location, the method of producing that which you sell (if you are, for example, a freelance book editor or graphic designer, you produce the service yourself), your usual sub-contractors (if you are a special events organizer, who are your preferred caterer, florist and limo service?) and quality control methods. This element is about logistics.

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.