10 Incredibly important business basics EVERYONE needs to know BEFORE they start a business!

In my career, I have had a total of 3 businesses myself and a few others where I am in partnerships. Each time you start a business the basics are pretty well the same. Here are 10 things I believe are really important for anyone starting up a business….

1. Don’t waste your dollars on things you don’t need. This alone is one of the biggest reasons people go under. You simply won’t need expensive office equipment, computers, phone systems etc when starting out. You’ll be surprised at how well a computer of 2 years will perform in caparison to one that’s brand new for triple the price! Be real with your $$$$. The basic here is that if it’s not going to make money for you, build or protect your business then simply AND quickly look/walk away so you’re not tempted to buy it – extravagance has no place when your starting a business on a budget. If you’ve got hundreds of thousands to splurge though, forget all of the above and go to point 2!

2. Develop a plan of where you wish for you AND your business to be this time next year. You will need to think about such things as a basic marketing plan to so you know what marketing you need to do to achieve that outcome. Starting and building a business is like building a house without the framework it’s bound to crumble. Think of your business plan as your roadmap – without it you don’t know where you’re headed or how to get there. So take a couple of hours and give it some consideration, if you’re serious about developing a successful business then I’m sure you can get serious enough to schedule some time in to do it.

3. Ask and get advise – this is huge! This one factor if not done or acted upon can send you under in a quick way! Ask professionals for help and guidance, they will steer you clear of known traps that you just won’t know about starting out (I’ve learnt this one the hard way!). You don’t need to be a hero and do everything, and think of everything, yourself. Hate to tell you this but, when you start out you DON’T know everything OK – so don’t embarrass yourself by thinking you do, as the only one you’ll fool will be yourself(indeed years down the track I’m still learning something everyday)

4. Make sure your business look is congruent. Have a business name that explains what you do so you’re customers are buying or dealing from you rather than trying to figure out what you do. BEFORE you register the name, check that you can also get the website domain for it too. It’s a real inconvenience and creates dramas for your customer AND you having to explain it to everyone! Colours, style etc need to be the same throughout your website, stationary, business cards etc

5. Hire right – if you are in the retail sector than hire a people person with personality plus over someone with the skills – you can teach practical skills such as taking money etc – but you can’t teach people skills. If you need someone for accounts or admin where they aren’t dealing with your customers then obviously the skills are more important.

6. Base your business on how you can add value to your customers. You’d be surprised how your business it will grow by suiting the needs of your ‘ideal’ client AND looking after them each and every time.

7. Know, understand and keep in contact with clients you WANT to deal with – it will not only make business more pleasurable for you and the clients will love dealing with you as you’re always happy etc too – happy clients, more business, more referrals, less money spent on advertising and marketing!

8. Get organised – for goodness sake, NO ONE enjoys being stuffed around by someone always giving excuses for their mess, un-organisation, forgetting to follow through, not implementing, lack of communication, being late etc etc etc – get yourself some solid an effective systems to back you up in business so you can do it right EVERY time.

9. Work WITHIN your budget – never above it. It is disastrous to think “Oh we’ll get more money in, it’ll be right, or oh such as such is expected to pay this month” etc – it won’t be – be conservative in your spend otherwise you will go under before you can blink! Don’t sign leases or contracts on anything based on a projected income – you’re playing with fire and you’ll be busy enough without the stress and pressure of this to add to your lot.

10. Outsource what you’re not good at or don’t like. I’ll admit it I do not enjoy any form of admin – yet I’m a perfectionist and need everything to be systemised so it frees me up to be creative. So instead of learning how to do accounts in MYOB and instead of procrastinating for days on filing etc (after I gave both a go time and again) it was easier, quicker and more productive for me and my business to outsource it to someone who WAS passionate about doing it. Not only do they do it in a fraction of the time – but they do it well because they love doing it!

Of course I could easily keep going on – there’s always something you learn in business – however I’m sure these 10 will give you a great place to start…

And one more thing ENJOY what you’re doing – if you’re not, you’re definitely in the wrong game and now is a good time to change careers!

Abundant Success To You!

Rachael Bermingham

http://www.marketingtosuccess.com

[http://globalsuccesscommunity.com]

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Business Leads

Anyone who runs their own business can tell you how challenging it is to generate business leads on a consistent basis. Finding good leads and generating more sales is vital to the long term growth of any business. There are many well documented sources of business leads – we will try to cover some of the best in this article.

As any job seeker can tell you, networking generates far more job offers than simply reading the want ads each morning. The same is true of business leads. Networking with your peers is likely to generate far more business leads then putting an ad in your local newspaper. That is because of the exponential nature of the social and business network.

Say you tell five associates about your great new business. Each of those five associates tells five of their friends and associates, and so on and so on. You can see how quickly your circle can expand. Word of mouth advertising is the most cost effective advertising of all. It’s free and it can generate an exceptional amount of interest in your business.

Trade shows are another excellent source of business leads. Trade shows take the networking concept a step further by gathering together executives and business owners for a common purpose. Trade shows can focus on a specific industry or a specific market. For instance, we have a trade show here each fall to which all the local businesses are invited. This provides an excellent opportunity for business executives and small business owners to meet each other and discuss their products and services. This show generates excellent business leads year in and year out.

Industry specific trade shows are an excellent source of business leads as well. For instance, the computer industry holds many trade shows throughout the year, including the well known extravaganza in Las Vegas each year. By concentrating on one industry, the vendors know they will be able to generate good business leads among an audience that is already interested in the product or service they provide. This focus can eliminate a lot of the wasted effort that often accompanies efforts to generate business leads.

Trade magazines can be another excellent source of business leads. Unlike advertising in your local newspaper, or general purpose magazine, trade magazines are focused in on a specific industry. Trade magazines are generally read only by those involved in that industry. Believe me when I say it – no one reads Network Computing for fun. By advertising in a trade industry journal or magazine, you can be assured of reaching a targeted audience for a reasonable price. There are a number of trade industry journals, both online and offline. Check their circulation rates to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.

Being flexible, creative and friendly goes a long way when searching for business leads. Be creative, think of things the other guy has not. Tell the people you meet every day about your business. The more you get the word out about your business, the more business leads you are bound to generate. Always strive to be the best in everything you do. Your drive and determination will help you stay a step ahead of the competition.

50 Surefire Business Card Tips

Business cards are one of the most powerful and inexpensive marketing tools you can use. Here are 50 surefire tips to make the most out of your business cards:

  • Your business card must communicate more than just your contact information. Make sure that your card includes a tag line that explains what you or your company do.
  • Order them in large numbers. By ordering 1000 your cost per card will be significantly lower than if you ordered 500.
  • Even if you can produce your business cards at home using an inkjet printer, have your business cards professionally made by a printing company. Your business card will be the first impression your prospects receive of your business, so let them convey the best possible one.
  • Avoid using standard clip art as your business logo. A logo brings credibility and brand awareness, so before you invest in business cards have a logo professionally made for your business. Nowadays, there are online companies that can produce a professional logo for as little as $25, so there is no excuse for not having one made.
  • Put up a website and use the URL in your business cards. If you don’t have a website, people will notice the absence of a web address in your business card and, depending on the business you are in, it may make you lose credibility.
  • Keep all the information in your business card current. If you changed address or phone number, don’t scratch the old number and write down the new one by hand; get new business cards.
  • Keep your business card simple. Don’t use too many fonts or try to cram too much information in it. Try to use a pleasant layout and make sure that your main message (your tagline or your unique selling proposition) doesn’t get lost.
  • If you live in the US, limit your business card size to 3.5″ x 2″. Anything bigger will not fit in standard card holders and your card may end up in the trash. Business cards in Europe tend to be larger, but so are the wallets and card holders.
  • Make sure that your business card reflects your image. If you are an artist or a graphic designer, it is OK to use trendy colors and fonts. If you are an investment banker, a sober layout and colors such as blue or gray work better.
  • Your business card is an integral part of your brand or corporate identity strategy. It should follow the same graphics standards as the rest of your communications material (stationary, brochures, letterheads, etc.).
  • Find a way to make your business cards stand out. I’ve seen business cards with one of its corners cut in an angle, or with an interesting texture, all of which makes your business card stand out of the crowd. The best one I’ve seen is from an interior designer, who used a hologram to show a room before and after a redesign.
  • Make your business card easy to read: use high contrast between the background and the type. Light background with dark type works better.
  • After your logo, your name should be the largest piece of information on your card.
  • Make sure that all the information on your card is printed in a large enough typeface to be easily readable.
  • Run your business card copy through a spell checker and double-check your contact information.
  • Keep your business cards with you at all times. Keep a stack in your car, in your house, in your office, and in your wallet.
  • Leave your business cards in billboards at supermarkets, schools, stores, libraries, etc.
  • When giving away your card, give two or three at a time, so that your contacts can in turn distribute them to other people. This will not only help you distribute them faster, but will generate a beneficial “endorsing effect”.
  • Include a business card with all your correspondence. People may throw away the letter, but will usually keep the business card.
  • Make your business card go the extra mile: use the back of the card to print more information: special offers, checklists, schedules, etc.
  • Throw in a business card in every product you ship.
  • Send a business card with any gift you send, instead of just a card with your name.
  • Scan your card and use it as an attachment to emails.
  • Use your business cards as name tags. Get a transparent plastic cover with a pin, and attach it to your lapel. Wearing it on your right side tends to make it more noticeable.
  • Use your business card as a name tag on your briefcase. Make sure that your company logo and tagline are visible. This way, your business card will turn into a “conversation piece” during plane rides, which may help you meet interesting people and good business contacts.
  • Use your business card as an ad: many publications offer “business card size” classified ads. If you design your business card properly, it can double up as an ad in those publications.
  • Don’t give your business card too quickly. It may be perceived as pushy. Try to establish a conversation with your prospect first. For example, ask them what do they do. That will usually prompt them to give you their card. That is the perfect moment to give them yours.
  • Don’t try to give your card in situations where many people are giving them to your prospect. Wait for a moment when you can capture your prospect’s attention span.
  • Another tactic you can try when your prospect is overwhelmed and can’t pay you enough attention is to send your card by mail. Pretend you ran out of business cards and ask for theirs. Then, mail them your card and take the opportunity to drop a follow up note.
  • If you have a mobile phone number or a direct phone number that is not listed in your business card, write it at the back of your card before handing it out, and tell your prospect that you are giving them your direct number. This will make your card more important, and less likely to be lost or thrown out.
  • Another way of increasing the chances that your prospect will keep your card is by printing valuable information on the back, for example important phone numbers (local police, hospitals, etc), a calendar, or a football schedule.
  • Offer to hand out cards of complementary (non-competitive) business people in exchange for them distributing yours. An example of non-competitive businesses is real estate brokers and mortgage brokers.
  • If somebody gives you their business card, you should give them yours in return.
  • Always give your business card face up.
  • Take a cue from Far East business people, who hand out business cards with both hands. It helps give the impression that your business card is something very important.
  • If you conduct business internationally, use the back of your card to print a translated version of your business card in your customers’ language. Even if they have no problem reading English, it will be a classy touch and they will appreciate it.
  • If you sell different product brands and want to put their logos on your business card, print them in only one color. Using each logo’s brand colors could make your business card look chaotic and busy.
  • Create a business card in magnet form. Magnets are widely used, to hold important papers on the refrigerator door at home and on file cabinets at work. They are always visible and always get read.
  • When receiving somebody else’s business card, don’t put it away immediately. Instead, keep it in your hand for a while you talk to your prospect, or place it neatly over the table, and try to develop a conversation based on the information on the card.
  • Use the back of the cards you receive to write down important facts about the persons who handed them to you. It will help you enormously when you follow up with them.
  • If you are in a profession where relationship selling is important, it may be a good idea to include your picture in your business card (i.e. real estate brokers).
  • Even if your business is a sole proprietorship, you can still use “account manager” as your title instead of “owner” or “president”. If you do sales (and we all do) “account manager” is a perfectly appropriate title, and it will give the impression that you work for a larger company.
  • Use logos of organizations that you or your business belong to in your business cards. They are an easy way to provide instant credibility to your business. For example, if you operate a repair shop you can display the logo of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) or the Triple A (AAA). (Check with them first about the terms of use).
  • If you participate in affiliate programs online, you can still use business cards to promote your affiliate links. Use the name of the affiliate company as the company name, use ‘partner’ or ‘associate’ as your title, and the URL of the directory or web page where you have placed your affiliate links as your web address. Just because affiliate programs are online doesn’t mean that you can’t use off-line marketing methods to promote them.
  • If you need to give cards to different kinds of prospects (for example if you are a student looking for work), make business cards with just your name and contact information, and attach custom made self-adhesive labels at the back with information of interest to each specific prospect.
  • Include an information email address (for example: info@yourdomain.com) that is set in autoresponder mode, that automatically triggers an email message with full information about your product, service or company. This will increase the effectiveness of your business card since you will give your prospect much more information that you can fit in a card.
  • Take good care of your business cards. Keep them clean and crisp in a cardholder. Don’t give away cards that are bent or damaged.
  • Try to get a cardholder with two pockets. That way, you can use one for your business cards and the other one for the business cards you receive.
  • Keep all the business cards you receive neatly organized in a rolodex. It will save you time and will provide you with a database of contacts with whom to build positive business relationships.
  • Collect all the business cards you can find, even if you don’t need them. Together, they will act as an “idea file” that will provide you with valuable tips that you can use to design your business cards.

Are You Ready to Sell Your Business

Make Sure You Understand Your Motivation for Selling

Are you thinking about selling your business?

This simple one-question quiz will help you to better understand your motivations behind this thought. A better understanding of your underlying motivations will help you make the right decision.

Select the answer closest to your actual reason for thinking about selling your business.

A. “I’m selling my business because of the money I will make on the sale”.
B. “I’m just tired and it’s not fun anymore.”
C. “I have too many irons in the fire and can’t keep up”.
D. “I’m ready to retire from owning my business”.

A. “I’m selling my business because of the money I will make on the sale”.

This is rarely a good answer if it is the primary answer. Most small businesses sell for 1 to 3 times yearly cash flow after adding back all owner salary, benefits, fringes, interest and amortization/ depreciation.

Larger mid-sized businesses generally sell for to 3 to 7 times cash flow after deducting for the cost of executive management. While this sum can be significant, it is usually only a few times what you will make this year.

Continuing on with the business will usually make you more money in the long run. On the other hand if you have an offer in hand from a public company at 20 times earnings, take it.

B. “I’m just tired and it’s not fun anymore.”

This question requires careful digging into the reasons for the thought. If you are really ready to get out of the business, then it is a good reason. If the real reason is that you are just tired under the current conditions and as soon as things improve you will get excited again, think long and hard.

Often during the sales process your broker, intermediary, or other advisor will provide coaching to improve obvious defects in the business to make it more salable. Sometimes measurable improvements occur for the business. Suddenly the owner doesn’t really want to sell now that things are moving again.

This is a bad situation for everyone. If what you need is coaching to get out of a rut, hire a coach; don’t sell your business. But, if you are really mentally done, sell the business before you completely run it into the ground.

C. “I have too many irons in the fire and can’t keep up”.

This is a valid reason to sell a business. It is a somewhat common occurrence for multi-location operators who either buy one too many sites or just end up with one or two sites that are too far away to manage.

Often the constant attention you must diverte to an under-performing site will lower earnings of the whole chain. Just remember when pricing the underperforming site for sale that if your not selling much in terms of profits or revenues your not going to get much in terms of price. An old adage that applies here is that the first loss is the cheapest loss. In this instance be prepared to take your loss and move on.

Another variation is the entrepreneur who has a new venture that is overtaking the older established business. Time constraints, management abilities, and variations in potential down stream financial returns may make it desirable to sell the older business. This can free up resources allowing better overall financial returns.

D. “I’m ready to retire from owning my business”.

This is the king of reasons to sell. Just make sure its true. Selling a business often means walking away from it completely. Retiring sellers often want to think that they will be invited guests indefinitely.

Usually once the nuances of the business are understood the new owner will want to take the reins and run the business his way. At settlement you will sign an enforceable non-compete that legally and ethically obligates you to leave your old client base behind.

Another frequent issue is that the retiring owner has run the business “just to meet my needs” the last several years. In those instances the lower performance is what the business sale price is going to be based on. If you as a retiring owner want the full price based on what the business could really do – generate those results yourself and sell the business when the numbers are strong.

In general buyers are the least suspicious about dealing with retiring sellers. If the retiring owner has run the business well up to the end they can often get a small premium on their price.

The Bottom Line

There are thousands of variants to these four reasons to sell your business. Each variation comes down to the same underlying thought process-are you selling because of short term issues you will overcome or are you selling because it is time for you to get out? No one can answer this question for you but your future success and happiness may depend upon getting you it right.

If business is slow in your industry but you are hanging on, and you like the business as much as another career, then don’t sell. Get the marketing, accounting, coaching or other help to get out of your rut and make it to the good times.

If you are completely burnt out, it really is time to retire, or you have much better things on the horizon then sell the business while it is still performing well in order to maximize your sales price.

Why Businesses Fail – And What You Can Do About It!

Have you unintentionally set your business up for failure?

No one sets out to fail! Most business owners read all the statistics (maybe more than once) before they open their doors. Many know the reasons why businesses fail. But some businesses operate under this paradigm: “failure can never happen to me because I know better.” Is that you?

What most business owners miss is looking at the reasons for business failure and turning them into action steps to help overcome the odds of failure. How do I know? I once thought I knew better, too!

Bear in mind that even “adolescent” businesses fail. According to the SBA statistics, 90% of small businesses fail within the first five years. Many businesses aren’t producing enough income because the business owners aren’t “business wise.” They may be excellent at a specific task -consulting, programming, massage therapy, web site design, copywriting, etc. Or they have a great product. But wise about the “business” of business, they are not!

In the past five years of my business, not one client (including those who have been in business for more than 10 years) provided me with a business plan to review. Not one! Two of 100 clients have had marketing plans, but marketing plans don’t work without a business plan and other focus type tools, too. The other common (95%!) mistake I see (and help my clients correct) is pricing their services very low as a way to gain market share and new clients. So low, in fact, that a potential buyer will perceive the service or product as being cheap and of low quality, even when the provider offers years of expertise. NO ONE wants to hire a business that is cheap! Inexpensive – yes; affordable – yes; cheap – no, no, no!

The most common problems business owners experience stem from simple functions like streamlining, organizing, information resourcing, marketing, planning, visioning, languaging, communication, technology and ecommerce. Example: If you know that most businesses fail because they don’t have a usable business plan, develop your own business and marketing plans and use them daily; don’t create one that gathers dust on a shelf. I use the One Page Business Plan Book or Interactive CD by Jim Horan. It helps business owners create very realistic, focused, and well thought-out business and marketing plans, including scorecards to help you anticipate and avoid business problems.

Example 1: Recently, a client turned down an opportunity to teach computer classes on a subject she could easily teach. Using teaching to market her business is on her marketing plan. So why not? Well, the proposed classes weren’t going to help her get business for her primary business, they weren’t going to attract her ideal client, and the pay was much lower than her usual hourly rate. She felt confident about declining the offer. Of course, that same week, other new business – the type she really wanted – came her way!

Example 2: New client knows she wants to create a business plan. She also has a strategy of increasing her income by joining four organizations with networking opportunities for her to meet her ideal clients. She joins the first two groups – total cost: $400.

As she starts her business foundation work, which includes the One Page Business Plan, she realizes that her ideal client isn’t whom she originally thought it was! Some clients might be found in the two groups she’s already joined, but not her ideal clients. As a new business owner, she wants to spend her time around her ideal clients, first and foremost. Planning just a little more for her business would have saved her $400 in membership fees.

What other simple things can you do to build a solid business foundation?

· Use a one-page plan daily to create your to-do list and monitor your business.

· Create an Ideal Client Profile and Elevator Speech and define a niche for your business.

· Read one of the “E-myth Revisited” books by Michael Gerber.

· Go with your strengths. Hire individuals whose strengths ARE your weaknesses to “fill in the gaps.”

· Remember that there is no need to repeat the SAME mistakes others have made.

· Know what your business exit strategy will be.

Most business owners don’t know what they don’t know. Get assistance by hiring non-biased professionals who help you realign with your vision, create plans and financial scorecards to monitor your business. Look for someone who can suggest resources to help you and your business grow. Someone who’s been in your shoes and succeeded. Start looking at how having a partner – a business consultant, coach, counselor, strategist, organizer or planner – can help you grow your business.

Ready to learn more about business success? Take a look at the articles I found on business failure that are posted below, ( http://www.coachmaria.com/articles/succeed.html ). Learn to overcome the costly (both in money and your time) errors that other business owners have already made. Give your business a fighting chance to continue to succeed.