Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Profile of a Successful Entrepreneur

“An businessman is a hybrid of a dancer and a calculator.” – Paul Valery – French philosopher

What follows are the five MAIN traits found in successful entrepreneurs.

They are Problem Solvers: Entrepreneurs have an uncanny ability to find solutions for difficult problems.

They are Calculated Risk Takers: A successful entrepreneur is a good judge of acceptable risk levels. They always research a topic before trying to make decisions and leave no stone unturned. They tend to be an adventurous group but always minimize their risk with alternate plans should something unexpected arise.

They are Innovators: During their lifetime most entrepreneurs will start several businesses. This is due to the fact that they always have great new business ideas flowing through their head. An entrepreneur will start a company and then move on to the next big project. It is rare for an entrepreneur to stick around and actually "run" a company past the start up phase. The idea of running an established company does not appeal to them so they are likely to sell the business or hire someone to run the daily operations for them.

They Delegate Tasks: One of the keys to becoming an excellent entrepreneur is their ability to delegate tasks to others. They delegate tasks they are not good at to others and run the parts of the business that they excel in.

Handle Rejection Well: Dealing with rejection is part of being an entrepreneur.

Monday, December 26, 2011


“Much of our American progress has been the product of the individual who had an idea; pursued it; fashioned it; tenaciously clung to it against all odds; and then produced it, sold it, and profited from it.” Hubert H. Humphrey (1911–78), U.S. Democratic politician, vice president.

“We are told that talent creates its own opportunities. But it sometimes seems that intense passion creates not only its own opportunities, but its own talents.” Eric Hoffer (1902–83), U.S. philosopher.

An entrepreneur is a person with a passion… A passion for their idea (and their dreams for that idea) that drives them to risk their finances and invest every waking hour in pursuit of these passions.

Their goal is never JUST money. Their goal is to build something. To create something. Sounds like an artist doesn’t it? Well I think entrepreneurs ARE artists… and so did Andy Warhol when he said, “Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. . . . Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Entrepreneurs are the backbone of any society, they are the Edison’s, the Franklin’s, the Ford’s, and the Gate’s of this world. They are people who leave their world better for their passion and, while they take success and thrive on it, they give back to their communities, their associates, and their families more than can be expressed within the context of a dollar sign.

To be called an ENTREPRENEUR is truly the greatest compliment that can be given to a business person.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Things Change - Business Plans Must be Up-Dated

It's important to remember a fundamental fact about business plans: business plans become outdated very rapidly and, if not updated, lose whatever value they may have to a company.
In other words, business planning is an ongoing process and the written plan must be regularly revised if it is going to have continuing value. It is essential to review the plan on at least a quarterly basis and measure results against the plan.

The reality of today's world is that the pace of change is accelerating. What that means is that executives must be constantly making adjustments to their plans. As the pace of change speeds up, it is easy to lose sight of the business plan and simply make the necessary adjustments to the plan on a day-to-day basis.

One way to accomplish this task without being under the pressure of completely rewriting the plan each quarter is to establish priorities and implementation steps as part of the planning and quarterly review process

Another way to help the review and measurement process is to set target dates for completing various components of the plan.

The priorities and dates can be included at the end of each section of the plan or in a separate section at the end of the completed plan. In either case, they should be taken very seriously if they are to have the intended effect of helping in the plan review process. Deadlines have a way of slipping in many companies; simply pushing the dates back a few months at each quarterly review quickly renders the whole process meaningless.

Executives and other employees must be judged on their ability to meet the plan's deadlines. If adjustments or delays are necessary for valid operational or planning reasons, these must be discussed and analyzed.

Dust off your plan and make sure 2012 is ready to rock as soon as the calendar flips! See more business planning tips in Bolts of Lightening in The OED Community!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What are the traits of all great entrepreneurs?

“That which we acquire with the most difficulty we retain the longest; as those who have earned a fortune are usually more careful of it then those who have inherited one.” – Charles C. Colton

1. They have an idea they believe in… that creates a passion that keeps them moving forward.
2. They sincerely love people and because of this can lead them.
3. They take responsibility for all they do.
4. They are logical thinkers and persuasive because of this.
5. They work HARD.
6. They work smart.
7. They are good organizers and on the top of their “time management” game.
8. They make decisions but are not afraid to say they were wrong.
9. They solve problems and add value to all they do.

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realizehow close they were to success when they gave up." - Thomas Edison

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Can Family Members Continue as Employees Post-Sale?

Family businesses form a large segment of the small business sector. Transitions can often be difficult when new ownership takes over. OED Certified Advisor Laurie Russelberg provides great insight into the concern of the transition on family members who seek to remain with a company.

Q. Our nephews each work for us, along with our kids. Is it true they’ll be looked at as “old wood” by new ownership? How do we ensure buyers know they are critical, not just family pulling paychecks?

A. This is central concern for family businesses considering a sale. Depending upon the situation and buyer, some or all positions may be in jeopardy. Is the potential buyer an existing business that has its own workforce? Or is the potential buyer an individual who will need to depend upon the current workforce?

Each situation is unique, but the best protection for future employment is to ensure the new buyer sees the family members as vital, contributing members of the company. A few suggestions to consider:

Ensure that each family member has a detailed job description. Can business performance be linked back to each employee and their respective job descriptions?

Can this be effectively communicated to the potential buyer? Don’t be shy about promoting the family members as vital to the wellbeing of the company.

After a sale, will the family members be able to adjust to the new ownership and a changed work environment?

Laurie Russelburg is an OED Certified Advisor and founder of Bridge Business Consultants, Orlando, FL. Contact Laurie via LinkedIn to help your business grow, prosper and transition.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Are You Your Own Worst Enemy?

In a recent study done by Communispond, a New York based sales firm, more than 100 salesmen were asked why "the number one reason customers switched vendors." Over half admitted that "being out of touch" was the primary reason. Not that the customer found a better deal or a better product. The reality was this: they sold the customer the product and left him. Period.

Even in a very lean economy, clients will not necessarily jump ship just to chase a better deal. Are there long standing clients with whom you've lost touch? Do you reach out them to say hello or see how business is? Do you reach out to let them know you are at least aware you haven't spoken recently? This is an ideal time of year to contact clients (and vendors) with whom you have been out of touch. Let them know you value the length of your connection, and kick off a more connected 2012.

More sales and connection tips can be found in the resource documents in The OED Community.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Signs of Optimism as We Approach 2012?

The following article appears on by Mary Ellen Biery:

Are things getting better for small business?
After months of understandable pessimism, small business owners have caught a bit of holiday-time cheer.

Two recent surveys show improvement in the small-business outlook even as some economists are reportedly saying U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter will be stronger than previously expected.

Meanwhile, data from Sageworks’ financial statement analysis of privately held companies shows that small businesses are seeing stronger sales growth and higher profits than last year. And a “Small Business Saturday” promotion during Thanksgiving weekend spurred an estimated 103 million shoppers at independently owned small merchants – more than the 89 million expected by promoter American Express OPEN.
Small business optimism rose for a third consecutive month, the National Federation of Independent Business said this week. The group found small but widespread improvement in forward-looking components of its Small Business Optimism Index, even though the index remains weak and below the January index reading. “After so many months of pessimism, November’s modest gain made it feel like spring, again,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “We have good reason to be optimistic about last month’s report and hopeful about what it means for the future. Still, our current reality is still very much the ongoing economic winter.

Read the complete article on Forbes!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ten Ways to Be A Leader

1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
2. Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly.
3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
5. Let the other person save face.
6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement.
7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
8. Use encouragement.
9. Make the fault easy to correct.
10. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.
Dale Carnegie (1888-1955) American writer and speaker

Monday, December 12, 2011

Leadership Characteristics

"A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.”

Leaders have the authority of knowledge. Leaders have demonstrated ability/talent that colleagues and subordinates admire. To be a leader you cannot just be a talker ... you must bring something special to the situation.

Leaders are visionaries. Leaders see things, that others see as ordinary, in a way as to make them extraordinary. Leaders can make the complex seem simple. Leaders look beyond today.

Leaders produce positive change. Change is seen by leaders as an opportunity and a challenge. Leaders always question why things work, or are done, the way they are.

Leaders give their all. Leaders do not hold back. They do not allow themselves to be sidetracked and always exhibit a high degree of energy and ability.

Leaders are good listeners. They are able to really hear what people are saying and empower people to follow their vision.

Leaders are good communicators. They are clear and concise, complete and consistent. They create enthusiasm and excitement

Leaders are students. They never stop learning and growing. They are willing, and able, to learn from their mistakes. Leaders read ... read ... and read!

Leaders take risks. They create change which requires risk because they visualize how things can be done better.

Leaders are ethical. People will not follow someone who cannot be trusted, consistently.

Leaders are optimistic. Trust and hope are the basis on which leaders empower other people. They believe (and have proven) they are winners

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Make Profit Everyone’s Responsibility

To many entrepreneurs do not talk to their employees about PROFIT. They often feel one of two ways:
It’s no ones business but their own.
Their people wouldn’t understand it anyway.

Both are disastrous attitudes.

It is the employees business because without it they won’t have a job for long.

If they don’t understand what profit is then the boss must explain it to them!

Without a firm commitment to the profitability of the company people do not see it as part of their jobs and will see no relationship between the businesses profitability and their jobs. This causes waste and inefficiency.

Profit MUST be part of everyone’s job description!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hire A Great Bank

Bankers are NOT villains – they can be the biggest allies an entrepreneur has because it is very much to their benefit to see the entrepreneur become successful.

Make a list of what services you need form a bank: checking and savings accounts; credit card processing; lines of credit; wire transfers etc. Take some time and make a complete “wish list”.

When your list is complete look for a small community bank that is close to your business and active in the area. Choose one that advertises for local business and has a customer list that includes business like yours.

Also, make sure to ask your mentor, friends and other business people for recommendations.
Once you have a list of possible banks make an appointment with the bank president or the VP in charge of the branch nearest you and interview then completely.

In the final analysis you must have a bank that can service all your needs and “personal” banker who you can deal with to be successful.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Made In America- For Christmas

We love this ongoing series by ABC News. Kudos to the American Broadcasting Company for bringing the spotlight to the most effective way to jump start job growth: Buy American. It sounds... what? Simple? Costly? Everyone has their own take. Is it a simple but quaint idea that will cost more than buying readily available goods in a big box store? Is it impractical due to the huge percentage of goods produced overseas? Yes. And No. To jump start your creativity thought process and give Santa a little help too on holiday tips, the Made in America Series is now running The Great Made In America Christmas

The premise is simple yet astounding. If every American spent just $64 (just 1-2 gifts on your list) on products made in America, the result would be 200,000 jobs. Read that again. Now think of all the merchants in your area, mail/web order businesses you know, restauranteurs with gift cards, holiday cheer... you name it, choices abound.

There is an ever-growing list of merchants and items on ABC's website. Check them out, do some holiday shopping, and let's support these fellow American entrepreneurs and their employees!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Small Businesses Create 55,000 Jobs in November

(Reuters) - U.S. small businesses created 55,000 jobs in November but employees worked fewer hours and earned less money, according to a survey on Tuesday that highlighted the still weak labor market conditions.
Intuit, a payrolls processing company, said the increase in small business employment compared to October's upwardly revised 60,000 count, previously reported as a 30,000 gain.

The survey is based on responses from about 71,000 small businesses with fewer than 20 employees that use the Intuit Online Payroll system.

It covered the period from October 24 to November 23.

The average work week for small business employees fell 0.3 percent to 24.9 hours, while the average monthly salary slipped 0.18 percent to $2,637.

"Total compensation is down, part-time workers aren't getting as many hours, and there are fewer hourly employees who are working full time," said Susan Woodward, the economist who helped to develop the survey.

"Overall, this data is the best we could hope for given the uncertainty of the situation in Europe."
The government will release its closely watched employment report for November on Friday. Nonfarm payrolls likely increased 122,000, according to a Reuters survey, after rising 80,000 in October.

post published Nov 30 2011- Reuters News Agency

Monday, November 28, 2011

Creating a Strategic (Emergency) Contingency Plan

None of us likes to think of the worst case scenario, but if the bizarre weather the East Coast has faced haven't taught us the need to plan, nothing will. Hurricane and floods affecting the ENTIRE state of NJ? Pre-Halloween blizzards taking out power? The following is a cross-post from Bolts of Lightening in OED's Community site. Read on and prepare BEFORE winter settles in with its snow, winds, ice, HVAC system chaos, and inevitable electrical issues that often ensue.

It's the kind of situation that none of us like to think about--a fire burns the headquarters or a flood damages inventory and closes Main Street. But it's the kind of situation every small business needs to be prepared for. We only need turn on the evening news on television to be reminded of the devastating consequences of fires, tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes.

The best way to prepare is to create a strategic contingency plan that will keep the business operating, even if only on a reduced basis, until the damage can be repaired or the business otherwise restored. Such a contingency plan need not be very complicated or involved. But it should answer certain key questions, among them the following:

· What are the most important elements to keeping this business operating?
For some businesses, like food or hardware stores, it is a matter of having inventory available as quickly as possible. For other businesses, like professional service firms, it is a matter of being able to get the professionals together to service clients. Whatever the most important elements are for your business, figure out what you would do if a natural disaster interrupted operations. Talk to your suppliers about what they would do, and with your key employees for their car phone numbers or addresses of close relatives.

· Where would we operate?
If your store or office were damaged, you need another place to set up operations. This might be in the owner's house, or it could be in a warehouse the company owns. The important thing here is to consider the options, and prioritize them if you have more than one choice.

·How would we communicate with each other?
In a flood or hurricane, especially, electricity and even telephone communication can be knocked out. Make sure you know everyone's home phone number and all employees' current addresses. Involve several people in the company in drawing up the contingency plan so that they are alert to the importance of communicating information about new location and hours of operation during an emergency.

· Do we have backup copies of important records?
In order for the business to be able to carry on in an alternative location, it should have access to its records. Consider what would happen if the records were destroyed or damaged by fire or flood. In today's age of computers, it is reasonably easy to have backup records of customer and supplier lists, provided someone is charged with regularly updating files. Old paper records should be regularly moved to an offsite location; this increases the odds they will be available in an emergency.

· Do we have all the insurance we require?
As just one example, you may want to be sure you have insurance covering you for loss of business time. This could provide critical cash to enable you to re-start operations.

The key issue in putting together such a strategic plan is anticipation. The key questions raised boil down to this: What do you need to continue operations, and how would you ensure that what you need is readily available?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Are you an Asset or Liability to your client?

We operate by the credo that benefits sell consultancy. If the benefits are not there, then the consultant should not be there. But who defines the term 'benefits'? Rather than engage in a theoretical debate about benefits and who defines them, let's take a practical approach to client benefits by examining the Balance Sheet of the client, shall we?

The development of a business relationship goes through 5 stages. Your ability as a consultant to become a fixture in your client's asset column in each of these 5 stages will determine the benefits you are providing and whether or not you have earned the right to remain as the consultant for that client. If you reside in the liability column in ANY of these 5 stages, you run the risk of creating a very short-lived relationship. Are you ready to take the test? Great! Score yourself in each of the 5 stages; A for asset and L for liability. Be honest and good luck!

5 Stages of a Successful Business Relationship

Stage 1: Initiating the Business Relationship. When initiating the relationship, you need to create a personal relationship and build rapport. In order to build trust, our client needs to feel that you are there to serve them and their needs. Are you effective in building rapport and trust? If Yes, score A for Asset. If you feel you need to improve in this area, score yourself an L for Liability.

Stage 2:  Developing the Business Relationship.

Stage 2 is about creating a strategic plan or vision for the long term. In your strategic plan, you set long-term priorities, list specific and time-targeted outcomes. Finally, you make a total commitment to the achievement of those specified outcomes. Your ability to convey your vision for yourself, the client AND the client company builds confidence and respect within the client that you can handle the engagement for the long term. Are you effective in conveying this long-term vision to your client? If Yes, score A for Asset. If you feel you need to improve in this area, score yourself an L for Liability.

Stage 3: Testing the Business Relationship.

This stage confirms and validates in the client's mind if the engagement is in fact a viable and beneficial relationship. How quickly are you making a noticeable impact on your client? Do you routinely ask the tough questions and probe the points of pain with your clients? Are you delivering measurable results within the first 30 days of the engagement? If Yes, score A for Asset. If you feel you need to improve in this area, score yourself an L for Liability.

Stage 4: Rolling Out the Relationship.
So, you've picked the low hanging fruit and created some short-term results. You have gotten your client out of their short-term pain. Now what? Your ability to create ongoing, incremental, positive improvement at your client company will determine your ability to remain in the asset column. Are you delivering consistent results to your client month in and month out? Be honest! If Yes, score A for Asset. If you feel you need to improve in this area, score yourself an L for Liability.

Stage 5: Feedback and Review of the Relationship.
How often do you hold a mirror up to yourself and honestly assess your own performance? Do you hold regular performance evaluation meetings with your client to ensure that your client is feeling supported? When performing this outcome review, does your client give you the feedback that you are making positive, measurable impact?  If Yes, score A for Asset. If you feel you need to improve in this area, score yourself an L for Liability.

So, how did you fare? Here is what your scores mean:

If you scored an L in Stages 1 and/or 2:

You may be having difficulty signing new clients because you are not effectively conveying your true value and the benefits to your prospects. Ask and answer this question, "How will engaging in the client and engaging with you specifically positively transform this business? Also,"Why should this prospect engage with you over ALL else?"

If you scored A's in Stages 1 and 2 but you scored L's in Stages 3 and/or 4:

Well done! You are signing new clients and creating short-term impact, but you may be experiencing short-term client engagements. Now what? You need to dig deeper. Dig deeper into your commitment to this client and deeper into the challenges that your client company faces. What consistent daily actions does this company need to take in order to achieve the long-term specified outcomes?

If you scored A's in Stages 1 through 4, but an L in Stage 5:

Excellent! Short-term impact combined with consistent results has yielded a happy client. To take this relationship to the next level, you must solicit feedback from your client. "Are you happy with the direction of the engagement thus far? How can I support you best going forward? What specifically needs to happen in order to make this a level 10 (on a scale from 1-10) experience for you and your enterprise?"  The answers to those two questions transition you from Stage 5 back around to Stage 1 as if in a clockwise rotation. By asking those feedback questions, you have placed yourself in the Asset column of Stage 5 and just initiated the next level of the relationship. Nice work!

If you scored A's in all 5 Stages:

Congratulations, you are providing ongoing positive benefits to the client company! According to your client, you are residing in the Asset column by building rapport, creating an environment of trust and respect, and holding your client AND yourself accountable to a higher standard by asking the tough questions necessary when growing a business.

Fellow colleagues, remaining a fixture in the Asset Column of your client's balance sheet is an ongoing process and a key to the long-term profitability to both your and your client's businesses. I wish you the best of luck in your quest to score all A's on the balance sheets of your clients!

This article and excellent client service tips like it may be found in the OED Community. The access is complimentary. The knowledge base is invaluable. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Assessing Personnel Needs - Tips

As payrolls have been trimmed and companies have been forced to run lean, many have tried to increase productivity to nearly unrealistic levels. As things start to emerge in what may be a "new normal" rather than lightening-quick recovery, we look at this cross-post from Bolts of Lightening in OED's Community site.

The small business owner should base the firm's personnel policies on explicit, well-proven principles. Small businesses that follow these principles have higher performance and growth rates than those that do not follow them. The most important of these principles are

  • All positions should be filled with people who are both willing and able to do the job.
  • The more accurate and realistic the specifications of and skill requirements for each job, the more likely it is that workers will be matched to the right job and, therefore, be more competent in that job.
  • A written job description and definition are the keys to communicating job expectations to people. Do the best job you can! is terrible job guidance.
  • Employees chosen on the basis of the best person available are more effective than those chosen on the basis of friendship or expediency.
  • If specific job expectations are clearly spelled out, and if performance appraisals are based on these expectations, performance is higher. Also, employee training results in higher performance if it is based on measurable learning objectives.

The first step in assessing personnel needs for the small business is to conduct an audit of future personnel needs. Ask yourself:

  • Can the workload you visualize be accomplished by the present work force? 
  • Will more or fewer employees be needed? Consider seasonal patterns of demand and probable turnover rates.
  • Can any jobs be eliminated to free people for other work?
  • What balance of full-time or part-time, temporary or permanent, hourly or salaried personnel do you need?
  • What does the labor supply look like in the future?
  • Will you be able to fill some of the jobs you've identified? How easily?
  • What qualifications are needed in your personnel?
Develop a method to forecast labor demand based on your answers to these questions. Once your needs are estimated, determine strategies to meet them. Be wary of tightening payroll to the point you eliminate any chance for growth.

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Your Client Service Skills - A Quickie Quiz

How "wise" are you willing to be with yourself? And how honest? 

Feeling brave? Then take this quiz....

Rate yourself on your New Client Presentation on a scale from 1-10 (1=lowest and 10=highest).
Be brutally honest with yourself to get maximum value from this exercise.

If you score less than 10 on any of the points, then I invite you to answer the question that immediately follows your score.

Here we go...

1) The Opening
  ~Building Rapport (Icebreaker).......................Score_____

Q: (If your score was less than 10): What specifically needs to happen in order for
your Icebreaker to be a '10'?

~ Command of the Script.............................Score______
Q: (If your score was less than 10): What specifically needs to happen in order for
your Command of the Script to be a '10'?

~Quality of Welcome Pack...........................Score______
Q: (If your score was less than 10): What specifically needs to happen in order for
your Welcome Pack to be a '10'?

2) The Middle
 ~Eliciting Challenges/Issues of Enterprise.........Score_______
Q: (If your score was less than 10): What specifically needs to happen in order for
you to elicit the Challenges/Issues of the Enterprise at a Level '10'?

 ~Probing the Pain.....................................Score________
Q: (If your score was less than 10): What specifically needs to happen in order for
you to "Probe the Pain" at a Level '10'?

3) The Close
 ~Getting the CEO's 3 Wishes...............................Score_________
Q: (If your score was less than 10): What specifically needs to happen in order for
you to make "Getting the MD's 3 Wishes' a '10'?

 ~Getting the CEO to decide and sign on the 1st appt.....Score_________
Q: (If your score was less than 10): What specifically needs to happen in order for
you to convince the CEO to sign the Application on the 1st Appt. a '10'?

Total Score......................................................................______________

Scoring Key. If you scored.....

60-70   Outstanding! You are maximizing the script. More importantly, you are NOT
acting like your clients. You are putting hard-earned advice to good use.

55-59   Excellent! You are on your way to mastery. 

45-55   Very Good! Hang in there. Peak performers go that extra mile that makes
all the difference in the world. 

Less than 45  Kudos to you for being honest with yourself. The first step in any
                     transformation is the awareness that there is a problem and
                     acknowledgement that you can change. Reach out to your mentor;
                     seek out another colleague who is getting the results you desire and
                     work on the areas that need improvement.
What action(s) will you commit to TODAY to raise your score?

This article and excellent client service tips like it may be found in the OED Community. The access is complimentary. The knowledge base is invaluable. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Secrets of Top Closers

What distinguishes someone who has a high ratio to someone that has a low closing ratio?

Are they smarter? Are they a more 'natural' communicator than you?
Did they happen to get better leads or more qualified appointments than you?
Are they luckier than you?

The answer to these is NO. There is a distinct difference between the MINDSET of the top-performing closers and the low-performing closers.

When an appointment is unsuccessful, the lower -performing closers blame the following:
~How the prospect was qualified.
~Length of the appointment (too short / too long).
~Business was too small, too big, didn't make enough, or made too much.
~Distance needed to travel to the prospect was excessive.

This article and excellent sales tips like it may be found in the OED Community. The access is complimentary. The knowledge base is invaluable. 

When an appointment is successful, the lower-performing closer credits the following:
~Luck (Or some other external force).

When an appointment is unsuccessful, the top performing closers blame the following:
~Themselves. They assume 100% responsibility for the outcome of that appointment.
~They then ask themselves...
1.      What did I do well?
2.      What could I do to improve myself / my performance for the next appointment?
3.      What was the defining moment of that appointment (i.e. What was the event that changed
        the appointment for the better/worse?)

When an appointment is successful, the top performing closers ask the following:
1.      What did I do well?
2.      What could I do to improve myself / my performance for the next appointment?
3.      What was the defining moment of that appointment    (i.e. What was the event that changed the  
      appointment for better/worse?)

The difference between the top performers and the lower performers is their belief system. The top performers believe that if the prospect did not buy; it was because they did not build enough value into the appointment so the prospect was compelled to engage them.

Which mindset do you employ? I invite you to ask yourself these 3 questions before and after each appointment and develop the MINDSET and RESULTS of a top performer!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Spotlight on: Family Owned Business

Over 25% of the businesses in  2011 U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Business Owners are family owned businesses. When the traditional employee is taking a vacation, a business owner may be vacationing with a full complement of work tasks and telecom devices. A family-owned business member, however, has the extra burden of being accessible and mingling with your partners, colleagues, supervisors or subordinates at intimate social occassions like weddings or holiday dinners.

Knowing when to "turn it off" can be a source of tension, as can judgements of uses of personal finances. When it's good, it's great. When times are not so good, it can be inescapable. The reversion to childhood roles and reactions can destroy the morale of non-related employees.

We came across an article filled with some great tips via Fortune & CNN Business that spotlights what it takes to make a family business work, like leverage outside advisors for insight from an independent view. Check out the article and watch OED's Online Community for info. As always, OED's Local Business Assistance Program is available to bring a skilled, seasoned, OED Certified Advisor in for impartial views and guidance.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Ways to Leverage Small Business Saturday

We posted info regarding Small Business Saturday and you may be wondering what it can mean for YOUR business. Here are just a samplig of ideas and offers by the organizers. Get involved and take advantage of the advance promotion and PR opportunities that are out there for Amex merchants as well as non-customers in some cases.

Create a YouTube Video of Your Story!Online videos are a compelling way to engage customers and to share the powerful story behind your business. Now, with American Express and Google's free My Business Story tool, you can create personalized, professional-quality videos that can be featured on YouTube, your business website, Facebook, and more. My Business Story features:
•An easy, step-by-step guide to help you shoot your video
•Sample templates and a selection of royalty-free music
•Script outlines and video examples

Create an Offer That Gets Buzz!Create social media offers that American Express Cardmembers can access on their mobile devices with Go social.  These offers are:
•Couponless, and can be redeemed without offer codes or staff training
•Distributed through Facebook and Foursquare
•Tracked to see the impact to your business

Build Buzz with YourBuzz!
What can you do with YourBuzz?

•Manage your business accounts across 10 online networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, and more with one simple dashboard
•Access marketing solutions, including $100 of LinkedIn Ads credits, to help you create targeted advertising that fits your budget
•Easily respond to customers online and create new conversations about your business
•Get tools that can help you identify influencers, and track how you match up with your competitors

(This is a great benefit for companies with a B2B market especially! Check out the LinkedIn ad credit!!!)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veterans Day!

A huge thank you to all who have served our country! Your efforts have ensured the rights we hold dear.

A series of federally-funded programs have been implemented to recognize your service and provide transition support for veterans seeking to launch a business. Incentives are also available to current business owners who have served. Another huge highlight is taht many of these programs are available to dependents of current and fomer service members. A quick summary of programs is below. We encourage veterans to bookmark the departmental links to keep abreast of funding or tax incentive announcements.

Office of Veterans Business Development:
The Office of Veterans Business Development's mission is to maximize the availability, applicability and usability of all administration small business programs for Veterans, Service-Disabled Veterans, Reserve Component Members, and their Dependents or Survivors
The principal purposes of this site are to provide information about the VIP verification process; to assist Veteran business owners in registering their business in the Secretary's Database of Veteran-owned small businesses and to enable VA contracting officers to easily identify service-disabled Veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) and VOSBs eligible for procurement opportunities. This site is maintained by the Center for Veterans Enterprise (CVE), a program office within the Department's Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU).

Department of Veterans Affairs:
In addition to administering health benefits and educational benefits, the VA's vocational training support can provide you access to key training, licensing, or certifications you may need for your business.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Online Reputation Management

So many businesses successfully leverage the buzz that can be efficiently built online. Press links, frequent updates and insightful posts can position yor business as a leader.

The down side to the speed of info publishing is that it's not often vetted. In a lot of cases, it's outright false. And time and again, courts have sided with the internet service provider so posts are not removed.

There are many different paths that cyber-slammers take, from identity theft using false accounts which appear to be you, to SEO-based techniques that propogate their negative feedback through social networks, to the toughest to refute, so-called rip off and fraud sites.  Turn down a person in a job interview for solid grounds and you may face their wrath via online and anonymous rants. It can be scary, and costly to counter. ran a piece last month with tactics you can use when an irrational (ex)customer or disgruntled employee hits the online world.

Three which we highly recommend:
Build positive presence online. This way, when people search you and your domain, they will come upon the things about your business you want them to know.
Stop clicking back to the bad news every two minutes. Not only are you driving yourself nuts, but you're increasing hit rates which makes the post more appealing to search engines
Watch your own name AND alternate spellings and domain extensions. There are services and utlities you can use for this as well listed in the complete post linked below.

Once on the web, always on the web is the harsh reality of bad PR. The good news though is that works for positive messages and client feedback. Focus your energy on a strategy that increases visibility of the positive, rather than one suppresses the negative. It will put you in a better frame of mind and be a lot more productive in the end.

The full article can be found on Additional PR strategies can be found in the OED Online Community.

Monday, November 7, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different. And Really Uncomfortable.

Oooh, here's a possibly sticky topic that anyone with employees may face:

How do you tell an employee to stop dressing so provocatively?

Maybe this strikes a chord because Halloween with all its goofy/quirky/doesn't need to be so sexy costumes stormed all the businesses near us. Whatever the chord, more than one OED Advisor has stepped into a small business to find "juicy" across a young woman's sweatpants, or someone looking more like some "naughty librarian" than bookkeeper.

We love this post from on Business Week for it's suggestions! The first thing that may stop you is the question of whether YOUR employee handbook covers dress code. You DO have an employee manual, right? Even if you'd like to maintain a casual atmosphere, you are running a business.

Before updating (or writing) yours, check out Karen Klein's feedback to one highly concerned law firm partner.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


Small Business Saturday is coming. Now, you may be saying, "Isn't EVERYday a small business day?" You'd be right as far as we're concerned. Once a year however, a major initiative seeks to drive traffic and action to small businesses in the US.

Kicked off by American Express, we applaud any and all efforts to bring focus to small business. November 26th is the day you are urged to "Shop Small." As a small business owner, we challenge you to take a look at your own purchasing patterns. Do you support your local merchants or do you gravitate to big box stores? Do you check out up and coming sites or head right to the online giants?

Check out Small Business Saturday for ways you can help your fellow entrepreneurs!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cloud Computing: Why You Should Be Do It recently ran an article regarding cloud based computing for small business. You may think of the cloud as just another tech trend, but the reality is that this emerging and evolving option can save you headaches, space, AND MONEY.

Here are the savings detailed in the post originally published 10/19/2011. Pretty impressive!

1. Save on Infrastructure

Rather than buying new servers, operating systems, and applications to provide IT services in-house, you simply pay a monthly fee to a cloud provider. Considering that the cost of a single server with OS and applications can be a couple of thousand to tens of thousands of dollars, this can be a huge benefit, especially if you want to test a new service before a full implementation.

2. Save on Setup and ManagementIf your IT staff is unfamiliar with a new OS or application, it can be a long, arduous process to implement a new function. Cloud providers have experienced administrators who do nothing but support specific applications. This is one of the reasons for the popularity of cloud-based ERP services--which are notoriously difficult to implement, both in getting hardware and software modules to work together and in configuring the software properly. Likewise, for third-party cloud providers with enough experienced staff, routine chores like monitoring, setting up new accounts, or applying patches are no problem.

3. Save on UtilitiesBecause cloud providers use large, modern data centers with green features and share infrastructure among multiple companies, their costs to run the small part of the center you're using is much smaller than your costs would be for a server that's likely under-utilized in your own data center.

4. Get Better Performance, More Features
Since cloud providers are providing services to many different companies, they buy large, high-performance systems that offer performance levels much higher than a small company can afford to run internally. They typically have the most capable versions of software and site licenses, so they'll also have access to features at much lower costs than you'd be able to get in-house. Their experienced administrators are more likely to know how to optimize performance than your company is--especially if your IT department consists of one person who also doubles as the art department.
5. Increased Company Agility
Cloud providers can add servers or services quickly and easily, and make them available not only to your internal corporate users but to external contractors, partners and customers as well. That means you can achieve degrees of flexibility that would be difficult or impossible internally, allowing you to respond more quickly to your customers' needs or changes in your core business.
6. Enjoy More Fault Tolerance
Cloud providers can afford to have multiple data centers, multiple Internet connections at each data center, as well as replication of data between data centers. Plus, they can offer levels of data protection far beyond simple nightly backups, such as continuous data protection, generators to handle power outages, and high-end servers that can keep running even one component fails.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Advertising - Head Lines and Tag Lines

Truly great brands are far more than just labels for products; they are symbols that encapsulate the desires of consumers; they are standards held aloft under which the masses congregate. - Tony O'Reilly (b. 1936), Irish entrepreneur.

Many people use boring or unappealing head or tag lines for their ads.

These unappealing head or tag lines do not communicate precise, immediate, and direct benefits. While some ads may seem "nice" or "catchy," some do not generate the response nor the business for which they were intended.

A head or tag line is not meant to advertise the business, the product, the service, or the sale (or event). It's meant to advertise the advertisement. It's the ad for the ad.

A head or tag line is meant to land the reader's attention. In essence, the true role of a head or tag line is to grab the reader's attention in order to keep them reading. Once they read the ad, then -- and only then -- interest should be developed.

Your head or tag line must be packed with benefits. Not only that, it must communicate direct, specific, and immediate benefits (i.e., the benefits of reading the ad in the first place). Here are 2 tips on how to increase the attention-factor in your head or tag lines:

Usually, there is a gap between the prospect's problem and its solution. However, many prospects do not know that there is a problem to begin with. A head or tag line that communicates the presence of such a gap (or the widening of one) will most likely appeal to those who can immediately relate to such an idea. In other words, those who are attracted by the head or tag line always had the "gap" in the back of their minds, but the head or tag line merely brings it back to the top and causes them to read on. Hence, they want to know how, by reading your ad, they can close that gap.

Again, it's all a matter of perception. To use a head or tag line that conveys a problem is to simply make the reader aware that there is one (or, at least, reinforce it) and then to demonstrate that the solution exists further in the ad.

Many studies have shown that the greatest technique in advertising that can double -- and sometimes even triple -- the readership of an ad is the use of a simple, single, four-letter word... The word "FREE." People are astonishingly attracted to freebies. Freebies, in an ad, can create a lot of response, but in a head or tag line a freebie can multiply the response rate exponentially.

Ideally, offer a free sample, a free product, or a free service of some kind. However, being in the information age, the "free report" or "free info kit" is a favorite. People love to soak up new information since learned experience is more cost-effective and less time-consuming than that which has been learned *from* experience.

Remember this simple axiom: The head or tag line is the ad for the ad. It is not meant to "show off" or to sell the reader on your business, Web site, product, or service. It is simply an attention grabber. Once you've developed attention, you can then create interest and then increase desire... But hey, that's a whole new article.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Competition Questions

Competition Questions

Getting to know your competitors in a way that will benefit your business means knowing the answers to the following questions.

1.Who are your direct and indirect competitors?
2.What are their products and services, and what makes them different from each other?
3.Are they successful? What is their market share and is it increasing or decreasing?
4.Do they offer a broad or narrow range of products and services?
5.Do they target a specific segment of the market?
6.Is their profit based on quality or volume of sales?
7.What is their average selling price and profit margin?
8.Do consumers think their prices are low, high, or just right?
9.How often do they offer discounts and what kind?
10.How much do they spend on advertising?
11.Where and when do they advertise?
12.What types of special promotions do they use?
13.Is their product or service known by its brand name?
14.How large is their sales force?
15.Where are they located?
16.What is their distribution method? (Do they use brokers, agents, wholesalers, salespeople, direct marketing?)
17.What are their overall strengths?
18.What are their overall weaknesses?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Buying Motives - BENEFITS

Emotions may be regarded as the elements of personality - "As a man thinks, so is he''.

Attitudes and behavior are the results of emotions. No two sets of emotions are the same for no two people are the same.

The business owner must recognize that their business contacts and customers are humans, with the natural emotions of people. Whether they be manufacturers, merchants, or home owners, their emotions, their motivations, their behavioral reactions represent the varied wants of people.

Does all this mean that there is no way to “zero” in on emotional needs that will lead to buying decisions? Absolutely No! There are several central benefits (“What’s in it for me?”) that appeal almost universally.

Here are a few examples.

Profit. No business is run as a recreational diversion - it must pay off, or else. "You'll make more money through increased sales at a higher margin," is an example.

Economy. All of us like to get more for our money - so we can have more things. Example: "It will save you money by cutting your expenses."

Security. We don't like to worry about what might happen to us or to our possessions. Example: "There is no chance of losing your investment."

Health. We want a long life without aches and pains, without doctor bills, loss of work. Example: "Ventilation will be improved 50 percent improving your respiration."

Family welfare. We protect our own and our property against the dangers, and always will. Example: "Your family will have greater peace of mind, and so will you."

Possession of beauty. We simply like to own things that we and others can admire. Example: "The whole appearance of your shop will be improved and be more efficient."

Comfort. We prefer a cushion to a hard rock, pleasure to pain, why be uncomfortable? Example: "Productivity will increase because your people can work more comfortably and efficiently. "

Convenience. The faster, simpler, "less work" way is preferred; there's usually an easier better way. Example: "Time is saved because you simply remove this set-screw to change it."

Prestige. We are proud of our achievements, our possessions we want them seen. Example: "You'll have the area's most modern equipment."

Self expression. We like to do things our way and sometimes to be "different." Example: "It will be yours exclusively."

Social. We like to "belong," to be one of the gang, to be "in" on things.. Example: "The better architects are all using them so should yours."

If a company advertises and markets to the real benefits of their product or service the customer will WANT to buy because they will be convinced that there is REASON to buy and that they will be better off from the purchase.

Marketing Tip:

There has to be a meaningful, visible difference in your features and benefits from those of your competitors AND this difference has to be important enough and compelling enough to your prospects to influence them in their decision process that leads them to doing business with you.


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Actions Speak Loudest in Keeping Customers Satisfied

“First we will be the best, and then we will be the first.” – Grant Tinker – American TV executive

The key to customer satisfaction is service, and there is no limit to the best customer service.

Take the example of a software copying company that had worked over the weekend to meet the deadline of an established customer. After the company finished the duplicating and packaging on Sunday, it received a call from the customer complaining that the prototype copy of the software was bad. Never mind that the customer had previously verified the prototype.

The company immediately sent a new prototype and worked literally around the clock to finish the order only one day late. Moreover, the company declined payment for the extra work. At the customer's insistence, the company agreed to bill for $2,500 labor only. A check soon arrived, but for $5,000 instead of the requested $2,500. A case of champagne accompanied the check. The goodwill created by this special service was incalculable.

Making it happen. Here are some suggestions for keeping customers happy over the long term:

1. Top service starts at the top. The most important way for a CEO to signal support for a service orientation is by his or her actions, not words.

2. Don't neglect maintenance and repairs. Even if you only break even, don't turn customers off by failing to offer maintenance and repair work or doing it poorly.

3. Monitor your customers. Try to contact all customers, either by phone or letter, at least once a year to check with them as to how well you are serving their needs. This survey can be as simple as asking customers to rate your performance on a scale of 1 to 10.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


"Breakthroughs come from an instinctive judgement of what customers might want if they knew to think about it." --Andrew Grove, Intel

"Advertising is salesmanship. The only purpose of advertising is to make sales." -- Claude C. Hopkins

A retinue of dependable customers has always been a firm's greatest asset. The sage observation, "It is better to own a market than a plant," was once only a catch phrase to many businesses - more preached than practiced or understood. Except in times of serious depression, it was always possible to sell harder, improve performance, or cut price. Management's word to salesmen and distributors was, "We'll make It - you sell it." Today the successful business leader says, "What does the market want that we can make and market? How can we best please them with both product and service? How can we get that market to be ours - at least a share of it?"

Marketing is something that every business owner does, even if he or she doesn’t call it that. Many people consider marketing to be promotion, advertising and all the selling techniques used to get someone to buy a product. However marketing is much more.

It’s important to understand that marketing is not the same thing as advertising, selling or promoting. Those are separate tasks. Advertising, selling and promoting are essentially the implementation of your marketing plan. That is, once you have identified your customer prospects and determined how best to reach and serve them, you then have to go out and make it happen.

A marketing approach to business begins with the customer’s needs and involves designing the entire business around fulfilling those needs.

One great need of small business managers is to understand and develop marketing programs for their products and services. Long term small business success depends on the ability to maintain a strong body of satisfied customers while continually increasing this body with new customers. Modern marketing programs build around the marketing concept, which directs managers to focus their efforts on identifying, satisfying, and following up the customer's needs - all at a profit.

One mistake many new business make is slowing up on their marketing efforts each time they get busy with work. While getting new business is exciting and stressful for all of us, it is especially so for new business owners. One thing you don't want to do is neglect your marketing. Before you know it, your current business will slow down, and you'll be left with no incoming business.

So, in the midst of being busy with work, how do you fit in time for marketing? Be sure to set aside some time to market your business everyday. From making a sales call, to passing out your business card, to sending out direct mail - every little thing helps, but you must set aside the time to do it. It may be hard, because your mind may wander to the business at hand, but you'll thank yourself later!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Small Business Tech: Managining Mobile & Talking Tablets

The explosion of mobile devices have been a god-send to many small businesses. Employees acn stay in touch when working off site. Telecommuting gets a boost leading to space savings for many firms. Improving efficiency serving clients can readily turn into a sale you may have missed or an upsell simply due to having more info available on the fly.

What this boom of technology lacks in wiring to workstations is often made up in strings for small business owners. Employees may use the devices in ways you did not intend. (Are they keeping connected or Angry Birds leaders?) There also can be a slew of headaches trying to find someone to manage all connectvity so these items actually interface with your current network the first time and then every time there after. Any one who's ever learned of a Windows patch or iPhone software upgrade 1/2 thru a last minute synch knows the things are constantly receiving updates. Multiply that by 2-3 devices per user (smartphone, tablet and/or laptop) and the number of users and you see the time drain.

There is some excellent advice over on for mobile strategies. They cover some great policy guidelines and plain language buying guides for hardware AND apps. Check it out!

For more small business ideas and articles, visit the OED Community.