Sunday, March 31, 2013

Are You Getting Paid?

Business owners are modest people. The stats show that we don't pay ourselves enough, which is why many owners often run into financing issues. The business may be making money, but are you? As a business owner you need to show a profit for yourself, not just the company, in order to sustain your personal finances and obtain loans for the business.

If you're not paying yourself the same amount of money that you would make doing the same job for a company- you're not paying yourself enough. Period. Don't say you have to sacrifice your wage to make the business work. If this is the case, the business isn't going to work! If your salary is normally 40k- you should be able to pay yourself 85% of that base.

Are you aware of your business' finances? If not, stop reading this right now and get involved. Too many people aren't aware of what they could be paying themselves because they have no idea what the business is making after the bills are paid- or if the bills are even being paid. You need to be involved in your business' finances. Like Oprah says, "sign every check yourself and you will not get into trouble."

What are your growth reports? Some business owners are so involved in making a sale that they don't realize what the sales ratios are. If you get 20 prospect customers per month, you should be turning over 1/3 of them. If you don't know what these numbers are- again get involved. If you see three months go by where you are not converting 1/3 of your inquiry base to a customer base- you need to adjust price point and possibly fire a few employees. Whatever you do- don't cut your current salary-address the issue!

Happy Easter
Twyla

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Pricing Your Products

Around this time every year businesses tend to reconsider their current price point. Usually, and in relation to the 04/15 tax deadline, companies are looking to raise rates. It can be a risky move. So, how will your customers react?

Well, customers hate too many choices. You would think the opposite would be true, but it isn't. In fact, according to various financial data- customers find too many choices overwhelming and end up not buying anything. My advice, if you're going to raise rates- do so without offering several contract terms or price points.

Provide a deal. If you have to raise your rates make it worth your customer's investment. For example, if you have a product or service that sells for $200, and you're going to raise rates to $250, try selling three of the same item for $700. This tactic has worked for decades.

Finally, be honest. If your customer threatens to walk because of a price hike- let them go. Otherwise, you will have an angry and cynical customer to deal with. Instead, find someone who is willing to appreciate your product or services- at the higher price point- and move on.

Until next time,

Twyla

Friday, March 29, 2013

Why You Aren't Successful.

You're failing at life. You're failing in business. You're failing in love. Related? Probably not. A personality issue? Probably so! Failure is almost like having a character deficit. I've noticed several patterns in people who try, but fail, at business, life and even love. What are they? I'm glad you asked. I've listed the tell-tale signs of someone who secretly wants to fail below.

#1. The Must-Do But Never Does Type. We all know a person like this. While he or she is planning his or her next move, reading the latest trendy business book, spending hours in Starbucks researching business plans and strategies, and taking seminar after seminar- the rest of us our living. These people aren't born failures- they're just born without self-confidence. The world is passing them by as they are busy planning for something that they will never be able to do. Nike made a slogan for these people.... enough said.

#2. The Over-Zealous Leader. Yes, a leader can fail. Read you're history books! An over-zealous leader is like a puppy who befriends the next biggest and greatest opportunity. While seeking our opportunities is good, not sticking to your initial plan is bad. An over-zealous leader is so busy looking at a million things at once that his or her focus is not on the prize- thus they never achieve success!

#3. The Un-Involved. Business leaders who spend time on the golf course are failing. Business owners are usually too busy to think, take a bathroom break or complain about what their social lives are missing. If you're out on the golf course, taking two hour lunches or just trusting your employees to man your ship- your business (or in any case-life or love) will fail! Maybe not right away- but it eventually will fold like a deck of cards. To be successful you need to be involved.

Until next time,
Twyla

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Types of Customers- Know them!

Do you know your customer? Do you REALLY know your customer. Knowing who you are selling your services or products too is crucial! You have to be aware of their perspective and cater to it. I've listed the types of customers below to help you reassess your selling strategies.

A. The Unwilling. This is the customer who knows he or she needs your services or products but isn't willing to spend the cash. So, they give your company a call, shake when they hear the price and convince themselves that they can do it better and spend no additional money. Here's why they call you back. They can't- and they know it. They've tried, they tested, they cut every corner to be cut. And, when all is said and done, the results are less than desirable. Be creative when trying to attract their initial business because, even though they will not purchase at first, they will come full circle.

B. The cynic. These customers are hard to keep happy. They've been burnt before. Through no fault of yours, you will pay the price for their prior horrible experiences. Figure out a way to maintain trust. This is the best way to transition a cynical customer to a happy customer.

C. Simple, direct and educated. Ahhh.... if only all of our customers could be these customers! Simple, direct and educated customers get it. They understand there is risk in all aspects of business but they also know they need services and to form relationships with vendors. So, they do there research, request a proposal and buy. These customers are an easy sell and great for repeat business and referrals if you can keep them happy!

Twyla

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Keep Your Team Happy!

I know the benefits to keeping a happy team of employees. Small businesses and large corporations can provide some simple, and affordable, perks to help keep employees happy and productive.

I like the catered lunch. People love free food, especially employees. If you tend to have a problem with absenteeism on Fridays then I promise you something as simple as a catered lunch from Subway will change the statics. Employees love to feel appreciated. Not having them reach into their own pockets to buy lunch once a week or once a month is a great morale booster and helps promote ownership of their roles within your company.

Next, reward employees for their time spent giving back. If your company volunteers for a cause once a month, reward employees who participate with an extra day off the following month! It does work and this is a win-win situation for all involved. I also like to promote sleeping at work. I know what you are thinking but wait before you stop reading. There is evidence that cat naps throughout the day promote creativity and productivity. Provide a designated resting area for your employees. You might even consider playing zen-like music and adding a grapefruit scented oil infuser to help re-energize employees!

I know business owners like to get the biggest bang for their bucks. But, when you help employees feel appreciated and rejuvenated, your profit margin can go up- way up. So, invest in a few lunches and a special break room where sleeping is encouraged.

Monday, March 25, 2013

You're Not THAT Busy!

Many business owners who I know use being busy as an excuse NOT to take on more responsibility or review the inner-workings of their own companies. You can't ever be too busy to not know what is going on with your company or explore further options and opportunities. That is why I am listing some tips to fix your schedule and lure you away from the "busy" excuse.

Author Laura Vanderkam offers some great advice when it comes to saying, "I'm busy." She says one should replace the phrase with "It's not a priority." This actually works. Imagine stating "I'm not processing payroll today because it's not a priority," versus stating "I'm too busy to process payroll today." It does change the way we business owners consider our own actions, right?

I like to review my own expectations. I know I am up at six in the morning. I know I don't settle into bed until ten or eleven at night. So, how can I be THIS busy? Really addressing your schedule and how much you can get done in a day compared to how much you want to get done in a day is key. If you really abide by a schedule and understand you can accomplish the same thing in a short email instead of an hour long "brainstorming" meeting- you will cut down on your "busy" schedule, stress and nightly worries of what has to be done the following day.

Procrastination is not good for anyone, especially business owners! Take ownership as to why you are "busy" and what you are not accomplishing in day-to-day activities in order to fix the problem.

Until next time,

Twyla

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Top 2 Ways to Utilize Profit!

You made a profit. Now, what do you do with it? Businesses need to know how to reinvest profit and where. Hey, it takes money to make money- right? So, once you do make a profit what is the best way to spend it? I've reviewed all the possibilities and have come up with the top two answers.

First, start by paying off any debts you owe. That's right. Being debt free is great in both your personal and business life. Paying off debts means you will save money in the long scheme of things. The credit score number for your business will also improve. You should pay off any business debts before you pay of personal debts. Business income can help you improve your personal income. Have questions on how to do this? Send me a message. I will be happy to offer some initial complimentary advice.

Reinvest in marketing. Marketing is extremely important these days. However, marketing isn't a one-shot effort. Marketing requires several strategies and campaigns running concurrently. Even if you only have a thousand extra dollars at the end of a quarter, consider putting that money into a marketing campaign. It will lead to more customers, more sales and more brand viability.

I'm off to a few speaking arrangements this week. I will still post my nightly updates so please continue to send in your questions.

Twyla

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why Businesses Fail.

Businesses fail for a variety of reasons. However, there are two main reasons that businesses tend to bite the dust. The first reason is over thinking your worth. The second is a lack in leadership.

You can think you are better than you are. It happens all the time. Assuming your business is the best will help you lose sight of your competition. And, you should always have your eyes focused on the competition- especially when starting up. I suggest you do a self-assessment. Email your current clients and ask them how you can improve. Ask friends where they think you lack talent. Although this information can sometimes be painful to hear and read, it can help you improve in business and save your company.

Lead by example. Maybe your company is failing because your employees are underpaid and overworked. Are you stepping up the plate when it comes to pitching in. Spending a day helping to file, answer phones or data entry shows your team that you're capable and able. It really does boost morale and this gives you insight into areas that your operations department can improve upon.

Take this weekend to asses yourself and decide to pitch in more within our company. You have to be more than present at work- you have to be involved and self-aware in order to avoid failure.

Twyla

Friday, March 22, 2013

Finding Happiness - The Grumpy Business Owner.

Owning a successful business doesn't mean you will be happy. Sure, you might be well-off financially speaking, but this doesn't mean you will be happy. In fact, you might not even have a chance to enjoy success as you try to keep up with a booming company. I've been there. I know what it means to stay balanced and happy while stressing out while a company takes over. Trust me- this is a blessing but you also deserve to be happy. Here are my tips.

Know who your friends are- and don't assume they work along side you. Your employees, networking buddies, think tank group- etc. are not your friends. Sure, they may aspire to be you and love the material items you do have- but they are not your friends. They will not offer you good advise and they are not likely to be there for you in the long run. Real relationships lead to happiness. Stop hanging out with people who like your things or love your success and not you! When the work day is done- run. You need to find true support with people, not envy.

Listen to people. Yes, happiness can be this simple. When you interrupt someone, you send a message that you truly don't care what he or she has to say because you feel you have something more important. People love when they are listened to. Don't you love it when someone is clinging to your every word? So, listen to others and wait for your turn to speak. More people will adore and value your time. You will feel happier simply learning to listen.

Let go of fear. Business owners are risk takers and secret worriers. "When will the success stop" is a common question asked by business owners of themselves. Don't worry. Prepare for the worst, expect the best. Worrying adds stress to your life. We often worry about things we can't control. Do your best to prepare and execute in business and leave the rest to God or fate. You will be happier.

Finding happiness in life is a struggle. Finding it conducting business can be next to impossible. Leave the worry behind, take time to listen and know who your true friends are. These three simple steps will lead you to a happy journey along life's road!

Twyla

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Resources for To-Be Business Owners.

There are free classes for the to-be business owner online. You just have to know where to look. Some of them are free, some cost money. I highly recommend taking one or all of these classes!

Introduction to Finance- Online class from the University of Michigan.
Click here to view this class.

Law and the Entrepreneu- Online class from Northwestern University.
Click here to view this class.

How to Build a Startup- Online Class powered by Udacity.
Click here to view this class.

Digital Marketing- ** This is a paid course offered by Mediabistro.
Click here to view this course.

Education is the foundation for a knowledgeable entrepreneur. Even if you have a degree- never stop learning. If you do take these courses please share your experience with me on Twitter!

Twyla

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Top 3 Employee Complaints About You!

Here you are. A businessman or woman in the year 2013. You are forging ahead, employing people during a difficult economy, your personal life has suffered, and you've invested your own savings into a business. You're taking a huge risk. The payoff? Employee complaints. The problem is you don't know about these complaints because they aren't being shared with you- and rightfully so.

What you don't know, however, can hurt you. Here are the top three employee complaints and what you can do to advert them.

1. Pay. Yes, what you pay is being talked about. Even though you were straight-forward with the pay upon the job offer- and the employees are there working- pay will always be a complaint within your company. Don't worry about this complaint if you are paying within industry standards. If you're not paying within industry standards- expect turnover. Employees will always complain about pay because it is human nature to want more, up our own self-worth and to be liberal when spending other people's (your) money. The best way to address the situation is to stop it before it starts- well, becomes a point of contention in the office. When you hire someone make him or her sign a memo. Have the memo address what the pay is, the pay scale in your office, how raises are handed out and what happens to an employee if he or she gets caught discussing pay with another employee.

2. Who needs to be fired. Employees know who is the slacker in the group. This information actually could be vital to you but many employees are afraid to share it. Thus, employees complain to each other about who needs to be fired and can't understand why you are keeping that specific person- which is counterproductive because you probably haven't discovered what a bad apple he or she is yet. To advert this complaint set up a confidential hotline with a 3rd party. Let everyone know this hotline is to address complains on an anonymous level. It could help you weed out bad talent or avoid lawsuits.

3. Drop a client. Yes, clients can be dropped and should be dropped if they are ruining your business. But they make you money?! I know what you are thinking. Yes, we all need clients to survive- but good clients. The third biggest complaint from employees isn't health benefits or PTO time. It is the quality of your clientele. According to Inc.com, " All clients are hard earned and we all know it's easier to maintain a relationship than it is to go out and find a new client to replace them. But many businesses have at least one client that demands more than they are paying, causes more headaches than they are worth, and makes it difficult to meet the needs of the better clients." The website suggests asking employees, monthly, which clients are being pains. If there is a consensus, think about if it's truly worth keeping the client. Some clients are not worth the trouble. In fact, they can have you losing money or sleep over nonsense. Use your employees as the company's best advocate for what clients are worth bending over backwards for and which ones need to be kicked to the curb!

Addressing unknown employee complaints (before they become complaints) can help make your company successful.

Until next time,
Twyla

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What You Can't Ask An Employee!

There are certain questions us employers can't ask our employees. Entrepreneurs need to make themselves familiar with employment law. Don't rely on your attorney to protect you. Day-to-day activities can get you sued. So, you need to know what questions are legal and what questions are illegal when interviewing potential employees.

Age is a big no-no. Never ever ask an employee or potential employee how old he or she is. It will get you into hot water. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), protects individuals who are 40 or older from being discriminated against in the workplace in favor of younger employees. The only time you are able to ask an employee his or her age is in general terms on an application. You are only allowed to ask if he or she is over the age of 18. That's it.

Don't get into the details of a potential employee's personal life. Although it is not illegal to ask if someone is married, it can be the basis for a lawsuit. If the person happens to be in a same-sex relationship or marriage and you ask this question- then not hire the employee- it can be construed as discrimination. Also, if you ask this of an employee and then an employee gets passed up for a promotion- it can also equate to a lawsuit. Why? Well, the employee can say he or she was passed up because you thought their employment and or marriage wouldn't survive a transfer to another location or additional hours- even if this reason has nothing to do with the actual facts why someone was overlooked for a promotion.

Believe it or not- it is ILLEGAL to ask if someone is a U.S. Citizen! Yes, this is true. Citizenship and immigration status cannot be used against a potential employee during the hiring process according to The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).Employers must wait until after a job offer had been extended to require a worker to complete the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) Form and submit documentation that proves identity and employment authorization. However, you can avoid potential issues by asking if someone is authorized to work in the US- which is perfectly legal.

There are other questions that you should shy away from too. You can ask me directly on Twitter or your in-house attorney.

Twyla

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hiring Interns.

Hiring an intern can be a great thing. But where do you start and are they reliable? Interns can make you life great. However, you can come across a bad one every once in a while. I always advocate hiring an intern. Well, if you can call it "hiring." Interns can help companies grow- especially bootstrap businesses.

The word intern is usually synonymous with innovation. The reason is age. I hate to say it, but it is true. Interns are usually on the cutting edge of the latest apps and great shortcuts for existing software. Social media, computer programs, iPads – these are a piece of cake for young professionals. You can always learn more when it comes to social media and computer programs and interns usually provide free tips and tricks.

Free trial period. Most interns don't get paid. And, you never know how great an intern can be. Having an intern around your office is a win-win situation. He or she obtains college credit and real-life work experience. You get work done for free, fresh insight to your business and you might find a great employee!

Get those pending items knocked out. Interns should be doing more than just answering phones. Interns can help you get those dreaded tasks accomplished. Need to audit your client files to ensure all the documents are consistent? Have an intern do it. Sure you benefit, but the intern is learning the real-world and day-to-day items business owners and operators have to perform. Many college kids don't realize work isn't all lunches, gossip and playing marketing guru with social media accounts.

Have an intern can be a wonderful thing. I strongly recommend that you and your company consider it. You do have to be conscious of the The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)- so make sure you make yourself familiar with it. Here is a link.

Until next time,

Twyla

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Business Tricks!

Negotiating in business requires tact and a few tricks. The best negotiating tactics, in my opinion, are listed below. They all work and they are ethical. I always stress people should treat others how they want to be treated. Not all businesses use these tricks, but not all businesses are ethically run.

I like using the silent treatment. When you negotiate a deal, I find the silent treatment works the best. Note: you are not required to respond to any comment or question. Staying silent will create pressure for the other person to speak and likely reveal more than they wish. It will give you a competitive edge too.

Negotiating a deal requires you know what is being said between the dialogue. Knowing this will help you determine many things throughout the deal. How is this done? Ask the right questions. My favorites are "In a perfect world, what would you see this deal looking like?" or "Why doesn't that work for you?"

Remember the game "Hot Potato?" Use it! This game should be used to trade a part of the contract that you don't want to fulfill. It is an ethical pressure tactic. Here is how it works. Let's say you currently have to pay 20k of the proposed contract's fees. Tell the other party you can only afford to pay $5k and any further money will squash the deal. Of course, you could pay the 20k but at this cost it will really cut into your bottom line. It is ethical because it is the truth. You rather not have that added 15k cut into your bottom line and profit margin, right? So, put the ball back into their court. The other party may meet you half way and split this cost- which in the end is usually fair and the right thing to do.

When negotiating always come from a place that is fair for both parties. Don't be greedy or dishonest. It will catch up with you and could ruin your business.

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Twyla

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Best iPhone Apps for Business

The iPhone seems to be taking over the world. Many business owners use it because b2b or customer sales can be conducted from anywhere at anytime. But what are the best iPhone apps for business owners? I have complied a list of favorites!

#1- Office on Your iOS Device; CloudOn. Cost? $5.00 a month. Why? It does a super job of delivering cloud-based versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint to your iPad -- provided you have an Internet connection, which you might be lacking on an airplane.

#2. Google Drive. Cost? Free! Why? You can collaborate on a text document in real-time with one or more of your colleagues. The feature, just added to the iOS app, lets you see what others type into the document as you're working on it. It's a fantastic way to eliminate the old back-and-forth of sending document revisions over email -- and then, inevitably, getting confused over which version is truly the most recent.

#3. Time Tracking: Toggl Timer. Cost? Free. Why? Toggl is a Web-based service with a clock timer that makes it easy to track hours by project and client. The timer is available as a Windows, Mac, and Linux software utility as well as an iOS and Android app.

There are plenty of other great apps, but for business owners (especially small business owners who are watching their budgets), these applications seem to be the cheapest, most efficient and work the best!

Have a great rest of your weekend!

Twyla

Friday, March 15, 2013

5 Ways To Boost Morale!

You walk in and the office is soggy. Yes, soggy! Everyone seems to be in a funky mood, the phones are silent and the weather outside is sunny and bright- making the workplace look dull and uninviting. As a business owner, how do you boost morale? Well, I have the best tips!

#1. Thank the under appreciated. Nothing tells people that they are appreciated like a free lunch. Those who deliver packages, messages, perform surveys, clean the copy machine, fix the copy machine, and so forth- deserve some recognition. If you suddenly surprise them with a catered lunch, even from a sub shop, they will know that they count and the other staff will become motivated- as well as taking notice of them, too.

#2. Ask everyone what they want to do but are waiting on? Yes you the boss can change things. If you have a clerk in the office waiting on a delivery man to pick up a package so she can produce, run out and pick it up for her. It will not hurt you to show your staff that you are capable of doing their jobs.... BTW- they often think upper management can't. If you can show your staff, on a gloomy day, that you can get your hands dirty- they will become motivated. Trust me on this!

#3. Hire a corporate fitness company for the day. If it is slow consider group stretching. It is great for the creative juices. Corporate fitness companies can be a little pricey but you can get them in the office the same day. Or, just take the team outside and do a half an hour of stretching. Fresh air is always good for the soul and productivity.

As people we tend to get stuck sometimes. We can all have off days in life and business. When the entire office is having an off day, it is up to you- the business owner- to re-inspire and motivate! I hope these tips have been helpful. I am looking forward to hearing your suggestions as to what has worked for your company in the past and present!

Twyla

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Social Media Secrets For Your Business.

Social media is a key element for business owners. This tool helps promote your brand, online visibility and engages customers. Social media can help market your business, but it can help fund your business too! Using websites like KickStarter can help you gain investments, build contacts and help verbally and socially spread the word about your business and your business needs. If you already have a great idea and a thriving business know that websites like KickStarter can give your customers an opportunity to invest in your business and their favorite brand!

The biggest thing social media will do is help spread your business' brand. It could be difficult starting and getting followers, but once you start building up a base on Twitter and Facebook - your ability to offer specials, coupons and free advice will skyrocket. Once your fans share the news and/or coupon - it can go viral. Many, many... many people can be exposed to your products and services through your social media efforts. A free way to network can turn into a profitable game of telephone.

Social media is key. It is the best secret to really driving your business, gaining investors and meeting new consumers or vendors. You need to invest time, not money, into social media. I know this can be hard for business owners as we are always short on time. You can hire writers, publicists or even marketing firms to help you, but I promise social media marketing is one of the cheapest, easiest and more impactful ways to reach new clients on the Internet.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Is A Mobile App Really Needed?

Business owners sometimes don't want to invest in technology because they feel it will not benefit their business. And, in some cases, this is true. So, how do you know if paying to develop a great mobile app is really needed?

Stats released by BuySellAds.com state that worldwide app revenue is set to hit $15.1 billion by the end of 2011, a 200% increase over 2010, while other research from Deloitte LLP says that 45% of smartphone users download a new app at least once a week. In the same Deloitte research, however, they found that 80% of the apps they reviewed had less than 1,000 downloads.

The type of mobile app, the type of consumer phone, the type of business you are in makes all the difference. According to recent numbers released by Pew Research, only 35% of Americans own a smartphone. While that is rather high and will only increase, that’s still 65% of consumers that can’t use an app. If you’re looking to reach the masses, you need to evaluate how many of your customers are actually using these devices, and if they are, which platforms (iPhone, Android, etc.) they prefer.

My best advice is to give the power to your consumers! Run a survey and see if they really want, and will use, a mobile app for their cell phones and what types of cell phones you have. Since this topic is so subjective based on business and phone type, you want to do more research based on a market survey before making any huge decisions.

Until next time
Twyla

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

2 Simple Ways to Succeed!

We get caught up in our day-to-day routines. We start gaining a little success and then it stops. Instead of moving onward and upward, we move downward and lose ground. Why does this happen. Fundamentally business owners and CEOs can lose sight of two very important things in business, which can collapse any pending or current success.

Be Efficient is the first simple rule for success. If you offer a deadline to your client, meet it. There is nothing worse than getting a client all pumped up in a presentation and then disappointing them later because you failed to meet a deadline. Even if the presentation is the best in the world, it will not matter. Deadlines are important. Always make sure you meet them!

Be a pleasure to work with. If you are not pleasant you will lose customers and vendors. We all rely on vendors to help us get our work done and to service our customers. If you are not professional and kind, vendors will stray away and you will lose both customers and employees. Keeping people happy means your business is gaining a great reputation within your industry. People can test you, I know this. Chose to be polite and kind, even if you have to be firm.

Until next time,

Twyla

Monday, March 11, 2013

Creative Ways to Market Your Business!

I've owned many businesses. Some have failed, many have succeeded. So, what is my trick? Listen, there is no guarantee in business. But there is strategic planning, which is why these tips and tricks work!

To have great marketing, the following are Must-Haves.

1. Hire a great blogger and press release writer. Publish and publish often.
2. Buy PPC advertisement on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn.
3. Airbrush your business’ logo on your car (or get one of those nifty magnets!)
4. Have a company video on a video-sharing website, such as YouTube or Vimeo.
5. Sponsor events/local sports teams.
6. Strive to achieve omnipresence on the Internet (search results, networking sites, Q/A sites, etc…)
7. Utilize your vendors, existing clients and friends for referrals.
8. Draw attention to testimonials and positive feedback on sites, such as Yelp.com and AngiesList.com, etc…
9. Send birthday/holiday cards to existing and potential clients.
10. Have a mobile application.

All these "Must Haves" will help you design a marketing plan to better place your business. However, you have to be diligent. Keep with this list and expand upon it. Nothing works more than repetitive messaging!

Twyla

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Providing Great Customer Service!

Nothing irritates me more than poor customer service. It seems today's culture lacks great, good or mediocre customer service. In fact, it is nothing more than an after thought. How irritating, right?! It doesn't matter if you sell products or services, you have to provide outstanding customer service in order to keep your company moving in the right direction.

Don't be a yes person. Believe it or not, customers don't want to hear "yes." They want the truth. If you are a yes person, you could be setting your customer up for expectations that you or your product can't meet. If you want to provide great customer service then explain to your customer exactly what they are getting and do so without any exaggeration.

Be available. Customers hate voice mail. I hate voice recordings. We know the work place is now a global one. If you are out of the office, still leave a way for a customer to reach you. Keeping customers happy means being available when he or she needs you the most- which can interrupt your vacation. But, wouldn't you rather come back to the office with happy customers that can refer you out vs. unhappy customers who can use Google to review your lack of response?

Creativity. If a customer is having a problem, don't spew policy at him or her.Take ownership of the problem and personalize how you are going to make it better. We are all individuals. No one wants to be treated like an account or a number. Don't ever spew policy, spew answers and apologies.

Striving to provide excellent customer service will be one of your greatest tools when it comes to growing your business.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Are you wasting precious time?

Are you always at work? Are you always behind? Chances are that you are at work more often than needed because you are wasting time in the office. It doesn't matter if you are a CEO, hourly employee or an intern- time wasting happens. So, how do you avoid it?

Shut off the Internet. Yes, the Internet at work will cause you to get behind on actual work. Most people do not need access to the Internet to perform 80% of their job tasks. So, if you are online chances are it is for personal reasons. Get off the internet and get to work.

Handling other people's business. Yes, sticking your nose in other people's business or problems will take away from your own job requirements. Even if you are a boss, there is a chance that you are dealing with other people's problems before handling your own business. Stop putting out potential fires or getting involved with politics. If someone is trying to drag you into a fight or a discussion about challenges- walk away. Tell the party to schedule it with you for a later date and return back to work.

Stop with the meetings. There are people out there who love meetings and discussions. This is a huge waste of time. You can schedule brief meetings but keep it brief. Reports, status updates, and the a like can all be reported, and quickly, through email.

Get control of your schedule to help keep the stress away from your workplace and life. If you cut back on the Internet use at work, walk away from the drama and request reports via email- you will free up your schedule.

Happy Saturday!

Twyla

Friday, March 8, 2013

"You're Fired" ... Can you say it?

I meet too many good people who have bad people working for them. Don't be shy. Fire them. I know it is hard. We live and breath work, but if someone is not working out- fire them.

People ask me all the time how to fire someone. It is simple. Say, "You're fired." It really isn't that complicated. If the employee has done something to warrant the firing, there is no reason to owe an explanation outside of the reason or to become personally invested in the person.

Maybe he or she didn't deserve to be fired. Maybe you have to lay off staff. Still, say it. "You're fired." Don't talk about how sad you are or how the business isn't doing well. Just let the employee know that they are no longer needed and when his or her last day is.

Entrepreneurs throw themselves at life, which is why we tend to become personally invested in our employees. But, we can't be kind in order to make a profit. If an employee isn't responsible, performing well- or the company is in a slump, tough decisions need to be made.

Remember - be honest, keep it simple- move on.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

National Start a Business Month

March is National Start a Business Month. So, where do you start? Launching a business can be confusing and it will be stressful.

Things you need to ensure you are on the right path to starting a business;

1. A great concept. Don't start a business that someone else already has- that is unless you have a killer angle. If you have a Starbucks on the same corner you want to start a coffee shop- kill the idea. However, if you found a spot for your coffee shop that isn't within three miles of a Startbucks, consider moving forward. Know your competition and don't start out right under their noses.

2. Write your own business plan then have a professional rewrite it. Sure, you can hire someone like me to write your initial business plan. But why? Always write your plan first. This way you know your business inside and out. And you can fix any issues that come up while writing the plan. After you have composed the first draft, then you can hire a professional to make the business plan look pretty.

3. Know your resources. Where do you go once you have your idea and your business plan done? Below are links that you should start exploring to map out what steps you need to take locally and nationally to launch your business.

http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Starting-a-Business

http://www.sba.gov/sba-learning-center/search/training

http://www.sba.gov/content/determining-business-size

Have questions? Let me help you! Post your comment or question and I will respond.

Twyla

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Surviving Workplace Violence

As a homeland security expert, I often get asked about issues of workplace violence. It can and does occur from internal and external sources.

On average, workplace gun violence claims somewhere between 500 and 1,000 lives each year.About a third of these deaths are suicides. The rest are homicides, about a fourth of which are committed by people known to the workers (coworkers, former co-workers, family, friends, clients, and patients.)

The first defense is to understand that it CAN occur. Don't think workplace violence happens "somewhere else." Always take any type of threat seriously. Don't blow it off. Threats are threats. And, if someone is starting to escalate a situation verbally, walk away. Even if you are right, diffuse the situation and walk away.

The next thing is to make sure you develop a plan for your business. If you are an employee then make it your business to know your business. What is the plan for your company? Also, put yourself on the board for safety review. Don't have one? Create it. This will help you keep your ears to the ground and identify safety concerns and potential threats.

There, of course, are more tactics that are useful- such as running, knowing when to play dead and when to put your palms to a shooter's face. My company specializes in security and safety. Let's talk. Send in your questions about protecting your workplace and I will be happy to answer them.

Let's talk. Find me on Twitter, click here.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Early Bird Gets The Worm.

Business owners are up at all hours. It becomes almost impossible for a business owner to wake up earlier than normal as a result. So, how can you get up earlier and still run around all day?

I try not to go on the computer after 9 p.m. I find if I do check email or social media accounts than I will be up later than I want to be responding or reading. It is a hard habit to break, but if you shut down the technology by 9 p.m.- chances are you will wake up earlier the next day.

Don't hit the snooze button. I hate snooze buttons. They are excuses. You can say your alarm went off at 6, but you know you didn't get up at 6 or 615! Buy an alarm that doesn't give you the option of a snooze button. A snooze button is like having cake in the fridge while on a diet.

Set aside 30 minutes to walk. This works. Plan on getting up an hour earlier each day to pack in 30 minutes of walking time- even if you are walking to grab a coffee and pastry. Walking gets the blood flowing and the creative juices moving. So, if you need to get up early, do so with a purpose!

Do you have tricks for waking up early? Please share them with me and I might share them on Twitter!

Twyla

Monday, March 4, 2013

The best business operating systems.

I am using today's blog to list the best business operating systems available. I get this question often. I have three favorites. These are my opinions as a business owner. However, if you do have specific questions - follow me on Twitter and send a DM.

A. Linux is a generic term for Unix-like operating systems that are based on the Linux kernel. Linux is a free and open source collaboration, and when it's modified, it can be redistributed to anyone. Its popularity as an OS has been growing because of the rise of netbooks -- which typically come loaded with Linux or Windows XP -- and the Ubuntu distribution of the operating system.

B. Mac OS X v.10.5 is a Unix-based operating system. With each new version -- all named after big cats, with version 10.5 being dubbed Leopard -- Mac OS X has evolved away from a focus on backward compatibility with the earlier versions of Mac OS toward an emphasis on enhanced business applications like iWork, which was recently revamped for the small-business market.

C. Microsoft Windows XP is the Old Reliable of operating systems. It's been around almost a decade, and 81% of businesses continue to use it.

Until next time,
Twyla

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Print Ads... Do They Work?

I often hear that print is dead. The truth is that print is very much alive. I am not sure who started this nasty rumor, but he or she is wrong. Print advertising still makes an impact.

Think about this:

QR Codes have changed how print advertising engages potential customers. Providing consumers and customers compelling reasons to visit your website with easy-to-track codes can also help you measure print advertising effectiveness! Now, you don't have to rely on someone remembering a promo code, you can track real numbers!

Another reason why print isn't dead, and why print advertising is going to be bigger than ever, is the introduction of the tablet. eMarketer estimates that one in three consumers will be using a tablet by 2014. As a result, readers who consume magazines will have potential customers engaging in the same amount, if not more, magazine and/or newspaper content.

So, print isn't dead and neither is print advertising. Only fools would jump on an PPC campaign and totally eliminate print advertising. Have a mixture of both, run the numbers and make the best decisions for your marketing efforts based on those numbers!

Twyla

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Predict Your Failures.

Yes, you can predict failures in business. Ok, maybe not predict- but you can gauge if a business idea will be successful or not. How? Well, there are some very real tell-tale signs that your business isn't going to make it before you even open the doors.

If your business isn't getting a second round of meetings from an investor- it isn't going to go far. Investors like money, which is why they have so much of it. Investors really don't care about you the person or nerves during a presentations. Investor only care about making their money, plus a profit, back. If you have had several first meetings with different investors and no second meetings- you might have a business idea that is bound to fail.

Your friends aren't pitching your business idea. Yes, that's right. If you have friends who are boasting about random products/services they find online, but they will not pitch your idea or even share it on social media mediums- the idea might be a flop. Friends don't know how to tell friends that their business ideas are terrible. So, if you are seeing a friend put up kitten mittens from Pinterest on their Facebook account and your business products aren't share- rethink why that is.....

Lastly, if you don't believe in your business know that no one else will. I meet to many business people who don't really believe their business will make it. And, if you don't believe it then the idea is dead in the water. You have to believe in you in order to get that second investor meeting or have your friends buzzing about your business!

Until next time,
Twyla

Friday, March 1, 2013

Top 3 Business Mistakes --- EVER!

We all make mistakes. It is human nature. But, there are some mistakes that will harm your business. What are they? Well, I've listed them below. Read them, share them and be sure to stay clear of them!

#1. Horrible financial management. Yes, it does take money to make money. And, if you are making money and mismanaging it, there is a huge problem with your business' long-term survival. Have a great financial plan going into all things business. Consider conservative, expected, or extraordinary performance scenarios. Also, develop an exit plan.

#2. Not considering the customer. I've seen this happen too many times. Business owners who think their products or services are untouchable often fail to invest in ongoing competitor research. These people also believe they don't have to respect their customers because the customer will always be around...... Wrong on so many levels. Know your customer, appreciate your customer and then stalk your competition- and you will ALWAYS have competition.

#3. Hiring employees and not team members. This is a big mistake because employees collect a paycheck, team members help grow your business. The people you hire are your company's best or worst ambassador. Chose wisely!

Have you made one of these mistakes? I would like to hear from you and share your story. Find me on Twitter.

Have a great weekend,
Twyla

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