Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Are You Your Own Brand?

Branding in today's online marketplace is essential to growing your business. But, if you're not a PR professional how do you know if your branding efforts are correct? Branding has to be honest and strategic. Here are a few suggestions on how to brand yourself and grow your business.

Start with knowing who you are and what your company stands for. If you don't know what your niche is, you can't create a brand. Next, develop your name. Catchy and clever are adored by many. If your name is too generic, your brand won't stand a chance. Your next step is to develop and buy the domain name that corresponds to your brand name. You will also have to secure the Facebook page, Twitter account, Google+ account as well. If you find that your brand name is already "owned" create a different brand name.

Your brand should share useful content. If you are not sharing useful content, only promoting yourself, there is no purpose of starting a brand because it will fail. Online communities love resourcefulness content that is compelling and engaging. Use this tool as a way to develop your brand's voice within your industry. Finally, be risky. Your brand should have an edge that will gain media notice without being too controversial. There is a great quote that goes, "Well behaved women haven't accomplished much in this world." It's true. Step outside of your comfort zone, take a risk and reap the rewards!

Building a brand doesn't happen overnight. It is like building a relationship, you have to develop trust over time.

Until next time,
Twyla

Monday, April 29, 2013

The 3 Best Phrases in Business!

Want to be successful in business? Make yourself familiar with the Big 3 when it comes to your vocabulary and use of business phrases. I've personally discovered that the following Big 3 phrases help to close business, keep business and drive business. They truly do work. If you're skeptical, please use them. I'm sure this blog post, and the phrases, will change your mind.

#1. I don't know. Alright, you're thinking I've lost my mind. Telling a client that you don't know something isn't a sign of weakness or your inability. Stating that you don't know the answer, and you have to perform further research, shows you are cautious not to assume things, over promise and under deliver, and that you are an honest person. Clients love honesty. Sure, they may be a little taken back that you don't know something, but in the end stating you don't know something and then delivering a well-researched answer is far better than not knowing and providing misinformation.

#2. I need help. According to Marla Tabaka, "A great entrepreneur surrounds herself with people who know more than she does. Reach out to your army of supporters and save yourself a lot of frustration and time." I couldn't agree more. We all need great support teams cheering us on and helping us on the road to success. Don't be afraid to ask for help!

#3. I apologize. This is freshening, isn't it? If you screw up, speak up. If you screw up and cover up- expect to lose the client. Most of us have a pretty could internal BS meter- and we use it. Don't give someone an excuse as to why something went wrong. Be honest, apologize, move on.

Being in business is about selling yourself more than your product. If you add these Big 3 phrases into your daily vocabulary, chances are you will grow and keep a huge client base.

Twyla

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Legal Business Myths Exposed!

Many business owners have preconceived ideas about what the law can and can't do for them. And, most of these ideas are wrong. i'm going to write a bit on the top three legal myths that many business owners actually believe. If you have a question about a legal issue, ask an attorney or send in the topic. I would be happy to provide you with a generic answer and you can take that information further with a legal review of your specific circumstances.

#1. An LLC will always protect your assets. Forming a corporation or an LLC does provide some protection, but it’s far more limited than you realize. In most cases, if someone really wants to go after your personal assets, not only can they pierce your business entity, they will.

#2. You’re liable for damages due to injuries on your property. This couldn't be further from the truth! You’re not responsible for the negligence, clumsiness, stupidity, or criminal acts of others- period! I don't care if this happens on your property, you're not responsible for it.

#3. A contract has to be complicated. A great contract is to simply communicate the terms and intent the parties agree to. That’s what minimizes disputes and litigation after the fact. You don’t even need an attorney to negotiate and draft a legal agreement. If you note all the facts, costs and a cancellation policy- you should be good. When contracts build in loopholes, you should be concerned.

Business is complex enough. Knowing what is a myth and what is fact will help you navigate your way to success!

Twyla

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Social Media Tricks

Social media plays a crucial role in our day-to-day lives. Think about the recent tragedy in Boston. When police capture the suspect a press release wasn't the first thing to go out. A Tweet was! Your business' brand depends on a great social media campaign and daily updates. Below are some simply ways to improve how you use social media.

#1. Respond and listen. I recently read this great article by social media God Dave Kerpen. A couple of years ago, when Kerpen went to Vegas, the check-in line at the Aria hotel where he was staying "took forever," he said. So Kerpen did what he does best--took to Twitter, and quickly posted: Waiting on line for 45 minutes at the Aria. Not worth it. #fail

Did he hear anything from the Aria? No. But he did hear from the Rio, a hotel down the street. Within two minutes, the Rio Tweeted back to Kerpen: Sorry you're having a bad experience, Dave. Hope the rest of your time in Vegas goes well. Kerpen didn't switch hotels on that trip, but where do you think he stayed the next time he went to Vegas? The Rio. And he "liked" the Rio on Facebook. And sometime later, a friend going to Vegas saw that Kerpen had "liked" the Rio, so asked if Kerpen would recommend the hotel. His response? "I don't think it's the fanciest, but I know that they listen," Kerpen recalls telling that Facebook friend.Kerpen pointed out that all the Rio did was pay attention to Twitter, and respond with empathy. (source: Allison Fass of Inc.com.)

If you're online and you're paying attention, your clients can come from anywhere, especially where other companies are messing up. So become engaged and get involved. Don't just promote yourself online.

#2. Give Everything Away. Ok, not everything. But, if you are trying to establish your brand then giveaways are a great way to engage potential customers and grow your following. People share giveaways online. It only takes a few "Likes" or Retweets to get the social media ball moving.

#3. Don't engage in wars. There are going to be upset clients from time to time. And, they will take to social media to express their anger or disappointment. Don't talk about their issue in a public forum. Instead, invite him or her to provide you with their contact details. Immediately address the person on the phone, find out how to rectify the problem and follow up with a letter.

Social media, as I have said before, is an art. Learn how to navigate your way through it and you will add to your success!

Until next time,
Twyla

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Is Your Website Competitive?

People can try to sell me on SEO, PPC and other three-lettered acronyms all day long. I don't buy any of it. And, I'm not alone. Many marketing firms are now focusing on content versus SEO or PPC campaigns. Why? Well, more people buy something based on a company's about page, not because it is ranked high. Sure, a highly-ranked website can attract visitors. But, are these visitors being converted to clients? If more than 70% of your website's visitors are clicking on and then tuning out- you have a problem.

A company's about page is the most important part of your website. It is more important than your price sheet, service descriptions or former client reviews. People want to know about you and what makes your company special. It is your time to sell yourself and talk about how you are going to fulfill their needs when they sign with you or buy from you.

When writing your about page remain objective. Sure, you may want to sign your praises but do so tastefully. List your accolades, education and the basics about you and your company. Using too many big words to define who you are and not how you can help will be an immediate turn off.

I'm hopeful some of you will share your websites with me. I would love to review them, provide some insight and share the really great ones! Find me on Twitter and let's discuss!

Twyla

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Feeling Negative? Let Me Help!

Business owners and employees can feel negative about their work experiences from time to time. It happens. We all have bad days or run ins with people that sour our attitudes. Bouncing back from feelings of negativity is a necessity when it comes to being successful. The first thing you want to do is always address why you're feeling negative. What are the circumstances surrounding your mood? Are you just feeling negative or is there fear involved? Fear is often involved if you feel your status within the company has been threatened or that your business is in jeopardy.

After addressing the situation take a walk. Walking will clear your head and allow you to think about the severity of what is going on with your emotions and within the company. Are your assumptions and fears right? Can you really not stand THAT person? A little perspective can go a long way before a call to action is required.

Negativity also stems from feeling rejected or experiencing anger. Perhaps you pitched a proposal to a client or boss that was shot down. You might feel negative because you feel rejected. Or, maybe an undeserving competitor or coworker got what was to be your account. You might feel very angry and also negative. Regardless as to what happened, immediate reactions can be detrimental to your reputation. Don't let feeling negative ruin your reputation.

Twenty percent of your work generally produces 80 percent of your results! You need to stay focused and, again, gain perspective on your feelings and why you feel that way. If you need to take an hour to walk it off, or a mental health day- do so! Whatever you do, don't react when feeling fueled with negative feelings- it will only escalate a situation.

Stay as positive as possible and remember to focus on the 20% of work that produces 80% of results. Keep your eye on the prize!

Twyla

Monday, April 22, 2013

Fake It Until You Make It? Why "faking it" can boost your business.

I was once told "fake it until you make it." I never understood this concept. Why would I want to be a fake anything? In fact, I heard that transparency is crucial when starting a business. Well, after years of staring, running and even closing some businesses I have come to a single conclusion- both pieces of advice were right!

I'm not stating that you should fake being an accountant. That's not at all what I mean. What I am referring to is having the self-confidence in your business idea that many entrepreneurs often lack, which is why these ideas are just concepts! As a business owner you should always be honest with your customers,but if you need to fake self-confidence until you realize that you CAN run a successful business, well that is ok too!

Below are my tips to "faking it" in business- at least when it comes to your confidence.

#1. Stay focused on you. Don't get involved with employee drama, what other people think you should or shouldn't do, and don't try to multi-task when completing important tasks. Put your blinders on and ignore the gossip, negative opinions are the urge to do several things at once. Focus on producing great work and iconic proposals to initiate success.

#2. Know where you are weak. If you can identify what areas of your own business bring out your weakest skills then you will know how to correct and overpower the situation- thus leading to more confidence. Ignoring your weakness will only add more stress to your life and will hold you back from your goals.

#3. Set challenges. If you want to "fake" your way to success then set-up real goals. As you take baby steps to accomplish these goals, you will come to realize that you do have what it takes to run a business and that you don't have to "fake" anything!

It is a tough world out there when it comes to the business industry. If you can present a sense of self-confidence and you believe in your products and/or services then you have already won half of the battle.

Until next time,
Twyla

Saturday, April 20, 2013

You're A Hostage!

I'm thrilled the Boston situation has been resolved. My prayers go out to the victims and their families. It is hard to reflect on what all has occurred during this past week. Tomorrow I will go back to writing business advice, which many of you benefit from. However, to end the week on a similar note to the past few blogs- today's topic surrounds being a hostage. I know it is a horrible thought, but it can happen. Being prepared for these types of events is your best defense. So, here's what to do!

#1. Understand that the first few minutes of a hostage-taking situation or an abduction are the most dangerous, and they become more dangerous if you resist. Don't resist and try to remember as many details as you can, even if you are only able to hear things and not see them.

#2. Calm down. Your adrenaline will be pumping, your heart will be pounding, and you will be terrified. The sooner you can regain your composure the better off you will be immediately and in the long run. You can make better decisions when calm.

#3. Ask why you've been abducted. This will provide you with insight about the situation. More importantly, this will engage your abductors, making it harder for them to see you as an object or pawn and not a person.

#4. Try to communicate with other people in the same situation. If others have been taken hostage, see if you can find a way to communicate. The more you know, the better. You may also be able to plan an effective escape together.

#5. Get out of the way. When help arrives you need to protect yourself. Even if your captors are taken by surprise, you could be killed by the actions of police or soldiers, who may use explosives and heavy firepower to enter a building. When a rescue attempt occurs, try to hide from your captors, if possible. Stay low, and protect your head with your hands, or try to get behind some kind of protective barrier (under a desk or table, for example, or in a bathtub). Don't make sudden movements when armed rescuers burst in.

I'm hopeful no one will ever have to use this information, but it is good to have in the back of your mind.

Stay safe out there,
Twyla

Friday, April 19, 2013

What Is Suspicious Activity?

To keep with this week's theme, which is unfortunate, I wanted to review what people need to look for and report. Many people rather not say anything then say something and be wrong. We are taught to be polite as a society. So, how do you know when to report suspicious activity?

Let's start with a link. The Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative can be viewed by clicking here: http://nsi.ncirc.gov/ Federal, state and local law enforcement officials have set up “fusion centers” for the program in about a dozen cities, including Boston, Chicago and Houston, where reports of suspicious activities made by citizens and the local police are collected and analyzed for disturbing patterns.

There is no real way to discern someone who is nervous to someone who is suspicious. As we are learning in Boston, even the most jovial and well-liked people can cause harm and do horrible things. The best policy is to adopt the one New York uses. "See something, say something." Boston was able to identify its suspect because of people seeing something and taking photos. These photos led to the identification of their suspect. So, if you feel in your gut that your neighbor, co-worker, or whomever needs to be checked out- have them checked out. It is always best to be safe than sorry.

As a Homeland Security expert, I am aware of different internal tactics used to weed out potential threats. However, there is no public rule for weeding out or verifying someone's suspicious activity. So, when in doubt- have it checked out.

Stay safe out there,
Twyla

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hotel Safety During A Terrorist Attack

The last couple of days of tested our patience as a Country. We've had to endure the horrible events in Boston. Now, we aren't sure what the cause of the explosion in Texas is a result of. I've dedicated the rest of this week to providing tips on how to stay safe during a disaster and/or terrorist attack.

Today's topic is hotel safety. Most people when traveling, even domestically, feel safe in a hotel. But, what happens if your hotel is attacked or located near a disaster? It is always better to be prepared for an event and not have to use your knowledge then to not be prepared and have an event happen. So, that said, below are my tips for staying safe at a hotel during or after a disaster or terrorist attack.

#1. Consider where you will be staying. Is your hotel located with a region that has been impacted before? The U.S. State Department offers country-specific safety information on its Web site; which is located here:

#2. Before booking the hotel call ahead. Make sure you ask the following questions; Is the front desk is staffed 24 hours a day, are there security guards on the premises and are there are surveillance cameras in the public areas? In areas where terrorism is an issue, are vehicles inspected before coming onto the premises? Is access to guestroom floors restricted to guests only?

#3. Don't accept a ground floor. Rooms booked between floors 3-6 are best because they detour any possible break-ins and are still easily accessed by first responders. Always check, and then walk, the fire route when arriving in your room.

#4. Check the locks of the windows in the room. Make sure windows can open and locks work. If a window is stuck or bolted, ask for a different room. It is important to be able to signal first responders if needed from your room's window.

We all hate discussing these precautions. It is unfortunate that today's culture is susceptible to acts of violence, terrorism and disasters. Again, the more prepared you are- the more you have a chance of survival.

Stay safe out there,

Twyla

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Boston Bombs, My Thoughts.

As A Homeland Security expert I have various thoughts on the tragedy that occurred in Boston yesterday. I also, like everyone, have different questions. I can't really get into the logistics of my questions, but watching the media speculate has been interesting. There is a lot of parties involved when a tragedy occurs, like the one in Boston. Various resources have to pull together without warning and work under terrible circumstances. How people pull together can be planned and tested day in and day out, which is primarily what IME does. I've complied a workbook for such events and it is going to be inserted in my upcoming Homeland Security book. In the meantime, here are a few tips for how to handle a tragic event as a member of the public.

What To Do During A Terrorist Attack or Natural Disaster:

Preparation is key. If you are going to a large event try to keep your ears open. Listening for strange sounds, weird chatter, or even an increase in coughing- leave the scene. Also, be aware of where to go. Make a mental note of marked exits and places that could become exits if need be. Make sure you set up an emergency meeting point with your family should you get separated.

Invest early. I know some people who invest in KI (potassium iodide. Although extreme, this isn't that bad of an investment. KI fills up the thyroid with good iodine so your body doesn’t absorb the radioactive iodine, which is needed should there ever be a nuclear event.

Know how to react. If you get trapped in rubble from an explosive device (or natural disaster), don't panic. Make sure to cover your mouth with a piece of clothing to help filter the dust. Do NOT use a lighter since there could be gas leaks! Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear you. Yelling may cause you to inhale a lot of dust and first responders are trained to listen for tapping and subtle noises.

These basic tips are just the basics. I will be posting more throughout the week so make sure to check back.

Stay safe out there,

Twyla Garrett

MEDIA CONTACT:

Helene Vece
702-749-5925
702-749-5925, ext 210
Helene@JumpStartInk.com

Monday, April 15, 2013

Business Manners

There are some pet peeves that I have to address. I have conducted business for 20+ years. With the advancements of technology I have to say that business owners are growing ruder and ruder. I hate having a conversation with someone who is busy checking their phone. How could he or she be folly engaged when they are updating Twitter, Facebook or texting? I'm not alone, either. I have heard horror stories of how customers refused to sign with this or that company because business owners are rude and don't even know when they are breaking protocol- or so it seems.

I've complied a list of my top business manners (or lack there of) pet peeves. If you're doing something on this list- STOP!

#1. You're always on your cell phone. If you are meeting with a client or potential client shut your phone off. There is nothing more important than earning someone's business- it is what keeps your company going. So, if you're on the phone (even in the waiting room of your client's office) it sends a message that they are not as important as playing Angry Birds or pitching your fail-safe. I can promise you customers will love it when you shut the phone down and give them your full attention.

#2. Multi-tasking. I'm not sure who said this was a good thing. It is not. Multi-tasking means you can do many things at a mediocre level. You want to be great. If you're in a meeting about a budget, remain in the meeting about the budget. Don't start writing down notes about your next meeting and concerns you want to address. Be present. Be in the moment.

#3. Learn from past mistakes. We all make them. Don't be a repeat offender. I knew a lady once who would always spend a thousand dollars on Internet marketing every quarter. And every year she would complain how her four thousand dollars is wasted and there is no ROI in sight. The truth is that four thousand dollars are year for Internet marketing is a deal. Either she was using the wrong company on a repeat basis or she wasn't spending the money in the right places- maybe even not spending enough money. The point is learn from your mistakes and adjust accordingly.

I can't take business owners who commit these three manner crimes. It drives me up a wall. There is so much business to be had out there. All you have to do is get off the phone, engage your customers or employees and learn from the past.

Until next time,
Twyla

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Starting A Business 101

If you're a first time business owner then congratulations. Having the courage to be self-employees, and eventually employ others, is not something everyone possesses. You are to be commended. Once you do decide to open a business there are a few essential steps to take in order to start off on the right foot.

Step 1. Write down your plan. Business plans are a great way to deal with potential problems before they come up. Evaluating financing, insurance issues, slow sales, etc. can all be addressed before the doors to your new business open when you write a business plan.

Step 2. Use free and local resources. Networking is important when starting a business. Local resources, such as SCORE, can help you obtain grants, understand how to file for a license properly and introduce you to potential new clients.

Step 3. Determine the legal structure of your business. For this step you want to use local resources and a qualified attorney to discuss personal financial circumstances and your business model. An attorney can help you select the right licensing for your company.

Step 4. Understand employer responsibilities. This is a biggie. Different states have different laws and stipulations. If you're going to hire one or one hundred employees you will need to know what you can and can't do when it comes to employment. You will also have to understand what financial responsibilities you will hold to the state as an employer. The SBA has a great resource located here: http://www.sba.gov/content/10-steps-hiring-your-first-employee

Step 5. Register your business name. Many businesses have a legal name and a doing business as (DBA) name. If you will operate as a DBA, you need to set up a fictitious business name with your state. Registering your DBA is done either with your county clerk’s office or with your state government, depending on where your business is located. There are a few states that do not require the registering of fictitious business names. Thus, make sure you ask local free resources and/or your attorney if you need to register your DBA.

Best of luck,
Twyla

Friday, April 12, 2013

Got Culture?

How do you feel when walking into your office? Office culture is a major issue when it comes to keeping employees. Look at the success of Zappos or Google. These two companies promote a fun and productive office environment. I did a little digging to see if a relaxed office culture really equates to improved profits. The results? Yes! And here is why:

Defining your business's core values is key. When you define who you are and what you want your company's brand to express, your employees will take ownership. This ownership leads to a productive environment no matter how relaxed or micromanaged it may be. Want better profits? Explain your values.

Showing humility can help bring a team together, which is why Google is doing so well. Google's leaders aren't afraid to sit in the dunk tank at company events. Their culture is to play hard and party harder. They are all treated as equals and aren't afraid to engage with each-other because of this. If you have the feeling that your employees are being reserved when you're around, consider getting in the dunk tank!

Another thing you can do to create a relaxed and productive culture is to show you care about your employees in the totality of their lives. Adding on an extra PTO day here and there isn't what I mean. You have to be invested in employees if you want them invested in your company. For you to grow, they have to grow. Ask about their interest and reward them with things they enjoy. I know one company in Michigan that rewarded their employees with a limo, free dinner and front row tickets to Kid Rock. Plus, babysitting was paid for the employees who had kids. What did the employees do to deserve such a reward? Profits were up by 40% one month. And, you can guess the projected sales for the rest of the year after the Kid Rock concert!

As a business owner it is up to you to determine the type of culture you want to create within your office. Taking the above suggestions into consideration is highly recommended.

Twyla

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Investment Management Enterprise (IME) Listed as A National “Top 2013 Business."

Diversity Business has announced its list of 2013 award-winning businesses. On this list is Investment Management Enterprise (IME), which is owned by Dr. Twyla Garrett. IME will be in attendance for Diversity Business’ "13th Annual National Business Awards Ceremony and Conference" at the end of April 2013. IME specializes in Homeland Security, Foreign Military sales, Emergency Services and more. More on IME can be discovered by clicking here: http://www.ime-mts.net/

“It is an honor to be recognized as a business, as a woman and as an African American by receiving this award,” said Dr. Garrett. “I speak at several events that honor other business leaders, thus is it quite the distinction to be invited to such an event that will acknowledge both myself and my company.”

The “Top Businesses in America” program honors individuals who have established themselves as a community of entrepreneurs that continue to transform the way we move our economy forward. According to Diversity Business’ website, “In recognition of these outstanding accomplishments and contributions, the awards are designed to celebrate and support business owner efforts in order to generate public awareness among their peers, customers, press and to organizations who seek their products and services.” Sponsors of the event include; Apple, AT&T, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Office Depot, Toyota, Cisco, and Verizon, among others.

Dr. Garrett is available to speak with members of the media or as a keynote personality at conferences and events. Ms. Garrett’s media management firm is JumpStart Ink. Contact 702-749-5925, ext. 210 for further inquiries.

About Dr. Twyla Garrett: Twyla Garrett is an extraordinary entrepreneur, corporate speaker, and compelling author who has been personally invited to speak at The White House on the issues of creating jobs, economic growth and the controversial fiscal cliff of 2012. Garrett is known for her notable (sometimes 100% self-funded) business deals as much as she is known for providing excellent opportunities to individuals facing immense challenges. Twyla’s memoir will be published in 2013 and it will be followed by a series of “how-to” business books, starting with one based on Homeland Security. Currently, Twyla’s business blog and social media accounts furnish motivational quotes and an over-the-shoulder view of her unique perspective on profiting in business while helping others.

https://twitter.com/TwylaGarrett

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Are you ready for a disaster?

My company works to help businesses prevent and offset disaster. As much as prevention helps, it can not stop disasters form happening. I can't stress enough how important it is to have a disaster plan when you launch your business. It is crucial. I know you have a lot on your plate but make sure you make this element a priority.

Here's How:

Spend a day running the office from home. This will help you realize what items you do have to run the business from your home office and what items you don't have. Do you have backup data for client files, numbers and hard copies of contracts? What about your schedule? Payroll information? If a disaster strikes, and your office is impacted, chances are you and your employees will have to work from home. Could you pay them? Could you reach them? Working from home for a day will help you realize the inventory you have and what you need to be prepared.

Who are your leaders? Don't wait for a disaster to assign your employees leadership roles. Help your company be prepared by preparing your employees. Ask yourself who would be best to help in the event of a mandatory evacuation. Seek out people to cover attendance after the evacuation, those who should grab certain documents and data cards, individuals who start the insurance processing part, etc. A disaster brings a lot of chaos to the table. Employees who know their roles ahead of time can help streamline recovery and compile resources.

Plan for their safety. Yes, you have to keep clients moving but employees' safety should always be first. If someone's home has been flooded, try to help them recover by pooling resources. Who is willing to share their home? Do you have a company credit card to front employee hotel housing? I know this is going the extra mile but it is important to take care of each other. Profits are important but the human element is more valuable.

These recommendations are just the tip of the iceberg. You are free to contact me with specific questions or a request for a consultation.

Stay safe out there,
Twyla

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Most Common Business Mistakes

You're a new business owner. You're making a profit. Things are going great, or so you think! Business owners often make major mistakes during their first few years. I've listed some of the most common ones to watch out for. If you know about them, chances are you will not make them.... saving yourself face and money!

#1. Not knowing your demographic. This happens many, many, many times. Business owners project who their target audience is. However, the projected demographic and who is actually buying can be two different audiences. So, set up some testing groups to ensure your sales will hit the right audience immediately out of the gate.

#2. Spending too much money. Yes, it takes money to make money. This doesn't mean you invest all your money on every pitch (and you will get a lot of pitches) during the first two or three years. Save your money. Only buy what you need and what has been tried and praised by other business owners.

#3. Deciding against your intuition. Your gut will always be right. Don't try to convince yourself otherwise. If something does feel, smell, taste, or look right- run like hell. Your in business because you have guts, don't be afraid to listen to them!

Twyla

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Speaking of Earvin “Magic” Johnson.

I've got some great news for those of you who read my daily blog. On May 17th I will be speaking at the Black Enterprise Events Expo. This event features many successful African American business owners and leaders. I'm proud to be a part of the expo. I will be speaking in the afternoon for the 6B Sisters Inc. session hosted by Walmart. Other speakers on the panel with me include: Kimberly A. Blackwell, Managing Partner/CEO, PMM Agency, Lauren Maillan Bias, Founding Partner Gen Y Capital Partners/CEO Luxury Marketing Branding, and moderator Sonia Alleyne, Multimedia Editorial Director, Black Enterprise.

The Expo is being held at the Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. You can read more (or purchase tickets) by clicking here. http://www.blackenterprise.com/events/2011/07/11/test-post-ec/

More about me can be read by clicking here. http://www.blackenterprise.com/events/?post_type=speakers&p=147422

I'm proud to be speaking at an engagement that promotes opportunity, success and has Earvin "Magic" Johnson as a headliner. Helping people succeed in life is one of my passions. I have come across many mentors when learning how to navigate my own way through life. If you can attend this event, please do so. It is a great way for us to meet face-to-face and for you to network with other business leaders.

Happy Sunday!

Twyla

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Company Handbook. Yes, You DO Need One.

Small business owners are busy people. There are soooo many hats to wear. I always get asked about employee handbooks. When a company has less than ten employees most business owners feel the handbook is a waste of time. It is not. In fact, the handbook can save you from a lawsuit.

I've posted before and I will post again on the importance of putting policies and procedures in writing when hiring an employee. All documents should be reviewed by an attorney, even if you only have one employee. Your policies on sexual harassment reporting and general discipline procedures need to be covered. Not having a reporting system or general procedures in place can make you liable as an employer trying to correct behavior- even if the employee did something wrong.

I always suggest you have a lawyer review the handbook and ensure he or she includes a disclaimer stating clearly that the manual is in no way a legal contract. This way if you have to change a policy, you can and do so easily. Also, creating the handbook isn't enough. You have to have each employee sign a statement stating they have read the handbook, hold no questions about the policies and understand, agree and will abide by all the policies and procedures within it. I like for employees to receive and sign for new handbooks yearly, if not every six months months.

If you need help developing an employee handbook please contact me. I will be happy to send you personal suggestions before you have a legal review performed.

Twyla

Friday, April 5, 2013

Doing Business For Free- My Best Suggestions.

The best way to sell a new customer is to give him or her something for free. Yes, I said it. People love free stuff. The trick is knowing what you can give away for free under your marketing budget without breaking the bank. Letting a customer try out a service for free sends a signal that you're self-assured of your products and/or service. It is a great way to grow business too.

Customer experiences build brands or break brands. Which side of the isle do you want to be on? I always tell people starting off in business to let potential clients sample your products or brands. Let's say you sell computers. Sure, you can't give away a computer. However, you can give away a year of free customer service. The same goes for people providing services. Maybe you can't give away a full contract. But you can get creative and give away customer service related options.

Giving away something to potential customers develops relationships. It betters your brand and will, eventually, increase your sales.

Twyla

Thursday, April 4, 2013

How To Lead When Not In Charge!

Here's the problem with people who don't lead. They can't! Born leaders are not sitting around waiting to be told to lead. Born leaders are not sitting on their hands waiting for a fancy title to lead. Born leaders naturally lead, period!

I've heard every excuse in the book why someone's can't lead. There is no such thing as being held back from leading. There is such a thing as choosing not to lead!

My favorite excuse is "not in a leadership position." That's like stating "there's no reason to be kind." There is always a reason to be kind to people and there is always an opportunity to lead. If you're not in a position to make decisions, start acting as if you are. Take initiative, be bold, speak up!

Another great excuse is not having a role model or mentor. Leaders don't need role models or mentors. Leaders don't take advice, they give it. Every time I hear some one state that he or she can't find the role model I quiver. Turning to someone as a way to seek out what your next move is doesn't equate to leadership. In fact, that quality shows just the opposite of leadership. Sure, you always want to seek out other people's opinions. However, seeking an opinion and asking for an answer are two different things.

In business you have to be tough. You have to be self-assured. You have to take the reigns and drive the bus. People are counting on you. So, if you're not in charge but you want to lead- lead. Find a way to take ownership of a project, problem or prospect. Deliver results and you will be recognized for your efforts.

Until next time,
Twyla

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Top 5 Worst Places to Own A Business.

Owning a business is challenging enough. But, if you own a business in one of these states- consider yourself at more of a disadvantage.

#1- Hawaii. This is one state that over-regulates and over-taxes all types of businesses. It is hard to make and keep a profit here.

#2-Oregon. The state is great when it comes to tax advantages. However, there is a huge disadvantage in pricing when it comes to healthcare for employees, which makes it harder to find and keep good employees.

#3- Pennsylvania. This state has excessive regulations and penalizes business owners who make a profit. A business owner will have to double his or her profit margin just to get by in this state.

#4- Massachusetts. The Family Leave law in this state isn't kind to business owners but great for employees.

#5- Michigan. One CEO went on record to state, " Michigan has ridiculous amount of red tape to start a business. Getting licensed as a builder. process, training, testing is so rigorous and time consuming its ridiculous. Plus the penalties for not following the rules are stricter than drug dealer conviction." In my research, I've also come across poor attitudes to entrepreneurs looking at Michigan.

The truth is a great idea will succeed no matter where the business exists. However, how much of the profit you get to keep (or even grow as a company) will depend on what state you operate that business in.

Let's talk. Follow me on Twitter!

Twyla

Monday, April 1, 2013

Make An Impact- Websites that Work!

A website is a huge financial investment for any company. Before you commit, there is a website out there that will tell you if the website is going to work or not- even before it is launched! And the best part is that it is free!

I love FiveSecondTest. You can access the site by clicking here.
What this website does is analyze your to-be launched or live website within five seconds. Here is how it works; You upload a screenshot or mockup of your page, app, etc. to the website. Next, you pre-load a few questions for testers to answer. Testers have five seconds to view your image and must then answer the questions you have set. The website, FiveSecondTest, collects all of the responses for you, extracts the frequent keywords and then presents the data with easy-to-understand graphs. That's it.

Market analysis is done for you, you have honest answers and you know if you need to head back to the drawing board with your website or if you are golden. Again, this is huge for businesses because it means the difference between engaging a client and being looked over on Google!

Do you have a favorite free website that can help other businesses? Please share it with me so I can post it for the world.

Twyla

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