Who’s on #SmallBizChat in May 2017

this-week-on-smallbizchat200pxh

#Smallbizchat is a weekly conversation where small business owners can get answers to their questions. The focus of #Smallbizchat is to end small business failure by helping participants succeed as your own boss.  

Please join us live on Twitter every Wednesday 8-9 pm ET. Here’s how: follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter and follow the hashtag #Smallbizchat and click here for directions  to join the weekly conversation.  

In May, #SmallBizChat will be celebrating National Small Business Month. On May 3,, 2017 from 8-9pm ET, we’ll be doing a special TV show, #SmallBizChat Live from NYC.  It’s as a live broadcast which you can watch on my SmallBizLady facebook fan page.  We’ll have live studio guests answering questions on small business growth.

The rest of the month we’ll be back on Twitter talking about how to leverage an answering service, picking the ideal client for your small business; learning the do’s and don’ts of working with family; and utilizing LinkedIn to grow your small business.

Here is a list of who is on #Smallbizchat in May.

smallbizchat-liveny-2017May 3rd – #SmallBizChat LIVE From NYC, sponsored by FedEx

sponsoredbyfedexJoin #SmallBizChat LIVE from NYC on May 3rd @ 8pm ET sponsored by FedEx

You can watch the video broadcast on my SmallBizLady Facebook fan page . Guest experts include Author, Dorie Clark Serial Entrepreneur,  Twyla Garrett and the Founders of Ginjan / Organic Ginger Juice, 2016 Grand Prize of FedEx Small Business Grant Contest.

grayson-kemperMay 10th – How Answering Services Can Facilitate Small Business Growth, @clutch_co

Grayson Kemper is a Content Developer at Clutch, a B2B research and review platform based in Washington, DC. He specializes in telecom research. .


May 17th – How to Pick Ideal Clients for Your Small Business, @inspiredmedia1

Dequiana Jackson, Inspired Marketing, Inc., is a small business marketing strategist who teaches women entrepreneurs solid marketing strategies to turn their life’s passion into a profitable, service-based business. Dequiana is an author (Know Your Business: How to Attract Ideal Clients & Sell More...

May 24th – The Do’s and Don’t’s Of Working with Family, @kathykolbe

Kathy Kolbe is co-author of Business Is Business: Reality Checks For Family-Owned Companies. She is the global leader in discovering and accessing the power of human instincts. She has done the brain research to prove the relevance of her Kolbe Theory of Conation to individual and organizational success. Find out more at http://ift.tt/2oDywFH

May 31st – How to Use LinkedIn to Grow Your Small Business, @BrynneTillman

Brynne Tillman, an Amazon bestselling author of The LinkedIn Sales Playbook: a Tactical Guide to Social Selling has helped tens of thousands of sales professionals leverage LinkedIn for business development. As a career sales professional herself, Brynne bridges the gap between traditional sales, networking and social media.  Learn more at http://ift.tt/2oDCVbt.

Every Thursday morning on Melinda’s blog, a complete Q&A interview from each #Smallbizchat is posted as a recap http://ift.tt/17XI5jd

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How to Change the Way You Lead in a Small Business

michael-bungay-stanierEvery week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Michael Bungay Stanier. Michael is the Author of The Coaching Habit and the Senior Partner and Founder of Box of Crayons, a company that helps organizations do less Good Work and more Great Work. For more information, http://ift.tt/FU6Kl9.

SmallBizLady: IF PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT IS DEAD, WHAT’S FILLING THE VOID?

Michael Bungay Stanier: The answer to this hasn’t quite yet emerged, but it is clear that coaching is part of the solution. Managers are crazy busy, and if they don’t have time to coach in 10 minutes or less, then they don’t have time to coach at all.

My latest book, The Coaching Habit, offers seven questions that (once they replace old management habits) are practical and easily applicable so that every interaction – long or short, formal or informal – can become a moment of effective, on-the-spot coaching. It’s a combined commitment to profound behaviour change and getting to the work that has more impact and more meaning, all while being cognizant of the very real time constraints and conditions under which most busy managers work.

SmallBizLady: HOW DO YOU BUILD A HABIT THAT STICKS?

Michael Bungay Stanier: I’m indebted here to Charles Duhigg, B.J. Fogg and others who have written about habits. My thought about successfully creating a new habit centres around the major need to identify what your own “triggers” are – those moments when your old ways of behaving become almost knee-jerk – and transforming those moments into a chance to identify old habits and begin to form new ones.

SmallBizLady: IN BUSINESS MEETINGS, HOW DO YOU STOP THE CHIT CHAT AND GET TO THE REAL HEART OF A CONVERSATION FAST?

Michael Bungay Stanier: Everyone who has worked in any kind of organization knows how many hours are wasted in meetings and one-on-ones that don’t accomplish anything or identify the real problem. The solution to this is more multivalent, but it starts with a really solid opening line that cuts through the chit chat and gets to the thick of things quickly.

The very first question, which I call the “Coaching Bookends”, is: “What’s on your mind?” It’s deceptively simple, but it forces the addressee to quickly get to the point.

SmallBizLady: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST POWERFUL COACHING QUESTION IN THE WORLD?

Michael Bungay Stanier: In sticking with the theme of deceptive simplicity, I think the most powerful coaching question in the world is one whose acronym is AWE: “And what else?” It may seem like three innocuous little words, but it really is the best coaching question in the world. That’s because the first answer is never the only answer and rarely the best answer. There are more answers to be found and possibilities to be generated. And equally as important, it slows down the “Advice Monster”, that part of every manager that wants to leap in and take over; give advice or be an expert, or solve the problem.

SmallBizLady: WHY IS OUR IMPACT ON THE DECLINE WHILE OUR BUSY-NESS IS GOING UP?

Michael Bungay Stanier: I think the answer to this is a combination of overwhelm and narrow-mindedness. We’re too busy to slow down and think strategically and too busy pushing all the individual peanuts forward, which results in us solving the wrong problems.

We tend to misidentify the real problem as the first problem that arises. But one question, the Focus Question – “What’s the real challenge here for you?” – helps us to slow down our rush to fix the first problem, so that we can get at the heart of the real challenge

The key to an effective coaching conversation is to start strong, provide the opportunity for the conversation to deepen, and then bring things into focus.

SmallBizLady: IS THERE ANOTHER REASON WE’RE ALL SOLVING THE WRONG PROBLEMS?

Michael Bungay Stanier: We are continually distracted by three familiar patterns that can keep us from honing in on the real challenge: Proliferation of Challenges; Coaching the Ghost; and Abstractions and Generalizations.

As you list the many challenges at hand, you experience the kind of overwhelm that’s now become Standard Operating Procedures. You’re likely to begin solving the problem that seems easiest to solve, which may not even be a real problem.

Slowing down to ask yourself and your team, “What is the real challenge here for you?” can really help you to:

  • focus on the challenge that might be at the heart of everything else that seems to be proliferating;
  • avoid the habit of sliding into workplace gossip when you’re supposed to be conducting a useful meeting (I call this tendency “Coaching the Ghost”); and
  • cut through the Generalizations and Abstractions that occurs when everyone talks around the problem or lists the problems in general but don’t have any actionable takeaways when the meeting is over.

SmallBizLady: WHAT IS THE SECRET OF EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP?

Michael Bungay Stanier: You’re going to think I’m just trying to sound controversial, but my answer is: laziness. This does not mean that you’re not doing anything. It means that you’re committed to empowering others by not “rescuing” them all the time. This is related to taming that “Advice Monster.” It might come as a surprise that sometimes managers’ desire to be helpful can actually have a disempowering effect on the person being helped.

The Lazy Question, “How can I help?”, works in two ways. First, it forces the other person to make a clear request by forcing her to get clear on what she wants or needs help with. Second, it is a self-management tool to keep you curious and keep you lazy. It prevents you from spending time doing things you think people want you to do and opens up more time for you to do the work that matters.

SmallBizLady: HOW CAN WE RE-THINK STRATEGY?

Michael Bungay Stanier: People tend to think strategy is mostly about answers. But questions provide more potential for strategic insight. We’re continually taught to “go for the Yes,” but it’s actually more strategic to slow down and ask: “Where or how could my time be better spent?” This sometimes means “going for the No.” I admit, this isn’t always easy for me.

SmallBizLady: WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE HARDEST QUESTION FOR AN AMBITIOUS LEADER?

Michael Bungay Stanier: The hardest question for the ambitious leader, also known as the Strategic Question, is: “If you’re saying Yes to this, what are you saying No to?”

Ask this question if:

  • you’re someone who feels compelled to say Yes to every request or challenge;
  • you’re overwhelmed and overcommitted; and
  • you’ve lost your focus and spread yourself too thinly.

This question helps make the promise real, and in some ways, it’s the hardest question of all to face.

Because I know that, at least for me, the thing I’m always saying No to is my best work, my Great Work. It’s so much easier to get to all of the little things that seem more pressing, but in the end, it doesn’t have much impact or meaning. They’re just easier to do; they don’t challenge me or bring me to the edge of my own capabilities. No one likes being on that edge, but that’s where the really impactful things happen.

There’s a certain amount of routine work that needs to get done. But what if everyone in your organization was doing even just 10% more of their work on that innovative edge?

SmallBizLady: WHAT IS THE REAL CAUSE OF MOST WORKPLACE DYSFUNCTION?

Michael Bungay Stanier: In the context of organizational behavior, The Drama Triangle helps to explain why most managers spend their time ineffectively overworking, and frustrating themselves and their team in the process. The three points on the triangle are: rescuer, persecutor and victim.

You can probably see where you and your colleagues tend to gravitate, but the real insight here is learning how habitual roles prevent managers and teams from getting the real work done. Understanding these three roles and how to escape them can be a profound catalyst for behaviour change.

SmallBizLady: WHAT KIND OF NEUROSCIENCE IS BEHIND HOW WE REALLY ENGAGE AT WORK?

Michael Bungay Stanier: Neuroscience is the new frontier in management and leadership skills. Brain-based science is giving us a deeper understanding of how we really work and the implications for being an effective leader. Engagement is rooted in an individual’s sense of belonging and autonomy. Understanding how to foster that environment is crucial to having a team that’s maximally engaged and thus positioned to do their best work.

SmallBizLady: IF YOU HAD TO GIVE A BUSY MANAGER ONLY ONE TIP ON HOW TO BECOME A BETTER COACH, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Michael Bungay Stanier: My one tip would be: Give less advice and ask more questions.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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Understanding Facebook Ad Campaigns

Guest Article

If you’re reading this right now, it likely means that you’ve fully embraced mobile marketing for your business (if not, then it’s time to start migrating to the online marketplace). Hopefully, you’ve already seen the dividends that reaching out to digital customers offers, so what’s next? It’s time to make the move to paid online marketing. Advertising on Facebook really can’t be perceived as being a huge advantage anymore. Now, you need to look for ways to optimize your marketing campaigns for big gains. I’m talking 10x kind of numbers.

With currently over 1.76 billion active users, no marketing medium out there presents more potential for brand growth than Facebook. Professional organizations, large corporations as well as small businesses and startups are beginning to take note. As of September 2016, there were over 60 million Facebook business pages, each of which offers advantages to companies both large and small. For example, it’s estimated that as many as 75 percent of established brands are currently marketing on Facebook. At the same time, nearly 41 percent of small businesses in America rely heavily on Facebook marketing. This is no doubt because of Facebook’s unique abilities to engage with current customers to foster brand loyalty, customer service, and growth. That strategy is obviously working. FB Ad revenues are at an all-time high.

Pinpointing the Correct Placement of Your Ads

You might see the potential that marketing on Facebook offers as a guaranteed path to online advertising success. Yet it is entirely possible for you to fail in your Facebook marketing efforts if you don’t understand the types of ads that are available, their purposes, and the actual space that they allow to display your content. As inconsequential as it may seem, even testing different headlines in your ads may be a determining factor in your advertising success. Why? It’s simple, if you take a moment to think about it: much of your ability to convert visitors to your site to customers depends upon the user experience. The same holds true for your Facebook ads. The way they are structured can interfere with their performance and, ultimately, the viewer’s satisfaction. Thus, you should make it a goal to completely understand the ad placement options Facebook offers.

Currently, there are four Facebook placement alternatives for you to choose from:

  • Newsfeed
  • Mobile
  • Right-Hand Column
  • Audience Network

fb-ads-placements

The right placement for you will depend largely on the design and display specifications of the types of ads you utilize. You will also need a comprehensive testing and targeting strategy. Some of that spec information is listed below:

  • App Installs/Engagement:
    • Design: 1,200 x 628 pixel image size, 1.9:1 image ratio, 90 character text maximum
    • Newsfeed display: 470 x 246 pixels, 25 character title maximum, 90 character text maximum
    • Mobile display: 560 x 293 pixels, 32 character title maximum, 110 character text maximum
    • Right-hand column display: 254 x 133 pixels, 25 character title maximum, 90 character text maximum
  • Carousel:
    • Design: 600 x 600 pixels, 1:1 image ratio, 90 character text maximum, 40 character headline maximum, 20 character link description
    • Newsfeed display: 300 x 300 pixels, 500 character text maximum, 1-2 lines headline maximum, 1 line link description
    • Mobile display: 460 x 460 pixels, 120 character text maximum, 1-2 lines headline maximum, 1 line link description
    • Right-hand column display: 125 x 125 pixels, 90 character text maximum, 25 character headline maximum
  • Clicks to Website:
    • Design: 1200 x 628 pixels, 1.9:1 image ratio, 90 character text maximum, 25 character headline maximum, 30 character link description
    • Newsfeed display: 470 x 276 pixels, 500 character text maximum, 1-2 lines headline maximum, 2-3 lines link description
    • Mobile display: 560 x 292 pixels, 110 character text maximum, 1-2 lines headline maximum, 1 line link description
    • Right-hand column display: 254 x 133 pixels, 90 character text maximum, 25 character headline maximum
  • Events Responses:
    • Design: 1200 x 444 pixels, 2.7:1 image ratio, 90 character text maximum, 25 character headline maximum
    • Newsfeed display: 470 x 174 pixels, 500 character text maximum, 25 character headline maximum
    • Mobile display: 560 x 208 pixels, 120 character text maximum, 25 character headline maximum
    • Right-hand column display: 254 x 94 pixels, 90 character text maximum, 25 character headline maximum, page name up to one line
  • Offer Claims:
    • Design: 1200 x 628 pixels, 1.9:1 image ratio, 25 and 90 character offer title maximums
    • Newsfeed display: 470 x 276 pixels, 25 character offer title maximum, 90 character text maximum
    • Mobile display: 560 x 292 pixels, 25 character offer title maximum, 90 character text maximum
    • Right-hand column display: 254 x 133 pixels, 25 character offer title maximum, 90 character text maximum
  • Page Likes:
    • Design: 1200 x 444 pixels, 2.7:1 image ratio, 90 character text maximum, 25 character headline maximum
    • Newsfeed display: 470 x 174 pixels, 90 character text maximum, up to 1 line of page category
    • Mobile display: 560 x 208 pixels, 110 character text maximum, up to 1 line of page category
    • Right-hand column display: 254 x 94 pixels, 90 character text maximum, 25 character headline maximum

The Fact is, you CAN make a very successful Facebook Advertising campaign for your business, but that doesn’t mean you should. Most of my success is because I’ve failed. Repeatedly. It has helped me and my team find out which placements, and audiences work best for certain industries or targets. I’ve learned that when advertising disruptively, you need to be extremely creative in your approach and you MUST track everything.

Remember, these people didn’t ask to see your ad so be different and think through each step of the user’s journey through your own customer acquisition funnel. If you need help, you can learn more about our Facebook Ads service here. Lastly, I’ll say that if you are new to digital marketing, this is a great place to start, but when Facebook Ads is paired with no other forms of marketing the return we have seen is substantially less.

About the Author:

cody-jensenCody Jensen began his career with the corporate giant, Google Inc. He has been in Search Engine Marketing ever since, and has a specific acumen for SEO/SEM. Cody is the Founder & CEO of Searchbloom an industry leader in digital marketing.

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10 Things That Will Surprise You About Running a Business

surprise-in-businessI’ve found that people who want to start a business often don’t have the first idea about what that really entails. Once they do launch a company, they’re often surprised at how real and often stressful it is to be an entrepreneur.

Here are a few of the things I’d say might surprise you. Heads up!

  1. A Really Great Employee Won’t Last Forever

It’s one thing when a subpar employee quits, but what about when the one you’ve come to rely on the most puts in her notice? There’s nothing more heartbreaking. It’s easy to take it personally; after all, why is she leaving? You thought you’d bonded, and now she tells you she’s taking a better-paying job somewhere else.

It’s important to get into the mindset that no employee, good or bad, will stick around forever. Each has her own professional and personal goals, and you can’t stand in the way of that. Just shake it off and always know you next hire for each key position.

  1. Isolation is Real

I know running a business sounds fun to you, but in reality, it’s often very lonely. At first, you may not know other business owners to talk to about your problems and questions. You’ll start to notice friends who still work in corporate understand you a lot less. If you work at home, there’s no one to gossip with. Especially when things are tough, isolation can be daunting. Join a networking group or business association to get yourself a new circle of friends.

  1. It’s Not Personal; It’s Just Business

I know a lot of entrepreneurs who, early on, would take everything personally. A new client left them. They’d decide it was because they sucked. They got beat out by a competitor for a new contract, and decided anyone from the competitor was an arch enemy.

But the truth is, none of this is personal. It’s just business. Try to take the emotion out of business issues. You can never blame someone or client for doing what’s in their own best interest. It takes a tough skin to be in business, but it gets easier over time.

  1. You’ll Say Yes to Some Things You Don’t Want to Do

Especially early on in business, it’s sometimes necessary to take on work that maybe isn’t your ideal, or that pays less than you want to accept. Just do it. It’s not forever. You have to get your foothold in your industry, and sometimes that means saying yes when you don’t want to. But that’s okay because…you won’t be a new business for forever.

  1. Saying No is Exceptionally Freeing

Once you pass the point of having to say yes, you get the freedom of saying no. As soon as you can turn down business that doesn’t fit your niche. And you’ll find that the more you focus on your area of expertise, the more of that kind of business you will attract. And you’ll be able to charge more as a specialist.

  1. It’s Sometimes a Struggle to Pay Yourself

We hear the advice “pay yourself first” in business, and while in theory that’s a great tip, it’s not always possible. When you have employees and vendors to pay, your own paycheck sometimes gets pushed to the back of the line. It’s never fun, but hopefully it’s a temporary problem. After a few years if it keeps happening you might need to reconsider your business model or pricing structure.

  1. There’s no such thing as 40 Hour Work Week

If you envisioned running your own business so that you could spend more time with your family, I’m here to tell you: that probably ain’t going to happen. Most business owners put in 60-70 hours a week in the early years. Sometimes after you’ve established your business it gets a little easier, but you really have to prioritize building a team around you, so that you can take time off.

  1. You Have to Pay Attention to Everything

Accounting, marketing, writing…even if you outsource some of these tasks, you still need to be well-versed in them so you know what to tell others to do for you (and can ensure they’re doing a good job). While you don’t need an MBA to run a business, having general business knowledge will take you further.

  1. The Stress REALLY Can Get You

Running a business will show you what you’re made of. It will exhaust you, frustrate you, and make you want to give up. But you must to find ways to stay calm under pressure. Pray to start your day, so you can level set. Schedule a walk to clear your head. Work out at a gym to burn off stress, sometimes it helps just to go the gym to get out of your office. You can start running, doing yoga and meditation and deep breathing really does help too.

  1. Nothing Else Will Fulfill You More

If you have kids, you know that while they can sometimes sap your energy like nobody’s business, they also fill your heart in a way nothing else can. Your business is the same. All the blood, sweat, and tears are worth it when you look around and realized you created a thriving business.

If you’re considering starting a business, go into it aware that it’s not glamorous. You will be put to the task of giving your business everything you have, and you are in no way guaranteed success. Instead, you keep plugging away, hoping to break even. If you can handle anything your business with throw at you, and you’ll learn to duck.

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How to Stay Relevant and Successful in Today’s Changing Market

susan-solovicEvery week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Susan Solovic @susansolovic. Susan Solovic is an award-winning serial entrepreneur, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com top 100 and USA Today bestselling author, media personality, sought-after keynote speaker, and attorney.


SmallBizLady:
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR SMALL BUSINESS GROWTH IN 2017?

Susan Solovic: I’m positive about what the future holds for small business growth. We’ve seen that number of start-ups decrease over the past several years and that’s not good for the economy. Now that small business optimism and consumer confidence is up, I am confident we’ll see a surge in entrepreneurship. Additionally, many jobs are being replaced with technology so more and more people are going to need to rely on their own abilities to make a living. This is the beginning of the age of the entrepreneur in my opinion.

SmallBizLady: YOU HAVE A NEW BOOK BEING A PUBLISHED SOON.  TELL US ABOUT IT?  

Susan Solovic: It’s calledThe One Percent Edge Small Changes that Guarantee Relevance and Build Sustainable Success.” I’ve studied small businesses for decades and I’ve started and built successful companies myself. In the past, we’ve talked about the steps it takes to build success, but today that’s not enough. You can be successful today and out of business tomorrow because the market is changing so fast. So I’ve developed a process which helps businesses of all sizes build innovation into their DNA.

What works today won’t work tomorrow. You need to be agile, flexible and able to manage your business in real time. Businesses that employ this process will be able to create a competitive edge and enhance their ability to remain relevant to the market.

SmallBizLady: CAN YOU SHARE SOME EXAMPLES OF BUSINESSES WHO HAVE MISSED THAT MARK BECAUSE THEY FAILED TO BE INNOVATIVE?

Susan Solovic: There are many. That’s why only 71 of the original Fortune 500 companies exist today. Think about some of the brands you’ve known in recent years that have virtually disappeared: Linens and Things, Circuit City and Radio Shack. Business leaders marry their products and business operations. As a result, they fail to recognize market shifts. When they wake up, it’s frequently too late. Fewer than 10% of businesses are able to turn the tide once they recognize they have missed the boat so to speak.

SmallBizLady: THAT’S VERY INTERESTING. I SEE WHY IT’S IMPORTANT FOR BUSINESSES TO BE CONSTANTLY INNOVATING, BUT HOW DO YOU INCORPORATE THAT IN YOUR BUSINESS WHEN YOU’RE BUSY RUNNING DAY-TO-DAY OPERATIONS?

Susan Solovic: That’s why I developed this THE One Percent Edge Process.  Businesses don’t need to make radical, disruptive changes. They need a process by which they are continually making small enhancements in every aspect of their business; their product/service; and their people, process, technology, finances and marketing.

SmallBizLady: WE ALWAYS TALK ABOUT HOW IMPORTANT PEOPLE ARE WITHIN AN ORGANIZATION. IS THAT TRUE FOR A COMPANY THAT IS TRYING TO CREATE A SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE EDGE?

Susan Solovic: Absolutely. You can have the most innovative product/service offering in the market, but if you don’t have the right people to execute your plan, then you will have difficulty building your success. Furthermore, without the right people who are innovative and creative, you will wind up with the same old strategies.

SmallBizLady: HOW DO YOU ATTRACT THE RIGHT PEOPLE FOR YOUR TEAM?

Susan Solovic: Your existing employees are your best recruiters. You need to create an employment brand as a place where people want to work. Employees feel respected and empowered. Reward them for their contributions and give them an opportunity to be part of the vision. No micromanaging. And real-time feedback is important. Your team wants to know how they are doing. The annual performance review is a thing of the past.

SmallBizLady: HOW DOES MARKETING FACTOR INTO A COMPANY’S ABILITY TO BUILD AN EDGE IN THE MARKET?

Susan Solovic: Communicating your value proposition is critical to create a competitive edge. However, it’s equally important to be able to engage your market in an authentic conversation. In today’s market you can’t “sell” anything, but you can be a partner and a problem-solver.

SmallBizLady:  HOW DOES HAVING DIFFERENT GENERATIONAL CUSTOMERS AND CLIENTS HELP BUSINESSES DEVELOP A COMPETITIVE EDGE?

Susan Solovic: It’s an on-going saga – Baby Boomers vs. Millennials. The two groups seem to be very diverse and unable to work together. A business with the edge, however, understands that each of these groups brings something important to the table. Just as it’s important to have gender, race and ethnic diversity, generational diversity is important, too.

SmallBizLady: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO ENHANCE YOUR PRODUCT OFFERING?

Susan Solovic: The reason businesses struggle and risk becoming irrelevant is because they do the same thing everyone else does. A business with the one percent edge has a product offering with just a noticeable difference. As Jerry Garcia once said, “It’s not enough to be the best at what you do. You must be perceived as the only one who does what you do.”

SmallBizLady: DO YOU NEED TO APPLY THIS TYPE OF ANALYSIS TO EVERYTHING YOU DO IN YOUR BUSINESS?

Susan Solovic: Every aspect of your business is dependent on the other areas. You know your company is only as strong as the weakest link, so it’s important to build a culture of innovation that resonates throughout your organization.

SmallBizLady: DOES YOUR PROCESS APPLY TO BUSINESSES OF ALL SIZES OR DOES IT WORK BETTER FOR ONE TYPE OF BUSINESS VS. ANOTHER?

Susan Solovic: Any size business can employ this strategy but the larger the company, the more difficult it is to implement. Smaller businesses are more agile and can pivot more quickly so they do have an advantage. No doubt about it.

SmallBizLady: WHERE CAN PEOPLE GO TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT YOU AND LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR NEW BOOK?

Susan Solovic: My website:  SusanSolovic.com.  Or join me on Facebook or Twitter.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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7 Mandatory First Steps Before Seeking Venture Capital

Guest Post

startup-arrowsAs the founder of a startup, you are probably fundamentally aware of the inherent difficulties associated with the process of securing funding for your early stage venture. Further complicating the matter is the fact that the way venture capital firms evaluate a potential investment has undergone substantial changes in recent years.

So before you begin working to secure a meeting to pitch a venture capital firm, there are several steps you must take.  Your first consideration is determining whether or not venture capital is the ideal source of funding for your startup. Once you have made this determination, you can then move on to the seven mandatory steps that follow, which will ensure your startup is positioned for long-term success.

Create a Plan for Venture Capital Utilization

Once you have secured the funding requested from a venture capital firm, what precisely do you plan to do with it? You must be able to clearly delineate how you plan to use the capital you are requesting. You must demonstrate the specific benefits that will be generated from an influx of funding.

Without a specific utilization plan in place, you simply cannot expect to secure funding from a venture capital firm. Developing such a plan will also help clarify whether or not you even need to pursue venture capital in the first place.

Confidently Invest Your Own Success

There is no way you can credibly ask for funding from a venture capital firm if you are unwilling to invest your own resources first. When you are requesting someone else to be your backer, you have to demonstrate your own commitment to your own idea.

In a literal sense, this means that you are able to demonstrate to potential investors that you are fully invested in your startup’s future. There should be no fallback option, and therefore no scenario in which you begin a sentence with “if this works…”

When you meet with a venture capital firm, the fact that you are wholly invested — financially, personally, and professionally — will make it clear that you are operating from a position in which success is your only option.

Secure Funding From Those Who Know You Best

Venture capital firms will certainly want to work with you if you believe in yourself and your idea so much that you have a significant financial stake in its future success. It is also important to demonstrate that those closest to you believe in your concept enough to invest too. Securing funding from friends and family will allow you to prove the viability of your business plan to future investors by demonstrating that the people who know you best believe in you and your startup.

Establish a Foundation

Venture capital firms are looking for high-upside, low-risk investments. A startup in the developmental stage represents too much risk to be worthwhile for venture funding. Instead, build a foundation of success with the funding you’ve already raised so that you are able to meet with risk-averse investors once your startup is firmly established.

Be Open to a New Financial Structure

It is critical to recognize that a venture capital firm is not merely “backing” your startup; the majority of firms are looking to make an investment in a joint venture, which is often more akin to a partnership. When presenting a potential opportunity to a venture capital firm, it is best to remain open to different financing structures and the potential enhancements a firm might request. This also means that you must be prepared for the venture firm to take financial control of your business if they make an investment. These potential structures should offer benefits that appeal to both parties.

Demonstrate Your Company’s Viability

When you work with a venture capital firm, it is critical to take steps that ensure you secure a deal in which you are able to maintain control over your company. You can mitigate the perceived risks associated with your startup by proving the short and long-term viability of your business model. Generating revenue is perhaps the most straightforward strategy for proving the viability of your business model.

Identify the Ideal Venture Capital Partner

It is worth reiterating the fact that venture capital firms are investing in a partnership with you and your startup. It is also the case that most firms want to be able to exert some level of control or have some kind of influence over the company in order to protect their investment. Make sure you are keenly aware of which firms are most likely to align with your short and long-term business goals before you begin asking for funding.

By following these seven steps, you’ll increase the likelihood of introducing an unnecessary risk that might eventually undermine the success of your securing startup venture. Pursing venture capital can take up to two years, so this is not way to get funding quickly. Have a plan for how the funds will help your business, make sure your business is making money before you start pitching, and do research of how the venture firms operate and the types of investments they make, so that don’t waste your time.

About the author

Kareem Elsirafy is known as Entrepreneur and organizational architect, He providing expert strategic planning advice by leveraging his unique understanding of causal relationship economics as well as operational design.

The post 7 Mandatory First Steps Before Seeking Venture Capital appeared first on Succeed As Your Own Boss.

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