Could you use an extra $10K for your small business this holiday?

Sponsored post

Visa is helping lead the cashless movement by working to reshape how people pay and get paid. Visa will award $10K each to up to 50 eligible restaurant, café or food truck small businesses who best answer, “How would going cashless benefit your business and what does Visa’s cashless movement mean to you?”

It’s easy to apply! All you need to do is get out your smartphone and record your answer in a video that’s 60 seconds or less. There’s no obligation to go 100% cashless to participate or win. Check out the challenge details below and at http://ift.tt/2gVY2Tc – and good news, the deadline to apply has been extended to November 30!

Now, if you run a food truck, café, deli, diner or gourmet restaurant, you already have enough to worry about: your inspections, mechanical breakdowns, spoilage, employee theft, property and vehicle insurance and robberies. Why worry about how you’re going to get paid too? I’m going to let you in on the benefits of going cashless. This will help you answer the question for your contest video submission.

Benefits of going cashless

People live on their smartphones. 70% of the world – or more than 5 Billion people – will be connected via mobile device by 2020, meaning there will be more users who can make purchases electronically than ever before. The average phone user in the U.S. checks their phone more than 150 times a day. If you are a food service small business, why not make sure that there’s one more way for your customers to do business with you? Going digital allows your patrons to pay via device. Additionally, wouldn’t it be great to spend less time reconciling the cash register every night at close?

Going cashless takes the concept of grab-and-go to whole different level. This is a huge opportunity for your business to meet the growing demand of your customers. As millennials become an increasingly important customer base and more commerce is initiated via mobile device, adding digital payments to the equation makes your business look tech-savvy, and could increase your takeout or delivery business. It’s fast, convenient, safe, and future-proof.

Enter this challenge today. From now until Nov 30, 2017, food service small businesses who operate a restaurant, food truck or cafe can enter the Visa challenge at http://ift.tt/2gVY2Tc.

Perhaps your holidays will be a little brighter with an extra $10K.

This article was sponsored by Visa Inc., the content is the advice and opinion of Melinda Emerson.

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Eligible merchants are not required to “go cashless” or exclusively accept electronic payments to either participate or win an award.  Open to legal U.S. (excluding MA) and DC residents, 18 and older who are owners of a for-profit small business food service such as a restaurant, café, or food truck which has a physical storefront or vehicle presence, not currently 100% cashless as of 9/6/17. Business must have 100 or less employees. There is a limit of One (1) Entry per person and small business. Subject to Official Rules. Void in Massachusetts, Puerto Rico and where prohibited. Challenge ends 11/30/17. Click here for the Official Rules on eligibility and how to apply and review the Visa Privacy Policy. Sponsor: Visa U.S.A. Inc. Official Rules here.

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Who’s on #Smallbizchat November 2017

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#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 November, we’ll be talking about SEO, how to grow your sales, handling conflict and how to effectively outsource your marketing.

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

November 1st – SEO Tips You Can’t Ignore for Your Company’s Blog, @domainME

Natasa Djukanovic is the CMO at domain.me and Co-founder of digitalizuj.me.  Natasa is also an active educator of young people and business professionals on startup strategies, digital business and technology.  Visit www.domain.me

November 8th – How to Implement Cost-Effective Programs to Grow Your Sales, @louisgudema

Louis Gudema has worked with companies from MIT startups to IBM — and everything in between. Today he is focused on helping small- and mid-sized businesses grow faster by focusing their efforts with his Bullseye Marketing Framework. Learn more at http://ift.tt/2wN5GTF

November 15th – How to Handle Conflict in Your Life and Business, @quiettherage

R.W. Burke who is a Certified Professional Coach through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching and is the top coach on Ford Motor Company’s Consumer Experience Movement (CEM) project.  He is also the author of a self-help book for business executives – Quiet the Rage:  How Learning to Manage Conflict Will Change Your LIfe (and the World).   Find out more at www.quiettherage.com

November 22nd – No SmallBizChat this week – HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Enjoy your holiday!

November 29th – How Outsourcing Marketing Can Hurt Your Small Business, @harbren

Jill Harbren is a marketing consultant for small businesses that think differently. She is a mentor and the founder of Harbren Marketing and has been in the small business trenches for around 20 years. She helps businesses to discover the top mistakes that small businesses make with their marketing and how to fix them. More information at www.harben.com

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 Local Retailers Can Win Big This Holiday Season

With the scramble on to get ready for the biggest shopping season of the year, local retailers are understandably looking for ways to stand out. If you want to make sure your local business cashes in big this holiday. It’s time to get your holiday sales and marketing strategy going fast.  Try a few these marketing ideas;

Participate in Community Events

As a local retailer, you’re competing not just with other businesses in your geographic area but also online retailers. So how can you compel customers to visit your location to spend their holiday budgets? Partnering with other businesses.

Often, shopping communities band together to entice shoppers leading up the holidays. Don’t forget to create a Shop Small offer to promote for Small Business Saturday. It’s the Saturday following Thanksgiving and Black Friday, small businesses all over the US offer discounts, bundle deals and giveaways to shoppers to get them to support local businesses. Because there’s already a significant amount of marketing around this event, participating in it is a no-brainer.

Look for other community events to join in as well, such as setting up a booth at a local hospital, donating a portion of profits to a local charity, providing branded giveaways and goodies for the local Santa to hand out, and food drives.

Leverage Your Location in Search Results

Even if you’re a local business, you will still need an online presence in order to attract customers during the holidays. Brendan Morrissey, CEO of digital marketing startup Netsertive, had this advice: Retailers need to be prepared for the rise in ‘near me’ searches this holiday season – customers searching for products and businesses by location. For small businesses, this means optimizing your mobile SEO to be found online.”

Morrissey says the first step is to make sure your Google My Business listing is up-to-date and accurate, so that your business will appear in geography-based searches. Additionally, use location keywords on your website so that people searching for, as an example, “toy store Normal Heights” can find you.

Invest in More Marketing

All the channels you normally use to market your retail business — email, social media, content marketing — will need to be turned way up during November. Keep the message consistent: come to our location to save big for the holidays.

Your emails should promote the hot products you’ve marked down, as well as contain high-value coupons. Social media should provide teasers for what will go on sale next. Build content on your blog such as best gifts for busy business owners to help people decide what to buy. But don’t wait until two weeks before the holiday to plan your marketing; instead, map out weekly promotions and coupons in advance so all you have to do is fill in the blanks.

Consider Groupon

Another channel to attract new business during the holidays is Groupon and other daily deal sites. While you give up a percent of the deal’s value to Groupon (sometimes as much as 50%), it’s a fantastic way to get people in the door of your local business. So you might offer one product at 75% off of normal price through Groupon, but then be ready with an upsell as 63% of people who redeem the deal tend to buy other products. So while you lose a little on that initial product or service, you make up for the loss in the upsells.

Just make sure you’re well-stocked in inventory of the product that you put on the deal, and that you’ve got ample customer service to assist the flood of people that will come redeem the offer before Christmas. Get them to sign up for your emails when they check out so that you can prolong the relationship, offering them more reasons to shop with you again.

Local businesses have huge revenue potential when it comes to the holiday shopping season. But it’s important to realize that you’ll need to position your business slightly different than an online-only retailer would. SEO is a much bigger factor during the holiday, especially on mobile devices. You want to make sure shoppers can find you through their mobile phones. Direct mail still works too, just make sure you’re tackling both online and offline marketing strategies to reach your customers.

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How to Use Referral Marketing to Expand Your Social Capital

Every 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 Ernane Iung who is the author of “The Success Factor – Unconventional Wisdom for Small Business Success”. He shares the most important things to consider when starting your company, and contrast conventional wisdom with the latest, but proven unconventional wisdom. For more info http://ift.tt/2yL52Hj.

SmallBizLady: WHAT IS MEANT EXACTLY BY REFERRAL MARKETING? WHAT KIND OF MARKETING IS IT REALLY?

Ernane Iung: A method of creating revenue for growing a start-up’s business – the “systematic cultivation of business by referral. It’s the system by which business owners create, manage, and leverage their social capital to generate referrals.  Referral marketing is about creating a plan that capitalizes on word of mouth to generate referrals.  It starts with networking and ends in strong referrals that catapult business owners to stratospheric levels.

SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENTS OF SUCCESS OF REFERRAL MARKETING?

Ernane Iung: Trust is the hallmark of any strong relationship and the same holds true for a good referral. It’s based on developing deep biz relationships as a transfer of trust in you and the referral. That’s right. Referrals cannot happen unless trust is present. Relationships, and most certainly the strong relationships that create referrals, do not happen overnight, and must be built over time, always implicitly involving trust.

SmallBizLady: HOW IS REFERRAL MARKETING MEASURED?

Ernane Iung: All marketing:  Trade Marketing, Advertising, Product Marketing, Tele-Marketing, Digital Marketing, or any other – must be measurable.  The metrics are somewhat different, not being directly financially quantitative for example, an ROI (Return on Investment), but rather as you build your Social Capital through Referral Marketing, you will see a corresponding impact on your business – and that of course, is financial and does hit your bottom line.

SmallBizLady: HOW DO YOU MEASURE AND MONITOR YOUR REFERRAL MARKETING ACTIVITIES?

Ernane Iung: To measure and monitor your Referral marketing activities I recommend using a scorecard that breaks down down and separates your referral activities into five primary areas called “Tactics.” The 5 tactics essential to effective Referral Marketing are:

  1. One-on-One: Refers to meetings or encounters you have individually, with persons in your network to tell them about yourself and your business. Here your aim is to build trust, or possibly have them make referrals on your behalf to generate revenue for you and maybe even themselves, if you have a formal, signed referral agreement with them.
  2. Face-to-Face: This is where you go out and give “face time” by attending relatable conferences or may be volunteering at a charity or fund-raising event, working with a network member on an activity of theirs, or participating at a trade show where you are circulating, making contacts, purchasing, or even just blowing your own horn.
  3. Online: Here this can include everything from updating your profile on LinkedIn, tweeting on Twitter, blogging, posting, commenting and liking on your social media of preference. Add a network member to your newsletter, as well as activities related to your website which can include calls to action, lead generation, and demand or content generation. THIS IS SOMETHING EVERY SMALL BUSINESS SHOULD DO EVERY DAY.
  4. Pure Referral: I call this tactic “Pure Referral” because it is referral marketing in its purest sense: giving. Here you are giving unselfishly and generously to members in your network by providing referrals, arranging meetings or speaking engagements, sending articles of interest, calling on network members simply to connect, nominating members for positions or jobs, and so on. Investments made here pay big dividends in the future.
  5. Events: This can be fun for some people, and the hardest for others, i.e., the Millennial crowd who prefer to hide behind their computers and smart phones rather than meet people the old fashion way – face to face. What are your networking groups? Here I encourage you to track and measure your participation at the events of the networking groups where you are active. As a general rule, I suggest you have AT LEAST 3 Networking groups you participate actively in – the key word here being “actively”.  Does no good to anybody if you belong and don’t participate.  That’s just wasting money, and no smart business wants to hear of that.

SmallBizLady: WHAT IS ANOTHER COMPONENT OF REFERRAL MARKETING IMPORTANT TO KNOW?

Ernane Iung: One of the most important concepts of a referral marketing platform focuses on the concept of giving. Although we are talking about the application of Referral Marketing in a business context, it’s really an act of giving. Referral marketing or plain “giving” has a well-proven context, including our biz interests, since the beginning of time.

SmallBizLady: ERNANE, THIS IS ALL WELL AND GOOD, BUT DOES REFERRAL MARKETING ACTUALLY WORK?

Ernane Iung: consider these proven statistics on the outcomes from your investment in referral marketing:

  1. The closing rate is a whopping 34%.
    Yes, one in three referrals, where an average amount of trust is transferred, ends up in a deal. That’s directly related to the very high level of trust that has been created by you and your referral marketing knowledge.
  1. Price is less of an issue with a referred prospect.
    Trust conveys “Value”, and this translates directly to money.  That’s very powerful!
  1. There is often an adoption of add-on services during the first year of business.

Evidence that “the trust platform“ is created from the referral continues to pay dividends during the 1st year of business and onward.

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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10 Mistakes That Could Affect How You Run Your Business

Guest Article

Starting a business is a do or die game. Sometimes, no matter how you try to become a good business person, there will be a time where you make a big mistake. But, mistakes can be corrected, especially if you learn from them.  Here are the Top 11 mistakes that could affect how you run your business.

Mistake #1: Never improve your marketing strategy

There will always be changes when it comes to business. You need to upgrade your marketing strategies from time to time to gain or maintain your market share. You can easily make a shift if you pay attention to industry trends. Also if you have a good team, look to them to help you brainstorm new ways to promote your product or service to the market.

Mistake #2: Not paying attention to the competition

You have competitors, and you better pay attention to them. Get in the habit of checking their website, set up Google alerts, and follow them in social media. You need to always be looking for ways to upgrade your business, too. By the way, competition is healthy, it means there is demand in the marketplace.

Mistake #3: Not delegating

-As a business owner when you start you tend to do everything, but over time you need a team.  You can’t spend your time doing administrative tasks, when you should be closing business. Just learn how take note document routine tasks so you know what you can farm out. Start with a virtual assistant before investing in full-time employees.

Mistake #4: Doesn’t have a specific target audience

Business owners should focus on a specific target audience because it’s the key to effective marketing is picking a target you can actually hit. Too often people chase anyone that they think has money. Understanding your target audience also allows you to decide what your value proposition is going to be–which that specific audience Why should they buy your products? In the research and planning stage your target audience is one of the first things you need to determine before even starting the business.

Mistake #5: Forgetting to engage exsiting customers

Do many business owner waste time chasing new customers, instead of keeping in touch with people who have been your client over the past couple of years or months. Do not take customers for granted. Thank them for their business, invite them back into to your store, develop an email marketing campaign to sell them more stuff. Listen to their suggestions and recommendations. Earning repeat business will help you build a sustainable business.

Mistake #6: Not taking risk

George Addair said, “Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear.” If you are afraid of change, then you shouldn’t be in business. Change is constant in business, and you will need to engage it to be successful long-term. You may need a better marketing strategy, to add more products or you need to change your staff. You can never let fear get in the way of a hard decision.  Do your homework, get advice, and then move forward.

Mistake #7: Ignoring the basics of running a business

The basics of business success, come down to knowing your numbers. You can’t let your fear of math be the reason why you don’t know how much profit is in every sale. Have your bookkeeper develop financial statements each month and learn to read them. You’ll gain the knowledge necessary to acquire the support and money you need for your business but understanding all of your costs. Just remember, profit is how we keep score in business. If you are not making money, you need to know so you can do something about it.

Mistake #8: Choosing the wrong products to sell

You have a great website, the right team and a good business partner. You even have a great business location. Yet, no one is buying from you. Maybe the reason is the product itself? How do you know if you have the right products? ‘Do you research. Talk to potential customers, sample your product to get feedback, and check out the competition. The right product is one that gives the customer what he or she needs at the price they can afford and allows you to make a fair profit.

Mistake #9: Choosing the wrong business partner

Finding the best business partner is like looking for a good husband or wife. You need to make sure that you need a partner, know your strengths and weaknesses and get someone who will compliment your weaknesses. You should choose your business partner wisely, dissolving a partnership can be costly and potentially destroy the business. Work on a project or a contract together first to see if you can work together. Develop a partner agreement that will spell out how the business will operate and how the partnership will end in every scenario, including death. . You definitely want to make sure they will survive the partnership ending.

Mistake #10: Skipping the research and planning stage

When you don’t plan, you are basically planning for failure. Developing a business plan is key to business success. Doing research on the market opportunity and the customer is crucial to building a long term strategy for a business. If you skipped this stage, it will be difficult for you to find a solution to your problem. your business.

Mistakes shouldn’t be taken negatively; instead, it should serve as the lessons for people and remind them that there will always be a success after every failure. There’s no perfect business. In the world where everything is constantly changing, you need to be committed to following a plan and make changes as you go along and get better information. Be on the lookout for new techniques and marketing strategies. The things about mistakes is that it’s ok to make a mistake, you just don’t want to make the same mistake. Just keep learning and your business will be fine.

About the author:

Donna Estrada is an editor for Scoopfed.com and a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She spends her time reading books, blogs.

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10 Ways to Manage Your Cash Flow as Your Business Grows

One of the earliest lessons I learned in business was that balance sheets and income statements are fiction; and that cash flow is reality. You must learn quickly that metrics like profits, sales, or net worth don’t impact the day-to-day operations of a company as strongly as cash flow does. But some business owners don’t have a solid grasp of their cash flow, which is problematic – especially as their businesses starts to really hit a stride. If you’re worried that you might be among this group business owners, then check out these ten ways to manage your cash flow as your business grows.

 

  1. Stay organized. Know where every invoice, bank statement, and receipt can be found electronically. Invest in digital accounting and filing software so you can access accounts receivable and other categories quickly and easily. Utilize bookkeeping services to keep your business records reconciled so that you know how much money is on the line each month.
  2. Focus on your monthly net. Determine exactly how much revenue you need to break even, each month and then align your cash flow goals with that in mind. Then prioritize cash flow over profits until your business is consistently in the black.
  3. Structure your expense payments strategically. If your vendor has a net 45 payment policy, pay the bill on the 44th.  At the same time, negotiate with your customer to pay you electronically. Also, try to encourage early payments from clients by offering a slight discount if they pay quickly (say, Net 15, never for Net 30, they are supposed to pay you in 30 days).
  4. Focus on your clients’ accounts payables departments. Cultivating AP contacts will make it easier to inquire about unpaid bills. Learn your clients’ payment processing protocols, up front so that you can sidestep potential roadblocks when submitting invoices. It’s best to have a name to call when you are trying to track down your money.
  5. Be your own collection agent. Put someone on your team in charge of collections. You often have to assert yourself if you want to be paid on time. So when an invoice is late, start calling on day 31 and follow up with an email, and keep it up until you get a status update or the check comes in.

  1. Know how to negotiate contracts. If you land a long-term project, feel free to structure a monthly payment or periodic payments within the contract so that you get as much of the money up front as possible. Progression payments are a must! You want fees once certain benchmarks are met – instead of waiting until the end of the project to receive your money.
  2. Be on the lookout for “scope creep.” This will eat profits if you are not careful. If the client repeatedly asks, “Can you do this as well?” don’t agree until you recalculate your costs, and present them with an addendum to the original contract. There’s nothing wrong with charging additional fees for additional work.
  3. Sell off old inventory or equipment. If you have inventory that has been sitting around for a long time, discount it substantially and unload it. The same goes for idle or inefficient equipment (that’s what Craig’s list and eBay is for). Getting a small amount of money for it is better than nothing.
  4. Lower your loan payments. See if you can renegotiate your monthly bank loan payments to a more favorable interest rate.  Even an extra hundred dollars in your pocket each month can go a long way.  Ask your bank if they will eliminate or lower any maintenance or service fees on overdraft or lines of credit accounts.
  5. When possible, barter. If you have a graphic design, website person or printer that you do business with if you send them referrals or they need your services too, suggest a bartering arrangement. You get to keep your cash in your pocket, and it could be a win-win for both parties.

Ask yourself Why three times before taking on any new expenses. Review all existing expenditures and find unique ways to reduce costs and free up funds to bolster your cash flow. Your goal is to avoid unexpected fiscal hiccups. It’s not glamorous, but it’s a smart approach if you want to maintain your business and increase your profitability over the long term.

For more tools and tips to grow your business consider signing up for my weekly newsletter so that I can help you take your business to the next level.

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How to Create Your Signature Speaker Style

Every 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 Ruben West, who creates international speakers and coaches and helps them to create magnetic personal and professional messages. His gift is to help you discover your signature speaking style.  For more info http://ift.tt/2yzbq6w.

SmallBizLady: Why do so many people find it difficult to speak in public?

Ruben West: When most people think of what a good speaker sounds like, they are thinking about someone other than themselves. They often talk about how natural and easy it is for the speakers that they listen to, to communicate. What they don’t realize, is that they have a natural communication/speaking style. If they were able to identify what that style is and understand the pros and cons of that style they would never want to speak like someone else and speaking would become much easier for them.

SmallBizLady: What do you say to the person who has gotten help with their speaking but still feels uncomfortable?

Ruben West: I think it’s unfair that most speaker trainers are only training people to speak like and sound like them. They don’t worry about figuring out who the person is that they are training. It’s much easier for them to use a one-size-fits-all plan. This takes a lot less time than trying to understand who the client is as a person. For this reason, many individuals go through various speaker training programs but still end up feeling like there is something missing. The whole time the client was focused on their outcome the trainer was focused on their income.

SmallBizLady: How do you feel the training should work?

Ruben West: In my opinion, speaker training should help the client better understand who they are and how they communicate. No one likes one-size-fits-all clothes nor do we like one size fits all training solutions. In the end, many people are left feeling like a number. It causes us to be hesitant and to believe that we may never be able to master our message or reach our target clients. When in fact the problem wasn’t their inability to master their message, the problem was that they were being taught to imitate someone else’s speaking style.

SmallBizLady: Are you saying that two people can’t have similar speaking styles?

Ruben West: I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is that we have all witnessed someone on the stage speaking and captivating the crowd. Then, after the event, we approach that person to speak to them and they’re completely different than the person on the stage. We are left thinking, “who was that?” What I’m saying is, you cannot consistently be who you are not. The best thing to do is to learn your signature communication/speaking style and build off of that. This allows you to be relaxed and free on stage as well as be yourself when you walk off the stage.

SmallBizLady: Why do you feel like it’s difficult for speakers to find speaking events?

Ruben West: Great question! It’s usually because they’re looking in the wrong places. One of the benefits of knowing your signature communication style is that you also learn what audiences resonate the most with your message and delivery. There is no shortage of opportunities to speak. There is a shortage of individuals who know how to leverage their communication style with groups that need to hear them speak. By figuring out who you are as a speaker and building on that you will not only resonate with your target audience but will also get invitations to speak in other places. Now you’re growing your influence and your speaking skills.

SmallBizLady: Tell us about the signature speaking styles.

Ruben West: After watching and studying many speakers I’ve developed a signature speaking style assessment. It breaks speakers down into five categories. The Scientists, the Drill Sergeant, the Comedian, the Motivator and the Heart-Centered speaker. Each one of these speakers are necessary and they are effective communicators. However, they don’t communicate the same way. If someone is going into speaking and they haven’t yet determined what their signature communication style is it is likely that a person training them will not focus on their strengths but rather give them some generic techniques to use to make them a better speaker. This will more than likely leave them frustrated and disappointed with the results.

SmallBizLady: Do you believe that anyone could be a good speaker with the right training?

Ruben West: Yes! I believe that with the right help everyone can significantly improve on their speaking. I believe that individuals have the right to be taught based on who they are not who we want them to be. I believe that people have the right to get what they paid for. I think more people in every service industry should start paying more attention to the client and what they’re looking for and less focus on what we want to give them. Isn’t it funny that no one has a problem speaking in front of their friends and family? That’s because, they’re just being who they are as opposed to trying to be someone they’re not. When the training starts out by discovering who the individual is and then build from there the possibilities for growth are endless.

SmallBizLady: Ruben, breakdown two of your signature communication styles so that we can get a feel for what you have?

Ruben West: Let’s compare the Drill Sergeant and the Scientists. The Drill Sergeant believes that many more individuals could be successful if they just took more personal responsibility. The drill sergeant isn’t really concerned about your feelings. They are only focused on the end result. They are always ready to speak and need very little time, if any, to prepare. By contrast, the scientist believes that more people could be successful if they just had the right formula to follow. The scientists/teacher feel more comfortable using charts, graphs, PowerPoints and the like. Typically, they are not prone to speak on the fly but would rather have more time to prepare their materials.

SmallBizLady: So are you saying that the first step to being a great speaker is learning your communication style?

Ruben West: I am saying that my mentor Les Brown told me that speaking is a projection of who you are. The more I have spoken around the world the more I know this to be true. Once you discover your signature communication style you also discover what you are not. Now, you can start adding certain elements and stories that will captivate, motivate and inspire the other communication styles within the audience. In the end, what most people will discover is that they have a little bit of each style in them. However, they have a dominant primary and secondary style. Once they understand their style, now they can start to add communication techniques and make them feel natural and comfortable because they’re speaking from a place of power.

SmallBizLady: Is it better to work on your speaking one-on-one with a coach or in a group?

Ruben West: I don’t think the one on one versus the group is the main issue for the way you work on your speaking. I think the main thing to identify is if the individual that you’re working with starts off with an assessment of you and or the other group members. If they don’t take time to figure out who you are then you’re just a number. If they take the time to figure out who you are as an individual, then you know that there building on who you are not who they want you to be.

SmallBizLady: Is there a way for individuals to take your assessment?

Ruben West: Yes. Whether you are new to speaking or you have been speaking for years the signature speaking style assessment is a great way to understand your base communication tendencies. It is a series of 35 questions that you can answer that will give you a foundation as to who you are as a speaker. What I can tell you is that it will make you think. Also, you will no doubt have a primary and a secondary communication style. It is these combinations that make us unique and individual as communicators and speakers. Go to http://ift.tt/2xQd7bQ and answer the questions to discover your signature communication/speaking style.

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 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming an Entrepreneur

Guest Article

Working for someone comes with a lot of challenges, but it is even more challenging to be an entrepreneur than to work in corporate America. I didn’t know this until I took the step to become a small business owner myself. Here’s my best attempt to save you some expensive lessons. Here are 7 things I wish I knew before becoming an entrepreneur:

You won’t be an overnight success

There is no shortcut to excellence; excellence is achieved through careful planning, and slow and steady hard work. Nobody has achieved business success through a sudden bright idea. Even some of the blue-chip organizations that people think were overnight successes like Yahoo and Amazon didn’t get to the top overnight.

They had their humble beginnings; some of them took up to 10 years before achieving their dream. Thus, if your dream is to be a billionaire start-up, then keep in mind that you must put in serious work. You will need to work hard, plan well and spend money carefully before you can reap any kind of reward or replace your corporate salary.

Focus on your strengths, and work on your weaknesses

We all have strengths, and this is where your success will actually come from. But, you also need to dedicate time focusing on your weaknesses. When you start working on turning your weakness into strengths, you need to take that into consideration when deciding who to hire or any business partners you bring in to help you in your business. You can also simply outsource it or hire someone to handle that part for you.

Get the right people around you

You are not an island, so you need the help of others to succeed in business. Many start-up organizations fail today simply because they had the wrong people on their team, or didn’t have a team at all. The only remedy is to hire the best people you can find. Hire those that are smarter than you. And take the time to onboard them properly so that they know what you expect and how you want things done.  The more time you spend on this the less hiring and retraining you’ll need to do.

Know your ideal customer

Many entrepreneurs find it hard to identify their ideal customers. If you don’t know the right answer to this, it means you will have hard time marketing to the right people. It also means you’ll waste money trying to reach too large a market. Know that not every customer that comes your way is the ideal customer. You need to specialize in serving a particular market. Your niche can be gender and age specific, geographical, or industry specific. Knowing your customers and what they need will lead to more sales. Focus on the right customers, and you will build a great reputation.

Learn from the mistakes of others

A wise entrepreneur learns from the mistakes of others. She doesn’t need to make a mistake before she can learn from it. Take the time to study why so many businesses in your niche have failed. When you discover the answers, take precautions so that you don’t go down the same road. This will save you a lot of stress, money and time.

Prepare yourself mentally to face stress

As an entrepreneur, the buck stops with you. Stressful situations will come from time to time, but do not allow it to overwhelm you. The two things you can always affect if your attitude and your actions. If you give in to overwhelm it will make you not be able to function effectively and your business won’t survive that. Make sure you have a circle of other entrepreneurs who are a confidential sounding board for you. If you are a home-based business, get out of the house twice a week, even if its just to go to a local coffee shop to work. Just make sure that you are not isolating yourself, that only makes it worse. In the course of running your business, you will always encounter stressful times. But in most cases trouble is temporary. Learn to be a great decision maker and risk taker, it will keep you sane.

Have milestones and track them

Understand your value proposition, and this is the most effective way of motivating people to buy your products or services. You need to make sure you have monthly sales goals, which will translate into weekly sales goals, you need to stay on top this in terms of how much marketing activities must take place to make these goals happen. Develop your product/service design, branding and marketing to be truly unique and appealing. People should be convinced about you and the value you bring. This will help to take your business to the next level.

If you embrace these 7 elements I shared, you will build a business ready to be a success. Try to learn expensive lessons once, and realize that like your business, you are a work in progress too, so cut yourself some slack. Success can be yours.

About the Author.

Mike Jones is the founder of How to Start an LLC.org, where he teaches people about navigating the bureaucracy and provides simple guides to starting your own business. Mike is a serial entrepreneur who believes company formation should be the least painful part of building a business and has set out to make it easier.

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Understanding Customer Lifetime Value & Why It Is Important

How can you tell if your company is succeeding? Usually by looking at operating metrics like sales, revenues, and profit margin and then comparing these figures to your annual projections, historical numbers, or competitors in the same industry. But what metrics can you use to determine your company’s success in the long term? One of the most useful calculations is the company’s customer lifetime value or CLV. As the term implies, the customer lifetime value represents the total amount of money that a particular customer is likely to spend over his or her lifetime. It’s easy to see how CLV can be used to help predict future revenues for a company.

How To Compute Customer Lifetime Value

There is a myriad of ways to calculate customer lifetime value, but the simplest one involves just three components: the average order value, the purchase frequency, and the customer lifetime length.

The average order value represents how much money the typical customer spends when he or she is placing an order. The quickest way to determine this figure is to take the total revenues for a given time period (i.e., per week, per month, per quarter, per year) and divide it by the number of orders in that time period.

The purchase frequency represents how often a typical customer makes a purchase with your company. This can be computed by taking the total number of orders in a given time period and dividing it by the total number of customers in that time period.

The customer lifetime length represents the length of the time period during which the typical customer makes purchases from your company. Unless a company possesses several years’ worth of sales data, this value can be difficult to calculate. For new businesses, the assumed customer lifetime length is usually about three years.

When you multiply these three metrics together, you get the customer lifetime value.

Here’s an example: Let’s say that you own a candy store and you want to determine the CLV of your business. When you scour your purchase records, you discover that the average order value is $12.50 and that each customer places 2.5 orders on average each month. You would multiply $12.50 and 2.5 to get $31.25, which is the average customer value per month. If you assume a customer lifetime length of three years, you would then multiply $31.25 by 36 (the number of months in three years) to get a customer lifetime value of $1,125.

(AVG x PF) x CFL = CLV

($12.50 x 2.5) x 36 = $1,125

The Significance of CLV

CLV is important for a variety of reasons. First, it can act as a benchmark for future growth and expansion. It’s also an excellent way to help determine the worth of your business in the event you wish to borrow money, seek outside funding, or sell your company. You can also tweak the computations to figure out a customer lifetime gross margin, costs, and other metrics by substituting them (on an average basis) in place of the average order value.

More broadly, CLV demonstrates the significance of repeat business and can help you shift your priorities accordingly. While acquiring new customers is nice, getting current customers to purchase more from you is often more important; plus, these customers tend to require lower costs and usually produce higher customer satisfaction ratings.

Therefore, it’s essential that every entrepreneur and business owner that’s been in business any significant length of time evaluate customer lifetime value as a key component of their small business strategy. Otherwise, how will you know what your business is worth to you in the long run?

Want to learn more about important metrics for your business? Join me Wed 8-9pm for #Smallbizchat on twitter. It’s a great way to get answers to your small business questions.’

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How Your Business Can Benefit from Mobile Small Business Finance

Every 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 Rohit Arora, CEO of Biz2Credit, is one of America’s top experts in small business lending and the use of FinTech to streamline the funding process. In 2011, he was among NYC’s “Top Entrepreneur” by Crain’s, which named Biz2Credit among NYC’s “Fast 50” of 2014 and 2016. For more info: www.biz2credit.com  

SmallBizLady: Why are Mobile Platforms so important for small business lending?

Rohit Arora: The small business finance industry is simply reacting to the demands of the marketplace. Millennials want to do everything on their phones – from buying clothes to ordering pizza. It’s natural that they would want to conduct other types of business transactions via mobile devices. Today, 60 percent of the small business loan applications on Biz2Credit are input by mobile devices.

SmallBizLady: Are banks changing the way they conduct business?

Rohit Arora: Absolutely. The branch network is becoming outdated. Having lots of branches was for the longest time a huge advantage for larger banks with brand names. However, technology has changed things. Just as people under 30 may never have actually purchased a newspaper (they read it online instead), many of them have never set foot inside a bank branch other than to use an ATM. Now, increasingly, they can conduct business through online bill pay and other convenient options.

SmallBizLady: What has changed the most?

Rohit Arora: The big change comes from the consumer/borrower side. Data plans from phone/internet providers have become unlimited. There is no more data rationing, as was the case a few years ago. People are talking less and doing more things online. Phones are more powerful and the user interface is better. Additionally, there is the cultural change; people interact online and they want to conduct transactions using the freedom that the internet has given them. Google is ranking mobile friendly platforms higher. If you don’t make your site mobile friendly, Google will penalize you. It’s a huge shift.

SmallBizLady: How quickly did the finance industry adopt technology?

Rohit Arora: Small business finance was relatively slow in adopting technology as compared to other industries, such as retail. However, FinTech is booming. In the past, banks viewed FinTech startups as competitors. Now, increasingly, they are partners. Technology enables lenders to make informed decisions more quickly than ever before. Digital loan applications save on costs and they reduce the time spent filling out mountains of paper work.

SmallBizLady: What are my chances of getting a business loan today?

Rohit Arora: The good news is that small business lending is as strong as it has been in any period since the Great Recession. Nearly one-in-four loan applications from big banks ($10B+ assets) are granted. Lenders typically look for businesses that have been operating for 2-3 years and with a credit score above 650. Must have the ability to show a track record of operation, consistent financial performance and tax returns as evidence are helpful for receiving funding.

SmallBizLady: Does the government loan money to small businesses?

Rohit Arora: Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are very popular loans. While the SBA does not lend money directly, it provides a government backing that lessens a bank’s exposure to risk. SBA loans, granted typically by banks, come at very attractive interest rates and long repayments terms. This makes them more affordable to the small business owner. The only down side is that the government requires more paperwork as documentation, and this lengthens the time it takes for the loan to be approved (compared to a traditional bank loan).

SmallBizLady: What are my options if I have little or no credit history or a bad credit history?

Rohit Arora: Startups often raise money from family and friends, use credit cards (less advisable because of the high interest rates they charge) or borrow against the equity in their home. Other options include venture capital investment in return for a stake in the company. Non-bank lenders, such as cash advance companies and factors, provide revenue-based loans. While they typically make quick decisions, and are more willing to tolerate risk, the borrower pays a premium for this type of money.

SmallBizLady: How do I go find the best small business loan for my business?

Rohit Arora: Finding the best loan for your small business will require you to know what you’re coming to the table with. Before you start submitting applications, you’ll want to answer a few questions to help narrow things down. How long have you been operating? How much revenue do you generate annually and how much of that is profit & owner salary? Do you have collateral? What is your credit score? How much are you looking to borrow? What will those funds be used for? How quickly do you need funding?

SmallBizLady: Why is it important to review my finances before applying for a small business loan?

Rohit Arora: Applying for small business financing requires having the appropriate documentation to prove your firm’s creditworthiness. Have income tax returns, P&L statements, etc. as back-up documentation for your loan package. Getting the information ready in advance will cut down on the time it takes to submit your final loan application to a lender.

SmallBizLady: What types of interest rates are being charged?

Rohit Arora: Interest rates vary depending on a borrower’s credit history, the company’s recent financial performance, use of the loan, and type of loan. SBA loans can have interest rates as low as 4-5%, while credit cards may charge 19% or more. Non-bank lenders (ex: cash advance companies) can charge APRs that are as high as 30 to 40% for short-term funding. SBA loans and traditional bank loans typically are the most affordable types of small business financing.

SmallBizLady: How much do personal finances factor into small business borrowing?

Rohit Arora: Personal finances play an important role in small business borrowing — especially for startups and young, growing businesses. Credit score, personal debt to income ratio, and net worth all weigh heavily on an underwriter’s lending decision. If you expect you’ll need to borrow for your business, it makes sense to give your personal finance a checkup.

There are a number of ways to increase your credit score if it is low. Begin paying bills on time and in full, pay off high interest debt first in order to cut down on cost of capital. Be sure to watch your costs and run “lean and mean” to improve your company’s cash flow. If possible, consolidate high cost debt under a low interest credit card or through a business line of credit.

SmallBizLady: How much should a small business borrow?

Rohit Arora: Be sure to borrow enough. If you have extra left over, you can use it to begin paying down debt. Again, it is critical to understand cost structures and too leave some cushion in the event of unforeseen delays, downturns and disasters.

Loan sizes can be micro loans of less than $50,000 to larger loans of $2 million or more, based on the use of funds, type of industry, track record of the company and other factors. Biz2Credit offers a free BizAnalyzer Tool that can help entrepreneurs understand their financial situation better.

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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