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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How to Identify Your Target Market

Guest Article

To be able to grow any business, you have to market the product or service to a particular target audience. Without narrowing your focus to a specific customer, you miss the opportunity to be viewed as a specialist or worse spend marketing dollars trying to reach a huge audience and not make much of an impression. To really connect or engage a loyal customer base, you must have a specific message that resonates with them. Otherwise, you will miss out on chances to sell your products and services.

In order to identify the proper target market of your small business, you must conduct market research to learn more about who might need your product or service. Your business can do market research through either a primary or secondary research methods. Once you identify who makes up your target market, then you’ll need to find out more about them as individual people and learn things such as where they spend time online.

What is Primary research?

Primary research is any research that a business does from scratch. Once original data is collected via one-on-one interviews, focus groups, phone calls, surveys, and it’s analyzed, it is considered primary research. Through the different forms of primary research, your business has the opportunity to test its brand identity and marketing messages. You will also make connections with potential targets, all while gaining valuable information.

  • One-on-one interviews: Your business can select one out of every 100 customers (or however many you choose) that visit its website or walk into the store to interview one-on-one. With an interview between a representative of your business and a customer, you can form a relationship. You’ll show your customers that you are interested in them. By sitting with someone face-to-face, you give them the chance to provide valuable feedback and teach you more about how and why people shop there, or use your products or services.
  • Surveys: In creating and distributing a survey, your business can gather data pertaining to its audience directly online, which is fast. Along with your survey email, include the option to visit a landing page or even a mini site before they get to the People like to compensated for their time. Provide some sort of incentive for completing the survey, like a freebie, promotional code or a discounted product, and many will be happy to take your survey.
  • Focus groups: With focus groups, your business can collect the same types of information as it would with a survey, but more in-depth and with the advantage of face-to-face interaction. Participants are able to see and touch products which is nice. They’ll also feel that your business genuinely has an interest in hearing their feedback when you give people the ability to connect with fellow participants and spend time thinking about your brand, it’s a win/win which can create a long-time customer.

Here are some typical questions to ask your potential target customers so that you can learn more.

  • How do you spend your free time?
  • What values are most important to you?
  • How do you prefer to interact and communicate with businesses?
  • What issues do you most often encounter when buying XX?
  • What factors contribute to your purchasing decisions?
  • How can your business’s product or service help them?
  • How do they most often access news information?
  • Where do you most often spend time online?
  • Where do you like to shop online?

With these types of questions, your business will gain better insight into why your customers do or would buy from you, and what makes them tick. By knowing more about their decision-making, personalities, and concerns, you can be more effective when it comes to building your business’s brand message and value proposition.

Secondary research:

Unlike primary research, with secondary research, part of the process has already been done for you. It uses data that has been collected by outside organizations (like market research firms or government agencies.) You leverage the data collected by outside sources and use it to form your own conclusions. You can learn more about your competitors and your industry as a whole through secondary research. Seeing who your competitors have identified as their target market and how they position their brand can help your business’ marketing efforts. Your small business can not be for everyone, and therefore does not need to try to market itself to everyone. Identify your target market and begin catering to the specific needs of your ideal customer.

About the author:

Sarah Saker is a small business coach and freelance writer specializing in process development for small businesses. Connect with Sarah on About.me for writing or coaching help.

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Small Business Holiday Checklist: Prepping for Q4 Sales

While we’re still a few weeks away from putting up the Christmas tree and holiday decorations, now is the ideal time to make sure your small business is set up and ready for the biggest shopping season of the year. Most businesses — especially those in retail — significantly add to their bottom line in Q4, but not without a little advanced planning.

It may seem early to start your Q4 planning, but trust me: you can never start too early. Use this as your checklist to ensure that you’re ready to roll once the frenzy begins on Thanksgiving.

  1. Get Your Sales Strategy is in Place

What’s worked to appeal to customers throughout the rest of the year might not be your best approach to attract business during the holidays. Your sales strategy might need to get a little more aggressive in Q4 to compete with everyone else slashing prices in an effort to holiday sales.

What are your goals for the holiday season? You should have specific, measurable objectives that you can work toward. If you set goals last year, assess results as you develop your strategy for this year.

  1. Identify the Products to Push

Whether you’re trying to ride the wave of a popular new product or get rid of some older inventory, your promotions should be aligned with what you want to sell. If you’re selling the hottest toy this holiday, you can either drop the price below what your competitors are selling it for or offer some additional value with the purchase. The latter strategy, naturally, doesn’t cut into your profit margin as much, and can create repeat business. Giving, for example, a gift card with purchase can not only boost sales of that product but also get people to come back and spend more later.

If you have aging inventory, consider bundling it with more in-demand products. Create gift sets of multiple products at a slight discount from what each product would cost individually. Market these bundles to send them flying off of the shelves.

  1. Align Your Marketing Plan

Just like your sales strategy, your marketing plan may need to shift slightly to accommodate the holiday shopping season. Your content marketing, advertising, promotions, and PR will need to reflect the time of year to appeal to your audience.

Promote your Black Friday sale on social media. Write holiday-themed blog content. Hold a holiday giveaway. Donate a portion of profits to a charity. Each of these are marketing tactics can help your business have a major impact this time of year.

  1. Plan for the Extra Staff You’ll Need

Because business picks up at the end of the year, you’ll want to ensure that you have all the help you’ll need. It’s key to deliver orders in a timely manner, especially if you are selling online. The season is stressful enough; the last thing you want is for customers to have to wait in line to check out or not get your order before the holiday. It’s worth the extra expense to bring on temporary cashiers or customer service agents to ensure that your customers’ needs are met.

Hire newbies early, and get them trained well in advance of the holiday. You want your entire staff to feel confident and adept at operating your point-of-sale software as well as with assisting customers. If you’re lucky, you’ll hire employees that are so wonderful, you might want to invite a few to stay on in January.

  1. Have Enough Inventory

You’ll likely need more stock than you’d otherwise keep throughout the year, so don’t wait until December to order. You risk the products you want being out of stock, as well as shipping delays, both of which can cause you to miss out on potential sales.

Before you order your inventory, do a deep assessment of which products you want to push in your holiday marketing campaign. Gift-friendly products will sell better than useful products. When ordering, ask your supplier for a discount for placing a larger order. It never hurts to ask, and if you get the discount, you’ll add to your bottom line.

If you break out the tasks you’ll need to handle for the holiday season, you’ll make your work easier for yourself. There’s a lot to juggle as things heat up approaching Christmas, so do yourself a favor by starting your planning now while things are relatively calm. Not only will you be well organized and ready to churn out those sales, but you’ll be less stressed in doing so.

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How to Make Your Business Scalable, Saleable and Sustainable

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 Shahara Wright an experienced and highly sought-after business law attorney and business strategist. She is the author of From Entrepreneur to CEO and host of the CEO Collaboration Circle. Shahara founded The CEO Effect, LLC to work with small business owners who want to implement a strategy to build capacity. For more info: www.theceoeffect.com  

SmallBizLady:  What does it mean to be scalable?

Shahara Wright:  Various meanings in the business world.  Mostly means that your business can increase and expand efficiently when the demand becomes greater.  If you got all the business you wanted to have, could you handle it?  How easy would it be to take on 50% more customers right now?  If you are still contemplating that thought, your business needs scaling.

SmallBizLady: If I want to scale where do I start?

Shahara Wright:  I always tell my clients to think about where they want to be in 5 years and plan for that.  What do you need to have in place to make that 5-year goal work today?  Planning is key!  What systems do you need in place to handle increased volume?  Do you need more employees?  Do you need better cash flow?  What funds do you need to make that happen?  The answers to these questions will help you know what you need to plan for. Once you have that, you are ready to implement.

SmallBizLady: How do you implement?

Shahara Wright:  I knew you would ask that!  It all starts with you!  You need to focus on growth and that does not simply mean more marketing.  Grow your partnerships and connections.  You will need more vendors or better vendors.  You will need to increase your distribution partners and channels.  Start educating yourself on things that affect your market and how others in your industry work.  You also need to start standardizing processes.  It will take a lot of trial and error, but once you find something that works well, you should see an increase in efficiency.

SmallBizLady: How can I compete with those bigger companies?

Shahara Wright:  It is not about competing, it’s about the best you can where you are.  That means you must know what you are the best at.  Understand what is your company’s strength and how can you increase that area.  It also means you should look at your weaknesses.  You need to know what keeps your business at the level that it is on.  Most small business owners say money, but most likely it is something else.  It is rarely the lack of financial ability that kills a business.  The majority of time, it is the lack of management skills.

SmallBizLady: Why should my business be saleable?

Shahara Wright:  Many business owners don’t think about what will happen to their business when they are ready to retire or just wanted to leave the business altogether.  The financial documents are not in place; tax returns reflect little or no income and the bank account is constantly in the red.  If you think you may want to sell your business one day or even have investors, you need to make sure it is positioned correctly.

SmallBizLady: If I want to sell my business, what should I think about?

Shahara Wright:   Naturally, there are lots of things to think about.  I think one of the most important things is structure and organization. What type of entity do you have?  If you have a corporation or LLC you can sell the business intact as a whole. If you have a partnership or sole proprietorship likely going to have to do an asset sale.  These are very different types of sales that can make a major difference in the amount of money that you receive for your business.  In addition, you want to think about your employees and their ability to run the business without you.  If the success of the business only depends upon you, the business may be less valuable.

SmallBizLady:    What advise can you give when someone approaches them about selling their business, but the offer was too low?

Shahara Wright:  May I give the cautionary tale of Pebble.  If you don’t know, Pebble was a tech company first of its kind with the revolutionary watch which synced to your phone, tracked your life style and allowed you to do all kinds of things from your wrist.  Its chart-topping Kickstarter campaign is what put crowdfunding on the map.  Over the years, many companies tried to acquire it and were rejected.  Last year, Pebble closed its offices with barely a blip in the newspapers.  No one cared because the technology had been usurped and the business could not keep with bigger named brands i.e. Apple.  This is not to say that every offer you get is the best offer you will ever get.  But don’t over value your business because you think it is worth more than it really is.

SmallBizLady: What if I don’t want to sell my business?

Shahara Wright:  If you don’t want to sell, what is your plan?  Do you expect to just close it when you retire?  If you haven’t thought about that, it is okay.  However, this is an important part of doing business.  Making your business saleable adds value to your business.  I always try to encourage business owners to think past, right now.  You may not want to sell your business right now, but you may have to at some point.  Even if you don’t sell the business itself, there should be assets that are worth selling that can yield substantial income.  If you pass away without considering these issues, how will your heirs deal with your business?  Don’t assume that they want to take over, especially if they have never been trained or made a part of the business.

SmallBizLady: What does it mean to have a sustainable business?

Shahara Wright:   I always say it is easy to start a business, but it is difficult to sustain one.  Sustaining does not mean just existing for a long period of time.  There are many businesses that can survive even with minimal profits.  They typically limp along doing whatever it can to survive.  That is not sustaining.  Sustainable means that it can function without a constant influx of cash from outside sources.  In other words, it should pay for itself.  It also needs to be forward-thinking and ready for future changes in the market.

SmallBizLady: I have had a business for a long time and I want to expand.  Does that mean I have a sustainable business?

Shahara Wright:   Not necessarily.  There are many businesses who have scaled but have been unable to sustain the growth.  It’s about planning (as everything is).  You must be aware of the inside and outside forces that affect your business.  A SWOT analysis helps with giving you a better understanding of those forces.  Your business and yourself, should be able to deal with change and make the necessary steps to continue doing business.  Being able to adapt is more important than growth when we are discussing sustainability.  With your growth, can you still adapt to the changes in the market?

SmallBizLady: With all the changes happening in business, how can one keep up?

Shahara Wright:   It is all about value.  In the end, that is what it comes down to.  Businesses change their models all the time.  Companies like IBM have managed to stay in business despite the rapid changes in technology.  However, many others have gone by the wayside.  Your business may not look the same today as it did yesterday. The question is, are your offerings valuable to enough people?  You have to be innovative and prepared to excel in a particular area.  You do not have to be and should not be everything to everyone.  Do something well enough that you can continue to do it well, even when the market changes.

SmallBizLady: This is a lot to handle, is there any simple way to deal with this?

Shahara Wright:   Yes!  First, you just need to start the process.  I always tell my clients to start thinking about what makes their company work well and what makes it difficult to run.  List the good the bad and the ugly.  From there you want to see what you can do better.  Of the things you do well, what you be exceptional at?  For the things that are challenging, what can you do to make them less challenging?  For each thing you write down, determine what resources you must improve.  What is keeping you from improving?  These things go into being thoughtful about your business and helping you to make better decisions.  To have a sustainable business, you have to be on top of your game!

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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Overcoming Personal Challenges to Build a Successful Business

photo credit: Ondeck

Small business owners tend to be some of the toughest and most resilient people you’ll ever meet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have personal challenges to overcome. But is there a secret to overcoming challenges in a small business?  I recently had the opportunity to chat with Q&A with Barbara Corcoran, Real Estate Mogul, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge. I asked her, “How have you overcome personal challenges in your own business and what advice do you have for other business owners?”

Barbara’s advice was very enlightening:

“Everyone has personal challenges to overcome, and I’ve had my fair share of challenges, too.

“As a kid, I was convinced I was stupid because I couldn’t learn to read or write in school due to my dyslexia. But my lack of confidence made me overcompensate and over-prepare for everything I do in the business world.

“When my business partner and boyfriend left me to marry my secretary he told me, ‘You’ll never succeed without me!’ By saying that he handed me the greatest gift of all, an insult, which gave me the motivation to get back on my feet and the determination to prove him wrong. I’ve found that the key to getting back up is not to feel sorry for yourself. I’ve noticed the common ground of every successful person I’ve known is THEY DON’T FEEL SORRY FOR THEMSELVES.”

My 11-year old son was recently diagnosed with dyslexia, so I was particularly interested in how she was able to become a success, despite this learning disability.  She said, “Resilience is a trait most of the small business owners I’ve met over the years seem to have in common. They don’t easily give up. They’re always looking for a way over, under, around or through a problem or challenge—despite any personal struggles they may face. I think it’s also why most of the successful small business owners I know seem to take their personal challenges in stride.”

She also talked about a few other things successful people, including small business owners, seem to do to help them overcome personal challenges:

  1. They focus on their capabilities: It’s pretty common, particularly in business, for people to focus on strengthening their weaknesses (or challenges), but most of the successful people I know tend to focus on exploiting their strengths. They recognize it’s their strengths that set them apart and don’t let their personal challenges get in the way of accomplishing their goals.
  2. They build a supportive network: In other words, they build a team around them to maximize their efforts and augment their weaknesses. Sometimes they might turn to a partner that has expertise they don’t have or they might hire key employees to fill those roles they might not have much experience or strength in. They’re not afraid to seek help in those areas where they might perceive a weakness or lack of skill (this could also include overcoming personal challenges).
  3. They’re not afraid to seek professional help and advice: When medical or physical limitations exist, they seek out medical advice to find ways to overcome their physical limitations (handicap access for example), and work to overcome the challenges associated with their limitations. They don’t let their pride get in the way of getting the help they need.

Everyone has weaknesses many people face challenges that many not be evident, but we can’t allow our weaknesses to define us or limit our vision for success. Barbara’s determination in the face of her challenges has allowed her to build thriving businesses and become a household brand, and she is wonderful example to all of us.

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Top 10 podcasts for small business owners

Listening to podcasts has become a great way to learn something while you are doing something else. I’m a big fan of hitting the treadmill with my phone and earbuds and checking out a new episode of some of these business experts. If you are trying to pick up some new skills in your business or just need a healthy dose of inspiration, check out this list of all-star podcasts that I consider among the best out here doing it right now.  Here are the top 10 podcasts for small business owners.

1.  Entrepreneur on Fire

Host: John Lee Dumas
Average Length: 30 Minutes
Twitter: @JohnLeeDumas
Website: http://ift.tt/1JvOKzA

About the Show:
In Entrepreneur on Fire, John Lee Dumas interviews successful small business owners ranging from tech start-up founders to solopreneurs in order to fully explore their business journey. The podcast is interview focused and each episode provides deep insight into specific industries.

2.  Online Marketing Made Easy

Host: Amy Porterfield
Average Length: 30-45 Minutes
Twitter: @AmyPorterfield
Website: http://ift.tt/1BAv2k2

About the Show:
Amy Porterfield’s podcast, Online Marketing Made Easy is about all things online marketing. She breaks down how to monetize your online business. Her advice is great for marketing an ecommerce business or blogging for business. Amy brings on guests to discuss all ways you can monetization your brand from video marketing to drip campaigns and leveraging Facebook ads.

3.  Eventual Millionaire

Host: Jaime Masters
Average Length: 45 Minutes
Twitter: @Eventualmillion
Website: http://ift.tt/N2KcJv

About the Show:
In this podcast, business coach Jaime Masters interviews millionaire entrepreneurs to get them to discuss their biggest failures and successes. Jaime has conducted over 350 podcast interviews.

4.  Business Insanity Talk Radio

Host: Barry Moltz
Average Length: One Hour
Twitter: @Barrymoltz
Website: http://ift.tt/1xkB1sq

About the Show:
Business Insanity Talk Radio is hosted by Barry Moltz who is one of my favorite business experts. He has founded and run various small businesses for the past 20 years. On the podcast, he interviews numerous entrepreneurs about the craziness of running a small business. He typically interviews 5 guests per episode and releases one episode once a week.

5.  The Introvert Entrepreneur

Host: Beth Buelow
Average Length: 30-45 Minutes
Twitter: @Introvertcoach
Website: http://ift.tt/1d8btkY

About the Show:
The Introvert Entrepreneur is a podcast for introverts who want to be successful business owners. The podcast discusses life and business from the perspective of introverts while also providing useful marketing, finance and other small business related tips.

6.  Marketing School

Hosts: Neil Patel & Eric Siu
Average Length: 5-10 Minutes
Twitter: @neilpatel @ericosiu
Website: http://ift.tt/2ax4rwj

About the show:
Internet marketing gurus Neil Patel and Eric Siu give 5 to 10 minutes of actionable small business marketing advice every day. They provide tips to take your business to the next level and get to work right away. What’s cool about this podcast is that since it’s two of them they basically interview each other to give the advice, and they are always short and sweet.

7.  Duct Tape Marketing

Host: John Jantsch
Average Length: 30 Minutes
Twitter: @Ducttape
Website: http://ift.tt/28M3GU7

About the Show:
Each week, Duct Tape Marketing publishes a podcast with a well known industry expert to discuss a small business topic. John Jantsch has been a small business marketing expert for a long time, so he often shares trends and advice for enterprise and small business audiences alike.

8.  The $100 MBA Show

Host: Omar Zenhom
Average Length: 10 Minutes
Twitter: @TheOmarZenhom
Website: http://100mba.net/show/

About the Show:
The $100 MBA Show focuses on actionable small business tips rather than long interviews. The host Omar interviews guests, but he often shares his own experiences in business. This tight and timely podcast always gives useful and actionable tips for business success.

9.  Real Money Talks

Host: Loral Langmeyer
Average Length: 30 Minutes
Twitter: @liveoutloud
Website: http://ift.tt/2g335hG

About the Show:
Loral Langemeier is on a mission to educate and empower entrepreneurs and all others on how to have important money talks that are straight, to the point, and can be applied to every aspect of your life. She wants to help her listeners create a path to financial freedom! 

10.  Support is Sexy

Host: Elayne Fluker
Average Length: 50 Minutes
Twitter: @Supportissexy
Website: http://ift.tt/2xRw5SJ

About the show:
Support is Sexy is a daily podcast hosted by veteran business writer, Elayne Fluker. She features powerful, inspiring women entrepreneurs who share their struggles, strategies and success stories.

Bonus: I reached out to my fans via social media for their favorite podcast, and quite a few mentioned this one.

11.  The EntreLeadership Podcast

Host: Ken Coleman
T
witter: @KenColeman @EntreLeadership
Website: http://ift.tt/1KHCu1p

About the show:
Hosted by Ken Coleman, the EntreLeadership Podcast, which is a spin-off from Dave Ramsey’s bestselling book EntreLeadership. The show focuses on leadership and business. They also interview celebrity business owners such as Mark Cuban and Seth Godin. The focus is to grow business owners, their teams and their profits!

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