Archives for March 2011

Divide and Conquer – How to Complete Large Projects

Are you one of those guys who are overwhelmed by the thought of completing large projects? You know who I am talking about, right? These are the folks who look at the amount of work needed to complete the project and can’t decide how or where to begin. Their mind is occupied by the thought number of tasks that need to be finished – all interconnected and interdependent; but are unable to take any action to move them forward. Finally, they throw up their hands in frustration and end up not accomplishing anything.
There is a better way to manage these large projects. It’s called – Divide and Conquer. The way it works it you start at the top and start dividing the project in smaller chunks; further refining those chunks into even smaller, easily manageable tasks and so on. Those who are trained in formal project management techniques can relate to this. Unfortunately, not all small business owners are trained to think this way.
So, how does divide and conquer work? Here are some of the techniques.
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How can You Get Past Customers Back

In spite of all your efforts to hold onto existing customers you are bound to lose some of them over time. There are variety of reasons they leave. Some are under your control; while others are not. Some customers leave because they received bad service. Others become tired of same products they are getting. Still others leave because you have not been in front of them through marketing.
While you will not be able keep every single customer all the time what you can do is try to bring those customers who have left some time ago. Depending on their reasons for leaving; this may be somewhat easier to do than trying to acquire the customers who have never tried your products.
So what can you do to make this happen? Below we have highlighted several techniques you can use.
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Do You have to be a Cook to Open a Restaurant?

Yesterday I came across this interesting article by Susan Reid at AmEx Open Forum about why you should stay within 2 degrees of separation when starting a business. She argues that you may end up feeling overwhelmed with everything you’ll need to learn just to get up-to-speed if you stray from 2 degrees of separation.
For the most part we agree with this. After all, there are number of benefits of staying within your comfort zone when it comes to starting a business – you have less of a learning curve; you can operate the business yourself and save on employee cost and most important you will enjoy what you are doing.
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Buy or Build? Buying Existing Business vs Building New one

Many buyers of small business are dismayed by the money they have to pay to buy an existing business. They think that they can build the same business from scratch at a much lower cost. And this is true. To understand why this is the case you need to know the concept of book value of a business versus its market value. Book value refers to the money you can get if you sell all of the business assets in the market. The market value is usually higher than book value and is a result of goodwill that is associated with the existing business. It is this goodwill that the buyers of existing business are paying extra for. The goodwill is a result of all the work that existing owner has done to bring the business to its current level.
While it is true that you can build a business from scratch at a lower cost; it comes with its own set of problems. You have to understand both sides of the buy vs. build equation before making a decision. Below we have highlighted pros and cons of buying an existing business as opposed to building a new one. You can make your decision after studying this and looking at your own situation.
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How Can your Employees Help Improve Sales

It is our belief that your employees can help improve sales at your business by more than 20% if you help them help you. Most business owners don’t really think of their employees as ones who can help them improve sales; however the front line employees – the ones that interact with customers – can make a big difference in improving your business. These employees are talking to and interacting with your customers all the time. They are responsible for making your customers come back by providing great customer service. In short, they are representing your brand and your business.
So what are the specific ways in which your employees can help improve sales? In our experience of running business for 5 years we have come across multiple opportunities.

  1. They can make your existing customers come back by providing excellence customer service.
  2. They can also help bring new customers by word-of-mouth from existing ones.
  3. They can help you up-sell and cross-sell at the point of order taking and payment.
  4. They are aware of where opportunities exist for improvement in customer service and operations.

It is your responsibility as business owner to make this happen. You have to provide them with the necessary resources and incentives that will motivate them to give their best in front of customers. We have identified below several areas that you need to address.
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How to succeed in running absentee business

Small business owners run their business absentee for variety of reasons. Some owners are still holding full-time job while starting a business. Others have more locations than they can handle themselves. While still others just don’t want to spend their entire time on the business. Our estimate is that while majority of small businesses are owner operated, there are number of businesses that are run absentee for the reasons mentioned above.
While it is possible to run and succeed in absentee owner business you need to be aware of the problems that arise when you are doing so. Ignoring these problems can lead to deterioration and even disaster for your business. The most common issue in running the business absentee is that you may not be aware of what’s going on with your business or at least not to the same degree as when you are present 24×7. Even if you come to know about the issues it may be too late to act on. The issues can surface in all areas of the business ranging from operations, quality, purchasing and customer service.
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How to Ask Customers to do Marketing of your Business

Most small business owners are at a disadvantage compared to their large competitors when it comes to marketing. After all, small businesses do not have the marketing muscle and budget of the large companies. They have to find innovative ways to do marketing and advertising that is not expensive yet is equally, if not more, effective.
Many small business owners get intimated by this challenge and think that there is no way they can succeed against Goliath in marketing. We believe that is not true. In our earlier post on 5 fundamental rules of marketing we argued that good marketing strategy does not have to cost much. We also showed how you can improve your sales in a low-cost fashion through community involvement. There is another aspect of low cost marketing that is not utilized well by small business owners. That involves seeking help from your existing customers to do the marketing for you.
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Improve your Sales with Up Selling

“Would you like fries with that?” – We have all heard this while ordering burger at a fast food place. How many times have you answered it with – “sure”? Well, this is the power of up selling. In its simplest form, it is just a matter of asking customers if they want to add more items to their order. In a more subtle form, it could be something like placing a complementary item to the one that you intend to purchase in a grocery store and enticing you to buy it.
If you are not taking advantage of up selling and cross selling opportunity in your business you are probably losing 20-30% of potential sales. Some companies have really mastered the techniques of up selling by making customers buy additional items at a high price. For example, Ford has increased the average selling price of its cars by making customers want and pay for the extra options in their basic cars. When Apple introduced its next generation of iPad on March 3 it also showed a screen cover that will be sold for $39 for basic model and $69 for leather version. Can you imagine what their profit margin is on these items?
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Do you have what it takes to be Small Business Owner?

Small business owners are a special breed. They don’t like to sit still or take orders from others. They also don’t like to stop even when they have become successful or when they have met with failure. That’s why the term serial entrepreneurs – once an entrepreneur; always an entrepreneur.
Many people who have held job for their life dream of owning a small business – either out of frustration with their current job or because they have lost their job and can’t find one in this difficult economy. They think that just because they have a strong desire to be a small business owner they will succeed. While having a strong desire is a good start; it takes more than that to be a successful business owner. Our experience has shown that the success in small business is dependent on a combination of factors including heredity, upbringing, determination, working style and external support.
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