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Customer Service Lessons from my Poor Olive Garden Experience

I am always on the lookout for lessons to be learned from my own experience as a customer. I believe small business owners can learn a lot about management and customer service by putting themselves in the shoes of customers. I was presented with such an opportunity when we visited Olive Garden restaurant in Auburn Hills, Michigan over the weekend. This was a special treat from my daughters on Father’s Day.
While I have always liked Olive Garden’s delicious food particularly the soups and salad my experience on this day left a lot to be desired from such a reputable national restaurant. Here is what happened:
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Do not Take these 5 Actions when New Competitor Moves to your Neighborhood

The scenario may look familiar to many small business owners. You are doing a brisk business with loyal customer base. The sales are growing steadily. You are making decent profit. The same holds true for other competitors in the neighborhood. The existing customers in the town are divided between your and other businesses. In short, equilibrium has been established amongst existing businesses.
And then, a new competitor decides to get a piece of the action. Suddenly, everything changes. The new competitor tries to grab customers with lower price and increased marketing. The existing ones try to hold onto their customers. Employees will leave for bigger opportunities. It’s as if someone threw a stone in the calm waters causing ripples everywhere in the neighborhood.
The initial reaction for many existing business owners may be to counter the new competitor with force right away to ensure these ripples do not cause significant damage to your boat. However, this may be a mistake. The best strategy may be to watch and plan for the future before taking radical steps. In particular, it is important NOT to do the following right away.
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Is your Business Prepared to Sell to these 5 Customer Types?

Many small business owners fail to understand the customer base they serve and end up not being prepared to sell to those customers. How many times have you thought about various types of customers that you are selling to? Is your business ready to serve those different types of customers? Do you have marketing programs in place to attract those customers in the first place? Important questions to think about, isn’t it?
Different customers have varying types of needs. Some are looking for bargains, while others will pay premium for the quality product. By understanding the needs of customers your business can determine which customers are right for your business. You can take this approach one step further and develop customer personas based on the customer needs and purchasing habits. Personas are helpful in not only identifying the customer types, but also tailoring your marketing and operations to serve their needs. Below we have identified 5 such customer personas. Think about which ones are usually doing business with you and whether your business is prepared to serve their needs.
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What can Subway Teach you about Growing the Business

Trivia question: Name the franchise with most number of locations in the world. If you answered McDonald’s you are wrong. The new king of the franchise world is Subway. It surpassed McDonald’s in 2011 with 33,949 worldwide locations compared to Mickey D’s 32,737. The franchise that started with mere $1,000 by Fred DeLuca in 1965 has seen phenomenal growth in the last 10 years.
Subway has been able to grow consistently year after year by following principles that can be applied to any small business. We have studied and analyzed those principles and present them below for small business owners to apply to grow their business in a similar fashion.
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What can Small Business Owners learn from Greek Crisis

Unless you have been hiding in a cave for the last couple of years you know Greece is on the verge of economic collapse on the scale not seen before. The unemployment rate is a staggering 22% and they are expected to default on their loans unless they receive yet another round of financial help from their neighbors and EU partners.
While it may be tempting to think of Greek situation as unique, it is not far-fetched to think of an analogous scenario for small businesses. After all, as we show below the reasons behind Greek crisis are prevalent in many of the businesses – both large and small. That’s why Greek crisis holds important lessons for business owners in how not to get into the financial disaster. Below is our attempt to explore reasons behind Greece’s failure and how they apply to small business owners.
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HR Must-Haves for Growing Startups

What does it take to grow a company from startup to small business? Growing a business isn’t simple. Entrepreneur need to take care of many facets of the business to ensure it is ready for the next phase. One of the most critical aspects is to put together a team of people that can handle the pressure and is ready to make the transition. That is why HR plays a crucial role in this phase of the start-up. Whether the start-ups have a formal HR organization or is handled by the founder team itself here are five must-haves they identified to take your business to the next level.
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7 Reasons you are Losing your Best Employees

It is estimated that best employees contribute 30-50% more than average employees for a typical business. Their contribution is not only in the form of higher productivity, but it also comes from new ideas and better customer service. These are the employees who can take your business to new heights provided you are able to hold onto them.
Employee turnover in general is harmful for small business. When it comes to turnover of star employees it could damage your business beyond repair. That is why it is paramount to treat your star employees well and ensure they are happy to work with you.
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Do not Make these 7 Mistakes in Business Negotiations

Negotiation is more art than science. Just as some people have natural ability for art, I believe there are people born with “negotiation” genes. They already possess virtues required to succeed at negotiations. However, not all is lost for those who do not have these natural skills. By understanding your limitations and making plans to overcome them anyone can improve their success rates in the negotiation process.
Earlier we discussed 5 fundamental rules to keep in mind during negotiation. In addition to not having good understanding these rules, many business owners make certain mistakes common to naïve negotiators. While these mistakes will not put you out of business (at least not right away!) they can do substantial financial harm to you. Here is the description of 7 most common mistakes:
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5 Must-have Virtues to Succeed in Business Negotiations

You cannot be successful in small business without having good negotiation skills. You are required to negotiate at each and every step while operating the business – with vendors, customers, employees, franchisors and so on.
Some people are natural born negotiators and they even enjoy the experience. Many others, however, think of negotiation as necessary evil they have to deal with and dread dealing with it. No matter which camp you belong to learning good negotiation skills and understanding the rules of negotiation will help you becoming successful small business owner.
I discussed 5 fundamental rules of negotiation for small business in the earlier post. In this article, I would like to elaborate more on what virtues are necessary to help you become successful negotiator. Not everyone is born with these virtues, however, with little practice and understanding you can learn and improve your winning odds at the game of negotiation.
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5 Fundamental Rules of Negotiation for Small Business Owners

Small business owners who do not have good negotiation skills risk losing big (or at least not earn what they deserve). Many business owners find negotiation very stressful and try to avoid it as much as possible. They think of negotiation as a long, drawn-out process where one party wins at the expense of other, and when it’s over the “loser” hates the winner for not giving enough. It doesn’t have to be this way. Professional negotiators tell us negotiation is a skill where it is possible for both parties to come out winners and still be “friends” at the end.
To clear the misconceptions about negotiation we have come up with 5 fundamental rules that you should keep in mind. Once you accept these rules and arm yourself with the tactics to use them effectively you can not only “win” the negotiation, but also feel good about it at the end, and make the other party feel the same. Here they are:
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