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Improve Sales by 10% by Teaming up with Cool Businesses


Small business owners can improve their brands, while increasing sales by 10-20% by teaming up with the “cool” businesses! On August 31 Ford announced partnership with Zipcar by which Ford will sell cars to Zipcar at a discounted rate for them to use for their rental fleet. For those not in the know, Zipcar is a next generation car rental company with a very different business model. They typically rent their cars on a per-hour flat fee that includes fuel and insurance to mostly young customers, college students and such, who do not own a car. By associating with Zipcar, Ford will improve their brand image and get more sales from the younger generation. This is a brilliant move on Ford’s part to attract buyers at an early age who typically tend to stick with them for years to come. You can find similar tie-ups at many places in the business world.
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Wildly Successful Companies that Decided NOT to do Everything


We have highlighted virtues of focus in the last couple of posts. The decision NOT to pursue something is the most important decision small business owners will make to be successful. You can use the framework described in the previous post to get better understanding of how to apply this principle in everyday decisions.
In this post we want to show examples of companies that have used this principle and have become wildly successful. They are the companies whose products we use every day. After studying their business model and decision making we have come to appreciate the way they go about doing their business. Here they are:
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Framework for Deciding What NOT to do


In the previous post we highlighted that the most difficult decisions you will ever make are the ones where you decide NOT to move forward. By focusing your resources and energy on narrowly you can achieve number of benefits and get higher return on your investment of time, money or effort. We mentioned how Apple has succeeded to become the most valuable company in the U.S. by applying this principle, while GM had floundered by spreading resources over multiple brands with lot of overlaps.
You should use this approach in decision making every step of the way. If you take a step back and think about the decision in terms of cost vs. benefit of the current choice and evaluate it against alternatives you can improve the odds of making the right choice. You can use this principle in number of different areas as shown below.
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What you do NOT do is more Important than what you do DO


The most difficult decisions you will ever make are the ones where you decide NOT to go ahead. We live in a world full of constraints – there are only 24 hours in a day, the bank is only willing to give you 50% of requested loan, you can only hire 5 employees. The list goes on and on. Given that there is only so much you can do with the limited amount of resources it is imperative that you pick your battles wisely. Decide to fight all the battles and soon you will run out of ammunition.
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Practical Ideas for Customer Suggestions to Improve Sales


In the earlier post we mentioned that if you are not applying customer suggestion tactics in the small business you are losing about 25% of current sales. We also showed best practices to work with when implementing customer suggestion plan. The key to making customers to like your suggestions is to do it in a way such that they do not feel as if they are being forced into buying something they do not want to.
In this post we will show practical ideas that are based on the best practices to implement in your small business. We have seen many of these ideas implemented at number of businesses with great results. I am sure you will be able to enjoy similar sales growth after you implement some of these ideas.
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Best Practices in Customer Suggestions to Improve Sales


In the previous post we mentioned that if you are not applying customer suggestion tactics in the small business you are missing out on 25% of current sales. These days customers receive suggestions from businesses and other customers from all kinds of businesses. However, you have to be careful about not turning off customers with your overly aggressive tactics. Customers do like receiving suggestions from their friends and businesses, but they do not want to be bombarded with them every step of the way.
The key to making customers to like your suggestions is to do it in a way such that the customers do not feel as if they are being forced into buying something they do not want to. There are certain things you should keep in mind when working on your customer suggestion plan as described below.
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Improve Sales by 25% with Customer Suggestions


If you are not applying customer suggestion tactics in the small business you are missing out on 25% of current sales. These days customers receive suggestions from businesses and other customers every step of the way. The trend has only increased in the last few years with the advent of Internet and social media. You can find online businesses suggesting that “you might also like these” based on what you have bought earlier. Your “friends” are also “recommending” you products and stories on Facebook. Suggestions can also be found in the physical world – sometimes in not so obvious ways. Have you looked at McDonald’s Combo Meal lately?
So how can suggestions help small business owners as well as customers?
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Five Step Action Plan to Remove Trouble Spots in your Business


In an ideal world your small business should operate like a well-oiled machine without encountering hiccups. However, as we all know, this is not the case in real world. Problems could and do arise from time to time. We are not talking about transient problems that can be fixed easily and quickly. We are talking about structural changes that occur very slowly and can go unnoticed for a long time. These are the problems that can do a great harm and eventually put you out of business.
To avoid this unfortunate fate we recommend you implement a three-step process. (1) Implement systems to provide you with warning signs about potential issues. (2) Interpret the warning signs to find trouble spots in your business. (3) Take appropriate actions to remove trouble spots.
We talked about the warning signs earlier. In the later post we showed how to interpret these warning signs This post will focus on what actions you can take for each type of the warning sign so that you can take care of the trouble spots and get your business on the right track again.
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Find Trouble Spots in your Business from Warning Signs

In the previous post we looked at 5 warning signs that tell you if your business is headed for trouble. These signs serve as early warning system that can help you identify and remediate problems before they become too serious.
Looking for a warning sign is just the first step in fixing things and making them better. Once you have received the red sign you need to interpret it, find the underlying causes and correct them – all before your business reaches the point of no return and forces you to close it or sell at a loss. It helps to have a business degree online to get a better understanding of these warning signs.
In general, you will find two types of problems that would cause the businesses to sputter. The first has to do with general market and economic conditions, which you may not have much control over. The second type of problems has to do with your specific business. These issues are the result of how you run your business and are totally under your control. As a business owner your goal should be to uncover issues specific to your business as quickly as possible and take appropriate actions to correct them now rather than waiting till the last minute.
In this post we will show you what could be the underlying causes for the 5 warning signs mentioned in the previous post. The next post will focus on actions you can take to correct them.
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5 Warning Signs that Tell you if your Business is Headed for Trouble


I didn’t know we were in such a bad shape! How could this happen?” How many times have you heard this from a small business owner whose business is shutting down? For small business owners it is imperative to stay on top of the business like a hawk. Otherwise it is not surprising to wake up one day and find that you are not able to pay your employees or make interest payment to the bank.
We mentioned in earlier post that you have to be able to tell how your business is doing even when someone asks you in the middle of the night. We suggested that you identify key parameters for your business and look at daily, weekly and monthly reports.
We have been asked by number of small business owners if there are simple warning signs that can tell them if the business is headed for trouble – something akin to early warning system. In response, we have come up with 5 metrics that can tell you exactly that. By keeping a keen eye on these metrics you can detect potential problems well in advance and take appropriate actions to correct the path.
Here are those 5 metrics along with explanation of how to calculate them:
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