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Small Business Toolbox – December Twenty Second

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Share a Sale – An all-in-one platform for creating an affiliate program for your business.  Recruit, manage and pay your affiliates with this easy to manage interface.

Photo Mania – Easy to use web based photo editing software.  Lets you create that “Instagram” feel from your desktop.

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Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

Looking Ahead To 2014

Plan business goals 2014As 2013 comes to an end, it's a good time to relax, take a breathe and enjoy yourself before us business owners start all over again come January.

It's also a good time to reflect on the previous year and think about what you'd like 2014 to look like for both you and your business.

For me, 2013 was a really busy year.  Lots of business growth and several new projects were started that were loads of fun.  Some of them didn't come to fruition (not yet at least), but some of them did (like my podcast), and it makes for an exciting 2014 as there are lots of new opportunities on the horizon.

So what lessons did I learn in 2013?

There is never a shortage of ideas and opportunities. You just have to carefully choose which one's you're going to dedicate your attention to.  I love Derek Sivers philosophy on new opportunities, “if it's not a Hell Yes!, then it's a no”.  I need to learn to say no to opportunities as I had several projects I started and then stopped because I ran out of time and enthusiasm.  In the end, it created chaos with my time and attention and distracted me from doing other important stuff.

I suck at follow through.  I love to start things.  I love the excitement of creating something new, putting it out there and seeing if it works.  What I suck at is the follow through.  After the initial excitement is gone, I tend to move on to try other things instead of focusing on improving what I've already started.  Like above, I need to choose fewer things to put my attention to and see them through.  If I was growing up today, I would surely be diagnosed with ADHD, good thing for me the disorder wasn't invented until I was older.

My messages weren't focused.  From my website copy to my advertisements to this blog, I didn't take the time to tailor my messages according to my audience.  I chose the lazy route and stuck with generic marketing messages to appeal to the masses and the results showed.  My focus in 2014 is to really fine tune how I market my business and have a purpose for everything I do.

So what about 2014?

If you're a small business owner, I think targeted messages and customer service are the keys to a successful 2014, at least for me.  Take a look at some of the things I feel are worth looking at in the coming year.

Platforms

Think about going beyond traditional text based advertising like newspaper ads, blogs, direct mail, etc.  Everyone owns either a smartphone, tablet, or both……there are plenty of different mediums to reach your audience.

Think about using video marketing either via Youtube or even hosting video on your own website (Wistia is great for hosting video on your site).  If you're audience are heavy iTunes users, consider creating a podcast to reach your audience, I recently launch my own podcast a few months ago and the response has been incredible.

Work on building your own audience, whether it's through social media, your website or through email.  If you have an audience, you'll always have someone ready to listen to what you have to say.  The key is to always look to add value for your audience.

 Landing Pages

Creating messages and offers tailored for a specific audience.  Landing pages created for a single purpose and audience tend to convert much (much) higher than sending people to a general page on your website.  Think about the audience you are targeting and come up with a killer offer for them.  Platforms like WordPress makes it pretty easy to create custom landing pages, but even if you're still on an HTML website, you cans till create one off of your site using free web tools like Weebly or even Smore to create a one pager.

Reviews

Google is making a strong push to localizing their search results.  This means your Google+ Local page can rank at the top of the search results, outranking higher authority sites.  Reviews play a big part in ranking (among other factors) and people put a lot of weight on the reviews for a local business.  Getting reviews isn't easy, spend some time creating a system for regularly asking for reviews from your customers.  Slow and steady wins the race.

Customer Service

The last several years saw businesses trying to reduce their customer support costs by taking advantage of technology and automating much of their interactions.  Automated phone answering systems (auto-attendants), automated emails that pretend to be authentic and even automated hand written note cards (you're not fooling anyone Send Out Cards) has resulted in decreased customer satisfaction, a disconnect between business and customer and just a really impersonal way of doing business.  Unless you're a telecom company and could care less about your customers, make an effort to reach out to them for real and let them know you appreciate their business.

Learning

If you're an owner-operator business, your business can't grow faster than you can personally.  Make 2014 a year where you learn new skills that can help grow your business.  This could be learning to use new technologies that can help run your business more efficiently, taking a copywriting course (will help you create really effective ads and web copy) or even a leadership or management course.  Do something to make yourself better in 2014.

Wishing you the best

Here's to a great 2014 for you and your business, cheers!

Small Business Toolbox – December Fourteenth

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

XMind – A very popular and free mind mapping software that lets you easily create mind maps for just abut anything.  Lots of templates to get you started faster and really easy to use.

Unroll.me – Free web app that connects to your email account and cleans up your inbox of the many newsletter subscriptions you have.  Will combine all of the promotional emails you receive into a single daily email.

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Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

Small Business Toolbox – December Seventh

Each week I like to post useful tools and resources that you may be able to use for your business.  The resources I post here are either free or available at a low cost.I don’t go into much detail here, so feel free to check them out yourself and let me know what you think.  If you know of any great tools and services that will help small business owners, please share them in the comments below.

Clicky – Free website analytics tool that easier to read and understand than Google Analytics.  Offers real time analytics, uptime monitoring and a load of other features.

GTMetrix – Free tool that analyzes your your website to ensure it's properly optimized.  Their report will let you know how fast your website is performing and what elements are slowing it down.

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Have questions about the best tools to use for your business?  Contact me with your questions and you can rest assured you will receive a response!  Contact me here

7 Signs You Should Not Start A Business

starting-lemonaide-stand-businessStarting and running your own business requires many skills and talents, much more than you need when working for someone else.  Most people that start a business  are quickly overwhelmed when the avalanche of demands that a business requires of its owner comes crashing down on them.

That weight and accompanying stress can really take a toll on you.

From marketing to sales to janitorial services, you will need to wear dozens of hats in the early years of your business.  Some people make it and some don’t.  Below are some of the traits that may NOT make you a good candidate to start your own business.  Some traits on the list can be overcome while others, if you have them, will most likely doom you from the start.

 

You Cannot Delegate

When you are first starting a business, this isn’t very important as it’s expected that the owner will do everything.  And you should be doing everything, that’s how you will learn the ins and outs of your business and will be able to teach the employees who you will eventually hire.  The problem is that many business owners never get out of this stage.

As your business grows and you start to expand past a one man band, you will need to hire and train new people, who will do things that you used to do.  If you’re the micromanaging, “get out of my way, I can do it better” kind of guy, you may be in trouble.

The good news is that delegating can be learned, though it can be a difficult skill to acquire as you have to learn to let go of things you may want to keep close.

 

You Are Indecisive

If you are the type of person who spends 10 minutes in line trying to decide what extra value meal to order, you better start to sharpen your decision making skills.  The truth is this, as a business owner you will have to make lots and lots of decisions everyday…….and a lot of them will be wrong.  But you still have to make them.

You will not have time to hem and haw over every little decision, sometimes you have to make a quick decision and adjust as time goes on.  The key is to make your good decisions count and to minimize the impact of your less than stellar ones.  The truth is, is that most decisions you will make will not be great or bad but somewhere in the middle.  The key is being able to pull the trigger with limited information and to trust yourself.

 

You Are Financially Challenged

Do you know the difference between revenue and cash flow?  If you don’t, you may not last very long.  I admit, this is my weak point.  I like ideas and challenges, not bookkeeping and budgets.  But just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I don’t have to have a working knowledge of it.  If you abdicate all of your financial responsibilities to your accountant, you'll be in for a nice surprise when he tells you that you won't be making payroll next week….ouch!

 

You Are Not a People Person

An old Chinese proverb says “Don’t open a shop unless you like to smile”.  I’m not sure if there is such a thing as a business that does not have customers, but chances are that yours will.  If you are not good with people, most likely your employees will not like working for you and your customers will not like buying from you.  It might be hard to be successful with that one, two punch.

 

You Are a Know It All

Nobody likes a know it all.  I had a chief that I worked for in the fire department, we called him “Joe It All”.  He really wasn’t liked or respected.  Even if you are the smartest person in the room, you don’t have to constantly let other people know it.

As a business owner and a leader, your job is to make your employees and your customers the stars of the show.  If you’re the type that always needs the credit and the spotlight, your employees will most likely hate you and will not work very hard for you.  Why would they?, you’ll most likely hog the glory anyway.

 

You Are Afraid of Confrontation

As a business owner, you will have to step right into the middle of uncomfortable positions.  Whether it’s reprimanding (or firing) an employee, dealing with an angry customer, or even worse….a customer you have disappointed.  As the head honcho, your employees and customers will look to you when difficult situations arise.  If the thought of that gives you a tingling sensation in your belly button, maybe you should re-think being the boss.

 

 You Are Not a “Learner”

This may be the most important trait that dooms most business owners, though the rest of them do make it difficult to succeed.  Running your own business requires so many skills, most of which you will not have when you first start out.

The most successful business owners are the ones that learn new skills, learn from their mistakes and make learning a part of their daily life.  Ask any successful business owner how much more they know now than when they started their business and they will laugh at the idea of how stupid they were when they first started out.

 

After reading this article, you’ll probably still run out and start a business, even if you have many of the above traits.  That’s exactly what I did, despite having several of them (I still have a few).  The key is to learn from your mistakes, move on and try to improve a little everyday.

Check out what traits DO lead to a successful business, “Ten Keys To A Successful Business And Life”

photo credit: scottchan