• Home
  • About
  • Archives
  • Authors
  • Contact
  • Polls
  • Small Biz Interviews

Archive for October, 2011

Top Ten Reasons Small Businesses Fail, part nine: Closed Mind

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Closed Mind

It takes a lot of hard work, focus and persistence to launch a Small Business. Starting with an idea, and (perhaps) some skills, a plan is prepared, financing secured, details dealt with… and a business is born.

The problem is, in the time required to travel from concept to reality, too often Small Business enterpreneurs get stuck in the attitudes and assumptions adopted at the beginning of the journey.

Business plans and financial projections are usually developed long before the business is created. But during that time, demographics change, markets shift and economies worsen or improve. Since business plans and financial projections are rarely revisited (or consulted) during this period, Small Business entrepreneurs may find themselves operating based on inaccurate or outdated assumptions.

In addition… there are the basic human traits of pride and stubborness. Being confronted by the need to re-examine a business plan, or recalculate financial projections, there may be a tendency become defensive, resisting these suggestions, rejecting this well-intended advice as unwanted and unwarranted criticism.

It has often been said that success has a thousand parents, and failure is… umm, an orphan. While the expression implies that many people will take credit for a successful venture after the fact, in this case let us take it to mean that a successful Small Business entrepreneur will not hesitate to consult mentors, advisors and other experienced individuals to seek advice and guidance as they develop their venture from concept to reality.

Nearly every one you know may consider themselves experts on all manner of business-related topics, and even the few of them who actually are may be too familiar to you (or with you) for you to feel comfortable seeking their advice… or heeding their (many) unsolicited words of wisdom.

This doesn’t mean that you need to, or ought to, go it alone. There are many excellent sources of guidance and counsel – a few good places to start are listed below:

  1. SBA
  2. SCORE
  3. Local Business Networking groups

Small Business owners and operators, especially the “solopreneurs” and self-styled mavericks, will have a tendency toDo it My Way“, in the words of the classic tune. While this may seem like a good idea intuitively, if you find yourself struggling to break even after more than a few years, the facts clearly indicate otherwise.

Don’t be afraid to seek advice. It doesn’t mean you’re wrong, or that you’ve failed. If we each knew all the answers, the economy wouldn’t have crashed in ’08, and I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. The fact is, half of all Small Business startups will fail within their first two years.

You obviously don’t want Your Small Business to fall within that statistic. So, as much as it may bruise your pride, remember to keep an open mind… or you may soon be faced with closing shop for the last time

Series inspired by “Top Ten Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail” by: Connie Holt, E.A. cholt@henssler.com
The Henssler Financial Group Position Paper
© 2004 The Henssler Financial Group | www.henssler.com

Cornell Green is Your Open Source CIO, guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

Related articles

Enhanced by Zemanta

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for October, 2011

Merry Thanksoween!: Eight Helpful Tips for Your Small Business and the Approaching Holiday Season

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

It’s almost November, and if you’re not already running around like a headless chicken preparing for the holiday season, you will be soon! Here’s some tips that’ll help get your small business get prepared.

  1. Create an attack plan: Have you started on that sales strategy yet for the holidays? Don’t wait too long! Your competition will start capturing your customers soon if you do not have a good plan!  According to this article from the fantastic Inc Magazine, your approach to the holidays should be planned for all year long.  So, if you haven’t started….what are you waiting for?
  2. Localize for your target audience: If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re a small business owner. If you’re a small business owner, chances are that you have a presence within your own community.  So, are there any local traditions, events and meetings that you can take into account when making your attack plan?  For example, say your community has a tradition of caroling every year or a large holiday event. Then, you might try to create a branding plan around those events or offer services/products that cater to those events to help you get your name out.
  3. Build a base: Be involved in your community. If you’re good with tip 2, you can probably skip this one. If  you don’t have a presence, start building one… now.  Also ramp up the social interactions in Twitter and Facebook.  Now is the time to connect with customers and potential customers using these social tools.
  4. Consider sponsorships: Do something for the community. Perhaps sponsor a festival or some type of talk. Or if there’s a university nearby, get involved in some of their events.  This is a great way to give back to the community and also get your business name out there so you are top of mind when people are shopping.
  5. Stock up on “bestsellers”: Stock up on products your customer wants. Once the holiday season gets rolling, it’s all about the items.  Try and order extra too. That way, you might not run out if an item turns out to be more popular than expected.
  6. Be the best: This is the time when you get to interact with a lot of potential customers either on your website, through social media or in person in your store. Remember at all times make sure you, your business and your employees present a good image that way you give a reason for those customers to come back.
  7. Try new marketing tricks: This is a good time to experiment with offers, advertising and even some fun videos about your business and product/service. Who knows, one of the things you try may help you in the future and create some buzz around your small business.
  8. Be accommodating: This is a busy time for everyone. Try and be flexible about requests, questions and issues that arise with your customers. If they ordered something and there was a problem, try to be as accommodating as possible. You want these customers to come back.  The customer is always right….especially around the holidays!

Hopefully, these tips will help you. Good luck and have a great holiday season!

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for October, 2011

Congrats to Our Longtime Customer PaybaQ on 2011 W3 Award for Their Innovative & Unique Website

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Over the weekend we found out that our long time customer, PaybaQ won a very prestigious W3 Award for outstanding website design.  Paybaq was selected by W3 from over 3,000 entries. The founder of Brian Esposito has been a longtime KikScore customer and proudly displays his KikScore seal on PaybaQ’s website.  PaybaQ is a new age micolending site that has been growing fast and is getting a lot of attention. His KikScore seal has actually helped him increase registrations and sales on his award winning site over 20%.

To find out a little more about PaybaQ, Brian and his CTO Peter Hermsen told us their small business story just last month in one of our most highly read interviews on this blog!  They are clearly on a roll and this great award is just one further step in the growth and development of PaybaQ. Here are the details on the award that PaybaQ received.

Congrats Brian and team.  Keep it up!

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for October, 2011

The Speech AND the Pen are Mightier than the Sword: A KikScore Interview with Jill Foster

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with the amazing Jill Foster, founder of the speech coaching service liveyourtalk. Writing and giving speeches can be a trying task for some, and Jill is definitely the one to go to when that person is you. From my interview alone, I can safely say that Jill is a fun, energetic, and all-around great person who has a lot of wisdom to share with all of us.

Tell me a little about liveyourtalk.

The whole point of liveyourtalk is to provide coaching services in the social tech industry. I help these people improve their written content and social abilities when delivering speeches and other public speaking situations. I love doing what I do and I’m happy to be living out my dream job.

When and why did you decide to create liveyourtalk?

For years I’ve been teaching and doing various projects in the sales and social media circles. Through this time, I’ve seen a lot of fantastic people who could express their brands online and get into an offstage dynamic. However, I also saw a lot of these same people struggle once they got onto the stage. That’s when I decided it was time to start my business.

My business has been going for about a year and a half. I’ve been able to build on two loves: my love of social tech and my love for really thoughtful presentation and speech writing. The way I see it, creating liveyourtalk has been a great chance to bring more truth and fun into this world in terms of presenting and speech writing.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced and overcame in launching liveyourtalk?

I would say that the biggest challenge has been learning how my customers think. This meant studying what the market wants from a speaking coach. In the first year of starting liveyourtalk, I discovered that what I wanted to provide wasn’t necessarily what people in the tech industry wanted from a speech writer. It was also pretty difficult to figure out what language they used when creating content for live audiences. It took a while for me to realize that writing is very much grouped in the world of speech coaching. There are certain content needs that must be made easier.

How do you advertise yourself to get more clients?

Actually, I’d say that 90% of my business comes from word-of-mouth. A lot of that business came from participation in my career before starting liveyourtalk. However, I do participate in Facebook and Twitter; more the former than the latter. In both of these, I participate in specific groups to keep within my target audience. My focus is mainly on media and socially centric clients.

Have you had any trouble proving your business’ credibility and legitimacy to potential customers and website visitors?

Not particularly, but there’s always room for improvement. One thing that I know I could always try to do is find ways to make liveyourtalk more socially accessible. What I mean to say is that, although I haven’t really encountered any problems, I’m fully aware that my site could be improved.

When you’re not working on liveyourtalk, what do you do to relax?

I love to exercise. I also have a lot of fun going out somewhere with my husband or friends. Participating in the social tech community is really enjoyable. In fact, I even have some fun video side-projects.

Based on your expertise, what two or three things do you think small businesses should be doing concerning marketing?

Frankly, there are so many different social marketing and social media opportunities that it can sometimes be daunting. One piece of advice I’d give is to look at your overall goals and choose two media platforms to use. But keep in mind that, even though there are so many different ways to use social media, you don’t have to use them all.

Another important thing is to make sure that your business culture is personalized. Give people a feel for your services and show them how you handle yourself in your industry. Again, there are tons of ways to do this. A good way to do this, in my opinion, is to make a 30 second to 1 minute video that goes over your business. It helps to create an image in people’s minds that they can really understand.

What tools would you recommend in the small business world?

A helpful tool that I use is the search function in Twitter. Even if you don’t participate on Twitter, using it to search for certain keywords can give you a lot of information. It’s really helpful when searching for clients and competitors. You can see if they’re on Twitter and, if they are, what they’re doing.

For businesses that feel more comfortable on social networks, I would also recommend HootSuite. It can help you organize your social media conversations, like those in Facebook and Twitter, as well as set up ongoing feeds for what you search. It also has measuring tools for tracking how much someone is looked at on social media sites.

If you had to pick two lessons that you’ve learned from launching and maintaining liveyourtalk, what would they be?

The greatest lesson I’ve learned in getting liveyourtalk off the ground is that you must develop working systems for your business. It’s important to be fun, clear and artistic when you’re on the stage. Therefore, you need to figure out a system for how to create this feeling while conveying it with good content.

In addition to this, I’ve learned that it is essential to remind yourself to pull back for a minute and look at your business as its own entity. By doing this, you can get an objective view of your business and see how you can make it successful.

Thanks to Jill Foster for an incredible interview! I hope that everyone can learn as much from her expertise and enthusiasm as I have!

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for October, 2011

There is no such thing as a malware free smartphone

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

It’s true.  All smartphones are vulnerable to malware.  However, some phones get targeted more than others.  Here are 5 of the most common smartphones and this is how secure they are.

  1. iPhone: This is the one that most people use. Due to the new iOS for the iPhone, malware is often in the background. It is most commonly found on jailbroken phones.  Since jailbroken phones often contain apps that are not approved by Apple, it’s much easier for malware to get onto the phones. Also since many users do not change the passwords on their jailbroken smartphones, malicious attackers can create worms and infect the operating devices.
  2. Windows Mobile: This is as bad as the computer version.  This is probably due to the fact that there are many similarities between the computer OS and the mobile OS.
  3. Blackberry: …This is actually pretty good, in that there is not much malware that targets blackberries. This is probably due to the fact that the Blackberry OS is kept under wraps. No one knows the details of how the system is programmed. However, the multitasking ability of the Blackberry makes it easy for malware to run unnoticed.
  4. Symbian: This is popular outside the United States. It is also the oldest of the smartphones. There is a lack of information on malware for this smartphone.
  5. Android: Since this is based on the Linux operating  system, there is not much information about malware for this phone either. 3rd party applications are not regulated for this phone.

Many of these phones have  common vulnerabilities. Things such as not changing your password and your settings can cause your phone to become vulnerable. When downloading apps, be careful of where you get the application from and try to download and install apps from reputable sources. Also, be very careful if you decide to jailbreak your phone.

Anyone got any other tips?

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Archive for October, 2011

Online Trust Gets More Validated – Google Introduces Trusted Stores

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

Google just announced a program called Google Trusted Stores. That means that Google has officially joined the trust seal party (see post at DIY Marketers site on the range of trust seal options).  From the information that is available from Google along with the 50 second video on Google Trusted Stores, it looks like Google has seen the same issue many folks see shopping online and are trying now to help address that.  Which stores, especially which small business stores, can you trust when you want to buy online?  The data about shoppers online trust concerns is convincing that there is still a concern that shoppers have when buying on the internet and to top that off 7 out of 10 shopping carts are abandoned.

So Google’s Trusted Stores appears to do the following items:

1. Trust By Association with Google – This service puts Google’s name on your store website – another trust by association for small businesses.  You trust Google so you should trust our store.

2. Google Tracks Product Shipping Timing – Google validates on time shipping for online stores – Does a store have a “high percentage of orders with on time shipping” and “low average days for product to ship.”

3. Google Tracks Customer Service Issues – Google will check to see are there a “high percentage of issues resolved quickly” and is there a “low number of customers needing assistance with an issue.”

4. $1,000 Purchase Protection – Google is going to offer to mediate if a dispute arises between a shopper and a Google Trusted Store and also the shopper will have the opportunity to opt-into getting purchase protection of up to $1,000 (in lifetime claims).

So what is new about what Google is doing in the trust seal space?  They are essentially monitoring, tracking and then in some manner validating shipping, delivery and customer service issues with a online store owners.  These are very important areas for shoppers and website visitors to find out information about prior to a sale, but there are still some areas that are missing as a part of the trust calculation.

Franky, Google looks to be focused on shipping and customer service issues, but does not really cover some other items that are important to the trust calculation for shoppers and these include:

1. Who is behind the website?

2. Where is the website hosted, is it in a country that has a high incidence of fraud?

3. Who is behind the business that runs the website?

4. Who manages the business and do they have a trackrecord of financial reliability or a propensity for committing fraud?

5. Does the business owner or business have any liens or judgements pending against them?

Incidentally, a lot of these questions are actually answered by sites that have a KikScore seal on their site.  So that also helps answer how is KikScore different than the Google Trusted Stores.  If you use KikScore, shoppers at online stores get a look into who is behind the business, the management, website history, customer feedback along with a dynamic and real-time trust score that gives shoppers an indication about whether level of trustworthiness for website owner. Here is an example of two customers: PaybaQ.com and Hand Law Offices.  So if store owners decide to become a Google Trusted Store, they should still look at using the KikScore seal to provide important elements of transparency to website visitors about themselves, their business and track record of success.

Interestingly, Google appears to be focusing on online stores, but small business of all types from lawyers, doctors, contractors, plumbers, bloggers etc can use a trust badge for their website so they can demonstrate that their service business is trustworthy (see Hand Law Office example above).  This is even more important with the increase in local search driving website visitors to new local service provider websites where they currently get little, if any, information about the local service provider beyond what may be on that service provider’s “About Us” page, if they even have one. We at KikScore offer a confidence badge for these types of non-ecommerce stores so that when website visitors locate and visit these small business websites the website visitors can make a determination whether these local businesses are trustworthy and have a track record of reliability too.

All in all an exciting day for our industry.

Please tell us how are you increasing your customer’s trust.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark