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Archive for the ‘Small Business Tips’ Category

Guest Post: Key Business Lessons from Chelsea’s Unexpected UEFA Champions’ League Victory

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Football (Soccer), like many sports has grand lessons for any business enterprise. This because sports teams are complicated business enterprises that are supposed to both entertain (hence are mired in all sorts of strange emotions) and make money applying skills of players with different sorts of talent yet liable to injuries that turn the fortunes of a team upside down anytime in a season.

Chelsea of England has been a great Premier League and European team since it was purchased by Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch, in 2003. In seeking greatness (read, winning the Champions’ League trophy which is as prestigious as the World Cup for European club teams and global players at club level alike), many Chelsea coaches have fallen victim to this objective (the current coach is the 8th in that period, serving in an interim capacity). The dismissals have come even where other teams would have paid to be in Chelsea’s shoes (e.g. losing the final of the Champions’ League, winning the Premier League and FA Cup etc.)!

At the start of the 2011-12 season, Chelsea paid thirteen million pounds for the coach they much coveted to be released by his club Porto from his contract. This coach was brought in with two key objectives for him, transition the club into a greater club by culling the team of its older players making the team dependent on younger ones, and change the team’s playing style into an attractive one like that of Barcelona and Arsenal. In business parlance, he was the change agent to make the organization better placed to compete in the future.

The way he went about this was wanting from the start. His pronouncements in public about “this project” as he put it, especially on the old players did not help his cause. He completely antagonized those the club depended upon over many years and still had much to give, both in terms of performance and passing knowledge through their experience to the next generation. In the process, he isolated them!

His presence at Chelsea turned into unmitigated disaster given the results which placed the club out of its customary top 4 in the premier league (which comes with participation in the Champions League, thirty million pounds for competing and hence is a boost to a club’s finances, in addition to serving as an attraction for the best players in the world which guarantees staying in the upper reaches of football). He was fired in the middle of the season. Players breathed a sigh of relief on his departure.

His assistant, a former Chelsea player with minimal coaching experience at the top levels replaced him in an interim capacity. Every experienced manager, pundit, and media person at the time predicted nothing but doom for Chelsea. In addition to poor premier league performances (they ended the season 6th), Chelsea had just lost a Champions’ League game and were likely to be eliminated from the next round. The playing unit was suffering from a total lack of motivation with senior players on the team shocked by the treatment they received. In essence, the club was totally dysfunctional.

The new manager though interim seemed to turn this around. He did a number of things right. He met each player personally, and explained each one’s role he was going to play moving forward in the short period of the season remaining. He decided games were going to be played applying strategies and tactics amenable to the players available vis-à-vis the opponent. Every player young and old alike got a clean slate in competing for a place on the team. The team was going to work and fight for each other. As the media and experts continued to spell the doom awaiting Chelsea game to game, the team went about its business of winning by using the most pragmatic means necessary. In the process, they were either lucky or indeed created their own luck! The manager sought leadership from players within the playing unit. You didn’t have to be captain to lead. It was expected of you as a member of the playing unit to play that role.

In doing so, they reached the final of the Champions’ League when least expected, eliminating arguably the best team in Europe, Barcelona at the semi-final stage. The final was going to be a taller order as they were playing at the home of their opponent, Bayern Munich. All pundits deemed Chelsea a non-issue, handing Bayern the trophy before a ball was kicked. This team was arguably the worst seen at Chelsea in the last eight years, albeit the core of the playing unit having been there in the same period. Matters were made worse by the fact that four of their best players were suspended for the final. When the team won the Champions’ League trophy, players young and old stated clearly that their season was turned around when the prior manager left. Others have stated they will never forgive him for the way he treated them – such was the dysfunctional state of affairs at the club in his presence, and justifies how massive an accomplishment winning this trophy was.

What business lessons are here that we can learn from Chelsea’s success under the prevailing circumstances?  Here are a few:

1)    Recognize that job titles do not necessarily tell who your best leaders are on your team. Some team members are leaders by virtue of what they do and their influence on the rest of the team. For Chelsea these leaders were Didier Drogba, Ashley Cole and Petr Cech (none is either captain or vice-captain on the team). They gave 100% every game, even when the team was supposed to be at its worst. They rose to the occasion in special ways each game. Identify your team members who take pride in speaking through their actions. Reward them accordingly, as you need them and they will come through for you at your hour of need!

2)    Team members who understand where the company has come from and the micro-culture within it can save a sinking ship. The interim manager, a former Chelsea player, brought the team together, with players responding due to the respect they afforded him having been in their shoes before. Do not underestimate the value that can be brought by people who have played a role in the past, especially in times of crisis. Don’t burn bridges with team members who leave, they may come in handy in the future when you most need them!

3)    Create your luck and ride it! Chelsea did so by implementing tactics to suit the players they had on the playing unit in a very disciplined and systematic fashion. Everyone in the team (manager, players, and staff) was on the proverbial same page all the way to the last and most important game of their season! They took advantage of any mistakes of omission or commission by the other team at every occasion. For this, they were crowned champs for the most prestigious trophy in Europe at club level, something they have failed having been to at least the semi-final stage six previous times when they were at their best!

4)    You are as strong as your weakest link. Clarity of purpose is essential to success even when failure is the assured result. Each member understanding their role and how their non-performance will result in sure failure for the whole is fundamental. This has to be set at the top, yet and most importantly it also has to be passed on to the team clearly. At Chelsea, the interim manager accomplished it by speaking to each player individually and ensured that each understood their role clearly as they strode toward the team’s end goal.

Let us know if you have any lessons from the most unlikely victory in the comments section.

GUEST POST: This article is a guest post to the KikScore blog from Eric Akunda who was moved to write this after he saw the victory by Chelsea and then saw the parallels to large companies, small businesses and startups!

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Archive for the ‘Small Business Tips’ Category

Small Business Tips & Guidance from Moooh’s Carlo Trotta – Selling from China, Serving the World

Monday, April 30th, 2012

I had the opportunity to interview Carlo Trotta from Moooh!! and he had a lot of interesting things to say in the interview below.

1. Tell us about your business and who you focus on serving?

Moooh!! is the first social luxury commerce website. We design, handcraft and sell custom made jewelry, apparels, shoes, fashion accessories, ethnic home decor, gifts idea. At moment we sell only jewelry and few accessories, but in the next months we will add many other products. Almost all the products sold on Moooh!! are proudly Made in China. I don’t understand why many luxury brands producing in China, often don’t disclose to their customers the origin place of their products. Moooh!! serve a wide target of customers, people who loves beautiful things, made with good material, good quality manufacturing , elegant, fashionable, unique. Everything sold at very competitive price.

2. How did you get started selling online?

I started to sell on Ebay. Being power seller on different accounts and then I left because of the increasing Ebay commission fees, harassment policy for the sellers and low seller protection given by Paypal.

3. What inspires you to grow your business?

Give to people the possibility to access to beautiful and fashionable quality items at very competitive prices. I want to create a community of shoppers and small businesses through Reward Programs, Promotions, Sweepstakes, Affiliate Programs and other strategic initiatives that we will take during the year.

4. If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

Total dedication to the customers.  You must create and offer what the customer is looking for, customize and personalize for your customers, then reward them for their purchases. Finally, invest your time more than money.

5. Where has your business focused most of its energy this year?

I will invest in inbound and online marketing. Also I will be really focusing on spread my social media presence so I can create a community of shoppers and small businesses around Moooh!!

6. What do you see as 2 new trends for small businesses and in your business?

I can “predict” a much deeper use of social media and blogging.  It is almost a must these days!  I’m also quite sure also that many small businesses will start to consider developing some type of mobile applications for their business.  Mobile is really taking off and small businesses need to focus on what is their mobile strategy!

7. If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

Rocky. Starting from less than zero, exercise, learn, fight, fall down and stand up until the victory. I hope I can make my own movie.

8. If your business could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

Actually no one, but myself, my customers, my affiliates and small businesses than are around Moooh!! That’s very social and also my dream spokepersons!

9. What is the biggest challenge that your business faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

Raising money to develop and grow the business. I cannot see any other challenge considering that I live in China and there’s no better place than here to have a business and catch the huge opportunities that this wonderful country offers.  That being said raising capital and having enough capital is the biggest challenge.  That capital will make or break making small businesses in China that are serving the world market like me.

10. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

Concentrate your effort on your customers, make the product they need, make them love the product they buy and then they will purchase more from you and spread the word. Also relentlessly focus on reduce expenses, cut the unnecessary costs so you can invest your time and dedication to your business. But don’t forget also to dedicate time to your family and friends:) That will keep you truly happy.

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Archive for the ‘Small Business Tips’ Category

Small Business Interview with Troy Fimrite from the Atlin Institute

Friday, April 20th, 2012
Atlin

I had the opportunity to interview Troy Fimrite from the Atlin Institute and he had a lot of interesting things to say in the interview below.

Tell us about your business and who you focus on serving?

You know how people buying a business for the first time are making a big life decision, need to buy the right one and not lose their money? Well, we help them with a money saving resource www.buyertoolkit.com that answers a lot of questions and makes it easy for them to buy a business for the first time.

How did you get started selling online?

I have been involved in buying and selling companies for 20 years and constantly answer emails, phone calls and interviews by people looking for a answers as they look to buy a business for the first time. I decided to utilize the internet and create a downloadable product to make it easy for people around the world to quickly understand the way to buy a business. The whole idea is to make it easy to understand, simple to follow and make it as easy as 1-2-3!

What inspires you to grow your business?

I am an Entrepreneur and absolutely love growing business! I have been very fortunate to be mentored by many incredibly successful business people and now also mentor people new to business through Universities, Accelerator programs and Entrepreneurship programs. I am inspired every time someone takes a step towards business ownership and truly love helping them along the way!

If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

A/B test everything. And you do not know what will work until you try it!

Where has your business focused most of its energy this year?

I have several businesses that are in different stages so I spend time working with each one to ensure they are efficient, growing and profitable. My time with the Buyer Tool Kit is to constantly improve the content and make sure customers understand the simple steps to buy a business!

What do you see as 2 new trends for small businesses and in your business?

The access to the Internet and advanced technology is opening up new markets for business owners without large investments and the second is the movement of people wanting their own business as additional income.

If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

James Bond. He is always one step ahead, has timeless knowledge, uses excellent tips and tricks and always achieves a happy ending!

If your business could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

Richard Branson, Incredible businessman who has started and bought hundreds of businesses!

What is the biggest challenge that your business faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

To create an online presence that earns the trust of people looking to buy a business and provide a product that can truly save them thousands of dollars. We are focused on gathering user feedback, adding up the dollars we have saved for people and using great trust indicators that actually add value like KikScore!

Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

I will share this simple quote that was passed on to me by a really successful business mentor: ” Troy, you make money when you buy.”

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Archive for the ‘Small Business Tips’ Category

News Roundup: Inc. Magazine & SmallBiz Technology Talking About KikScore

Monday, April 9th, 2012

We just wanted to send a special shout out to our friends at one of the best magazines around, Inc Magazine (see our previous post on our love for Inc. Magazine), and Ramon Ray's SmallBiz Technology Blog.  Over the last few weeks, both of these great websites not only mentioned KikScore but used us as important data points for both How to Build a Website that Inspires Trust and also Managing Your Online Reputation and Taking Steps to Protect it.

The Inc. Magazine post discusses the important concept of making sure your business website conveys trust and credibility.  If you remember, we actually were the guest host for #SmallBizChat on that very topic last year so feel free to check out our presentation and tips that was rated one of the top 10 tweetchats of all of 2011. Thanks to Jon Gelberg for mentioning us in the article.  We really appreciate it.

The SmallBiz Technology article discusses the increasingly important issue of how do businesses manage their reputation in a comprehensive way from what is said on third party sites and then taking the best reputational information and making sure that makes it onto the small business' website.  Just like so many of the great articles on Ramon Ray's blog, the article discusses how there is a real need for a 360 degree solution for small businesses so they can collect and use reputational information from across the internet (Yelp, Google feedback, Facebook posts, Tweets etc) to get more business from their websites.  We are really honored to be mentioned as a product that helps deliver part of that 360 degree reputation management solution to small businesses.

Thanks to both of these great websites for covering and discussing KikScore.

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Archive for the ‘Small Business Tips’ Category

Small Business Interview with Ruben Guerin from Cookbook Village

Friday, March 16th, 2012
I had the opportunity to interview Ruben Guerin from Cookbook Village and he had some very interesting insights into the current state of e-commerce and small businesses.  Ruben also had some great recommendations for small businesses just getting started selling online in the interview below.

Tell us about your business and who you focus on serving?

Cookbook Village has been around several years, but as a popular eBay store. The new store, which opened in January 2012, caters to collectors and cookbook enthusiasts and offers collectible, vintage and used cookbooks.

How did you get started selling online?

My wife had been a collector for years and asked me at one point to sell her collection on eBay. She was fascinated by e-commerce and wanted to us to try it out. There is an audience for collectible cookbooks and we knew it as soon as her original collection was nearly depleted. To keep the store going and our own collecting habit fed, we began scouting cookbooks all over the region. Finally last year, we decided to plan to open our own e-commerce store in 2012. It was six months in the making as we wanted it to be our dream site. We opened in early December and are now entering month four.

What inspires you to grow your business?

I was a 20-year employee of Shell Petroleum when I lived in The Netherlands. I gave up a stable career there to move to the United States with my wife–she had wanted to return home after living there for over 10 years. My world changed quite a bit and I have had to try to re-establish myself. Cookbook Village is my chance at again having a thriving career, this time running my own business. People have said a printed book is becoming a thing of the past. I believe that cookbooks are something you need to touch and feel and I am out to prove they will be around for a long time into the future. Growth is key in any business.

If you had two lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

1) Selling online is a business like any other. You have to put a lot of time and effort into making it successful. It is not as easy as putting up a cart page and hitting publish. There are many facets to selling online and I think many new store owners expect it to be easy with a “build it and they shall come” mentality. That is a mistake.

2) Ensure that you plan ways to engage your audience. Cookbook Village has a strong focus on audience engagement and customer service. We are constantly thinking of new ways to reach out and provide our site’s users and customers with content and products that meet their needs. Social media and search engines are both kings in the world of e-commerce. Neither should be taken lightly and both should be a focus when you are building your online store or business. I see many online businesses today that practice one-way communication. This is why the KikScore seal is so important to us. It is a means for customers to provide feedback in a trusted, third-party app.

Where has your business focused most of its energy this year?

Since we have only recently launched the new cookbookvillage.com store we have been focused heavily on tuning our store to offer a better customer experience. Also, we are heavily focused on building store traffic and brand awareness. Through social channels, blogging and SEO, we are starting to gain momentum. We didn’t expect a single sale for the first several months. We were being conservative. We are prohibited from reaching out to our eBay base, so essentially we’ve had to start over. We made a sale in the couple days after hitting “public” in our cart application. What a surprise, but it’s set the bar a bit higher as well.

What do you see as two new trends in small business and in your business?

Pinterest and similar visual sharing platforms are hot right now, especially for e-commerce. The fastest online sale we’ve ever seen came just seconds after hitting “Pin” on one of our books. We are seeing similar platforms come out so we are tracking them closely to see if there are opportunities.

Integrations in technology have really helped streamline small businesses like ours. Our shopping cart platform, Shopify, integrates with a lot of wonderful apps. KikScore, email apps, order status apps and more make the store easier to manage. The fact that companies are working together to provide more integration and features for end-users is a blessing. We wouldn’t have been able to do half of what we’ve accomplished without a platform like Shopify and all of it’s partner applications.

If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. Cookbooks make people happy. We like making the connection between cookbook and cook, often bringing customers a cookbook that has a deep connection with a childhood or memorable event. Over the years, we have received many letters from people we’ve touched. Some of those letters describe the memories the customer has had come to life from a book from their past and being able to find it again. I can’t think of many retail items that have the power to bring someone to tears. We are a business like any other and need to profit to carry on and survive, but we like the fact that we make people happy. It’s a win-win situation for both Cookbook Village and our customers.

If your business could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

Russ Parsons, food editor at LA Times did an article on our store. He had stumbled upon our site a week after launch. He has a huge following and a lot of influence in our market. We followed him on the Daily Dish blog but weren’t truly aware of his love of cookbook collecting until we saw the article about Cookbook Village. What a spokesperson he would be! He understands the culinary world and the audience–and is himself a collector. Having someone like that discuss our business is powerful because he understands both the industry and the market. The day that article came out was a day we will forever remember. We were so surprised to see it. It was the perfect article and we wouldn’t have changed a word. If we could pick a second it might have to be one of the Top Chef hosts. We love that show and all its hosts.

What is the biggest challenge that your business faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

The biggest challenge we face tends to be too many ideas, too little time to execute them. Since we are still small and starting out, we need to do it on our own. Our store model patterns the brick-and-mortar boutique store experience–customer service focused with a richer focus on cookbook details versus the one line descriptions you often see on online book sites. That means complete cookbook details and vivid photos of the items (no stock photos of our books). That takes a lot of time. Also all the marketing and customer outreach can be draining. So when do we work on all these updates, promotions and new ideas? We overcome the obstacle by logging each idea and making a fixed time each week to execute at least one of them.

Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

A strong focus on providing good customer service is as important to online businesses as traditional businesses. With the current social climate online, customers have the power to help promote your business alongside you. Don’t take for granted. Some people may love a quick get-in, get-out experience but others prefer a connection and a sense of community. Online retailers should strive to bring customers the best of both worlds.

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Archive for the ‘Small Business Tips’ Category

The Fabric of a True Leader – My Takeaways from the Last 5+ Years

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

As many of the readers of this blog know, my day job has been at a large web services company over the last few years.  Today is my final day of juggling the absolutely exhausting schedule of a demanding full-time day job and simultaneous full nights and weekend entrepreneur with KikScore.  I am very excited for that, however, the only major downside really is I now have to find another excuse for why I am 10 pounds overweight, have no time to work out, am balding and have those dark circles under my eyes!

The substance of this post and the story that provides that substance has been years in the making. In short, this post is about the lessons I learned from an undeniable true leader, my former boss (who also left the company this past November).  Therefore this is a very personal and important post for me for two reasons: 1) to provide a way of saying thanks to him and 2) to share with the broader community some of the incredible traits that I hope we all strive for in leadership positions that we are in or may be in one day.  My tribute to him will only really be complete if I can embody and carry many of these same traits to KikScore and beyond in my career and not end up like the guy from the CareerBuilder ad (great song by the way from one of my all time favorite commercials)!

Instead of a long story, the best way to convey to readers what I experienced and learned first hand is by sharing the traits that he repeatedly demonstrated in his daily work and interactions with our team, management, board of directors, third parties, employees throughout the organization and even adversaries trying to sue the company.   The traits broadly broke down into four main areas:

1) Personality;

2) Management;

3) Strategy; and

4) Interaction with Others.

Just for some important context, I saw these traits and actions of this leader over the backdrop of more than 5 years, 4 different management teams (including 4 different CEOs) and 3 different owners that included two separate private equity firms.  His approach to leadership and managing his team instilled a tremendous amount of loyalty not just with me, but throughout the entire organization and especially with his ability to successfully manage through external crisis scenarios and heavy media scrutiny.  A testament to that is over the last few years there was not one person that had the overall and nearly universal respect of the multiple management teams, middle level management and employee base as well as scores of people outside of the company (even competitors too!) and in the community that consistently and repeatedly recognized and often commented on how phenomenal of a leader and person my former boss is.  The funny thing is I honestly think there are probably more than 20 people today across many of these organizations around the world that would write this very same post I am writing about him because our experiences with him have been so similar.

So based on my last 5+ years, the fabric of a true leader can best be described the following way:

A Leader’s Personality Matters

1) Be the person that sets the example and the standard for others

2) Remain calm during a crisis and when others are in various states of panic because that calmness helps everyone make better decisions

3) Keep everything in perspective, even when going through ups and downs as a company and team

4) Stick up for those people who do not have a voice, they will repay you with loyalty and even harder work

5) Be courageous and have the conviction to present a different opinion (just make sure to back it up with data and facts)

6) Steer clear of the politics for a decision and focus instead on what is the right decision for the business

7) Take the time to laugh and enjoy the moment – laughter can often diffuse the inevitable tense meetings and events that we all experience

A Leader Helps Create and Implement a Strategy

8 Work to create an overall mission/strategy that defines the role for yourself and the people you manage

9) Remain flexible and open minded in the tasks and roadmap needed to execute on the strategy

10) Always game plan so you think two and three steps ahead of decisions/actions taken so a team can adequately anticipate possible outcomes

11) Relentlessly focus on customers and employees for the overall strategy and the decisions that are made in executing on that strategy

A Leader Manages with Common Sense

12) Know the role that you have as the leader of a team and focus on consistently delivering in that role

13) As you manage and lead your team, work to ensure that the team clearly understands the strategy and mission that is to be accomplished and their individual roles in achieving the mission

14) Ask lots of questions, but do not second guess subject matter experts by replacing their recommendations with your own gut feelings

15) Learn to deflect praise to the team and team members

16) Actively promote the careers of deserving team members even if they end up having to leave your team

17) Communicate, communicate and then communicate some more with your team

A Leader Makes a World of Difference to Others Through Their Interactions

18) Set your own high standard for interacting with others and make sure you do not get drawn into reacting to other people’s behavior and negativity

19) Avoid unnecessary escalations where you need to “go over someone’s head” and instead give people the benefit of the doubt

20) Take the extra time to remove the attitude from communication and email – the attitude almost always is counterproductive to everyone involved

21) When in doubt, have a face to face conversation instead of trying resolve items over email, that hardly works

22) Be respectful of others’ workloads even when you are much busier than they are

23) Focus on the person that is talking to you, do not multitask and look at your email when they are asking you questions or talking to you

24) Encourage learning from failure and mistakes instead of pointing fingers

I could probably go on and on, especially with more than 5 years of material but then I would lose probably even more readers than I already have with this long post.  Ultimately, a person is perceived and recognized as a leader for a number of reasons often due to their own merit or in some instances just due to association with certain people in an organization.  This post is about laying out the path to do it on your own merit because that is what I saw first hand for the last few years with my former boss. I am forever better off for being part of a team that had a one of a kind leader that taught me (and many others on our team and beyond): that leaders succeed by standing up for a core set of values, working exceptionally hard, taking care of their people, and caring deeply about customers and fellow teammates.


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A Look Behind Talk Business With Howard & His Tips To Grow Your Company

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

As everyone knows I am a huge Cleveland Browns fan and I have to say I do generally dislike all things Pittsburgh (Steelers!).  But I have the constant and recurring issue in my life of getting connected to just some fantastic people from Pittsburgh.  Well it starts with my wife, Rebecca, but it goes on an on.  It is really tough for me to keep up my angst about the 3 River city when they just have such great people from there!

So I met another former Pittsburgher, Howard Lewinter from yet another Pittsburgh native Ivana Taylor of DIY Marketers (and of course I met Ivana through Anita Campbell.....ah yes another Ex-Pittsburgher).  About a month ago Ivana said to me I just have to meet Howard because he is great.  You know what, Howard is just fantastic and has been tremendously helpful in providing amazing practical guidance and direction to me at KikScore, among other things.  Then I found out that Howard has launched his own new radio show called Talk Business with Howard.  It is a great hour of radio where he interviews and talks with small business thought leaders and entrepreneurs.  The nuggets coming out of the show are excellent.  We at KikScore highly recommend Howard's show to all of the businesses, startups and the entrepreneur community.  So we are really excited to give you a look behind Talk Business with Howard and also Howard takes a few minutes to give some great guidance to all of us business owners.

1. Tell us about your business and who you focus on serving?

I’m a Business Management Specialist. I advise, guide and focus CEOs, presidents and business owners.  My specialty is solving business problems and business issues. Whatever is holding you back from greater profit and success. I help CEOs, presidents and business owners get to where they want to be with their business regardless of what’s happening in the economy.

2. How did you get the idea for Talk Business With Howard?

I was sitting at my desk one day thinking about how many times I had to spell my name over and over again when I would talk with people and gave them my web or email address.  Although I’d been working with CEOs, presidents and business owners since 1989, about 5 years ago on that day I was sitting at my desk I asked myself the question of: What do I do?  I answered myself: I talk about business.  That’s how the URL of my website plus blog, radio show and Facebook page became Talk Business With Howard.  Easy to remember and very descriptive as to what I do.

3. What upcoming topics are you going to cover on the radio show?

My goal is always to get people in business to really think.  The greatest asset anyone has is to be thinking clearly and to have a positive attitude.  How you think determines how successful you will be in business – or anything else. The topics covered on Talk Business With Howard, either the blog or the radio show, always relate to business success.  Topics include: Almost anything you can think of related to running a successful, profitable business.

4. If you had 2 lessons learned from starting your radio show that you could pass on to others about starting a business, what are those?

First: Plan.  Be prepared.  Second: Know who you are and where you want to go.  Relax and be yourself.

5. Where has your business focused most of its energy this year?

The focus is always on the need of the client.  My objective is to help CEOs, presidents and business owners breakthrough the barriers that keep them from the success they deserve.  I’ve advised business people to become millionaires; struggling companies to stabilize, turnaround and become profitable again; and I’ve advised multi-millionaires.  I help successful business people become more successful – or successful once again.

6. What do you see as 2 new trends that your guests are talking about for small business?

Several years ago everyone who ran a company wanted to talk about employee problems – how to train, motivate and have employees do the best work they possibly can; and how to grow their business. Today many businesses are talking about survival and how to best navigate through this uncertain economy.  The two topics they are most interested in are: 1) prospecting for new leads  2) closing more sales.

7. Who would be your dream guest for the radio show and why?

It’s not just one individual.   It’s any book author or business person that will help the listeners understand how to run or operate a better business with less stress and more profit.

8. What is the biggest challenge that your business and your show faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

Time.  There is no more time.  So whether someone is running their business or hosting a radio show, they have to use their time wisely.  You can buy a new car, get new clothes, go out to a fabulous restaurant, take a vacation or any other number of things; but the one thing you can’t buy is time.  You can’t get any more time.  There are only 24 hours in a day.  That’s it.  Use time wisely.

9. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

Yes! Don’t think of yourselves as small business.  Think as a business that every day is gaining momentum and growing into a very nice sized business that will help bring profit to the company and provide for their family, employees and everyone they are associated with a very nice living and way of life.

10. What is your 140 letter Twitter quote of your message to small businesses out there in the form of guidance, lessons learned or just your special thought?

Don't sit behind your desk. Get out there. Get involved. Be in action with your business.

Thanks Howard for sitting down with us.  If any of our readers have questions for Howard, please leave them in the comments section and we will work to get answers to those questions.

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Archive for the ‘Small Business Tips’ Category

Untapped Potential in and around the Capital: How the GWR can catch up to Silicon Valley

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

When it comes to entrepreneurial success in technology, everyone thinks of Silicon Valley. The irony here is that, in spite of its highly entrepreneurial and technology-savvy environment, the Greater Washington Region (GWR) has not been able to catch up with Silicon Valley. This issue has perplexed many people in the GWR and spurred them to try and bridge this entrepreneurial gap. However, some things are not so easy to solve, and this conundrum has many different angles to it. Luckily, Amplifier Ventures’ own Jonathan Aberman, who is also co-chair of Startup Virginia and president of FounderCorps, has developed a report on the GWR and how it fares in surpassing Silicon Valley as the center of technology entrepreneurship.

Another Way

As Aberman discusses, businesses within the GWR have tried to understand why Silicon Valley remains at the helm of technology entrepreneurship. Like most of us, these businesses have looked towards the everlasting concept: To defeat your opponent, you must become your opponent. Such thoughts have led many to consider one of two options on how the GWR can become the new Silicon Valley:

1)      We can mimic Silicon Valley’s infrastructure by fostering particular aspects of its entrepreneurial demographic such as its capital and workforce.

2)      We can adopt the cultural mentality of Silicon Valley by creating a greater sense of connection and support amongst the entrepreneurial community.

Although these are good ideas, Aberman sees fault in how the supporters of these theories are viewing the issue at hand. No two people are alike, so we can hardly expect that two separate regions can be the same. Aberman feels that we cannot look for patterns that contribute to Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial success just so we can copy it. Rather, he believes we must utilize these observed patterns in a way that caters to the GWR’s own unique infrastructure and culture. This being said, Aberman proposes that the GWR’s solution to overtaking Silicon Valley lies in mergers and acquisitions.

The Hard Facts

Of course, nothing changes if a proposal has no foundation. That is why Aberman has provided a convincing series of facts regarding M&A in both the GWR and Silicon Valley. Aberman examines the Financials, Healthcare, High Technology, Industrials, Media and Entertainment, and Telecommunications industry sectors of both regions from 2007 to 2011 in order to find substantive evidence to his claim.

Across these technology-intensive sectors, two particular points stick out. First of these is the difference in the amount of each regions’ local acquisitions. Of the acquired Silicon Valley companies between 2007 and 2011, approximately 45% were bought up by local firms. On the other hand, only around 37% of GWR companies were acquired by firms in the same region. The second point that deserves attention is the diversity of acquisitions among the various sectors. Silicon Valley saw around 64% of its acquisitions in High Technology. Although this is the same sector that the GWR had the majority of its acquisitions in, it was only around 37%. This means that, despite both regions focusing on High Technology, the GWR was much more diversified amongst the sectors.

What does it Mean?

From the differences in local acquisitions and the amount of diversity across the sectors, Aberman demonstrates his opinion of the issue at hand. By experiencing almost half of its acquisitions locally, Silicon Valley is essentially recycling its own resources. Beneficial assets such as innovative ideas, patents, and knowledgeable workers are not leaving Silicon Valley, but staying together. This consolidation allows for acquiring companies to gain valuable products and services from others with the same regional mindset, ensuring that the acquisition itself will be smoother.

On the other hand, Aberman explains that Silicon Valley’s inclination towards High Technology provides yet another reason that the GWR has trouble catching up. By focusing so much more on High Technology than any other sector, entrepreneurs within Silicon Valley can quickly create startup companies, sell them, and begin again. In the GWR’s case, focusing more evenly on the various sectors means that there are less companies that are looking to acquire startups, therefore causing a slower creation and acquisition cycle.

Putting it all Together

From these two points, Aberman surmises that businesses in the GWR are not catering enough to their own region. Entrepreneurs in the GWR need to focus more on what local businesses are demanding. By doing so, the likelihood of companies being created and bought will increase and the cycle will speed up. Although such a process will take a large deal of time and effort, Aberman offers a far more feasible solution that past ideas which proposed a simple copy and paste method.

If anyone is interested in gaining a better understanding of this issue, contact info@startupva.org and request a copy of “Merger and Acquisition Trends in Silicon Valley and the Greater Washington Region: 2006 – 2011.”

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Archive for the ‘Small Business Tips’ Category

Top Five Tech Tools You’re Probably Not Using – but SHOULD BE: part one

Thursday, February 9th, 2012

Instant Messaging

If you’re like most Small Business owners or operators “of a certain age”, your view of Instant Messaging, if you have one, may be similar to one of the following statements:

  1. Instant Messaging is for kids
  2. I have an email account – what do I need messaging for?
  3. It’s too complicated
  4. I don’t have time for that nonsense
  5. What good could this messaging stuff do for my Small Business?


I’m sure most of you reading this can relate to at least one of the statements above; the last one asks the question is, in fact, the topic of today’s post.

Business, as I’ve mentioned in the previous series, is about relationships. Relationships, in turn, are about communication. I’m sure it’s no secret that email is an essential Small Business tool — if nothing else, it has allowed Small Businesses to save on postage and shipping costs once required to provide instant communication. Where it once took a special delivery or overnight package delivery (and still took at least a day) to ship critical documents to a business partner, vendor or client, we can now attach a PDF or word processor file to an email, and the relevant party receives it almost instantly.

Thus the “instant” in instant messaging — “IM“, as it is commonly known, combines the quickness of a phone conversation with the permanence of text. This second component is not to be overlooked, or taken lightly. How many times have you spoken with someone about a previous conversation, struggling to recall an important detail that neither of you can remember now, because you weren’t recording the call or taking notes?

IM-ing is nothing but taking notes, real-time, as you engage in conversation. Even with a stenographer on hand, you would still probably miss much, and usually only capture your side of the call. With IM, the transcription IS the conversation and, in addition, you have the benefit of:

  1. Including links to relevant websites
  2. Transferring electronic documents and digital images
  3. Copy-and-pasting information from emails and existing documents
  4. Creating a “paper trail” for reference and auditing purposes


In addition to these benefits, IM helps reduce the occurrence of  ”foot-in-mouth disease“: since you type your responses before you transmit them, you have a few seconds before you click “Send” to decide if you want to forward what may amount to an emotional outburst, rather than a well-chosen response.

Google and Yahoo! have standalone chat clients and clients built into their emails; Facebook and MySpace accounts have built-in chat as well. Blackberry, Android and iPhone smartphones all have apps that aggregate all your chat clients into a single location, allowing you to appear online to all your various chat partners.

In addition, there are stand-alone chat tools such as MeeboCitron and ICQ that do the same thing from your desktop. Being able to communicate with your Small Business clients, partners and vendors as quickly as a phone call, with the permanence of text, the ability to embed web links and transfer files may be a novel concept to you, but you must certainly appreciate the possibilities it presents.

Consider it from the perspective of business objectives, not just technology. The strategic business advantages should be quite obvious — if you’re getting the message.


Cornell Green is Your Solopreneur IT Expert, guest blogger for KikScore. Visit him at http://opensourcecio.blogspot.com

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Leave No Business Behind: Pearls of Wisdom for Every Startup & SmallBiz

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

A few years ago we were just a couple of entrepreneurs with an idea that we felt could solve a pressing issue for small businesses.  No one really knew us and in many ways no one should have known us then since we were just starting out. Thus we had little to no street credibility.

There is a funny thing that happens as time passes (besides me longing for those care-free college days where the toughest decision was Burger King, KFC or pizza for dinner tonight?).  As the clock ticks away you gain valuable experience and insight about life, growing a startup business, the team and people around you, the market, trends, dealing with your customers and partners and for us building a product that enables small businesses to show that they are trustworthy and credible.  The experience translates into knowledge.  Therefore we continually make it a priority for our team to share with the small business community the knowledge we have gained through ups and down, good times and challenges and those inevitable growing pains all businesses must endure.  It is our way of helping the startups, small businesses and the greater community. That is frankly one of the reasons we interview our own customers so they can provide their knowledge to all of us.

So we just wanted to take the time to highlight some of our knowledge sharing we have recently done. This has been through blogs posts on some really great small business focused sites.  We, at KikScore, were very excited to be invited to provide guest posts at two fabulous and prestigious SMB focused blogs.  First is Ivana Taylor’s awesome DIY Marketers Blog.  Ivana is such a force and inspiration for small businesses (though I have to ignore she is a Steelers fan! See earlier post on my feeling toward “those fans.”).  We were truly honored to be invited to contribute to her fast growing blog. Ivana by the way has some great things launching for 2012 so please be on the look out for them.  The second is the majorly popular and growing .CO Blog called Go.CO.  Again being specifically recruited and asked to contribute to this fantastic blog has been an honor.  So we keep working hard to contribute KikScore’s thought leadership on small businesses, operating a startup, setting, creating and managing strategy and also steps to effectively market your business.

Here are links to some of the posts if you would like to check them out:

1. Are you looking for ways to use videos in your startup or small business, if so check out  5 Types of Marketing Videos Every Small Business Should Use.

2. We each face the challenge of how do we build a brand with all of the “noise” out there, here are 4 Steps to Developing a Small Business Brand.

3. Wondering how to show website visitors you are trustworthy and credible check out The Online Trust Issue – Tips to Find the Right Trust Seal for Your Small Business.

4. As we get rolling into 2012, take a step back and review these 5 Steps to Make 2012 Your Best Year for Your Business By Learning From 2011.

5. If you are looking for a path to acquiring and maintaining loyal customers here are 6 Ways to Make Better Connections with Your Customers By Paying More Attention.

6. We are living in a LinkedIn world now so make sure you are taking advantage of every opportunity to use your connections with these  Steps to Use Your Professional Network to Grow Your Business.

7. A lot of small businesses and startups just want to stick their heads in the weeds and get things done, but every business needs to take a look at these Business Strategy Tips for Small Business Owners.

8. As we all look inward at our own startups and small businesses and how we manage our teams, we can use these 5 Skills & Traits Every Entrepreneur Should Nurture for Success.

9. With everything that is on our plates for our respective businesses here are some important Steps on How to Cut Distractions & Focus More On Achieving Your Business Goals.

Well we have had quite an active few months blogging on these great small business sites.  Many thanks to each of the sites for having us and we look forward to providing more guidance on a range of items in the future.

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