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Posts Tagged ‘Small Business Tips’

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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Posts Tagged ‘Small Business Tips’

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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Posts Tagged ‘Small Business Tips’

Small Business Interview with Hostile Bacon

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

I had the opportunity to interview Miss Ren & Pete who operate an up and coming Shopify store named Hostile Bacon this week.  They had some very interesting lessons learned from their experience starting their business and how they have evolved their use of social media to help market their business over time.  Please check out the interview below and let us know your thoughts in the comments as well.

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

Hostile Bacon is an online store that provides a variety of products that are unique or quirky in nature. These are lifestyle and fashion items that you typically wouldn’t find at the local shops, some items are handmade by local designers, others are sourced from overseas and closer to home. We also provide random yet interesting information through Ren St blog and our social media channels.

Our focus is to serve anyone who likes things that are a little bit different, a shopper who is looking for a gift for themselves or someone else. If you’re nostalgic, whimsical, fashionable, health conscious, practical or all of the mentioned, Hostile Bacon is for you.

How did you get started selling online?

www.hostilebacon.com.au came about by necessity. I’ve been designing and making things since I first stepped foot in a home economics class room many years ago. At the start I was making things for myself and then friends and family started putting in orders and then eventually friends of friends were buying my designs, by this stage online was the best medium to have as a shop front and I also started sourcing products to provide a larger variety.

What inspires you to grow your business?

I really enjoy sourcing new products, coming up with new ideas, researching and writing my blog and seeing what so many talented designers are producing. I’m also inspired by the fact that we provide a good shopping experience for our customers. Shopping should be an activity that is pleasurable and easy.

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

Lesson number 1 would be to invest in a reputable, secure hosting company, to keep your site operating securely.

Lesson number 2 is to remember that little things make a big difference. Wrapping an item, replying to a post or comment, these things and more, create a good experience for shoppers and potential customers.

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

This year we’ve focused on sourcing new and interesting products and optimizing the website to attract and maintain customers. We want to be found easily and for our customers to come back repeatedly and to do this we have to offer something new regularly and provide a reason to come back to the site.

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

I believe more small businesses will use social media to engage rather than push products. We’ve built social media into our marketing plan as a majority of our target market are social media savvy.

A user friendly website that is clean and easy to navigate is becoming more favoured, long gone are the days of clunky websites with neon flashing banners and an encyclopedias worth of information. We regularly make changes to the site to ensure those that do visit have a good experience and stay longer.

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

I would choose the character Holly Golightly played by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s as she is synonymous with style, glamour and eccentricity.

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

Fonzie would the our dream spokesperson, he was cool in 1974 and 38 years later he is still cool.

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

A big challenge is competing with large companies with even larger marketing budgets.  To overcome this we will continue with traditional marketing activity and provide our customers with a great experience so they ‘market’ us to friends and family.

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

You are the expert in what you do so rely on experts to perform tasks in other areas to help you with your business, things that may not be your strengths. It’s very easy to become bombarded with tasks in running a business and sometime it would be a much more effective use or your time and resources to utilise someone else’s skill set and lastly, enjoy what you do. I’m always smiling when I talk about Hostile Bacon because I enjoy it so much.

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Business Tips’

Some Small Business Resources and Tools for 2012

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

It’s only the 3rd week of the new year (can we still call it that?), but it’s time to start thinking of tools you can use for your small business in 2012. There are plenty of tools out there, but we’re only going to talk about a few. (These may be considered resources more than tools.)  These will be useful as a good starting point and then you can find more tips, tools and resources through them.

  1. Twitter chat! To me Twitter almost seems like a chatroom, only with a word limit and hashtags. If you want that chat feel, then you can attend #smallbizchat on Wednesdays at 8pm on Twitter. This is hosted by Tai Goodwin and Melinda Emerson. These one hour long chats are great for getting great guidance from experts about your business.  The hour usually keys on one area that relates to owning, operating or growing a small business and features a fabulous expert that dishes out gems while an audience of participants interacts with the expert and also each other.  Its a fun hour to get a lot of good guidance.
  2. Women Grow Business -yes even if you’re male. Why? This blog offers a different and unique perspective that applies not only to women, but to men as well about being an entrepreneur and dealing with the issues that small business owners face.  Several good contributors and editors on this great blog including the always fabulous Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Shonali Burke and Jill Foster.  And there are so so many more.  They also host tweetchats too (once a month) that are also very valuable to participate in.
  3. Inc. Magazine- this is a great resource and Raj has written a superb post about it. This magazine is geared specifically for Small Businesses and has excellent articles with very practical advice.  This is a must have and should be a mandatory monthly read!  The articles will get you excited and motivated to do great things!
  4. SBA. gov- this site is run by the government and looks a lot cleaner than most government websites. It’s very through and has both general and local resources across a range of issues such as financing, tax, incorporation issues, selling and buying online etc.
  5. Small Business Trends- This site has tons of great resources and information for small businesses. It has guides, sections devoted to Management, Marketing, Funding and even one devoted to Research. Plus, the founder is the amazing Anita Campbell. :)
  6. SME Toolkit- This is a website made by both the IFC and IBM. It’s “designed for Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American and Women-owned businesses” , but it has useful information for everyone.
  7. Small Business CEO-  This is more of a guide to management for small business. If you’re just starting out, then it probably won’t be of much use to you, but if you’re looking to add employees and grow your business, it’s worth a look through.
  8. Small Business Technology- this is a blog that talks about news and technology that’s related to small business. It explains how and why the latest pieces of tech or news can matter to small business. Plus, my father apparently likes it on Google plus so it has to be a good resource!
  9. Constant Contact- Unfortunately, unlike the other links, this one is a paid tool. There is a 60 day trial though. This tool helps you keep in touch with your clients via email marketing and social media marketing.
  10. Business. com- Whatever field you decide to start a small business in, they’ll have resources for you.  There are literally guides on almost anything you can imagine related to a business.  Instead of doing a bunch of Google searches on a subject related to small business, check out this great site first and you likely will save yourself some valuable time.

These are some great resources to start you off with now. From these, you can then branch off using the links that they provide to find even more resources that would fit your needs. There are plenty of resources out there and these are some of the best I have seen lately.

Are there any others you can think of and want to share with us?

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Business Tips’

SmallBiz Strategy Tips from Our 7 Best Blog Interviews of Last Year

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

The holidays are over (for most people anyway) and people are returning to work.  Last year was hectic and I don’t think this year will be much better considering it’s election year. Now before we start running for the underground bunkers or start to wade through the tens of thousands of political articles and interviews, let’s take a look at 7 really good interviews of last year that were on the blog.  [Please note that these are in no particular order, except for maybe how they appeared in my tab list.] I selected these because I think that they offer some new tips and talk about things that aren’t often talked about.

1. Books the new old Google

Turning Sites into Gold: This is an interview of John Nicholson from Marketade. The thing I liked the most about this interview was that Nicholson suggests going to a library and looking at books to get information.  I love libraries (although I haven’t properly been inside one in ages) and I think this is a source that most people overlook.

I remember when I was doing a Linguistics project, my partner and I got all of our information from two very good, but slightly outdated books.  Sure, the internet is a great resource and will probably have the most current information, but how much of that is actually valuable? At least with books, you know that it’s been filtered and scrutinized enough to know that it’s valuable. It may not be current, but it’s probably the best.

2. Law, Perfection and the Internet

The Right Side of the Law: This is an interview with Gregg Hand.  One of the things Hand talks about in the interview is the fear of starting a business. I like his examples of the types of decisions that one has to make when starting a business.  Often it’s stuff that you don’t think about.

Hand also mentions that conditions for small businesses have become more favorable due to the internet. Now this is probably something we all know, but it’s always nice to hear it in words.  The best bit of advice that I think Hand gives in this interview is that things don’t have to be perfect. If you’re starting a business, often you won’t have everything set up just yet and you will most likely encounter setbacks even if you make a habit of starting businesses.  Eventually, you’ll have to jump right in and get started.

3.The Duo of the Elite Group

“Putting Your Money baQ Where it Belongs” : This is a double interview with both the CEO (Brian J. Esposito) and the CTO
(Peter Hermsen) of paybaQ.  Their advice is solid and I liked the acknowledgement about family members and friends un/intentionally bringing you down. I think this is something that happens often, but that no one really talks about.

One of my favorite bits from this interview is the description of the small business community as “elite”.  They mention that small business owners should be proud of the responsibility that they have taken on and I feel like this is a point that should be brought up more often. It takes a lot of work, energy and determination to start a small business, so feel proud small business owners!

4. Platforms and Personality

The Speech AND the Pen are Mightier than the Sword: I’ll admit to a little bit of bias on my part for picking this. I’ve met Jill Foster before and I like her and thinks that she gives great advice.  One important point that she brings up in this interview is that one doesn’t have to use all of the social media platforms that are out there.

A lot of the things that I’ve read online make it seem like small businesses have to use every single platform that they can find. I know that’s a bit silly, but that’s the impression I got. Jill is the only person I’ve seen so far mention the fact that one shouldn’t use all of them.

Another good piece of advice that she gives is to make sure that your business has a personal feel to it. Big businesses like Target or Walmart  have a certain feel to them, but it’s impersonal and not the type of feeling that y0u want a customer to get from your small business.

5. Juggling Jobs

Talking Employedpreneurs & Steps to Success for Businesses with Tai Goodwin : What I like about this interview is that it focuses on people trying to start a small business while having a job.  Goodwin gives some great pieces of advice such as putting in systems to manage your small business while you work at your other job.  Goodwin also talks a little bit about different business models and suggests trying something other than the traditional one-to-one model.

The piece of advice I liked best from this interview is that it’s important to be flexible.  Having a vision is good, but often, due to the way the environment changes, you may need to update it. Customers and markets tend to change quickly and you’ll be in better shape if you can adapt faster to keep up.

6. Products and People

Small Business Interview with Sophie Kovic from FlockStocks : My favorite piece of advice from this is bit about choosing a product that doesn’t vary much because then you’ll have less trouble.  Another great piece of advice is to trust the people who work under you. You cannot manage everything. Let go when necessary and trust that when you go on vacation, the people whom you leave in charge will work things out.

7. Coordination and Background Knowledge

Reach Your Best Insights: This is an interview with Pierre DeBois.  One piece of advice I liked from this interview is the fact that online and offline activities should be coordinated. It’s like picking colors, you has to choose ones that go together. Another thing that DeBois talks about is going beyond Search Engine Optimization. Yes, that is important, but there’s things beyond that which Small Businesses should do too.

One of the points that DeBois brings up is the fact that Small Businesses need to think about what goes on in the background that’s essential to either the customers or the business itself.  Reading all of these articles and tips for Small Business owners, I get the feeling that it’s something that’s often not touched on.

All of these interviews offer valuable advice for Small Businesses and should be reviewed as you owners start drawing up your plans for the coming year. If you have any tips or interviews to add to or contest, leave a comment. :)

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Business Tips’

Reach Your Best Insights! A SmallBiz Interview with Pierre DeBois

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Today’s KikScore interview features Pierre DeBois, founder of Zimana, a web analytics service. In this rapidly changing e-commerce environment, Pierre is instrumental in helping other small business reach success through his analysis of their web analytics and his assistance and advice for marketing and social media strategies. I had a pleasure talking with Pierre and learned a lot, so I hope you all share similar benefits from reading what he had to say.

Tell us about Zimana and who you focus on serving?

Zimana is a web analytics consultancy service for small businesses that are at a unique stage of operations, having launched their businesses that rely on analytics data. These businesses require marketing optimization but do not have enough time determining their marketing effectiveness and aren’t ready to reach a larger analytics firm. I analyze their analytics data, ranging from basic keyword analysis to website traffic exploration, and then I help them develop an optimizing marketing strategy with projections. My clients encompass a wide array of small businesses, from mom and pop companies to businesses that built their firm around a particular platform with numerous employees.

What prompted you to start Zimana?

It was very accidental; my original idea was that I wanted to work with small businesses that needed help with their financial data.  I found out that a lot of the time these businesses tend to seek financial help, but it’s often too late to implement the advice. Therefore, that doesn’t strike me emotionally as a way to be helpful. So back in 2007, I was working for a government contractor firm in Huntsville, Alabama. The firm was determining if potential clients were reviewing products and services at the company website. I researched and discovered the measurement solution Google Analytics. I used my own resources and vacation schedule to undertake the training on my own. I then worked with the web developer to implement site content changes. The end result was successful and identified traffic flow through the site. It helped the firm place a value on their marketing budget. That was my first taste of web analytics though it wasn’t until 2.5 years ago when I launched Zimana. It’s been great and fun, though still very challenging especially due to the economic environment we are in. But the responses have been positive.

What was one of the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome it?

Living in New York is a catch-22; though it is the best place to meet and network with people and find good resources, it is economically straining to live here starting out.  It is also tough to follow up with customers in the actual city, as opposed to other locations. When living and working here, you learn how resilient you have to be and it forces you to be efficient. While the fast-paced, business environment makes it hard to initially make a living, it forces you to remain focused and more diligently.

As a hub for business, being centered in New York also allows me to track clients outside of New York; one of my best clients is SmallBizTrends.  Though based in Ohio, I conduct a lot of their monthly analysis. Moreover, being in NYC has helped me to create many business book reviews for the book segment and provide up-to-date analytics ideas that will be beneficial for their future.

How do you advertise yourself to get more clients?  Do you make use of tools like social media?

Yes. Social media has helped me tremendously, especially through Twitter as I have attracted some of my followers through my tweets. In addition, though accidental, my writing has had a huge influence on gaining more clients. What started as being just for fun doing book reviews evolved into writing analytics articles.   I’ve written articles for many different business sites, including AllBusiness.com, Pitney Bowes Smart Connections series, Business Agility, and AllAnalytics.com.  The posts have helped me a lot, expanding my online exposure and clientele base. A great challenge has been balancing my time for writing and managing other business functions. I had not expected the writing to take the direction it has.  In general, client referrals and social media marketing have been the most beneficial for me, with carefully placed and timed ads as bonus exposure. I am a big believer of using analytics to figure out which marketing outlets actually work, so that has helped me tremendously of where to focus most of my attention.

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

Yes, there have been times and I think it’s in a very weird catch-22. In my business, the accountability issue is in the beginning; there are certifications that analytics practitioners must take and my qualifications definitely help. Though at the same time, there is a level of education that is required on part of the customer. The main customers believe that analytics is only for SEO and that’s not the entire case. So the challenge becomes that an analyst can be used for both online and offline marketing functions, though it depends on the organization, and therefore I must educate the customer enough and provide them with enough information that they will be comfortable doing business. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but most times people are appreciative of what you try to share with even if they don’t quite have the budget.

In terms of being legitimate, what’s helped me is dealing with the right customers and not trying to deal with those that are uninterested. Only once or twice have I had to deal with a relationship that wasn’t right, but as a business owner, you have to hold out and fight for the ideal customer. Once you find the right one, then credibility will come into play. The use of social media can be utilized to reinforce that credibility; in order to effectively use social networks, you have to focus on keeping in touch with specific people and make the most of the contacts that you have made.

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

First, there needs to be more of a coordinated effort between digital properties (websites, paid searches, social media) and how you market your business offline. There are now studies that are proving that when you gain a customer, that customer has researched your business online and then decided whether they will do business with you. Lots of small businesses do not coordinate their online and offline efforts well, but they need to think holistically about how they market themselves and then track that, which is where the analytics comes into play.

Second, based on my expertise, businesses need to begin thinking about more than search engine optimization. With the emergence of social media, there is more of a need for a combination between social media and search, plus some level of digital marketing, whether it is paid ads on Google or banner ads on Facebook. There needs to be an increased effort beyond search to touch upon the customers and engage them. Businesses are aware of Twitter and Facebook and other networking communities, though they often do not make a dedicated effort to effectively use them. Going beyond SEO, some type of paid search or ad, coupled with social media, will help businesses convert customers on the sidelines as an ongoing customer.

What trends do you see in the business world that you think are important for small businesses to take note of?

A rising trend in the small business world is the use of cloud services. I support these services whole heartedly because it makes it easier to manage a team, whether you’re an army of one or 20. They create value for the services you have and permit more efficient management. I’m finding that the businesses that struggle have not thought in terms of simplicity; For example, one business never thought of instituting PayPal on their site because they didn’t use credit in their operations.  That doesn’t mean that your customers don’t. Most businesses are too focused on their main product or service and therefore they do not think about all the underlying activities that would be essential. You don’t need to have a desktop to quickly search for information, so the challenge for small businesses is not only having access to up-to-date technology, but deploying it in the best and easiest manner for conducting your business.

Speaking from personal experience, the people who helped me the most were freelancers. One lady designed my website and also developed my hand-drawn logo into something very unique. Another was a photographer whose photos of me grabbed the right attention. I learned many different tips from many sources, ranging from billing ideas to learning to focus on the big picture as opposed to the little details. The biggest thing is to learn from others how to conduct business efficiently, so you are working to grow your business and “on” your business, not just “in” it.

How do the folks at Zimana let loose after a busy day working?

For me, I’m a big fan of The Big Bang Theory; I love it and think Sheldon is hilarious and the best television character in years. I watch a little Big Bang Theory and football, and I’m good! I still love automobiles like I did growing up so I read up on cars quite a bit. Pretty much besides that, I just try to keep up with my close friends and family. I haven’t had as much time to relax as I’d like to and for the most part, my business is my time. In addition, I talk a lot with other small business owners, which is both informative and also energizing.

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

Stay driven and keep your faith. If you are in any struggles, keep your faith and make sure every day spent on your business is actually productive; business owners spend too much time talking about their business, as opposed to working on it and helping it grow. Using your time efficiently is necessary, as well as networking and making sure that you are learning what needs to be learned to stay current with your business and surrounding technologies. At the end of the day, you need to be driven to put all of the pieces together and keep your business moving into the future. 

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Business Tips’

“Putting Your Money baQ Where it Belongs”: A SmallBiz Interview with the CEO and CTO of paybaQ

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

Today’s small business interview is with the founder and CEO of paybaQ, Brian J. Esposito, and the CTO, Peter Hermsen. You may remember Brian from his last interview with us when we talked about his Inc. 5000 company, AVEYOU Beauty Boutique . However, his enthusiastic entrepreneurial spirit inspired him to launch a new business, paybaQ, which focuses on helping people deal with their microloans online. Brian and Peter proudly gave us their business story and shared many tips that contribute towards the success and prosperity of small businesses.

Tell us about paybaQ and who you focus on serving?

BRIAN J. ESPOSITO: paybaQ was established in 2010 to fulfill a need: to address and solve the age old problem of personal undocumented microloans. The paybaQ platform allows users to document, arrange payment between two or more parties, and establish a positive personal Generosity Rating (Giver) & Responsibility Rating (Receiver). paybaQ’s purpose is to eliminate the awkwardness of borrowing or collecting personal microloans. Through our secure and simple system you will not only become more responsible, but possibly save a relationship from becoming spoiled.

“Money doesn’t have to be the root of all evil, it could grow into something good”.

Your paybaQ hub has everything you need to organize and monitor any transactions you perform with paybaQ.com.  Here, you can easily review account details and history, as well as view detailed reports on your transactions. You also have access to any reminders for transactions that have not yet been completed, and you can integrate your account with social network profiles to easily add contacts you may be lending or borrowing money from. No more wondering when you are going to be paid back; with paybaQ, you can set the terms of the microloan and easily remind the borrower(s) through email, text message, and/or through private messaging that monies are due. Lending and borrowing money has never been so hassle free. Although our top priority is creating more responsible individuals, privacy and security of our site and system is of the utmost importance.

Now you can do that all on the go with our iTunes app: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/paybaq-mobile/id454232420?mt=8.

How did you get started dealing with microloans online?

BE: This was an idea that I have had for a few years.  Especially when the financial crisis hit in 2008, I realized the timing was perfect to launch.  Money, family, friendship, and responsibilities are at rocky paths when it comes to lending or borrowing money for any reason.  Even when times are good these transactions could always have the tendency of going bad.  paybaQ’s system has all the necessary pieces in place to try and avoid those situations from happening.

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

BE: The biggest challenge was where to begin.  The paybaQ model has so many different pieces that it can branch off to.  During our initial meetings, brainstorming’s lead to hours of great ideas, but no real progress.  We finally figured out that we had to scale back all those additional concepts and get paybaQ off the ground and running on its core principles.

What tools would you recommend for small businesses in the online world?

BE: Small business should be required a specific set of tools to protect themselves, their families, and more importantly their employees and customers.  In the online world these tools should include SSL Security, Privacy Policies, Hacker Proof Services Monitors, PCI Compliance, Review/Feedback Services, and additional items that can be added to your site to increase trust and credibility.  There are only a handful of companies that have earned instant trust in the consumer world; for the rest of us, it will be a constant uphill battle to convert potential customers into actual customers.  That all begins with how you treat your current customer base and how your image and brand are perceived in the consumers eyes.

Security is of growing importance to all small businesses for a number of reasons. What are the most challenging issues at your company with respect to security?

PETER HERMSEN: Providing timely access to data by members while deterring unauthorized access.  We recognize the challenges faced by the commerce community with respect to security and privacy.  No matter what you do to secure your data, someone will try to figure out a way to crack it.  That’s why we partner with Authorize.net.  With them as a partner, we don’t have to worry about keeping any credit card information on our site.  We only maintain a balance of loan tokens, which have no value to anyone with the exception that they allow users to register loans.  In fact, we give the first 5 credits for free.

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

BE: It’s very important to stay fresh and relevant.  I always say the minute you stop doing something, your competitor hasn’t.  Keeping this in your mind at all times will fuel you to keep striving for greatness.  Being the biggest is not important, but being the best is.  It is also important to understand marketing and its results.  Very few things are an instant success.  You have to keep with it.  Of course this is within reason.  You can’t keep pouring good money after bad.  Every business has different expectations and needs.  With ours, due to our position we are happy gaining a customer a day, but of course that does not apply to everyone.

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

PH: Launching a business and developing the software are definitely different things.  From the development side, the business waits (patiently) while development carries on.  Now that we’ve launched, we’re just learning about maintaining.  There are hurdles which must be crossed as you transition to a production site.  We made it past them, but have definitely learned that no matter what, you always have to plan on software taking longer than anticipated.  Also, when working in a new financial venture, you find that potential financial partners enter with good intentions; then, when they don’t fully understand your premise, withdraw gracefully.  Unfortunately, the development team engages with creating software to support partners, and have to start over when a new partner is introduced.  Unfortunately, there aren’t any standards. Google Checkout, PayPal, Yahoo, private payment gateways; all of them are different.

BE: I’ve learned to not give up on a vision or dream.  I’ve learned even your closest friends and even sometimes family members will try to deflate you. I haven’t figured out if these are malice words or if they are just trying to protect you from failure.  Failure is great, failure is better than anything you can learn in school or from a book.  Some of the greatest lessons and creations were born from failure at some point.

How do the folks at paybaQ let loose after a busy day working?

Due to our partnership with The Hearst Corporation for the rights to use Wimpy from Popeye, we like to let loose on Tuesdays for Hamburger night.  We will travel around our area in search for the greatest hamburger.  When paybaQ really takes off we may increase our distance a bit.  “I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a Hamburger Today:” © King Features Syndicate, Inc.  Hearst Holdings Inc.

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

The small business community is an elite group.  We are made up of people who took a risk and went after our passions.  Everything in life has ups and downs.  It is important to find a balance so you can save on the ups to get you through the downs.  Unless you are a 1-person operation your actions and decisions can have great affects.  Remember you have employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers that may depend on you.  This is a great amount of responsibility you have taken on, and you should be proud.  Our group will continue to be the backbone of our economy and we must prove to the world that we deserve that role.

Thanks to both Brian Esposito and Peter Hermsen from paybaQ for a great interview! If you have any questions or comments for them, feel free to write them below.

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Business Tips’

KikScore SmallBiz Interviews’ Greatest Hits & Top Strategy Tips for Entrepreneurs: Part II

Friday, June 17th, 2011

KikScore has had the pleasure of interviewing many small business owners over the past few years, asking these entrepreneurs about all areas of their businesses and what has spurred their growth, while also throwing in light-hearted pop-culture related questions.

In Part I of this two-part Greatest Hits series, I highlighted the top five lessons learned from these interviews with regards to establishing a successful small business. If you missed Part I, click here.

In Part II, I will present five of the most important challenges faced by these small businesses that our interviewees shared with us. These issues are extremely pertinent to all small businesses and it is vital for small businesses to overcome these challenges in order to succeed.

Here we go, the five most common challenges faced by entrepreneurs and their small businesses:

5. Keeping Up with New Technologies

“As the cost of running business with a physical store or office is comparatively high due to the monthly rental fee as well as the consumption of electricity and the hiring of manpower, more and more businesses like us tend to create their presence on the Internet. Without a significant competitive advantage, a retailer will be forced to raise a white flag in this cruel and heartless battlefield.” – Margaret Chan, founder of Cherry’s Brandname Gallery

In today’s world, technology is rapidly changing and businesses must keep up with latest innovations in order to stay modern and be successful. Companies have to start utilizing the internet, for both its e-commerce capability as well as a marketing and advertising tool. Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are essential to small businesses, as millions of users check and use their personal accounts on those websites multiple times each day.

4. Lacking Adaptability

“While it is important to hold on to your vision, it should never be at the expense of building a sustainable business model. Your business plan whether it is one page or fifty, should be an evolving document that scales to put you in the best possible position to serve your clients and generate revenue.” – Tai Goodwin, founder of Launch While Working

Another challenge entrepreneurs also face is the ineptitude to alter or adjust your business plan. The business world is full of surprises and unexpected circumstances.  In order to run a successful company, businesses must be flexible and able to adapt to the changing environment around them.

3. Fear of Failure

“Another challenge I had was more of a mental one, which was the fear of ‘Can I start my own business?’ There are so many company decisions that we take for granted until we have to make them ourselves.” – Gregg Hand, founder and owner of Hand Law Offices

Two weeks ago I mentioned how the number one piece of advice for having success as a small business is keeping the long-term goal in perspective and never giving up or losing hope. Therefore, one of the challenges faced with starting a small business is dealing with the fear of failure. You cannot be afraid that you’re going to fail and act hesitantly because then you will fail; you must be confident with all of your decisions and maintain the passion with which you started your business. Owen Wilson’s character in Wedding Crashers puts it best when talking to his partner, “Your goddamn negativity! I don’t need it! I’m an idea man. I thrive on enthusiasm. Don’t take the wind out of my sails. I need you.”

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2. Finding Customers

1. … and then Gaining their Trust

As a small business I believe our biggest challenge is gaining trust in a potential new customer.  If a shopper sees a Macys logo or a Best Buy logo they are not going to question is this a secure company/site.  As a brand that is growing, we are not mainstream and are years away from becoming a staple in the beauty industry.  We overcome that challenge by gaining one new customer at a time.  Proving to that customer we are legitimate business, that is not going to sell their name to any third parties, is going to ship their order, their most private and intimate information is in a very secure area, and if there is any problems whatsoever with their order we will do everything we can to correct it and make it right.” – Brian Esposito, CEO of Avenue You Beauty Store

In order to be successful, you must generate revenue from customers and unless you develop a brand-new product or have a revolutionary idea, you are most likely going to enter into an industry that already has a fair share of other competitors. There lies the biggest challenge of small businesses: finding customers and then keeping them. Finding customers as a small business relies on effective networking and marketing, and especially positive word of mouth. Whether it is online or in newspapers, spreading your name and attracting publicity is a must for businesses to find customers. In addition, promoting your credibility and trustworthiness is a necessity to ensure that once you land a customer, he or she will return.

This is the service that we here at Kikscore provide for online businesses. We show your potential customers that you can be trusted, allowing shoppers to review your record of reliability and creditworthiness through the Kikscore Trust Seal and the KikReport. After overcoming all these obstacles, you’ll be “so money”. More information regarding Kikscore and its trust seal can be found at http://www.kikscore.com/more.html and http://www.kikscore.com/confidence_badge.html respectively.

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Posts Tagged ‘Small Business Tips’

KikScore SmallBiz Interviews’ Greatest Hits & Top Strategy Tips for Entrepreneurs: Part I

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

KikScore has had the pleasure of interviewing many small business owners over the past few years, asking these entrepreneurs about all areas of their businesses and what has spurred their growth, while also throwing in light-hearted pop-culture related questions.

In Part I of this two-part Greatest Hits series, I will highlight the top five lessons learned from these interviews with regards to establishing a successful small business. Many of these innovative and impressive business owners shared related advice and acknowledged similar trends in the e-commerce field. So without further ado, here are the Top 5 Things You Should Do When Starting a Small Business:

5. Keep your website simple and easy to navigate

- “My advice to people about an online presence is to keep it simple and clean and VERY easy to navigate AND to have a Content Management System (CMS) so you can update your site yourself.” (Whitney Zimet, owner of I Am The Maven)

- “Spend the money to get a good website.  We went with a woman who did “websites for small businesses” but she really wasn’t experienced in sites with a retail/shopping cart component.  So, the site looked okay on the surface, but I later learned that she had used very amateur programming on the back end, making it enormously difficult for another web programmer to make changes.  This also limited our SEO.” (Kimberley Stewart from OnBoard Outfitters)

4. Have a flexible business model, being able to adjust quickly to a changing environment

- “Never think what you’re doing today is what you’ll be doing 10 years from today. Markets change and products evolve. Learn to adapt quickly.” (Michael Alter, President of SurePayroll)

- ”Be willing to change.  Always look at your business in a new way.” (Rick Shoop, owner of Oregon Seafoods)

3. Utilize social media outlets

-”Another trend is tapping into more social media platforms and applications.  Combining sites such as Facebook with applications developed by Wildfire you are very quickly able to promote coupons, contests, and/or sweepstakes.” (Brian Esposito, CEO of Avenue You Beauty Store)

- “Take full advantage of all social network and free Internet advertising. 50% of our sales come from social networking sites, the chain reaction you can achieve from them is priceless.” (S.J. Trotter, owner of www.exclusiveclothingretail.com)

2. Establish a safe and secure online presence

- “Apart from that, customer’s satisfaction is also of utmost importance to online business. Exceptional customer service results in greater customer retention, which in turn results in higher profitability. We therefore strongly believe that customer loyalty is one of the most crucial and major contributors to sustainable profit growth. Over 60% of our profits are from customers who came back and made their purchases more than once within the 3-month period.” (Margaret Chan, owner of Cherry’s Brandname Gallery)

- “In 2010, much of our energy will be focused on improving the website and making sure our customers have confidence in shopping with us. KikScore is a great tool that helps us demonstrate that trust online.” (Madalyn Duerr, owner of Tufted Topper)

1. Keep the long-term goal in perspective and never give up

- “Most importantly: Don’t let anyone tell you no. You are your own best advocate and no one is going to do the work for you. Don’t let obstacles prevent your idea from ever being tested – you have to go out and do it.” (Andrew Shelton from Trackpack Coolers)

- ”In my opinion the most important ingredient in a business’s success is the passion of the person or people running it.” (Mark Sarpa, CEO of Frecklebox)

- “Stay far from timid, Only make moves when your heart’s in it, And live the phrase ‘sky’s the limit’” (The Notorious B.I.G.)

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Building a Start-up Company and Having a Family at the Same Time

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

I was reading this post on BizSugar the other day and I thought that it was very applicable to our KikScore team so I am sure that it will also be interesting to a lot of other small business owners who also have families.  This post by Tim Jahn makes the argument that entrepreneurs can start a successful business and have a family at the same time if they maintain their focus, have a schedule, and if they set specific goals for themselves.

I definitely agree with Tim that it is possible to start a successful company while having a family, being a new father myself, and I also agree that it is very important to set aside a specific time and day(s) when you plan to complete work for the new company.  I usually try to work on my KikScore tasks on the same nights each week so my wife and I can plan around those nights so that there aren’t as many conflicts as there might otherwise be if my work schedule was constantly changing.

I also think that Tim makes a great point when he talks about having specific goals for yourself.  I find it very helpful to have a set of tasks that I want to complete each week and I make sure to keep these written down for myself each week so that they are completed.  I think that if you are vague or too lofty about your work goals for each week or month that you may start feeling like you are never getting anything done which may lead to frustration pretty quickly.

Again, I think if you are pretty good at managing your time and setting specific goals for yourself then having a family and starting a new business are definitely two things that can peacefully exist in harmony.  What have your experiences been with managing your business and family at the same time?  Any other recommendations you would like to give to our readers?

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