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Posts Tagged ‘tips’

Making Businesses Bigger, Better, Faster: An Interview with Ed Carrick

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Today’s small business interview is with Ed Carrick, the founder of Performance Analysis. Carrick works as a consultant for small businesses, mainly manufacturing companies, helping them maximize their business productivity through lean management techniques. He stimulates efficiency among these companies and drives their success. We had the privilege of speaking to Ed and he talked about both his company and the small business community.

Tell us about Performance Analysis and who you focus on serving?

Performance Analysis is a very small consulting firm. Our main focus is on small manufacturers, many being local but we also have nationwide services that we reach out through the internet. The nature of our business is to help other businesses learn and implement various techniques for process improvement and increased productivity.  One of the major concepts we follow is lean management; the outcome is typically lower cost, greater output, and a greater quality product.

What prompted the launch of Performance Analysis?

Performance Analysis is an offspring from my past job at one of the universities here. I loved the consulting work, really saw the value in it, and saw what it can do for manufacturers in this country. The situation I was in did not work very well and I knew I had the ability of making it on my own, so it was just all about timing and gaining the confidence to eventually launch my own business.

What is a recent trend that you have been focusing on to increase your sales and business?

One of the big things that we have been focusing on quite a lot over the last 6 months is trying to develop and improve upon inbound marketing techniques. Sites such as HARO, Twitter, and Facebook are effective for getting your name out there to the public. I have also been posting a lot of articles on my website’s blog. We’re trying to drive people to our site and build our company as industry experts.

If you had 1 lesson that you learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what would it be?

Our business is not 100% online and in fact, many of my services include in-person consulting and engineering efforts. Our online courses are the part of the business that is bought and sold online, but I think that inbound marketing is a very important tool to look at and to bring to one’s business. It’s a relatively new term, but it’s the way online businesses are going these days. I would suggest that people trying to increase their internet sales should get involved with HubSpot, possibly the worldwide expert in inbound marketing and software techniques.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for small businesses in today’s society and economy and how do you focus on overcoming them?
One of the biggest challenges, as it was for us, is not appearing as a small mom-and-pop company that clients may not want to work with. It’s very important to portray your business as a professional, growing company in your field. A lot of people start off as solopreneurs like myself, but it is important to build onto that and grow as a company.

From your experience, what are the best ways to advertise yourself?

I haven’t really figured that one out yet, though I have found that blogging and participating in social media has been the most successful for us so far. We’ve also listed Performance Analysis with online business listing services, and some of the better ones have increased our SEO and brought our URLs higher up on Google searches. In general, it all boils down to using a combination of inbound marketing techniques.

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

The Fighter. The main character is actually representative of some of our clients. Like Mark Wahlberg’s character in the movie being a boxer who has sort of plateaued, many of our clients are manufacturers that have peaked and are not sure what to do to get better. They find inspiration on how to increase their sales and business by using our service and working with knowledgeable people.

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

One of the main things about start-ups is that if you are thinking about doing it and it’s really in your heart to do it, you can do it and you can’t doubt yourself. You must realize that once you get out there and jump into your own business, there are going to be some struggles but it is all going to be worth it and it’s not going to be as scary and difficult as you think it might be. Don’t keep waiting like I did and just follow your heart.

Thanks to Ed Carrick for a great interview and taking time out of his busy schedule. If anyone has any questions or comments for Ed, please leave them in the comments.

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Posts Tagged ‘tips’

Putting the “Social” in Social Media: A KikScore Interview with Chris Visco

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Chris Visco, the owner of both TheBestOfFood.com and PJ’s and Coffee Social Media Marketing. With PJ’s and Coffee, her team doesn’t only market your business on the internet; they build and maintain client relationships for your business. According to a recent HubSpot study, nearly 2/3 of US internet users regularly use a social network and that number isn’t falling anytime soon. This makes Visco’s business ever more important and beneficial to the small business community. She discusses her business and gives tips for the future of small businesses in our KikScore interview of her.

1. Tell us about PJ’s and Coffee and who you focus on serving?

PJ’s and Coffee is a full service social media marketing agency. We manage the social media accounts for all sorts of businesses. PJ’s and Coffee is the blog for and social media management branch of our main website, TheBestofFood.com. We used to focus mainly on restaurants in the Philly area, but as more businesses sought our service, we expanded into helping small and medium businesses in a variety of different industries.

2. How did you get the idea for PJ’s and Coffee?

Essentially, we promote local restaurants by providing them with reliable and candid reviews on our site. This assists locals and travelers visiting the Philadelphia area with dining recommendations. This was the idea behind TheBestOfFood.com.

After using social media to promote these restaurants, we realized the value of social media and the cost savings involved with it. With the emergence of Twitter, we talked to restaurants, explaining our desire to promote them. They also saw the benefit of using social media outlets and asked us to manage their Facebook and other accounts. We started out by operating Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare accounts. After engaging many clients using these sites, others approached us about our service, including mortgage companies, dispatch providers, dentists, and others, expanding well beyond the food industry.

Being the food blog for TheBestOfFood.com, the name behind PJ’s and Coffee came from the idea that people want to sit and relax at home in their pajamas with their coffee in hand, and have the intimate feeling of reading and talking about food. We then took the name and rebranded it to the social media division, envisioning people sitting at home in the PJ’s and interacting with others through social media outlets on their computers and phones. Thirty-one percent of people between the ages of 18-35 check social media sites before getting out of bed in the morning so PJ’s and Coffee seemed like a fitting, more casual name. We put the “social” in social media. Many businesses fail because they don’t understand that it’s about people, not products. We engage their target audience and promote them using our research media. Companies that engage their target audience have a higher success than those who “talk AT” people online.

3. What is PJ’s and Coffee focusing most of its energy on this year?

Obviously with the recent release of Google+, we are going to see how successful it is and how to best use it from a marketing standpoint. We will continue focusing on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. though it depends on the business model and which company represents the brand the best. We look for where we can reach the most people and make the most valuable connections. For example, we represent a collision repair company that is equally successful on both Facebook and Twitter, though not as much on LinkedIn and Foursquare. For B2Bs, Twitter and LinkedIn are most successful, while Facebook and Twitter are best for C2Bs. Also, for companies that are targeting women and mothers, mommy bloggers are really influential and we try to engage with them.

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

First, engagement is critical. Businesses that don’t engage with their target audience become white noise. Secondly, practice makes perfect and not all strategies work for all business so you have to be ready to adapt and change. When we first started, we were very Facebook driven but then we started expanding when we saw other outlets were more beneficial. Some strategies aren’t as successful so you should learn and read as much as you can and if one doesn’t work, move onto the next.

5. Based on your experience as social media strategist, what do you see as 2 new trends for small business?

One new trend is the increased use of video marketing. Fifty six percent of online users are likely to view videos through social media websites, and we’ve seen the success of Youtube videos over the years. Talk Fusion is a new service for email media marketing and allows you to send video emails directly to your client’s inbox.

Another trend will be the redevelopment of websites for social media use. Many websites get more hits and visitors through social media outlets than web searches so because social media sites are driving web traffic, websites are becoming more social media friendly. It’s not easy to facilitate with many current websites and they will be redeveloped, allowing you to login through Facebook and Twitter accounts and shooting out business-related alerts, similar to the news feed of Facebook. In addition, they must become more photo rich to draw attention to their sites on social media outlets.

6. What is the biggest challenge that PJ’s and Coffee faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge??

Quite honestly, the number one challenge is finding people that are able to engage others online. It seems easy to just go on social media sites and chat, but finding quality marketing professionals to actually engage people is difficult. The instinct to promote online is to just shout out your business promotions. For example, by just shooting out listings and links to your website, businesses and their posts become white noise which consumers will tune out quickly. The key is taking your ego out and making it less about you and more about the customer, which takes a lot of discipline and training. I’ve engaged in a business (social media marketing) that requires a lot of time. It takes 20-30 hours per month per social media outlet, so my challenge is balancing profitability while also bringing in people who take a lot of time to train and learn.

Also, another challenge is dealing with businesses that need to adapt their methods for the long term. While there will be no immediate result, those companies need to realize that they have to be in it now to be profitable in the longer run.

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

The Social Network for obvious reasons.

8. How do the folks at PJ’s and Coffee let loose after a busy day working?

With a glass of wine at a favorite local restaurant. The thing about what we do is that anything can happen at any point during the day. It is 24/7 work because consumers are online at all times, whether it be 1am, 6am, or 11pm, and there are no afterhours, social media sites are being visited every second.

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

I believe all businesses should have a social media presence. Businesses need to learn that it’s not just about promotion, but it’s also a customer service tool. If someone has a complaint or a raving review about your business, they’re most likely to go online and post about it somewhere on the internet. You need to be on these sites to immediately address your customers and their issues regarding your business.

I’d like to thank Chris Visco again for a great interview! If anyone has any questions or comments for Chris, please leave them in the comments.

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Posts Tagged ‘tips’

A Conversation with Candice Cabe of “Day2Night Convertible Heels”: Venturing Into the World of Start-Ups

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

I had the pleasure of talking to Candice Cabe, who is the CEO of an innovative startup called “Day2Night Convertible Heels.”  Her company focuses on simplifying life for women who want to be both practical and stylish.  Her business targeting women-on-the-go, and is quickly plunging into the entrepreneurial world.  We spoke briefly about her ventures, as well as what it’s like to be a small-business owner in today’s quickly-changing world of business.  Thank you, Candice for speaking to me and sharing your experiences with our readers.  We wish you the best of luck in the future!

Tell us a little bit about your business and what makes it unique.

We invented a high heel shoe that converts from high heels down to lower heels.  It is a new kind of technology.  The shoes have interchangeable heels so that women can wear the same pair of shoes but adjust the heel height.  It’ll be the first time that women can wear fashionable and much more comfortable shoes at the same time.

What prompted you to start this business?  Was there a problem you aimed on solving?

The main problem is that women love to wear high heels, but usually after a few hours of wearing them, their feet really start to hurt. They’re usually forced to carry extra shoes with them in their bag to wear to work in the morning or to go out at night.

One of the stories that I tell a lot is that I was packing for a trip – I had to go on a corporate trip down to Miami for a few days and I was told to pack lightly and not check baggage.  I was trying to fit all of these shoes into my little tiny suitcase and I noticed that I ended having three pairs of shoes that looked similar but all had different heel heights, depending on what I was going to be doing.  I knew that immediately when I was getting off the plane, we were going to be chartering a boat and going on that for a few hours, so I was going to need small heels.  Later, we were going to be walking around the tradeshow for a few hours.  I needed to look appropriate in my suit and wear medium-height heels.  Then we were going to go out for a fancier dinner at night so I needed to have high stiletto shoes.  All my shoes looked the same but had different heel heights.  Also, they were taking up so much room in my suitcase.  I thought that it would be so nice to have a travel shoe – one shoe that you can wear to multiple occasions.

What are your short-term goals for the next year?  What kind of things is your business focusing on?

Right now we’re working on refunding and financing.  We’re trying to get some money in the door to finish prototyping.  We are also going to have to invest in getting a mold made.  Once we have a mold, we’ll be able to mass-produce the shoes in China.  We’re also looking for a shoe designer and a shoe manufacturer.  We already have one, but we’re looking for an alternative one.  We’re also trying to close some deals – we’re hoping to do a licensing deal with an existing shoe company.  We’re talking to companies like Steve Madden and zappos.com.  It would be great to get a licensing deal with a larger shoe company.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for small businesses in today’s society and economy?  What do you see as the best solutions to these challenges?

Funding, for sure, is number one.  Another one is building a team and getting people to work for straight equity instead of money is difficult – so getting people to either quit their jobs or to work for you full time.

The biggest thing that I’ve done is just talk to everybody I know or everybody I can think of.  I go to a lot of networking events and tell people what I’m trying to do and what I’m struggling with.  People always want to help, especially if you specifically tell them what you’re struggling with, which makes it easy for people to introduce you to other people.

From your experience, what are the best ways to advertise yourself?  Do you make use of tools like social media?

We have been using a lot of social media tools.  We use Facebook and Twitter and we have our own website.  We’re working on search engine optimization, for example Google keywords.

Where do you go to find advice or to get information that is relevant to your business?  Where would you recommend that other small businesses in the community go?  How do you connect with other businesses?

There’s a book that I’d like to recommend to people.  It’s called The Four Steps to the Epiphany.  That’s a book that is helpful for this kind of business that can help business owners get some customers and prove that people want things in the way that you’re doing them.  It’s a good way to get information to people.

Have you had any problems with demonstrating trust to your potential clients or customers?

People seem to be pretty good with trust.  Sometimes people have issues with our particular product.  They are reluctant to believe that the product will hold up well and be sturdy enough and strong enough.  What we’ve done to reassure customers is have a couple of videos on our website demonstrating the shoes, how they’re worn, and how they work.  In the future, we’re hoping to get a lot of customer reviews, feedback, and testimonials from people.  Communication is very important.  We’re trying to put ourselves out there so that people can better understand what we’re doing.

If you could choose a dream spokesperson to represent your business, who would it be?

My dream spokesperson would be Carrie Underwood because we would love to have a celebrity that would be able to wear our shoes.  I think that a lot of people would follow suit.  She’s a rising star and an American Idol and holds a lot of credibility for young women in America.

What do you see as the future for small businesses like yours?  Are you seeing any trends or changes developing?

I’m in the startup world of Boston, which is a really big startup community and city.  It seems that more and more young folks are starting businesses right out of college.  Instead of graduating college and immediately trying to find a job, people are thinking creatively and taking entrepreneurial courses or looking up to other young startups.

Do you have any parting comments or words of advice to our readers and the small business community?

If you have an idea, you should act on it.  Ideas can be a dime in a dozen, but it’s really about execution.  I think that if people put all of their effort into starting a business…if they’re passionate about it and tell everybody they know about it, then almost anyone can start their own business.  I encourage people to start their own businesses and try to ground themselves with people who have done so and been successful.  It’s good to have mentorship from people who know how things work.

I hope you enjoyed reading this interview and I hope you gained something from Candice’s words of wisdom and many insights into what it’s like to own a start-up.  What do you think of her ideas?

Feel free to leave feedback here or contact Candice through her site: http://www.convertible-heels.com/Day2Night.html

Support her business here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2072356942/day2night-convertible-high-heel-shoes

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Posts Tagged ‘tips’

College and Small Business: My Lessons Learned That May Help Entrepreneurs

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

So, I finished my first year of college and it wasn’t too bad, but being on campus was sort of distracting.  I took a bunch of courses, including one Math course(now I’m completely done with Math!), however, most of those courses were critical thinking courses. What I learned in my first year, while doing those courses,  can be applicable to small businesses.

  1. Pay attention to deadlines! This is important. Even if the deadline is a month away, one should always keep an eye on it. Small business owners can often get overwhelmed from the sheer number of things that they have to do (remember, small business usually means less employees), so it’s better for them to keep some extra time before deadlines to get stuff done.
  2. Keep up with your reading. My courses had a lot of reading required for them. I did do most of it, but I did not space them out and as a result the readings got a little overwhelming.  Since small business owners have to read reports and do a lot of paperwork, this is a good tip to keep in mind.
  3. Print stuff out if you have to. I know we’re all trying to save paper and help the environment and all, but reading on a screen is not fun. You can do it for a while, but if it’s a 5pg PDF with very dense text, you’re better off printing it out. You can even scribble notes on it if it makes you happy. This is especially useful if your employees are emailing you their reports.
  4. Don’t work in the same place all the time. Sometimes working in a different place can help you concentrate. Sometimes, when I was doing my readings, I would go outside. It helped me focus. For small business owners, try holding your meetings on the rooftop or even outside the building.
  5. Use something other than a Powerpoint. Everyone uses Powerpoint. Why not switch things around a bit? I remember one of my TA’s used something called a Prezi once. It was a lot more dynamic than a PowerPoint. This would help employees focus a little more on the content.

These tips helped me get through my first year, so maybe they will help you too.

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