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Susan Melony

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May 22, 2017

Business Survival Tips During Slow Seasons

slow season

Most businesses have slow seasons or times of the year that just aren’t as busy as others. One example is the retail industry. Summer is often a time when retail-based small businesses see a slow down because their customers are often on vacation or enjoying the outdoors and not necessarily thinking about shopping as much.

These slowdowns can have an enormous impact on business, and you can see that as you research seasonal stock trends, and discern just what an economic impact the time of year can have on a business.

So if you’re a small business, how can you survive your slow times?

Get Outdoors

As mentioned above, one of the reasons a lot of businesses and in particular retail businesses tend to slow down in the summer is because all their would-be customers are outside enjoying the warm weather. So why not take your business to them?

There are a couple of ways you can do this, including participating in local, seasonal events and festivals or hosting your own outdoor event.

You want to put yourself front and center in plain sight of customers and clients, which can mean getting outdoors as much as possible during warm weather months.

Be Prepared

If you’re a veteran in your industry, you may already recognize the importance of being prepared and understanding seasonal trends, but if you’re a new business, doing some research can go a long way. Go back years or even decades and look at general industry trends in your business.

This will help you better prepare for a potential seasonal slowdown, and then you’ll be more equipped to manage things like cash flow if it does occur.

Also important is to consider the potential for a slow season when you’re developing your yearly plan. As you’re setting up projections for revenue and your goals, think about what peaks and valleys might occur, and prepare for the worst when you’re doing that.

Be Transparent

A lot of businesses will suffer during downturns because they try to hide it from their vendors and their bank, as well as investors and other people they have money-based relationships with. Rather than trying to hide it and stay afloat, be open and honest about your situation.

Everyone around you will appreciate it, and you won’t lose them when times are a little tough. If you’re honest and upfront you may even be able to negotiate on some things with your vendors and suppliers.

Get Organized

If you’re prepared for your slow season, you can look at it as a very good time to get organized and be better prepared for when business picks back up again. Slow times are ideal for performing an audit of your business, and analyze what’s working and what isn’t.

You can make sure that you are operating in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible, and evaluate how your employees are doing. If your staff could benefit from additional training, this is a great time to do that as well.

Look at slow times as having their own unique value in terms of strengthening your business.

Slow times are tough, but preparation is key to surviving them and using them as an opportunity to thrive.

 

May 19, 2017

The Tips You Need to Start Your Own Consulting Business

Consultant

Starting a consulting business can come with a lot of advantages if you have expertise in a particular area, especially if your expertise is highly in demand. When you work as a consultant, you are an advisor to another person or a company, and the market for these services totals in the billions of dollars each year.

Technology has also expanded consulting because it’s easier to communicate and collaborate.

With all the advantages of being a consultant, it’s important to realize that it’s not for everyone, and it takes not only a sense of passion but also dedication and the ability to be a self-starter.

The following are some things to know if you’re considering a move to your own consulting business.

Know Your Insurance Needs

Many consultants are lax when it comes to things like insurance, but that can turn into a big legal problem. Speak with a professional to learn if you need certain insurance, such as personal indemnity insurance. Companies need to protect not only their business but their personal assets, so even if you’re a consulting firm of one, it’s important to make sure you’re protected.

In the U.S. indemnity insurance is often called errors and omissions insurance, and it is like malpractice insurance for consultants in the event a consultant or their employees do something that causes loss or damage to a client.

Create a Pricing Structure

As you’re starting a consulting business, you’ll need to develop standardized pricing structures as well as proposal templates. To do this, you’ll need to do some competitive analysis and look at what other consultants in your industry are charging, as well as how long certain elements of a project will take you.

When you’re a consultant and you have a set pricing structure, you won’t have to worry about going back and forth on pricing, because your rates are set, and that’s it.

Important to remember is that people put more value on things that cost more, so don’t ever undercharge. Of course, you have to be able to demonstrate your value, but if you can do that, you can price your services at a premium.

Set Up a Corporation

Even if you’re working entirely on your own as a consultant, it’s a good idea to set up a corporation for your business.

Otherwise, your personal assets can be at risk if something goes wrong. Plus, if you’re a corporation it will lend your newly formed business a sense of legitimacy that clients will like.

Be Prepared To Sell Yourself

If you’re thinking of being a consultant, along with having expertise in a niche where there’s a demand, you have to be prepared to sell yourself.

You’ll need to brand your business with that in mind and be prepared to attend every meeting with the idea that you are going to sell yourself first and foremost.

Finally, be ready not only for face-to-face interactions where it’s all about selling your value, but also be prepared for demanding clients and obstacles because it’s inevitable in consulting.

 

Three Seriously Effective Storytelling Ideas for Business Owners

Storytelling

At its core, businesses are all about storytelling.

Think about it. From Apple to Facebook and beyond, every brand starts with some sort of compelling story. Likewise, today’s consumers want to make personal connections with the brands that they frequent and support. In short, the brand with the best story can stand out among its competitors.

Brands today have so many options when it comes to telling their story. The rise of multimedia storytelling and blogging have opened new opportunities for businesses owners to build their following and make new connections with potential customers.

With all of this in mind, a huge question remains: what story are you going to tell?

Thankfully, you don’t need to be an expert author to tell your tale. For starters, consider the following three storytelling ideas that any entrepreneur can leverage to reach their followers on more personal level.

Rags to Riches

Everyone loves a good business fairytale, plain and simple. When you think about stories such as Steve Jobs’ journey from college dropout to business mastermind, it’s clear to see how audiences are inspired by an unlikely success story.

The classic formula for such a story is relatively straightforward.

  • Open with a low-point in your life’s: perhaps a breakdown in marriage, unpaid stack of bills or a nasty eviction from your apartment
  • Discuss the “turning point” or spark that managed to turn your luck around
  • End your story by essentially inspiring a sense of hope in your readers that they can follow a similar path

The rages to riches tale is a flawless way to connect to your followers. Even if you’ve never hit rock bottom, you can use this sort of story template to make yourself seem more relatable to your audience.

Your Biggest Mistake

Businesses are run by people, not robots. Likewise, people make plenty of mistakes and entrepreneurs are certainly no different.

By telling the story of a time you seriously screwed up, you uncover your vulnerable side and present a more human element to your business. While you don’t need to delve into any deep, dark secrets, some mistakes worth mentioning to your audience include…

  • A business opportunity that you let slip through your fingers
  • A time where something you said come back to bite you
  • An instance where your negligence or lack of detail lost you a customer

These stories don’t even necessarily have to be 100% factual: the ultimate goal here is to make yourself seem more personable and relatable.

The “Lightbulb Moment”

Arguably the easiest story for business owners to tell is the story of how they got involved with entrepreneurship in the first place.

This story might relate to your rags to riches tale, but is ideal for those who perhaps don’t have the most dramatic stories to tell. A good example of a lightbulb moment is Mark Zuckerberg’s inspiration for Facebook, which is an entrepreneurial origin story that isn’t rooted in a big downfall but rather a big idea.

Whether your “ah-ha” moment was a conversation with a friend or a need that you realized needed to be filled, describing your business’ lightbulb moment helps define your mission statement in the eyes of your audience. This also helps present your business as a protagonist versus someone trying to grab a quick buck.

Smart businesses understand how to tell their stories. Any of these templates are fair game for businesses owners looking to get closer to the readership.

How Brands Can Reach Millennial Men

Millennial Male

When businesses and marketers talk about the Millennial consumer, they may not differentiate, but by default, they’re usually talking about women. Women are thought of as the primary consumers in many cases, and the Millennial man can go overlooked, despite the fact that they’re a key demographic.

To be successful going forward, businesses need to learn how to connect with not only Millennial women but also men in the same age bracket. They’re frequently not just overlooked, but also misunderstood, but below are some tips that can help businesses better connect with this group.

They Want To Be Helped

Research shows that Millennial men across all specific age brackets tend to be drawn to content marketing that they see as being helpful. Useful information resonates, and most Millennial men won’t engage with content at all if it’s not helpful to them. A lot of this has to do with the fact that this is one of the most educated groups in history (along with Millennial women).

Hanz de Fuko is an innovative company offering men’s hair products, and they regularly feature content that serves as a relevant guide for their audience, such as articles on hair trends for men and how to achieve them. They do a great job of connecting with men in an area which is typically challenging: grooming products.

Be Funny

Being funny sounds like a simple business and marketing strategy, but it’s tough to get right. An example of a company who has mastered it is the Dollar Shave Club. The company started with a 2012 commercial video on YouTube which focused on mocking established brands, and the better value Dollar Shave Club could offer.

Just three months after the video’s debut it had nearly five million views, thanks to organic sharing on social media.

Simplicity

Simplicity is something Millennial men enjoy both in marketing and the products they choose. They don’t necessarily need fancy advertising, content or products to be happy. The tend to be thrifty and searching for concepts and marketing that are direct, and products that do what they need them to do.

One example of a company that stays true to its roots and keeps it simple, while remaining incredibly popular, is Old Spice. Old Spice is great at engaging its target demographic, and it’s become one of the most popular hygiene companies for men ever.

Somewhat along the lines of simplicity is the fact that Millennial men also like is convenience and efficiency. When marketing can point out the benefits of products and services regarding saving time and making things move along more efficiently, it scores points with many male audiences.

Innovation and Being First

As a final note, if you want to market to Millennial men, you need to understand areas where they’re different from women.

One of the significant ways is in the fact that men are more likely to want to try out the newest technology and innovations. The Millennial generation, in general, is considered to be early adopters, but men in particular. Male shoppers like to feel like they’re getting in on something revolutionary or being part of the beginning stages of something, so if you can incorporate this into your marketing, it can perform well.

Top 4 Online Business Marketing Strategies For 2017

Press Release

In the days before the internet, marketing your business essentially consisted of setting up flyers around town, securing local celebrity endorsements, and putting ads in the paper.

But those days are long gone. With the advent and extremely wide use of the internet, marketing your business online is no longer an option. It’s one hundred percent necessary if you want to see your business become the success you’ve always dreamed of it being.

Here are the top four online business marketing strategies for 2017:

1. Have A Good Web Design

What does it mean to have a good web design? It means that your business website and/or blog must be both very appealing and user friendly. When someone first visits your website, they will on average decide whether to leave or stay within a maximum of fifteen seconds. Therefore, your website must be easy to read, easy to navigate, and attention grabbing if you want your new visitors to stay longer than that.

Rather than design your website yourself (assuming you’re not a professional web designer), invest the money in having a pro create it for you. It’s also imperative that you have a mobile friendly version of your site created as well, as more people are surfing the internet on their phones rather than their laptops these days.

2. Have An Email Subscription

If you have email subscribers, you will be able to send those subscribers newsletters, updates, offer them special discounts, and even hold contests. Make your email subscription box a very prominent part of your website and include a call to action with a reward for signing up (such as a free product or eBook). You can also enhance the emails you send out to your subscribers by personalizing them with a service such as Nifty Images.

3. Leverage SEO In Your Favor

The best way to attract organic traffic (traffic that comes naturally) to your business website is to improve the visibility of your website on search engines, and this is most effectively accomplished by running a successful SEO (search engine optimization) campaign.

By running a strong SEO campaign and including popular keywords relevant to your niche in your content, there is a much greater chance that a potential customer will select you to worth with rather than a competitor.

4. Write Press Releases

Finally, by writing online press releases you will automatically be putting your brand in front of blogs, newspapers, and general media sources. This is ultimately one of the more overlooked but still highly effective ways of building general awareness about your business online.

Marketing Your Business Online

By running an efficient online marketing campaign for your business, you will be able to attract more customers and this will lead to greater sales of your products or services. While there are many ways to market your business online, the four tips you have learned about in this article will be the most effective ones you can use for your company.

Four Proactive Tips for Starting a Home-Based Business

home office

Starting a business on your own terms often feels like a leap of faith. After all, stepping away from the security and stability of a steady nine-to-five gig isn’t easy if it’s all you’ve ever known.

Yet given the volatile nature of the economy and the fact that those stuck in office gigs often wish they were elsewhere, it never hurts to think about how you’ll eventually escape the daily grind to become your own boss.

If you want to turn working from home into a reality, consider the following tips to put your ideas in motion. While your business idea may not come to fruition overnight, looking at the big picture of your business will increase your likelihood of making a smooth transition from office drone to entrepreneur when the time comes.

Brainstorm Sooner Rather Than Later

It never hurts to have an idea or two in the back of your mind in terms of what you want to do with your business. Don’t make the mistake of moving forward with your own business until you understand the in’s and out’s of your industry.

For example, you need to decide what sort of industries mesh with your skill set and allow you to work from home. Are you savvy with Internet marketing and ecommerce? Do you prefer to work with your hands? Could you potentially start a local business which allows you to engage with your community?

There is no “right” answer to these questions, but having a few ideas in mind will help guide you to figure out exactly what you need to get started.

Build Your Home Office

Regardless of what you decide to do, having a dedicated home office space to crucial to your success. If you’re running a web-based business, for example, you’ll need a dedicated space to take care of client contact and work in peace at the comfort of your computer.

But what if you’re dealing with physical products? Although nothing’s stopping you from running your business out of your garage, having a dedicated workspace can help you focus and keep your inventory from overtaking your home. Investing in a steel arch building as your workshop is a solid option as you give yourself a dedicated place to work and store your products safely.

Have Your Savings in Order

Simply put, you’re going to want to have as much cash on hand as you possibly can when it comes time to start your business. Start saving today rather than put yourself in a situation where you can’t afford to keep your business idea afloat. Even putting a hundred dollars here and there in a secure account can make all the difference when you or your business hit hard times.

Seek Out Potential Joint Ventures

It never hurts to have a partner in crime when you’re starting your own business. Whether through personal friendships or someone looking to provide some start-up capital, use your existing network to your advantage. Chances are there’s someone else in your inner circle that could help you get your business off the ground.

That being said, you should tread lightly when partnering up with close friends and family. Don’t make the mistake of sacrificing your personal relationships at the expense of your business.

With all of this in mind, however, don’t go off telling everyone under the sun that you want to quit your current gig, either. Although you don’t need to completely suppress your entrepreneurial ambitions, don’t make them public to your co-workers until you’re truly ready to jump ship.

Starting a home-based business can be a reality if and only if you have a smart plan in place. With these tips in the back of your mind, you can get your business off the ground sooner rather than later.

 

May 10, 2017

Tips and Best Practices To Improve the Efficiency of Accounts Payable

Accounts Payable

A company’s accounts payable department is an essential component of the organization, but it’s often one where there’s a lot of waste. Accounts payable departments tend to be stuck in the past, even when they’re part of a large, modern organization.

There’s a lot of manual data entry, time-consuming workflows, and clunky methods for handling of invoices. By eliminating the inefficiency of accounts payable, companies can improve their overall efficiency as well, and save money.

The following are some simple ways to achieve that objective.

Identify Where Problems Exist

In large companies, one of the biggest issues in addressing inefficiencies in individual departments comes from the fact that leadership doesn’t know where these problems exist. Before trying to address inefficiency in general, it’s important to do an audit of where there are specific issues, and where solutions could deal with those problems.

This will allow companies to get the best return on investment, and also make sure they choose the right technology solutions when it comes to automation.

Invest In Automation Software

First and foremost, all companies need invoice management software and a fully automated accounts payable system. This is the number one way to automate nearly all processes across the AP department and improve efficiency in a huge way.

With automated invoice and AP software, these departments will have the repetitive tasks done for them, eliminating much of the tediousness that tends to bog down accounts payable. Software is also an excellent way to simplify complicated workflows in general.

When workflows are automated it also cuts down on human error, optimizing overall performance.

Define Objectives

Improving inefficiency in and of itself is a fine goal, but it’s also important to set specific goals. For example, do you want to process a certain number of invoices each month without hiring new employees?

Maybe you want to reduce the number of people it currently takes to process the same number of invoices.

Whatever your objectives may be, it’s important to clearly define them to give yourself not only a framework from which to work, but also to measure your success and ROI.

Improve Visibility

One of the top ways to improve visibility into accounts payable is also through the implementation of a robust software solution. Regardless of how a company achieves this, it’s important.

There needs to be strong visibility into each aspect of the accounts payable workflow, and there should be a central place where relevant staff members can go to see the information they need, and if necessary, provide approvals.

When choosing software, look for options that have real-time reporting centralized on a user-friendly dashboard.

Onboard Your Employees with new Processes and Software

Finally, the organization needs to make sure they’re properly onboarding employees when it comes to any new workflows, processes, and also with the implementation of new software.

It’s important when doing this to highlight the benefits the changes will bring to employees, and also show them how it will impact their job directly.   

Four Things Smart Entrepreneurs Look for in Pursuit of a Joint Venture

Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be a lonely road; likewise, sometimes it pays to have a partner in crime when it comes to growing your business.

Although pursuing a joint venture may not seem like a top priority now, consider the benefits of bringing on a business partner in the future. Such benefits include…

Such benefits include…

  • Growing your bottom line: with more members on your team, you increase the number of customers you can reach
  • Covering more ground: when you have someone else who can help you spread the word, your business has the potential to grow like wildfire (think: this rings true both in-person and online)
  • The ability to stretch out your budget: the more capital you have on hand, the more risks you can potentially take with your business’ budget

That being said, you can’t just bring anyone onto your team and expect results. Instead, consider taking a mindful and practical approach to pursuing a joint venture, with a keen attention to detail regarding the following qualities.

Someone You Can Trust

Plain and simple, there’s little more valuable than trust when it comes to a business partnership. After all, you can’t afford to gamble with your business or livelihood by working with someone you can’t trust inside and out.

Ideally, you can initiate your joint venture via referrals and networking from friends and partners whose opinions you already value. Bear in mind that it takes

Bear in mind that it takes time to build a relationship with a business partner: don’t make the mistake of rushing into something and sacrificing the security of your company.

Someone Who Can Innovate

In a business world full of copycats, it pays to bring someone on deck who brings experience and innovation to the table.

The beauty of a joint venture is not only the ability to cover more ground as a business, but to also explore new ideas and gain fresh perspective as an entrepreneur. For example, someone who can follow a

For example, someone who can follow a three-pillar model of organization and innovation is a strong candidate for big ideas that produce results.

In short, someone who can actually follow through on their ideas and planning is invaluable to a budding business. Such a personality is definitely desirable versus someone with no new ideas to bring to the table.

Someone With a Track Record

When all else fails, it’s important to understand the previous experience of your potential partner and how their experience matches with yours. For example, perhaps you have more of a technical background and you need someone with savvy sales experience.

Ask yourself: what does their resume look like in terms of what they’ve done?

Do they have a track record of success? Sometimes the past of a potential JV speaks volumes for the ability versus anything they say themselves.

Someone You Can Communicate With

While first impressions aren’t everything, you can get a pretty good sense of whether or not someone will be a good fit for you based on your initial conversations. Strive to meet anyone you want to do business with in person to see their mannerisms face-to-face to ensure that your personalities don’t clash.

 Joint ventures can be tricky to initiate and manage; however, they can make all the difference for your business. Whether you’re looking to bring someone new to your team or simply want to keep your options open, start with these four qualities in mind before going any further.

Whether you’re looking to bring someone new to your team or simply want to keep your options open, start with these four qualities in mind before going any further.

April 27, 2017

What To Know About Controlling Employee Access to Data

employee data

There probably aren’t many businesses at this point, whether large or small, that aren’t in some way invested in protecting themselves and their customers against cyber threats and potential data theft. By now most business owners know that they can be the target of these threats, no matter how small they are, but at the same time, businesses tend to overlook a critical area of protection: employees.

It’s important to know why and how to limit employee access to data and prevent accidental or intentional data loss that can occur through the actions of employees. It doesn’t matter if you use the best network scanner and security protection products if your employees aren’t also considered in your overall IT security plan.

Put Role-Based Access Control In Place

Role-based access is one of the most important ways you can maintain complete monitoring and visibility over who of your employees can access what. With role-based access control, you can restrict access to various systems and information only to certain employees and users. This means that each employee can only access what’s absolutely necessary to their job function.

There are many options you can use to create complete role-based access, and most software and cloud solutions have these customization options as well.

While restricting access shouldn’t be your only layer of security, it gives fewer people less access to data, making you less vulnerable.

Train Employees

A lot of data loss issues related to employees are entirely accidental. Employees simply don’t know or understand how certain actions could lead to a loss of data or a data breach.

That’s why it’s up to you as the employer to ensure that your employees are thoroughly trained. This training should be refreshed often as well because best practices and common threats can change quickly in the IT world.

Establish Procedures For Employees Who Leave

When employees leave a business for whatever reason they more commonly than you might realize will end up taking client data. They might not even see it as being a problem, but it can lead to massive vulnerabilities for the business.

Some of the reasons employees say they take client data with them when they leave include the fact that it could be useful to them in the future, the feeling that they helped cultivate that client, the idea that the theft couldn’t be traced back to them, and also that it was an accident.

The more you can define a procedure for when someone leaves the company, including wiping data from mobile devices, the more you can eliminate the risk of data being stolen.

Finally, as much as possible, limit employees’ use of the Internet and social networks while they’re at work. It’s a simple, effective way to lower the threat risk that’s present for businesses. The more employees are online and on social media at work, the higher the threat level is going to be for that business to be exposed to problems.  

April 20, 2017

Top 5 Tips For Asking For A Pay Raise

While it can certainly feel intimidating or awkward to ask for a raise, if you feel that you are not getting paid what your work is worth, then the time has come to ask your boss for one.

How to negotiate your salary properly in general is something that you should definitely learn how to do, because surprisingly few other people know how to and the result is they miss out on numerous opportunities for a potential pay increase. The same doesn’t have to happen to you, so here are the top five tips for asking for a raise:

1. Conduct Plenty Of Research

The only way to know how much your job is worth is to research it. Therefore, you will want to research averages on how much people are being paid in your line of work both in your state and nationally. You need to prove to your boss that you want more than just more money. You need to prove to them that they are underpaying you relative to what other people in your same profession and experience level are earning.

2. List Out Your Accomplishments

Your argument that you need a pay raise will always be more compelling if you have a complete list of accomplishments that showcases just how valuable you are to the company or business you work at. You will also need to write down or explain to your boss how each of those accomplishments benefited the company as well.

3. Pick The Right Time To Ask For The Raise

Be patient and ask for the raise at the right time. Not only do you want to wait for when you are fully prepared, but you also want to wait for when things are looking good for the company too. Asking for a raise when the company has recently had a large drop in sales or has had to lay off a large number of employees are two examples of times when you should definitely not ask for a pay increase.

4. Don’t Complain

One trap that you definitely don’t want to fall into when it comes to asking for a raise is coming across as complaining rather than requesting. There are certain things that you will not want to say to your boss, such as “Bill got a raise last week, so I want one too” or “I’ve worked for this company for five years and I don’t have a raise yet.”

5. Be Ready For Your Boss To Say No

Don’t go to your boss expecting them to automatically agree with you and give you exactly the raise you want. If they decline your request, politely ask them their reasons why or what you can do to earn an increase in salary. A more likely outcome is that your boss may agree to a raise, but not quite to the same figure that you are requesting,

Asking For A Pay Raise

One last thing to keep in mind is that the tips you have learned in this article won’t just come in handy for asking for a pay raise at your current job, they will also prove their worth to you for first negotiating your salary with a new job as well.