Tag Archives: business

5 Pillars of Small Business Success

It has been a while since I’ve found an article interesting enough to use it as a “guest article” but I get asked very, very often what the keys to a successful business are and this article nailed it!

It was featured on the SBA’s website in January of this year and I’ve been going to share it for a while.  I hope it is interesting and helpful to you!

5 Pillars of Small Businesses Success

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: January 13, 2015

 

What does it take for a small business to achieve success?Whether you’re already in business, or preparing to start a business, it takes hard work, tenacity and drive to achieve a high level of success. Lori Greiner, star shark of ABC’s Shark Tank says, “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”

According to Elizabeth Wilson of Entrepreneur Magazine, while some 40 million businesses are started each year, a paltry 350,000 break out of the pack and begin growing and making money. So how can a small business owner overcome some of the common business pitfalls? Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World and star of CNBC’s prime time reality series The Profit, knows all about determining the success or failure of a business. Lemonis says, “Business success is about the three P’s: People, Process and Product.” Here are five pillars that make a small business successful.

1) People

If you want your small business to succeed, you need a fantastic team. Russell Simmons, Entrepreneur and founder or Def Jam Recordings says, “Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.” A company can accomplish amazing things when it has leadership and a team who is inspired, hardworking and believes in the company’s mission.

2) Plan

“Quality is the best business plan, period,” says John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Pixar and Disney. Just about everyone in the business world agrees that having a plan is important. And that doesn’t mean the big formal business plan document you fear like a term paper. It starts small and may grow in time. At a start-up, implementation is everything. That means it’s essential to establish responsibilities, set goals, and track performance. You will also need to answer key questions, such as:

  • Have you identified your target customers?
  • What problems are you trying to solve for them?
  • What will be the most effective marketing and promotional strategies?

3) Process

Dr. W. Edwards Deming said, “85 percent of the reasons for failure to meet customer expectations are related to deficiencies in systems and processes…rather than the employee.” It’s crucial that you have a full and clear understanding of your company’s processes and have the right systems in place.

4) Product

Does your product solve a problem? Does it exist yet? Is there something that is out there that your product does in a different way? Is there a demand for your product? Success in business requires doing something you’re passionate about that fills a need in the marketplace. Debbi Fields, Founder of Mrs. Fields Bakeries says, “Once you find something you love to do, be the best at doing it.”

5) Profit

When it comes to measuring a successful business, profitability is probably the first thing that comes to mind. Is the company making money? A critical component of running a successful business is knowing your numbers. “If you want to be successful in business, you need to become proficient at handling certain numbers. You need to be able to read and understand your financial dashboard” says Dawn Fotopulos, Associate Professor of Business at The King’s College in New York.

Starting and running a successful business can be a fulfilling and rewarding experience. You as a small business owner should never stop learning, innovating, planning and growing. “Leaders spend five percent of their time on the problem and 95 percent of their time on the solution. Get over it & crush it!” says Tony Robbins.

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in ‘Fox Small Business’,’American Express Small Business’, ‘Business Week’, ‘The Washington Post’, ‘The New York Times’, ‘The San Francisco Tribune’, ‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

De Pere High School Transition Program Partnering with Local Businesses

Here at the Chamber we have many issues we are concerned with and we are constantly on the look for potential solutions.  Two of the things on that list are the current & future workforce as well our educational systems.  Recently, Christopher Guilette, Special Education Transition Coordinator at De Pere High School stopped by to tell us about a program he is coordinating and it is innovative and exciting!

At my request, he has written the following article about the program and how it is helping with today’s issues of note.  I hope you find it as interesting and informative as I did and, even more, I hope the program information finds its way to employers in our community where it will have benefit for both the business and the students.

De Pere High School Transition Program Partnering with Local Businesses

 

As a responsible partner with our families and the community, De Pere High School provides an educational edge that prepares all learners to be successful and contributing members in society. As part of that edge, the high school is striving to offer authentic learning opportunities for all students to prepare them for the world of work.

 

The school’s Transition Program is set up to give students with disabilities the opportunity to showcase their abilities and develop employability skills. Through the combined efforts of families, school staff members and business partners, we can truly make a difference in the lives of these young students who will become productive members of our community.

 

How can we be of service to your business? Opportunities that are mutually beneficial for employers and students are needed. For our students, it is developing necessary employability skills in an authentic learning environment. For the employer, this would be the chance to hire a deserving student who desires to learn employment soft skills as well as while meeting the needs of your business. In addition, opportunities for a school-sponsored job coach, support from parents and special funding from various resources may be possible.

 

If you are interested in working with a student employee who will appreciate the opportunity to learn under your guidance, hiring a student from the DPHS Transition Program may be just the opportunity for your business. To discuss the possibilities for partnership, please contact:

 

Chris Guilette

Transition Program Coordinator and Special Education Teacher

De Pere High School

(920) 337-1020 ext. 4621

cguilette@depere.k12.wi.us

1700 Chicago Street, De Pere, WI 54115

Days of rest

Today is a day of rest for me.  I usually take rest days on Friday and Sunday, but sometimes Wednesday and Sunday.  This week today is definitely a day of rest.  A much needed one.  While I wasn’t in the gym over the weekend,  I did some tabatas at home as part of the Metabolic Meltdown session I’m doing and I raked/did yard work for 8 hours between Saturday and Sunday.  I burned 893 calories during Sunday’s activity alone!  Sunday was NOT a rest day for me.  Today, I woke and knew I needed the rest.  I felt a tiny little niggle of guilt at the back of my mind, but I know rest days are critical when training or staying with any workout lifestyle.

We count steps, active minutes, and calories burned/consumed. These are all important pieces of data that help us live healthier, more active lives. But we often don’t stress the important of rest and why your body needs days off.

From Dean Karnazes, ultra-marathon man:

1.Rest Prevents Injury – It’s common sense that resting is beneficial for injury reduction, but why? Well for starters, rest days prevent overuse. That extends from running to lifting and even walking. If you’re a regular runner, you know how much your legs and feet can take until you just need a day off. If you push it too hard without a break, your muscles and joints suffer from overuse and that’s where injuries can happen.

2. Your Muscles Need Rest – This is likely the first thing you learned about strength training. When you lift weights, you’re essentially tearing muscle fibers. But without a proper period of rest for your immune system to repair and grow the muscle, you’re not going to get the benefit of your training. That’s why you need to vary the muscle groups you engage on staggered days.

3. Your Performance Won’t Dip – In general, it takes your body almost two weeks of non-activity before you start losing a noticeable amount of your progress or performance level. So don’t think that taking a day or two off from training will set you back all that hard work you’ve put in.

4. Over-training Affects Sleep – Is your sleep data all over the place? Over-training could be the culprit. Too much exercise can put your body in a constant state of restlessness or on high alert making a good night’s sleep tough to achieve. A telltale sign is an increase in your resting heart rate. Taking those rest day can help bring down your alertness and heart rate, which can help get you a night of sound sleep.

5. Your Immune System Can Overheat – During periods of heavy activity, our immune systems are constantly activating to repair muscles and joints. Without proper rest, your immune system can’t catch up to all the repairs your body needs. And then? You guessed it: injuries.

6. Mental Edge – From a psychological standpoint, taking a rest period can rekindle your hunger for exercise and help prevent burnout. Mental fatigue can be every bit as detrimental as physical fatigue and taking a rest day helps to recharge the psyche.

 

So, rest!  Rest when you need it.  Sometimes rest when your mind thinks no but your body says yes!

Rest is as important as fueling your body correctly to working out effectively and having good health.  Slow down, fuel up and hit it again the next day  (or maybe the day after that … it is your body – listen to it!).

10514484_684818968277384_6685538589072831221_n

A Friday Favorite Returns … Linkapalooza!

Today ends the first full week of blog posts I’ve done in a LONG time!  So, to celebrate, indulge myself and to clean out my “Read Later Fast” and Bookmarks folders … today is LINKA-PALOOZA!

Let’s start with some business information links:

  • On the State of Wisconsin site is a Business Wizard that covers licensing, permitting and regulatory requirements as well as some links to Federal sites.
  • On October 28, 2011, the President issued a challenge to government agencies to think beyond their organizational boundaries in the best interest of serving America’s business community, and start thinking and acting more like the businesses they serve. He directed the creation of BusinessUSA, a centralized, one-stop platform to make it easier than ever for businesses to access services to help them grow and hire.  It has TONS Of information on it!!

A few more related to safety – yes my theme for the week!

20 Online Project Management Tools to Boost Productivity

Five Ways to Use Your Social Profiles for SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Two that were interesting:

The world population clock – check out us compared to China and India

And these two are because it is Friday and laughing will make the day go by faster!

First, I’m a HUGE Golden Retriever fan and I love this Golden trying to train his tiny human

And, finally, I am *such* a Sci-Fi Geek Girl. I adore this!!

I hope you had a great week and have a fabulous weekend.  Don’t forget to tell your Mom or those who are like a Mom to you how much you appreciate her!

 

 

Wounded Warrior Project

About a week ago, a reader commented on a blog entry and brought the Wounded Warrior Project to our attention.  We were fascinated and Claire Westlie, our PR intern, has written today’s post about the project:

As the dog days of summer approach, people are inclined to relax, head to the great outdoors and spend time with their families. All this is great, but it’s important to remember the people who fight for us to be able to enjoy life as we do.

How can members of the De Pere and greater Green Bay area community remember and honor our United States Veterans?
One action people can take is to support The Wounded Warrior Project.

The Wounded Warrior Project began in 2003 after the first of the wounded service members began returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq and needed help to re-establishing into their communities.

Nine years later, WWP has become a complete rehabilitation effort to assist warriors through mind, body, engagement and economic engagement programs as they recover and transition back into civilian life.  The program is available to all military who have suffered injury on or after September 11, 2001.

For more information please visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/ .

A local action people can take is to support the City Stadium Run for Veterans.

The City Stadium Run for Veterans is being organized as a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team. The 5k Run and Walk fundraiser is set for September 8th.   Organizers say the event will bring more awareness to Veterans and all proceeds will be donated to the traveling amputee softball team.

For more information please visit http://wtaq.com/news/articles/2012/apr/28/5k-fundraiser-announced-for-wounded-warrior-amputee-softball-team/ .

Finally, simply thank a veteran. Thank with them your whole heart and tell them you appreciate them.

Enjoy the dog days of summer and remember those who fight for you and your family.

Ed:  Claire is continuing to research and we hope to bring future stories about local businesses created by this project.  Please let us know if you know of any!

Business Meals & Entertainment

From our friends at Hawkins, Ash, Baptie & Co. comes this week’s tax tip on business meals & entertainment:

When you pay for business meals and entertainment, keep in mind that generally only half of otherwise allowable meal and entertainment expenses are deductible on your federal tax return. This includes 50% of all business meal and entertainment expenses, including those incurred while attending professional seminars and traveling away from home. If a hotel includes meals in its room charge, a reasonable allocation must be made to determine the portion of the expenditure subject to the 50% disallowance.

Taxes and tips related to meals or entertainment are included in the amount that is subject to the 50% limit. Also subject are expenses for cover charges to clubs, room rental for a dinner or cocktail party, and amounts paid for parking at an entertainment location. However, transportation costs incurred getting to and from the entertainment activity are not subject to the 50% disallowance. In addition, when a self-employed taxpayer uses a per diem method for travel expenses, the federal meal and incidental expense rate is treated as an expense for food and beverages and, thus, is subject to the 50% disallowance.

If an employee adequately accounts for these expenses and the employer properly reimburses the expenses under an accountable plan arrangement, the employer is also subject to the 50% limitation on its reimbursement. An ac-countable plan is a reimbursement or other expense allowance arrangement that requires employees to substantiate covered expenses and return unsubstantiated advances. The employee has nothing to report since the reimbursement offsets the expenses incurred.

Conversely, an employer gets a 100% deduction if meal expense reimbursements or allowances paid for or to an employee under a nonaccountable plan are treated as compensation to the employee. Of course, the employer must then pay FICA taxes and the income is subject to normal withholding, but this rule basically allows employers to shift the 50% disallowance to employees. Similarly, meal reimbursements and allowances that are included in the taxable income of independent contractors are also 100% deductible by the service recipient.

 

Finding Your Sweet Spot

A guest article from Mary Guldan-Lindstrom with a thought-provoking message for this Monday!

THE SWEET SPOT

In golf there is something called a “sweet spot”.   It is the spot on the face of the club, which provides the most effective results when hitting the ball. Every time a golfer hits, they are aiming for that sweet spot. I think of it as the place that will bring about the most desirable results.

We can apply this same principle to people. Have you ever felt like a square peg in a round hole?  If so, you missed the sweet spot.

Being a mother, I worked hard to put my boys in a situation in which they could succeed. The ultimate challenge was forcing two strong  willed, can’t sit still, boys in a school classroom for 4 hours straight.   And then, we expect them to learn under those conditions.

Society expects us to conform to the rules. Thankfully, those rules are relaxing and we have more choices.

In business, every business has it’s sweet spot.  The situation where the best solution is provided to meet the their best customer’s need. This spot can demand the maximum price for the business and provide the maximum value to the customer.

Have you found your “sweet spot”  or  are you still trying to force the square peg in the round hole?

Thanks Mary!

Business Life Cycles

When you think about the life cycle of a business, every one goes from the start-up phase to maturity.  The longevity of a business depends on how long each cycle lasts, and that is often difficult to determine.

The business starts with the owner’s idea.  Often it is an inventor who comes up with a product or service that they believe is missing from the marketplace.  Unfortunately, that is as far as many new products or services go.  The creator has a great product but lacks the knowledge to get the product to market.  For fledgling businesses, a business and strategic marketing plan with accurate financial projections is essential.

It starts with a feasibility study.  Is it a good idea?  Is there a market for it?  Will consumers buy it?

The strategies help secure investors or financing so the business can get going.  If the product has a niche in the market and the plan is worked effectively, the business enters the growth phase.  The product is manufactured, packaged, and moved through the distribution channels.  Costs are controlled and profits start to roll in.  The investors or banks are getting paid, which makes them happy.  They may even invest more during the growth stage to reap additional profits.  Sales are up and the inventor is working on another idea or has sold licensing rights to another company.

At some point, either through management running out of ideas to keep the strategies innovative or the market has reached a saturation point for the product or service, the business enters a maturity phase.   Sales may plateau.  Production may stabilize or start to lag.  There are other signs, such as employee turnover, but often the people minding the store are too close to see the indicators.  There is a fine line between knowing what the business needs to do and what the consumer wants.

From maturity, the business either closes or transitions to a fresh, innovative approach – usually under new management – and begins the cycle again.

At every phase of a business, it is wise to consider an independent, third party consultant to help the owner navigate the uncharted waters of business life cycles.  Yes, it’s good to have internal marketing people, as long as you remember they are part of the forest and may not see the trees.  The same holds true with internal bookkeeping or accounting personnel.

It’s a good idea to step outside once in a while and see what it looks like from a different perspective.  It can help you stop and take the time to think things through.  Decisions will be more clear.

Guest article from Fluidity Business Planning Group

Excellent Customer Service

Excellent Customer Service for 2012

1.     Focus on the Customer:  It may seem obvious that we must focus more on the customer in 2012, we all are sufficiently tempted by plenty of day-to-day distractions that divert your attention away from doing the things that engage and excite consumers about our product, service or brand.

Have a much greater focus on the customer experience and do everything you can to ensure that all of your systems, processes, programs, policies, initiatives and procedures have one end in mind: to strengthen your focus on the customer experience.

Everything you decide to do in the coming year, from a strategic, operational or budgeting perspective, must revolve around this one resolution: Putting Our Customers at the Very Top of Our Priority List … and Keeping Our Customers at the Top of the List.

2.  Focus on the Customer Service Representative:  The front-line employee who interacts directly with the customer is the single-most important ambassador a company has; they should be the standard-bearers of your Company’s Vision and Brand.   The company’s very reputation and Brand Promise must be conveyed to your valued customer.

As Customer Service Leaders, resolve in 2012 to start recognizing your front-line customer service representatives.  They are your customer service soldiers in their role.  As leaders, start understanding your role is to shape the resources, systems and processes as tools the front-line customer service representatives can use to heighten and improve the customer experience.  Make sure you are providing your customer service representatives with the competencies and skills to do their job well, and then reward them in tangible and meaningful ways when they are successful.

Invite them to be the face of the company in a meaningful way … then observe in wonder as they gain the ability and the motivation to knock the customer’s socks off.

3.  Focus on Each Individual Customer Service Touchpoint:  In 2012, focus on the critical value of the singular Customer Service Touchpoint with your customers; the one interaction – the next call, e-mail or chat – the single customer service interaction that might be your one chance to carry that customer to loyalty and maximum profitability.

The power of that one customer experience touchpoint is undeniable.  You have to do everything you possibly can to transform that customer experience touchpoint into a customer loyalty experience that will have the customer buzzing about the way you answered his question, solved his problem or gave him direction.

You just never know what might come out of the singular customer service touchpoint with a customer.  It could be that as soon as the customer disconnects from the call, email or chat or he walks out of your store that he will forget about you.  However, it could also very well be that immediately after having had a great customer service experience or a horrible experience that he tweets a message, posts something on his Facebook page or shares his experience with a party of six at lunch.

Copyright 2012. Reprinted with permission from Barbara Wold’s Retail & Consumer Tips

Succeed at Customer Retention

Knowing it is always more expensive to get a new customer than to retain an existing one, today I bring you a guest column from Barbara Wold on how to succeed at customer retention.

Succeed at Customer Retention

The current economic climate is causing customers to be more selective. Most businesses can only guess at the reasons customers leave, mainly because they don’t gather that information or develop a formal strategy to retain customers until after they leave.

1. Find out what customers want and what causes them to stay or leave.

First, conduct a survey with existing customers. Ask customers what they want and need, as well as which specific    aspects of your business, products, services they value most. In addition, conduct a separate survey with former customers to find out what specifically caused them to leave.

2. Proactively collect and promote customer feedback.

Don’t wait until there is a problem to contact or follow up with customers. Instead, set up communication channels to encourage sincere two-way communication with them, and then use those channels to actively solicit and collect their feedback.

3. Use technology to manage and analyze customer feedback, and ensure the right people see and hear it.

Companies can easily have as many as 35 or more tools in place to listen to the customer. These tools frequently duplicate efforts and constitute a tremendous amount of time and resources. By the time feedback is tabulated, analyzed and shared, the input is weeks or months old.

4. Analyze customer feedback to gain valuable insights.

Once you’ve gathered feedback from customers, analyze it to find out:
•  The type of customer feedback and the percentage in each category (complaints, suggestions, comments, concerns)
•  The channel most used by customers to provide feedback (Web, phone, in-person, etc.)
•  The underlying drivers of customer loyalty and engagement (i.e. the main reasons that customers do business with you, how they are emotionally connected to your business)
•  The current strength and depth of customer loyalty and engagement
•  New revenue and growth opportunities for your business

5. Immediately address customers’ complaints and concerns.

To make the most of your customer feedback, put together an action plan that focuses on addressing and resolving any areas that are causing customers concern. In conjunction, establish standards of excellence and share best practices with others in your organization.

6. Take action and Measure the Results.

Use customer feedback to make improvements, and then measure the impact of the changes you made. Some of the areas that you may want to consider measuring include customer retention rate, revenue per customer, customer referrals, customers saved due to feedback, etc.

7. Actively measure and monitor your customers’ loyalty and engagement.

Customers today are bombarded with attractive offers all the time. If they see a better deal based on price, quality or service, they feel pressure to switch brands or stores. To combat this, regularly measure and monitor your customers’ loyalty, satisfaction and engagement. Then use that information to make adjustments.

8. Create and nurture a company culture that embraces and is committed to using customer feedback.

Embrace feedback by dedicating resources to acting on customer feedback. This involves training all your employees on what they can do to assist you in building a more loyal customer base.

9. Keep asking, listening, analyzing and improving.

Customer needs, wants and concerns are constantly changing. So, keep asking and listening to customers’ feedback, and analyzing that feedback on an ongoing basis. By doing so, your business will be able to not only retain more customers, but continually tap into fresh, new customer preferences and attitudes that you can use to create new products, services, and programs tailored to their needs.

Copyright 2012. Reprinted with permission from Barbara Wold’s Retail & Consumer Tips, mail to: bwold@ix.netcom.com.