Best Resources for Small Businesses

Being a successful small business is not easy. The five core challenges most small business face are time management, pricing, cash flow, managing growth and marketing / client acquisition. In order to succeed, you must arm yourself against these challenges. The good news is that there are a number of fabulous resources to help you with these issues.

Actively seek out the right small business information.
Many small business owners are so over-extended that they neglect staying informed about business trends. This is a fatal error. In today’s modern marketplace, you simply cannot succeed if you run your business on intuition alone. You may stay afloat in the short run, but you will eventually lose out to better informed competitors.

There are a number of incredible online resources that are both free and invaluable. Sites like Inc.com and Entrepreneur.com provide tips on just about everything from starting your business to navigating advanced legal issues. They feature in depth information on running your business, leadership / management techniques, sales & marketing tips, small business technology and finances.

Helpful Tip: Set aside at least 1 hour each week to review these sites. If you find that you prefer to read in bed, consider subscribing to a few of these magazines. This information will make you and your business stronger.

Know your industry and target market in real time.
In our modern age, trends shift at break-neck speed. It is important to stay abreast of developments in both your industry and your target market’s microcosm. After all, more often than not, what concerned your target market 3 months ago is now ancient history.

Subscribe to industry related publications and consume the same media as your target market. If you sell jewelry for eco-friendly women in their thirties and forties, spend an hour each week reading news and publications that are relevant to that market. Likewise, be sure to check industry news every week. For example, using the same eco-friendly jewelry analogy, you might read up on green product developments, new fashion trends or even ecological political issues.

Helpful Tip: Set two separate Google Alerts – one on your industry and one for your target market – to send you period updates on relevant news. Google will send these news stories to you automatically, making it easy to skim over the headlines and read through the meaningful stories.

Find the right on-line partnerships.
The proliferation of online office supply stores makes economically and efficiently stocking your office a lot easier than it was 10 years ago. Buying office supplies online takes less time and makes price comparison easy. Because of online competition, online suppliers are eager to earn your business. The good ones will provide a wealth of free information on their site and happily take your calls to field questions and offer advice. For example, if you are looking for discounted printer ink cartridges but are a little confused about toner versus regular stores like compandsave not only provide free yet invaluable printer cartridge information resource center but they also eagerly accept calls and offer advice on how to save on office supplies.

Helpful Tip: When you find a supplier with great prices and customer service, hold onto them for the long-haul. A good supplier relationship can save you thousands, streamline your operations and free up your time so you can focus on growing your business.

Top Five Tips Small Business Owners Can Learn From JK Rowling

J. K. Rowling is the English writer who has authored all seven beloved and widely read Harry Potter novels. At age 41, her rise to fame and fortune is inspiring. She has sold over 325 million books. The final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was the fastest-selling book of all time.

Her fortune is estimated at $1 billion. She is ranked as the 136th richest person in the world. In 2006, Forbes named Rowling the second richest female entertainer in the world and ranked her as 48th on the 100 most powerful celebrities list of 2007.

When this all began in 1990, however, things were very different for J. K. Rowling. She was not a published author. She did not have a lot of money. She was living in London, working as a researcher and bi-lingual secretary for Amnesty International, and her mother had just died. How she got from there to where she is today is a story filled with invaluable tips for small business owners.

Tip # 1: Don’t Rush to Roll Out Your Product.

Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences. – Rowling

Although J. K. Rowling had been a writer all her life, she was slow to publish. “I had written two novels before I had the idea for Harry, though I’d never tried to get them published (and a good job too, I don’t think they were very good).”

All too often, as small business owners, we rush to get a product out before its time, before it’s been fully considered or tested. Rowling sets a great example of getting a product just right before presenting it to the world.

Tip # 2: When a Great Idea Grabs You — Grab Back.

You sort of start thinking anythings possible if you’ve got enough nerve. – Rowling

Great ideas are unmistakably powerful in their announcement and come when least expected. Rowling says:

Where the idea for Harry Potter actually came from, I really couldn’t tell you. I was traveling on a train between Manchester and London and it just popped into my head. I spent four hours thinking about what Hogwarts would be like. By the time I got off at King’s Cross, many of the characters in the books had already been invented.

As small business owners, we know when a great idea is upon us. The problem is, we often question it, second-guess it, and rationalize it away. Not Rowling. She recognized the mark of a powerful idea, seized upon it and went with it.

Tip # 3: Persevere, Persevere, and Persevere.

It is our choices . . . that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. – Rowling

Rowling moved to Portugal to teach English as a Second Language in 1991 and married her first husband in 1992. They divorced in 1993. The next year, she moved to Scotland. At this point, she was an unemployed single mother living on welfare. In 1995, she completed her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, typing it out on an old manual typewriter. She handed in the book to twelve publishing houses. They all rejected it.

Rowling never gave up. She did not stop just because life was hard. Despite all the changes and setbacks she was experiencing, she carried on. She persevered. As small business owners, we would do well to keep her example in mind.

Tip # 4: Don’t Let Anyone, Including Yourself, Sidetrack You from Your Goal.

If you’re holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time. – Rowling

Finally, Bloomsbury, a small publisher, agreed to publish the first book. Her editor, though, says that he “advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.”

It’s a good thing she didn’t listen. All seven volumes of the Harry Potter series have broken sales records and have been translated into 65 languages. What a shining role model Rowling is for small business owners. She didn’t let anyone stand in the way of her goal-not even herself.

Tip # 5: Each of Us Has a Unique Contribution to Make to the World.

I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. – Rowling

J. K. Rowling never went searching for the kind of success she’s received. “I just wrote the sort of thing I liked reading when I was younger (and still enjoy now!). I didn’t expect lots of people to like them, in fact, I never really thought much past getting them published.”

It wasn’t fame or wealth that J. K. Rowling sought. No. She simply wanted to contribute to the world in general, and to children specifically. As small business owners, this is so important to learn. Focus on the unique something we have to offer to the world. The rest will surely come, in ways we may not even be able to imagine.

Marketing Tip – Small Business Owners Need to Keep in Touch to Get More Referrals

The phone rings.  You answer it.  The person on the other line says, “Bob Smith suggested I call you.  He said you can help me.”  Ahhhh!  It’s a beautiful day!!!

How often does that happen to you?  Probably not often enough.  But with a little marketing planning, you can dramatically increase your referral business.  The result is bigger sales for your small business. The most important thing is to keep in touch with people on a regular, consistent basis.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  Most small business owners know they need to do these things.  But few have any type of marketing system for keeping in touch with the right people.  Even fewer small business owners know the right way to ask for referrals.

Who should be on your contact list?  

EVERYONE!  Past clients, prospects, business associates, friends, neighbors, even people who at one point thought they might use your services, then changed their mind.

The biggest mistake we make is to think, “Oh, those people know what my small business is. I don’t need to market to them.” 

Yes, your neighbor, your banker, and the people in your Rotary group probably do know about your business.  But when they think of you, they think of you walking the dog, making a deposit, or organizing a meeting. 
 
Because they don’t see you in your professional capacity, they don’t think of you that way–unless you use a smart marketing strategy to remind them.  And, as much as we’d like to think we are unforgettable to our past clients, they start to forget about us in as little as six weeks!

Obviously, when making a marketing plan to keep in touch with your contacts, time and budget need to be considered.  You will want to see some people once a week.  Others will simply get a monthly e-mail newsletter.  No matter what, talking about your business, mailing personal notes and cards, and sending regular e-mail newsletters to all of your contacts is vital to building business. 

 
By marketing to your contacts on a regular, consistent basis, you will ensure these people think of you whenever they hear of someone else who might need your product or service. The result? More referrals, more business and more sales!