Monthly Archive for February, 2009

Small business high touch with video-conferencing

In his landmark book, Megatrends, futurist John Naisbitt proposed that the more high tech we have, the more high touch we will want. After more than a quarter of a century - well into a new century - and with technological innovations now in our possession that would have seemed like magic in 1981, this Naisbitt prophecy is still valid.

But what does “high touch” mean? Do we have to be able to “press the flesh”? Or could 21st century high touch be just seeing another person’s face? Well, the answer to these questions might be found in the brain.

Ever wonder how we’re able to remember and recognize faces so well? Brain experts have discovered that humans have a small area at the bottom of the brain called the fusiform face area (FFA), a part of the brain’s visual cortex which gives us face recognition ability. But there’s more: Further research seems to indicate that the brain pulls information from up to three other data storage areas to double-verify what the FFA is seeing.

So with our brain dedicating so much bandwidth to recognizing and remembering faces, it shouldn’t put anyone off too much for me to propose that seeing a live face, whether in person or remotely, qualifies as high touch.

One of the interesting things about the 21st century is that there are many technological innovations that are ready for the masses, but the masses aren’t ready for them. And one of those technologies is video conferencing. Clearly, we’re in the third or fourth generation of this capability, which means that the barrier-to-entry is low; but, oddly, most small businesses are largely MIA when it comes to this high-touch technology.

So with apologies to Naisbitt, here is my prediction: With every business fighting to squeeze a dime of performance out of every nickel, look for video-conferencing to increase in prominence as an alternative to travel and as another way for small businesses to gain competitive advantage.

Two of my Brain Trust members are video-conferencing experts; and I recently interviewed both of them on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Ruth King is the President of, and author of The Ugly Truth About Small Business. Jay Myers is the President of Interactive Solutions, Inc., and author of Keep Swinging. Take a few minutes to listen as both of these smart people talk about how to incorporate video-conferencing in your survival and growth strategies. And, as always, be sure to leave a comment.
For Ruth King:
For Jay Myers:

By the way, I’ve had the honor of interviewing John Naisbitt on my show. Click here to listen to that interview:

The future of your small business - in the clouds

The world is definitely changing, isn’t it? The recession of 2009 has business managers thinking that flat is the new up in terms of growth, and as for accounts receivables, 90 days is the new net 30.

So if I were to suggest that you should “have your head in the clouds,” in the past you would have asked why I would encourage you to disconnect from reality. But today, that suggestion would be quite to the contrary because having your head in the clouds in 2009 is actually a very real way for your small business to gain a competitive advantage. Let me explain.

If you haven’t already heard it, let me introduce you to a new term: cloud computing. Get used to it because cloud computing is going to become as ubiquitous as terms like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and social media.

In truth, cloud computing isn’t all that new. The early term was ASP, which stands for Application Service Provider (also ISP, for Internet Service provider). These were the first developers of processing power that a customer could access over the Internet without having to own it and install it on his or her desktop or server. The next generation of this highly efficient way to leverage technology was – and still is - called software-as-a-service, or SaaS for short. But more and more, as acquiring processing power offsite (think mobility) becomes the norm rather than the exception, we’ll think of this kind of leverage as cloud computing.

If you’ve ever sent an instant message, you’ve worked in the clouds. If you’ve ever made a transaction in that virtual marketplace called eBay, you’ve conducted cloud computing. and if you’ve managed a community on any of the social media sites, you’re a cloud-head.

Cloud computing is a pretty intuitive way to think about managing your work and life in cyberspace, isn’t it? But it’s more than intuitive; for small businesses, cloud computing is the next generation of thinking about gaining a competitive advantage. The more you can acquire processing power on-line, the less you have to capitalize that power because, virtually by definition, cloud computing comes with incremental delivery, on-demand availability and pay-as-you-go pricing. No muss, no fuss and turn around on a dime – just what small businesses need.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate show, I talked about this topic with a real, live cloud computing expert, Maia Sisk, Director, Product Management, IBM Lotus Online Collaboration Services (, and a member of my Brain Trust. Take a few minutes to listen to what Maia has to say about what is to become such an important way of thinking about how you leverage your business model and your precious capital. And be sure to leave a comment.

Small businesses can’t wait on the government to save us

If you’re a small business owner who’s been in business for a while, I probably don’t have to tell you that the federal government’s programs to stimulate the economy are not going to help you save – or grow – your business this year.

If you’ve been making payroll and paying taxes for any time at all, you already know that the survival of your business depends on one thing and one thing only: your own performance and the performance of your organization.

Small businesses have never asked for, or needed, handouts from the government anyway – and we sure didn’t get one with the stimulus bill; we just need government to get out of our way.

So here’s a critical 2009 self-survival task: It’s not going to be enough for our small businesses to STAY relevant this year, because that assumes our past relevance is still valid. It isn’t. This year we have to ask our customers directly - face-to-face, if possible - to define what relevance means to them. In 99.44% of the times you ask, the “relevance” answer will be different from what you thought it was last year. Be sure to take notes, and then deliver what they told you.

If you focus on this one thing my friends, you will greatly increase your chances of surviving and perhaps thriving in 2009, and establish a sound platform from which to launch 2010.

Recently, I talked about this issue on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. I also talked about two nightmares that will result from the government’s attempt to pick winners and losers in the real estate foreclosure crisis going on right now, which I plan to blog about later this week. Take a few minutes to listen to what I had to say, and, of course, be sure to leave a comment.

Three categories of small businesses

There are three types of small businesses operating in the recession of 2009, according to Jay Mincks, EVP of Sales and Marketing for Insperity.

- One group is having a really difficult time and may not make it.
- The second group is probably going to just survive the recession
- The last group will actually thrive and grow during the current downturn

So why does Jay think that identifying this business stratification is important? Two reasons:

1. To remind you that your small business – and mine - fits into one of these categories. I know which group I want to be in, how about you?

2. When we’re looking for small business prospects to sell to, the vast majority of small business prospects are either hanging in there or are doing okay. That’s a lot of prospects we can sell to - right now.

Recently, Jay Mincks ( me on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, and we talked about this topic and his thoughts on surviving and thriving in a recession. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn from and get motivated by this corporate leader. And, of course, be sure to leave your thoughts.

The two faces of small business ownership

You’re living your entrepreneurial dream, following your vision, and road testing your plan. You’ve carved something out of the marketplace that wasn’t there before. Congratulations. But you haven’t yet reached the point where you KNOW that all of your effort and sacrifice will have been worth it. Your business is young and, truth is, the jury is still out on whether you will survive.

You’re in the bi-polar stage of small business ownership: One minute you’re awash in passion, intensity and the conviction that what you are doing is near genius. The next minute you’re telling yourself that you must be out of your mind to take such risks. The two faces of small business ownership - passion and panic.

So here we are in the recession of 2009 and you’re filled with the most anguishing emotion in the marketplace; the one felt by entrepreneurs when faced with the possibility of failure. “How far do I go? How far CAN I go? How will I know if I have to… NO… I refuse to think about that!”

No one can answer these questions for you, but here are some words of resolve that I want to leave with you, from an anonymous thinker who had obviously been there and done that:

“The wayside of business is littered with the remains of those who started with a spurt, but lacked the stamina to finish. Their places were taken by those unshowy plodders who never knew when to quit.”

Welcome to the world of small business ownership. It’s not for sissies and if it were easy, monkeys would be doing it. The only thing I can promise you is that you will never have to worry about is nodding off in the middle of the day.

Hunting the right customers for your small business

When you’re hunting for sales, there are two primary customer species you should be tracking:

1. Rabbits: These are your bread-and-butter customers that you should expect to have many transactions with every month. Rabbits may not buy a lot individually but, as we all know, there are a lot of them, so the business you get from them represents a large part of your monthly sales.

2. Elephants: These are the customers who probably won’t buy what you sell every day - perhaps only once a year. But when Elephants do buy, that one sale will likely represent the same amount of business as when you sell to many Rabbits.

If you only hunt Rabbits, and don’t look for Elephant opportunities, you’ll probably eat on a regular basis, but will likely have difficulty breaking through to that higher level of performance because you’re devoting so much time and energy running around after Rabbits.

Similarly, if you only hunt for Elephants, thinking that bagging a few Rabbits along the way doesn’t fit your idiom, you’re much more likely to experience that unfortunate roller-coaster condition known in the sales business as “feast or famine.”

So one of the keys to sales success is to practice balanced activity with both species.

Recently, on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I had a great visit with sales expert, Tom Searcy, author of Hunt Big Sales ( In his book, Tom talks about Whales instead of Elephants - tomato/tomahto - but he and I speak the same language when it comes to making sure you practice the most efficient and successful strategy for getting customers of all sizes to buy from you.

Take a few minutes to listen and learn from my interview with this outstanding sales expert. And, of course, be sure to leave your thoughts on hunting the right customers for your small business.

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