Monthly Archive for October, 2010

When “No” turns into the quantum leap for small business

What do you do when you work hard to get a prospect’s business and they say “no?”  When this happens, as it inevitably will - many times in your career - the first thing to do is to NOT take it personally.  Remember, this is not a rejection, it’s just business. And just because they’ve said no today, doesn’t mean they won’t say yes to you in the future.

But for the no to turn into a yes, you first have to show some class. This means you swallow hard, smile, thank them for considering you, ask them if there is anything you can do to help them make the conversion to the “other guys” - I’m serious! - and tell them you will keep working to get their business in the future.  And then continue to check back with them.

If you use this strategy whenever you don’t get the business, you’ll be amazed how many “No”turns into “Yes.” It might be as soon as that very day or it might be in five years, but more people than you think will respond favorably to your demonstration of class and professionalism.

Recently, I talked about this with long-time Brain Trust member, Jeff Zbar, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show.  There are actually two short segments to listen to that cover this topic completely, including the Holy Grail of persevering in sales, the “quantum leap.”

I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen and learn. And, as always, be sure to leave your thoughts, comments and experiences.

Click on one of links below to listen or download:

When a prospect doesn’t become a customer

How to accomplish the quantum leap

Don’t make a business wardrobe faux pas

The late comedian, George Gobel, once joked that he felt like the whole world was a tuxedo and he was a pair of brown shoes. Some small businesses may be starting to relate due to their uncompetitive Internet capability.

 

Not too long ago, a national survey indicated that half of small businesses don’t have a website. This number is difficult to believe, but it’s probably pretty accurate. Some business owners still don’t understand that a website is not just for selling things online, the way Amazon does. More often than not, customers just want to find out who you are, what you sell, why they should care and how to contact you.

 

Recently, when we asked our audience about their websites in an online poll, six of 10 of our respondents said their website is a critical part of their business. And a little more than a third said they have a website, but it was just an online brochure. Even the five percent who don’t have a website said they intend to get one.

 

So why do our findings differ so much from the research mentioned first? Clearly, members of my audience, by definition, are smarter and higher adopters of technology than the average small business owner. After all, how could you hang around with me for very long without succumbing to the pressure, guilt and shame I lay on anyone who is not taking advantage of the Internet? To paraphrase Erich Segal, tough love means never having to say you’re sorry.

But while it’s difficult to believe that 50% of small businesses do not have a website, our 95% adoption number likely indicates that those who don’t have a website won’t admit it, even anonymously.  It might seem like twisted logic, but it’s a good thing to be self-conscience, if not embarrassed, about not having something so essential to 21st century business success.

 

Your world of customers and competitors is proceeding to dress itself up with the online capability equivalent of a tuxedo. If you’re inadequate Internet capability has you feeling uncomfortable about being uncompetitive or, worse, irrelevant, congratulations; not because you showed up at a formal event in a pair of brown shoes, but because being aware of the deficiency is the first step of many toward getting your business properly dressed for success.

Here are three of several places where you can get a website produced and hosted quickly and for low or no cost.  Yola.com, Homestead.com and Webs.com.

 

If you have a Web presence, keep improving and upgrading it. If you don’t, get one.

Recently on The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about the importance of having a web presence with Anita Rosen, author of several books, including E-Commerce a Question and Answer Book, and e-Learning 2.0. Anita is also president of ReadyGo.com and a valued member of my Brain Trust. Click on one of the links below to listen to our conversation, and, as always, leave your comments.

 

How difficult is it for prospects to find your business online? with Anita Rosen 

How does your website serve prospects and customers? with Anita Rosen

Networking is a key to success

Here are the results of last week’s Small Business Advocate poll, followed by my comments:

The Question: How many networking events (any gathering of business leaders) do you attend?

30% - None

30% - Average about one a month

26% - Usually two or more a month

13% - More than five a month

In 1998, I began telling small business owners that one of the three most important activities we were going to have to get better at in the 21st century is networking (the other two are leveraging technology and building strategic alliances). This week, in our poll question, we asked you about your networking activity and got some very good news.

Almost two-thirds of you are participating in at least one networking event a month. And almost four of ten are attending more than two a month.  Unfortunately, almost one-third of you are not attending any networking events.

Networking, whether one-on-one at lunch, or participating in a gathering, like a club meeting or chamber mixer, is as important as ever.  If you’re one of those who are doing no networking, allow me to tell you what I’ve learned in the past 30 years: Whenever I’ve ventured outside the four walls of my business, even when I didn’t want to go, something good ALWAYS happened.

Get out of your four walls and find out what other people are thinking and doing.  And remember, networking is not all about you. Practice the law of reciprocity. Or, as my friend, Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI and the world’s leading networking expert says, “Givers gain.” If you want to get more out of networking, give more first.

One last thing: Social networking online is fine, but it’s not a substitute for the original social media: face-to-face.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio, and on the Internet.

To participate in the current poll question, visit www.smallbusinessadvocate.com and vote.

Courage is a synonym for entrepreneur

One of the most powerful words in the English language is courage; it’s also a characteristic unique to humans.

The reason courage is a uniquely human trait is because it is typically demonstrated for something other than self - a cause, a country, another human - which is abstract thinking, also unique to humans.  And courage usually manifests itself after the courageous has had time to think about it.  Someone once said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”  If you’ve had time to pray, you’ve had time to change your mind.

Courage is certainly not unique to entrepreneurs, but it is a characteristic very much in evidence in the entrepreneurial world.  And the abstract that we’re willing to fight for is our vision.

When you start a small business you demonstrate courage. When you persevere in the face of entrenched paradigms and small-minded naysayers, you demonstrate courage. And what about failure?  If you fail - nay, when you fail - and then persevere, welcome to the rarified air of the courageous.  Since you can’t fail if you don’t try, only the courageous can know failure.

You don’t have to be an entreprneur to be courageous. But you can’t be an entrepreneur without having courage.

Recently on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with my friend and Brain Trust member, Dave Anderson about leading with courage. Dave is president of Learn To Lead and author of several books, including How to Run Your Business by THE BOOK. Please take a few minutes to listen to what Dave has to say about courage, and, as always, leave your thoughts. Listen Live! Download, Too!< >< ><–>

The Griessman Diversity Creed for small business

Many times in this space I have the pleasure of quoting smart people who have said something that I want you to hear. Eugene Griessman is such a person, and a long-time friend and member of my Brain Trust. Gene’s thoughts are oft quoted, but one piece he wrote caught on so much that, for almost 10 years, it continues to pop up around the globe. It’s called The Diversity Creed, and with all of the intolerance in the world right now, I thought you would appreciate this piece of Griessman wisdom, and I offer it with Gene’s permission.

THE DIVERSITY CREED
Gene Griessman ©1993

I believe that diversity is a part of the natural order of things - as natural as the trillion shapes and shades of the flowers of spring or the leaves of autumn. I believe that diversity brings new solutions to an ever-changing environment, and that sameness is not only uninteresting, but limiting.

To deny diversity is to deny life - with all its richness and manifold opportunities. Thus, I affirm my citizenship in a world of diversity, and with it the responsibility to…

Be tolerant. Live and let live. Understand that those who cause no harm should not be feared, ridiculed, or harmed - even if they are different.

Look for the best in others.

Be just in my dealings with poor and rich, weak and strong, and whenever possible, to defend the young, the old, the frail, the defenseless.

Avoid needless conflicts and diversions, but be always willing to change for the better that which can be changed.

Seek knowledge in order to know what can be changed, as well as what cannot be changed.

Forge alliances with others who love liberty and justice.

Be kin, remembering how fragile the human spirit is.

Live the examined life, subjecting my motives and actions to the scrutiny of mind and heart so to rise above prejudice and hatred.

Care. Be generous in thought, word, and purse.

This is Jim again…great words and wisdom from a great man. Gene Griessman is not only a very smart man, but he’s also an Abraham Lincoln scholar and one of the top Lincoln portrayers in the world. He was on my radio show, The Small Business Advocate, recently to talk about Lincoln’s thoughts on leadership. Please take a few minutes to listen, and, as always, leave your thoughts. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Are you funding a formal retirement plan?

One of the markers of any small business is the fact that, kind of like a teenager, your business will always have its hand out for cash. Indeed, there will never be a time when you won’t have a maintenance requirement, operational upgrade or business opportunity demanding precious capital.

But there is another petitioner for proceeds that is just as important as the others which, to its own disadvantage, is often less persistent. Nor does this applicant for assets typically demonstrate the same ROI urgency as do its competitors for cash. The classic small business financial stepchild is a formal retirement plan.

Alas, there is another disadvantage: While the operating options mentioned above can be funded from a number of sources – investment, debt, retained earnings and even cash flow – retirement contributions are primarily funded by excess retained earnings. Excess means profits you’ve determined the business can do without and still fund growth. For a small business, that number too often compares in value to the proverbial widow’s mite.

And, yes, it’s true that most retirement funding is tax deductible; but, as your CPA will tell you, you’re not in the 100% tax bracket. That means the lion’s share of retirement funds is capital that could have gone to something that will always seems sexier.

Consequently, two difficult things have to happen before a small business owner actually funds a retirement plan: 1) Enough retained earnings have to be generated by the company; and 2) Someone has to tell the “teenager” it can’t have everything it wants this year.

We wanted to know how small businesses were managing these two challenges, so we asked our audience what they were doing about retirement. Forty-four percent said they contributed to a retirement plan each year. The other 56% were not funding a retirement plan, citing reasons ranging from not having the spare capital to the weak economy.

As difficult as it is to master the two steps above, 44% is not surprising. But it’s a long way from acceptable.

The good news, as mentioned earlier, is there are many tax deductible retirement options available to fit any small business owner’s financial situation, from the very simple to the not so much. Your seemingly impossible mission, should you decide to accept it, is to find the discipline to budget for and execute the funding of a retirement plan that will take care of you when your business cannot.