Monthly Archive for February, 2014

SBA Poll Results: Did you watch the Winter Olympics?

The Question:
Are you watching the Winter Olympics this year?

43% - I watch every minute of every Olympics I possibly can

43% - I never watch the Olympics, summer or winter

14% - I watch summer Olympics, but not winter Olympics

0% - I watch winter Olympics, but not summer Olympics

My Comments:
As you can see, most respondents either watch all Olympics or none. Only a few watch just the summer version and not one of our respondents like just the winter competitions.

As I mentioned in my column last week, I watch both Olympic seasons because I love the kind of passion, commitment and determination they provide, with a heaping dose of national pride mixed in for good measure. And that’s how I feel about all small businesses, regardless of size or what they do, because that’s where you’ll find the passion, commitment and determination they provide, with a heaping dose of national pride mixed in for good measure.

Both Olympians and small business owners are worthy of admiration. Thanks for participating. Keep up the good work.

Before that I was a drudge

He was a remarkable individual. In addition to being a composer and piano virtuoso, Ignace Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), was also a former Prime Minister of Poland.

Following a command performance on piano before Queen Victoria, she exclaimed, “Sir, you are a genius.”

Alluding to all of the effort required to earn such adoration, Paderewski said, “Perhaps, your Majesty, but before that I was a drudge.”

Webster: drudge - a person who does hard, menial, tedious work

This story reminds me of a successful small business owner. People see the business doing well. The owner, as seen in the community, appears to be prosperous. Everything coming up roses, right? This must be a really smart person!

Here’s the real story: Five, maybe ten years ago, the establishment associated with this entrepreneur may not have even existed. Going in and out of that business thefirst couple of years, you would have had the privilege of meeting its first janitor, first truck driver, first receptionist, first inventory clerk, first accountant, and first salesperson. No, you didn’t make a bunch of new friends - just one. They’re all the same person: our genius small business owner, and first CEO.

Of course intelligence contributes to success in business. But I don’t know any bright and successful small business owners who don’t know what the Prime Minister meant about being a drudge.

Next time you compliment a small business owner on his or her business’ success, don’t be surprised if the response sounds like, “Perhaps, your Majesty, but before that I was a drudge.”

Allow customers to see your authentic side

Adam Smith, the father of modern economics and author of The Wealth of Nations (1776), identified writing as one of the three most important inventions of mankind – the other two being money and economic tables.

More than two centuries later, the Internet has powered the written word to levels unimagined only a generation ago, let alone during Smith’s era. Indeed, it is the driving force behind a handy new-media maxim, “Content is King.”

Today we’re consumers of many kinds of online content, including streaming audio and video. But even in the face of such multi-media majesty as iTunes and YouTube, most of the kingly content is still in the graphic form so highly regarded by Smith.

So what does all of this mean for small business owners? It’s simple: In an era when content is king, if you want to connect with customers competitively and stay connected, you have to produce more written words than ever before. But not just any words – authentic words.

Since 1999 – long before blogs and social media – two of the things I’ve encouraged small business owners to do is:

  1. develop better writing skills and
  2. publish more of their own words online that communicate to and connect with customers.

In the 2nd decade of the 21st century, prospects and customers want to read about the stuff you sell before they meet you. But they want more than marketing messaging; they want authentic, straight-from-the-horse’s-mouth information that delivers three things that are increasingly a big deal to customers: the voice, the vision, and the values of the human beings behind the stuff, as unartful and unscripted as they may be.

So don’t worry if you’re not a professional wordsmith. When you need fancy words for strategic marketing messaging, online or otherwise, hire a pro.

But you must become comfortable with conveying your vision and values online, in your own words – the voice – about a variety of issues from explaining how to use a product you sell to a local cause you care about to your philosophy on serving customers. And it’s just fine if some of these authentic words also come from your employees who customers will get to know.

In the Age of the Customer®, now armed with as much information as the businesses they patronize, customers expect to be treated more like insiders. And the good news is that no one makes this connection as effectively and authentically as a small business. Congratulations.

Let customers read about your authentic side with your voice, vision, and values.

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Be sure to listen to my latest segment from The Small Business Advocate Show® where I talk more about the advantages of being authentic with your customers. Click HERE to listen!

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

Video: The original social media is face-to-face

In this week's video I explain why face-to-face communication can help your small business.

The original social media is face-to-face from Jim Blasingame on Vimeo.

SBA Poll Results: What would you do with more money?

The Question:
If you were allowed to pay less taxes this year, what would you do with the money?

36% - Reinvest it in my business

11% - Give myself a raise

41% - Pay down debt

11% - Set the cash aside for emergencies

My Comments:
Over the years I’ve asked this question of many small business owners in the U.S. as well as other countries, and almost without exception the answer has been, “reinvest in my business.” As you can see, in our recent poll this was the second highest answer. It’s not surprising that so few of our respondents said they would pay themselves more, even though most small business owners should pay themselves more.

The most interesting result of this poll is that the big response was, “pay down debt.” Every small business owner has a love/hate relationship with debt. We love it when it helps us get the funds we need to grow, and we hate it when precious cash goes out for debt service. But in my long career, I’ve never seen a time when getting rid of debt was more pressing than growing the business.

I’m going to have more to say about this in a future Feature Article. Stay tuned and thanks for participating.

Top 10 reasons to love small business

Continuing the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here are the “Top 10 Reasons To Love Small Business,” as proposed by our friends over at the Office of Advocacy of the SBA.

10. Small businesses make up more than 99.7% of all employers.

9. Small businesses create more than 50 percent of the nonfarm private gross domestic product (GDP).

8. Small patenting firms produce 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.

7. The 22.9 million small businesses in the United States are located in virtually every neighborhood.

6. Small businesses employ about 50 percent of all private sector workers.

5. Home-based businesses account for 53 percent of all small businesses.

4. Small businesses make up 97 percent of exporters and produce 29 percent of all export value.

3. Small businesses with employees start-up at a rate of over 500,000 per year.

2. Four years after start-up, half of all small businesses with employees remain open.

1. The latest figures show that small businesses create 75 percent of the net new jobs in our economy.

It’s true: Small business is the heart of the American economy, and it’s why I really do love small business owners.




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