Monthly Archive for March, 2014

SBA Poll Results: Will you need a tax extension?

The Question:
With tax filing dates coming up, March 15 for corporations and April 15 for everyone else, will you file on time or use an extension?

59% - We will file our business and personal returns on time, without extension.

34% - We will file extensions

7% - Still undecided

My Comments
Once upon a time if you needed an extension, you had to go to the IRS office, get the form upon which you would explain why you needed more time, get it postmarked before midnight March 15 for corporations and April 15 for all others, and hope it was approved. Today, all you have to do is go to IRS.gov before the same dates, fill out the form, click submit and, ba-da-bing-ba-da-bam, your extension is filed and accepted.

It’s interesting that when we asked a similar question last year, the response was almost exactly the same as today. I think it speaks well of small business owners when six of ten get their tax filing done on time. As for the others, it’s likely their returns are more complicated and require more time, even if just a little. Such is the case for my own business.

But remember, filing an extension doesn’t extend the time to pay taxes owed.

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Listen for the song of Hope

There comes a time in the life of every small business when we’ve done everything we’re supposed to do: developed a plan, worked the plan, stuck to the budget, focused on the fundamentals, and we’re still not absolutely sure we’re on the right track toward success. So what keeps us going?

Hope.

Webster says hope is “to desire with expectation of attainment”. Hope is the emotion we feel between the time we take that courageous entrepreneurial leap, and when we know the results of our actions–whether good or not so good. The great 19th century poet, Emily Dickinson, described hope this way,

Hope is the thing with feathers -

That perches in the soul -

And sings the tune without words -

And never stops - at all -

No matter how much we employ sound business practices, in small business there is always room for the element of hope. The challenge is in knowing when to stop the research and start the action, and hope you are right. That point in the process is different for each of us. Only you can know when the work you have done is sufficient to turn your dream over to hope.

The song of hope never stops, at all Listen for it and it will tell you when to expect attainment.

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It’s The Age of the Customer—the rules have changed

For 10,000 years, customers refined their search for products and services down to a couple of semi-finalist sellers based almost entirely on the classic competitive value proposition: price, product, availability, service, etc. I’ve termed this period the Age of the Seller.

That was a nice trip down memory lane, wasn’t it?

The new, prime differentiator today is no longer the competitive model, but rather a customer’s appraisal of how relevant a seller is to them, often before they even know if a seller is competitive. So does this mean that sellers no longer have to be competitive?

Not at all—no one will pay you more for less. But consider three new marketplace truths:

  1. With value now presumed, customers expect to find what they want, at a price they want to pay, from many sellers.
  2. Before a seller’s competitive position has even been established, they are being ruled in or out by customers.
  3. Differentiating by customers based on relevance is happening before prospective sellers even know the customer exists.

That last point is perhaps the most breathtakingly disruptive development in the shift from the Age of the Seller to what I’ve named The Age of the Customer®.

So what do you have to do to prove your relevance in order to be among the last to be considered and hopefully anointed as the Chosen One? Here are three important Age of the Customer relevance practices:

  • Technology matters. Your online capability must match the expectations of your profile customers, such as having a mobile-optimized website.
  • Contribute first, contract second. Now confident of acquiring value, customers are increasingly seeking and collecting trusted advisors and experts in their quest for relevance before they make a purchase decision.
  • Connect with credentials. Use new media to establish relevance credentials and connect with prospects and customers.

In his book Megatrends, John Naisbitt prophesied, “The more high-tech we have, the more high-touch we will want.” Here are three high-touch Age of the Seller practices still relevant in the new Age.

  • Remember the customer’s name and use it—often.
  • Make eye-contact and smile—early and often.
  • Be grateful and say “thank you”—a lot.

Find success in The Age of the Customer by doing the following absolutely in this order: be relevant, be useful, and then be competitive.

Your greatest danger is not being uncompetitive, but being irrelevant.

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Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

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Video: Disregard the “Nu-uh!”€ Effect at your own peril

In this week's video I explain how User Generated Content can produce a "Nu-uh!" effect against your small business.

Disregard the “Nu-uh!”€ Effect at your own peril from Jim Blasingame on Vimeo.

SBA Poll Results: How is the economy looking for you?

The Question:
With two months of 2014 behind us, how is the economy looking for your business?

5% - So far, 2014 sales are great and expect this to continue.

34% - We’re seeing improvement over last year.

42% - So far, this year is trending no better than last year.

18% - This year is looking worse than last year.

My Comments:
When we asked you about your instincts about the new year in our online poll the first week of January, 60% of you said you were either positive or very positive. Alas, as you can see above, now two months into the new year, less than four in ten small business owners see any signs of economic growth in the early going. With this kind of response from the pathologically optimistic sector that creates over half of the U.S. economy, it looks like anything but a robust recovery continues to be our reality.

Here’s the understatement of the decade: This is starting to get out of hand. Of course I’m talking about what seems to be entrenched malaise on Main Street. Please remember, I’m just commenting on what you report to me. I would much rather be talking about how excited everyone is about the future. I’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming Feature Article. Stay tuned and thanks for participating.

Focus On Your Gauges

In his book, This Is Your Life, Not A Dress Rehearsal, Jim Donovan said:

One of the chief characteristics of virtually all highly successful people is that they make decisions quickly, and rarely, if ever, change them.

This might seem like a rigid, perhaps even arrogant attitude - to refuse to change a decision - but there is something else at work here.

One of the keys to success is to be able to make things happen. In order to do this, you have to make a lot of decisions. If you know what you are doing, you will make most of them correctly. Incorrect decisions aren’t so much failures, as they are examples of what doesn’t work.

When you learn to fly an airplane on instruments (when you are in the “soup” and you can’t see outside of the plane), as you monitor your gauges and controls, you are taught to make little corrections when you see the plane drifting off course or out of your assigned altitude. You must make lots of little corrections, and you must make them constantly.

My instrument instructor told me, “Focus on your gauges, trust them, and make little corrections - constantly.” The result is that your plane never gets too far off course, or into an unsafe attitude.

Successful people do the same thing in their businesses. They make lots of decisions. And while it may seem that they rarely change a decision, it’s really more a matter of moving on and making the next decision with new information. Little corrections, but lots of them. Constantly.

Sometimes it feels as if we are managing our businesses in the soup. And just like a pilot on instruments, it’s natural to freeze up at first. When you get this feeling, focus on your gauges - the decisions that have to be made. Then make lots of decisions, and trust them to either lead you to success or the next decision.

Good flying.




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