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Archive for the 'Entrepreneurship' Category

Should the Internet become a utility?

As you may remember, I’ve been reporting on the Net Neutrality issue for over a decade, including all the significant players in the debate.

Most reasonable people agree that one of the reasons the Internet has been such a phenomenal success is because it has been so lightly regulated. However, as I reported recently, President Obama has taken executive steps to make the Internet a public utility, subject to all sorts of government oversight.

When we asked our small business audience what they thought about this plan, almost three-fourths reject the president’s idea, with only 2% who think his plan is good.

One reason for this overwhelming response against the president is because small business owners have benefited on many levels, directly and indirectly, from an unencumbered Internet. And since over half of the U.S. economy is produced by small businesses, the president should pay attention to what this sector thinks.

In case you missed them, here are links to three articles I’ve written about the president’s  behavior regarding the Internet.

Why you should care about the net neutrality debate

If you like your Internet, you may not be able to keep it

Obama’s Internet words don’t match his actions

Five Things to Do for a Successful Referral Strategy

For as long as businesses have tried to get customers to buy their stuff, a referral has been the holy grail of prospecting. Like the mythical chalice, a referral is golden.

To emphasize the power of referrals, allow me to introduce “Blasingame’s Prospect Entrée Spectrum” (BPES), which is a way of valuing the method used to get in front of a prospect.

CC Photo via PixabayThe BPES is on a scale of 1-10, with a cold call being a 1, and the unqualified referral a 10. The difference between scoring a referral and making a cold call is, to borrow from Mark Twain, like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Let me put a sharper point on that: In the Age of the Customer, cold calling is a fool’s errand.

Asking for and getting an appointment is a 5. From 2 to 5 on the spectrum are varying degrees of quality of connection that you attempt without a referral, like networking. From 6 to 9 represents varying quality of referrals. For example, a 6 is a casual referral with one of two qualifications attached: either the referrer doesn’t know you well, or doesn’t know the prospect well. The goals is to demonstrate you’re worthy of a full-throated, unqualified referral — 10 — which is almost money in the bank. When you hear someone say they’re working smarter, not harder, it means they’re earning lots of referrals, including an increasing number of 10s.

Here are five things to do to sustain a successful referral strategy:

2. Help customers give you referrals by teaching them how to tell others about you and your business. Instructions must be short and sweet, like an elevator pitch.

3. Be worthy of a referral. Take good care of the referred prospect, even if you don’t make a sale.

4. Thank the referrer every time, in person if possible, regardless of the result of the referral. Remember, getting a referral is success.

5. If you want to get referrals, give them to others.

On that last point, in Ecclesiastes 11:1, King Solomon wrote, “Cast your bread upon the water and in time it will come back to you.” Three millennia later, Ivan Misner, my friend and founder of Business Network International (BNI) gave us a handier way to remember the law of reciprocity. Ivan simply says, “Givers gain.” Beautiful.

In the Age of the Customer if you’re not asking for and getting referrals, you’ll have to work much harder than is necessary just to survive.

Write this on a rock … Seek the holy grail and Perfect 10 of prospecting – the unqualified referral.

A few more reasons to love small businesses

In 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 percent of all employers
9. Small businesses create more than 50 percent of the non-farm private gross domestic product (GDP)

8. Small patenting firms produce 16 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms

7. The 28.2 million small business in the United States are located in virtually every neighborhood
6. Small businesses employ almost 50 percent of all private sector workers

5. Home-based businesses account for 52 percent of all small businesses

4. Small businesses make up 98 percent of exporters and produce 33 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 63 percent of the net new jobs in our economy

**Photo via Flickr by https://www.flickr.com/photos/sis/98171915/


Obama’s Internet words don’t match his actions

“You will know them by their fruits.” This ancient wisdom is from the author of the Gospel of Matthew.

Sixteen centuries later, in his book “Will and Doom,” the Rev. Gershom Bulkeley, paraphrased Matthew with, “Actions are more significant than words.”

In the 21st century this timeless maxim continues to serve as we hear President Obama say, “I intend to protect a free and open Internet.”

In the past I’ve reported my concerns about the future of the Internet under the Obama administration. If you believe the Internet is one of mankind’s greatest inventions, if you like its current low barrier to entry for personal and professional benefit, if you’re responsible for the future of a business, then you should share my concerns.

CC Photo via Pixabay

CC Photo via Pixabay

1.  President Obama treats the Internet as a political and diplomatic bargaining tool. After the U.S. government was embarrassed by Edward Snowden’s theft of secrets, the President announced intentions to relinquish U.S. control of Internet governance to a “global, multi-stakeholder community,” even though there was time left on the contract with ICANN (For more on this, see my 3/23/14 column, “If you like your Internet, you may not be able to keep it”).

It’s no secret the U.N., a global, multi-stakeholder community, covets control of a ubiquitous asset through which it can exert more influence and levy a global use tax. Nothing fits that profile better than the Internet. If Obama’s governance plan for the Internet comes to pass, his words, “protect a free and open Internet … so innovators and entrepreneurs can reshape the world,” won’t match his actions.

2.  The commercial Internet has flourished for more than 20 years thanks to a very lightly regulated environment. By definition such broadband laissez-faire is unacceptable to President Obama, who wants to impose his own version of net neutrality.

Consequently, the President’s FCC chairman and straw man, Tom Wheeler, has announced plans for an “Open Internet Order” to reclassify broadband access as a “telecom service” under Title II of the Communications Act. This means the Internet would become a government regulated – and ultimately taxed – public utility. Turning the Internet into a utility would be like performing a heart transplant on someone who just needs a baby aspirin. (For more, see my 11/16/14 column “Why you should care about Net Neutrality”).

Today the Internet is not without governance and usage issues, but none that can’t be handled by marketplace participants large and small through contract, creativity and competition.

Write this on a rock … If Obama’s plans for the Internet come to pass, his words, “I intend to protect a free and open Internet,” will not match his actions.

RESULTS: How do you rate President’s Obama’s years in office?

The Question:

President Obama just delivered his seventh State of the Union. After six years in office, how do you rate his presidency?

4% - I give him an A; he’s done an excellent job.
6% - I score him a C+ to a B; he’s done an average to good job.
19% - I give him a D to a C; he’s just been average or less.
70% - I give him an F; his presidency is a total failure.

Jim’s Comments:
As you can see, President Obama doesn’t have a very good rep on Main Street. Small business owners may not be the most sophisticated in the marketplace, but we don’t need an MBA to pick up on anti-business rhetoric and policies. And from other polls I’ve seen, these numbers are consistent even among business owners who once voted for the president. I’m going to have more to say about this in an upcoming Feature Article. Stay tuned.

It’s time to adapt to the new age of technology

Henry Ford is generally credited with being the creator of the assembly line. To meet the demand for his Model T automobiles, Mr. Ford knew that just hiring more people wouldn’t be enough to mount the challenge of building Ford Motor Company — it would take technology.
His technology was crude by modern standards, but it did what technology does: leverage the productivity of human beings. During the year Ford’s assembly line was first put in service, he wasn’t just using technology he was creating it. He also turned 50.

The list of technology options today is long and growing and available in features-rich products that support and improve virtually every business task.  How much are you adopting technology to help you leverage the humans in your organization?

Yes, some employees don’t want to embrace technology because they think they’re too old, or have gotten too far behind the curve. Hogwash! There is so much point-and-click technological capability these days that you can ramp up on any learning curve within a matter of days, if not hours. And besides, rapid changes in technology means you can catch up with anyone by being prepared to fully adopt the next generation of capability that’s usually never more than 90 days away.  You can literally go from being technologically illiterate to being an application expert within weeks. But you do have to take that first step.
The great Roman statesman, Cato (234-149 BC) began studying Greek at the age of 80. When asked why he would contemplate such an undertaking at such an advanced age, he replied, “This is the youngest age I have left.”

Regardless of your age or level of technological proficiency, learn how to leverage technology. No excuses! Remember, it’s the youngest age you have left.