The Fine Line Between Confidence and Arrogance, Why You Should Never Step Over The Line

Blackboard I can do thisThere is a great gift in being a confident business owner. It opens doors, creates trust, and builds powerful relationships with fellow business owners and potential clients. But the moment you step over the line and allow your confidence to turn to arrogance, is the same moment you single-handedly destroy your reputation and quite possibly, your business.

If you’ve ever experienced someone that had all the answers, someone that talked over you because they believed they knew better, or someone that treated you as if you were beneath them, run away. They’ve stepped over the line where self-confidence is no longer valued. Their skewed perception of themselves leads them to believe they are someone of great importance, and they will stop at nothing to prove it.

Are you teetering between the land of confidence and the soil of arrogance? Here are some things to keep in mind, should you decide to take the trip to the dark side:

1) You will be treated like the plague.
While you think you know more than everyone else, you actually don’t. You want to, and that’s great, but projecting your insecurities (because that is actually what you’re doing) is never going to serve you. The energy you give off in this state of mind will turn people away. You’ll be treated like you have a wicked disease, and will be left flying solo in the corner of the room.

2) Your colleagues will no longer value you.
The colleagues you hob-nobbed with once upon a time will likely no longer spend time with you. Those that once valued you and your work ethic will change their tune because you did. And once you lose your shine, you lose your following.

3) The phone will stop ringing.
Remember all of those referrals that you used to get? Those will stop. A successful, respectful business owner is a direct reflection of those they associate with. If your disposition is tainted, no one with a stellar reputation wants to taint their own with your ego. Referrals will go elsewhere and your business will dwindle.

The only time arrogance in professionalism will ever serve you is when you recognize how it once crippled you. There is great freedom in this. The most successful business owners are those that are willing to be completely honest with who they are, who they were, and who they strive to be. Someone said once, “There is a thin line between confidence and arrogance…it’s called humility. Confidence smiles, arrogance smirks.”

Keep smiling. It works every time.

Preparing to go on Vacation

time for vacationAs a small business owner, you might think it a nearly impossible proposition that you would get away for even a week on a “real” vacation, one that is not consumed by attention to business matters and then suddenly cut short by a business-related emergency. However, with advance planning and adherence to some basic protocols, it can really be done.

Some tips to help you have a vacation from your daily business duties without allowing your business to sink into a state of turmoil are given below:

  1. Vacation During the Lulls: Most businesses are subject to a cycle of busy and slow seasons throughout the year, and one way to ease the stress of worrying about your business while away is to schedule you vacation during a lull.
  2. No Major Moves While Away: It is best not to begin a major new project, like launching a new website or conducting a big marketing campaign, while away from the helm. Delay signing all contracts as well until you are back and able to scrutinize them in “non-rush mode.” “Major moves” often run into snags and glitches, and you may need to be there personally to deal with such problems.
  3. Delegate Duties and Preempt Problems: Appoint one employee in charge while you are away, and make sure everyone knows they are to follow his instructions. Also leave a list of how to handle various problems, such as computers breaking down, Internet connections failing, or the company website being out of commission. Let everyone refer to that list to handle emergencies when the person you left in charge is not available.
  4. Minimize Communications to the Essential: Have your employees send you only one email at the end of each day summarizing the day’s activities, problems, and successes. Let everything that only you can do, but that can wait, be printed and placed on your desk for when you return. If, and only if, it is a true emergency, should you be called on the phone.
  5. Don’t Call-Forward to Your Cell Phone: Instead of having you business line forwarded to your cell phone, have your employees handle the calls. Also use a voicemail that you can check when your return or at your convenience while away.
  6. Alert Clients You Will Be Away: For those clients you work with personally, alert them you will be unavailable for awhile. It is helpful if you extend the “unavailability” dates you give them by a day or two on each end. That way, those who call at the last minute before you leave won’t really be doing so, and you will also have a chance to catch up after you return before a flood of business calls come in.

You need to bring all your important business contacts and keep track of things through Internet and phone while away, but you must also balance that need with the need to make your vacation a time of rest and diversion. Otherwise, it’s just business as usual via long-distance methods.

Getting More Done… The Key To Using A World WorkForce

Remote business management conceptIn the business world, any opportunity to achieve more in less time is a winning idea. In that vein of thought, many small businesses and CEOs alike have employed the services of virtual professionals, to their success. When confronted with tasks requiring skills that you do not particularly possess or excel in it can be easy to get overwhelmed. The availability of virtual professionals capable to perform nearly any task, at any time to bridge the gaps in your business needs is a boon to all solopreneurs. In addition they tend to cost a literal fraction of the expense required for hiring an equally skilled part-time employee or other standard fee for service negotiations. Freelancing is no longer limited to writers and the occasional odd jobs. It has instead blossomed into something greater thanks to the advances of technology and several platforms that organize and enable you to be truly discerning in your choice of worker whether you are in need of a realtor or a secretary.

Workforce at the Touch of a Button

Engaging the world workforce does not involve trusting your time-sensitive business needs to the random Joe Schmo from craigslist or the like. In most cases you can request credentials from potential applicants, even proof of degrees and certifications if you so choose. In fact, sites like Upwork.com have a very extensive process available to businesses which enable you to be as in-depth in your hiring process as you desire. This makes it easier for you to access and utilize the available fractionalized resources for skills you currently do not have. For example, you can select your potential favorites from a list of applicants and resumes for your required project, personally interview those you choose online, discuss payment terms with each individual and even analyze their past feedback reviews. The platform offers a very wide-range of specialties from professional writers to mobile developers and marketing experts. Whether you need one person or a large, organized team to tackle your project it is all available. Satisfied with the work completed? Easily add favorite workers for quick and direct access for future or continuous projects.

Quality Guarantee

The large majority of freelancing platforms ensure you get the quality you demand before you ever pay a cent. Your business won’t end up stuck with the bill for poor quality results, and oftentimes you are given the ability to request revisions and corrections for as long as it takes. If it doesn’t work out, you don’t pay, simple as that. Hiring freelancers for your

business needs has exploded in popularity and for good reason. The money saved from doing away with a lengthy hiring process, providing benefits and training of a new hire is profit made. Being in business for yourself doesn’t have to mean being bogged down with menial tasks when your time is worth more and better spent. So don’t overlook the readily available world workforce available for your business needs whether large or small.

Which Is The Key To Sales Success?

Charts of sales growth

Two major philosophies of salesmanship are prevalent among experts today, and the disagreement is understandable as both views have their valid points to make. The first approach is to emphasize being a strong closer over all else, while the second approach is to lean more heavily on being a great prospector. In other words, the philosophical tussle is between the importance of finding great prospects and converting the prospect you have.

Those who emphasize closing will offer such advice as the following:

  • Empathize with your potential customers, but don’t end up agreeing with them on the reasons they have for not purchasing your product.
  • Educate the prospect with truly valuable information they are interested in, giving them reasons to buy and a reason to return even if they don’t immediately buy.
  • Avoid the topic of price as long as possible. Spending money is not a subject that motivates many, and saving money only makes sense after you have already convinced the person that your product if worthwhile.
  • Avoid total closure. Getting a “maybe” is better than a “never,” and “yes” on a small point is better than “no” to everything. Have a plan to prolong the conversation in order to find at least something the prospective customer can agree to.

On the other hand, those who emphasize prospecting will promote such strategies as these:

  • Focus on making every page of your website attractive, engaging, easy to navigate, and full of opportunities to fill out a sign-up form.
  • Take full advantage of social media to promote your business since it can connect you to an immense audience and can be a source of friend-to-friend referrals.
  • Use highly targeted and situation-specific email follow-ups to turn leads into customers.
  • Offer a blog and other solid content that will build a loyal readership, from which you can “mine” future loyal clients.
  • Don’t go 100% digital. Still network face to face at trade shows and other events. Exchange contact information with interested parties and add them to your database.

Sales success must ultimately entail both prospecting and closing, but building a strong, detailed list of prospects is the foundation of the whole process. Furthermore, it is much easier to close when you have good prospects to begin with and much easier to practice your closing skills when your have numerous prospects on your list. Thus, good prospecting
is the more crucial of these two important sales-steps.

Get Social Or Go Home

Social Media Sign Post

Use of social media is growing as fast among business owners as it is among the general population- which translates into “It’s booming.” In fact, a Mediabistro report reveals that 73% of small businesses today are now involved in social media marketing.
There are a number of good reasons why marketing your products or services through social sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ makes good business sense to small businessmen. We will look at three of these reasons just below, but first, let it be said that if you aren’t using social media to bolster your business, your competition is. That competition is fierce, and social media marketing has become so key to success that those who still refuse to “get social” might just as well pack up and “go home.”

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: The first reason to “get social” with your business ads is that around half of modern shoppers count on social media for help in making a purchase decision. Recommendations on their favorite social sites are frequently taken quite seriously, so you had better be making those recommendations instead of your competition. In the end, the ROI on the money, time, and effort invested is typically high enough to easily justify a full-fledged social media marketing program.
  2. Customer Acquisition: A majority of the world’s 7 billion people are now members of at least one social media site, and there are 1.7 billion such sites now in existence. There is enormous potential to gain new prospects via social media marketing with relative ease, and this stems both from the sheer numbers involved and the fact that many are far more likely to buy a product advertised at a social site that they use. Additionally, social site friends will often recommend your product to others both on and off the site, creating a fountainhead for word-of-mouth advertisement.
  3. Customer Interaction: Via social media, businesses can directly engage clients or potential clients in interactions such as Q&A surveys, opinion polls, two-way conversations, and more. While these same sort of activities could potentially take place at a business’ website, prospects are often more willing to take part in them in a more “relaxed social environment.”

Once the great potential of social media marketing is understood, many small business owners increase the time and money spent on this form of advertisement and see beneficial effects. According to a Swiftgate survey, 50% of businesses had recently boosted their time spent on social media sites and had gained new clients as a result. Success will not come apart from offering useful, relevant content to consumers and posting high-quality ads, but locating your material in a high-yield environment (social media sites) is winning half the battle.

Stop Overpaying Your Small Business Taxes, The 12-Month Plan To A Happy April 15th!

Tax form conceptApril 15th!

If you are a small business owner, you have probably taken out a loan from time to time. As part of the terms of repaying that loan, you had to pay a significant amount of interest. That’s how loans work. You borrow an amount and repay that amount plus interest. So, why do you let the government borrow your money interest-free? Overpaying your taxes allows the government to use your money. Money that you could use yourself.

The odds are that your small business needs to make the most out of every dollar. Reducing costs is certainly one of your major priorities. Often small business owners leave on cost reduction on the table. They overpay their taxes. How can you avoid overpaying?

Record Every Expense

Make sure you keep accurate records of every expense. Get professional help in understanding what deductions are available. When in doubt, keep the record and do some research to check if the deduction is allowed. It’s important to consider that tax law changes from year to year. Maintain a current understanding of tax credits and allowable deductions.

Avoid sending up any red flags by understanding some of the more common traps. These traps include the home office deduction, the ambiguous miscellaneous deduction, and the often blurred lines between business and personal expense deduction.

Pay On Time

Paying on time will ensure that you avoid costly penalties. As we all know, April 15 is tax day; however, owners of small businesses are considered self- employed. That classification means that you must pay estimated quarterly taxes plus quarterly self-employment taxes. Paying these taxes late might get you audited and can you leave you liable for interest penalties.

Planning Ahead

Paying estimated taxes can get confusing. One of the easiest methods is to start with the amount you paid the previous year adjusted for any changes, or predicted changes, like growth or additional expenses. Once you decide on an amount, spread that number over the 12 months of the year, and you know what you will need for each quarterly payment.

Professional Advisor

Each year around tax time you hear a lot of political talk about reforming the tax code. In its current form, the tax code is unbelievably complex and at times impossible to understand. Investing in the services of a professional tax service is one of the wisest moves you can make. They can help you keep more of your money to use in the financial management of your business. Yes, it will mean an added expense but one that will pay for itself many times over.



Automate, Automate, Automate! The Tools You Can’t Afford To Live Without

Automation

Advances in technology have made it possible to automate more of your business processes than ever before, and this is an opportunity you really can’t afford to pass up. The fact is that modern business operations are more complex and demanding than in the past, and those who fail to take advantage of available automation systems can be sure their competition will not make the oversight. When competitors boost their efficiency through automation and you don’t, you put yourself at a disadvantage.

Why automate?– To save time, which saves money, which gives you more investment capital to grow on. Automation allows you to get many of your business tasks done without doing them yourself and without hiring an extra employee to handle them.

How can you automate? – There are many tools available, too many to list them all. But 4 of the most important tools that make your life easier by reducing the number of business tasks you must do manually include:

  1. Email Marketing Tools: EMTs, like Active Campaign and MailChimp for example, help you to set up web forms and autoresponders as well as receive email marketing reports on things like open-rates and click-through rates. Auto-responders are particularly helpful because they automatically send out emails after a web form is filled out.
  2. Marketing Automation Tools: MATs, like InfusionSoft and Marketo, are a step above email marketing tools in that you can pre-set rules that will respond to actions related to your follow-up emails. They also allow you to segment contacts more effectively, which lets you keep delivered content relevant and far more likely to see high conversion rates. You can pre-arrange the rules to automatically send the right messages to the right people at the right time.
  3. Contact Relationship Management Tools: CRMs, such as Zoho and Insightly, automate the gathering and storage of valuable data on clients/prospects. They also help with management of sales processes, workflows, and more. With a CRM, Human error is greatly reduced in your files, and updating is easy.
  4. Shopping Cart Tools: Automating online payments with shopping cart solutions, like Shopify or BIG Commerce, is a must for any company selling through its website. Shopping carts can also help you track sales data like purchase quantity and frequency and give prospects the chance to make a purchase through one of your online “sales funnels.” If anything is worth automating, surely it’s the money-making process.

The Magic of Free Promotion: Worth the Time and Effort

depositphotos_26653227_m-2015Every business owner knows, without good promotion the best product in the world won’t get to customers. The challenge is getting your message to interested people. Advertising is one tried and true way of bringing in new customers. Advertising; however, is expensive, and your budget might not support spending so much. So, as a business owner, what can you do to reach a large audience quickly and affordably?

Publicity is an attractive way to reach out to your target market and increase your profile. Positive media coverage is a gift to businesses. That’s why big corporations spend millions on publicity. The good news is that done correctly getting publicity is free. The question is, how do you get the media interested. The following step by step instructions will guide you as you begin connecting with and benefiting from the media.

Step 1. Define How You’re Different Than Your Competition

Employment experts talk a lot about the elevator speech, which is a short statement that allows you to explain quickly who you are and what makes you stand out to prospective employers. The same principle applies to your business. Write out a statement, no more than a few sentences that will tell people what your business has to offer and why you’re better than the competition

Step 2. Set Specific Goals

After writing your statement, develop a list of what you want to accomplish by gaining publicity. Prioritize six objectives and remember to be very concrete and set deadlines. Two examples include gaining more brand recognition in your community and attracting more visitors to your location (physical or virtual).

Step 3. Identify Your Target Market

You define customers by many criteria. Age, gender, buying habits, occupation, income level, geography, and cultural norms. Include anything you can think of that would define the customers who would find value in what you offer. For example, you generally wouldn’t market yachts to factory workers, and you wouldn’t waste your time offering a book on shopping on a budget to the country club set. You need to understand who your potential customers are before you try to reach them. That brings you to step number four.

Step 4. List of Relevant Media Organizations

Create a list of all the media outlets in your local area. Radio and TV, newspapers, magazines, and any others you deem appropriate. Separate and prioritize them by relevance, high, medium, and low and add contact information. Get the names, numbers, email, and other contact information of local reporters, editors, and DJs. You can find most of this is found on their website. Learn who covers what within your industry. Your goal is creating a list of everyone who has influence or decision-making authority about which stories to cover. Make the list as comprehensive as possible. The project will take some effort because lots of research is required; however, the results will serve you well.

Step 5. Develop Relationships with the Media

Building productive media relationships are identical to building any business relationship. The key is focusing on the needs of the people who you can help you. You want attention to your company; they want attention for their publication. Media organizations are always on the hunt for stories that will interest their audience. Your task is getting to know the key players, gaining their respect, and understanding how they work. Ask about their deadlines and the type of stories they seek. Prove with your actions that you can provide, or help them find, good quality content. Placing your focus on them will motivate them to help you. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when working with media people.

  • Remember they are people, just like you
  • Know what they are writing about
  • Read and comment on their work
  • Act with respect
  • Ask what they need
  • Respond to their needs
  • Act Professionally and reliably. Deliver on your promises
  • Keep requests on a realistic level.
  • Most of all become a go-to resource for good ideas and good content.

Step 6. Creating Stories to Pitch

Sometimes, as in the case of a new product, you have a great story to share, and if the new product is groundbreaking, for example, the iPad, it will be relatively easy to get attention. Usually small businesses or startups have to create story angles that pique media interest. Other ideas for stories include events that your planning, important charities you support, expanding with another location, and anything substantive and positive. It is vital that your content is of interest to the media and your customers. Do not waste your contact’s or your customer’s time with fluff. Remember some of the tips from the previous step. Know what reporters are working on, ask what they need, respond to their needs.

Step 7.  How to Pitch Stories

Why is one pitch effective when others quickly find their way into the gone-forever file? What is the difference? The following tips on how to pitch a story to the press are a composite of advice from experts in the public relations field added to reporter’s opinions on what works for them. Some of the items are repeats of previous information, but you will benefit from considering them again.

1.Get specific with who you pitch and make sure they are a good fit for the story. Don’t pitch a story about women’s clothing to a reporter who covers organic produce.

  1. Always read the work of the person you are pitching. Read it carefully and thoroughly so you understand what interests them. Pitch them stories that add value to the original line of thought. Describe how your story will add that value to writer and the readers.
  2. Don’t sell your company, sell the story. The story provides no value unless it helps the cause of the writer, the publication, and especially the readers. Your message will come through but only if they publish the story.
  3. Always act with respect. Sometimes the answer is no. Accept it and move on to pitch another day. Don’t give up easy. Be prepared to offer evidence that proves the value of your story, but don’t get angry and try to bully your way to success.
  4. Be succinct. Don’t go into the whole life story of the company. Get right to the point, say thank you, exchange a few pleasantries, and excuse yourself with the promise to check back at an agreed upon time.
  5. Don’t lie about your reasons for the story. Be honest and upfront at all times. Act with respect.
  6. Resist the temptation of becoming a pest. Call once, email once, or pitch once and then let it go for a respectful period before following up; however, please do follow up. You run the risk of losing many opportunities if you forget to follow up or if you follow late. You’ve worked hard to get to this point, don’t lose your coverage now.

New Media Options to Promote Your Business

So far the focus has been traditional media options, but the world has changed rapidly in the last few decades. Traditional methods are not the only, nor some would argue the best, choice for businesses trying to get the word out.

Social Media has become a way of life, particularly for younger generations. Staying connected with these sites is something you must take advantage of as a business owner. To augment your website, you should have business pages on social sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. These options are an excellent way to explain to people who you are and what you do. Make a habit of posting business related material every day and remember to keep the material relevant to your customer’s needs and interests.

Email lists have become a very useful tool for growing businesses. You inform people about the latest industry trends by sending out a monthly or weekly newsletter. Often these newsletters will contain a call to action that will result in increased sales. Again, like with traditional media, if you create content that provides value for customers they will share that information. Over time, your email list will grow. Some e-commerce businesses operate primarily off of these lists.

Learn to promote your business visually on social media sites like Pinterest and Instagram. Sharing images, video, and other graphic representations are great ways to drive traffic to your website, or customers to your physical location.

YouTube and other video sharing sites are easy and free. Every computer or mobile device comes equipped with camera’s that produce good quality video. Star in your commercials or grab your most adventurous employees and get them ready for their close up. Or just explain what you have to offer and invite people over for a visit. Have fun with it and keep in mind all the catch phrases you’ve heard over the years. You might have one go viral create a new trend.

Take action to ensure your website is mobile friendly. Statistically, more people buy from their mobile device than from their computer. That trend will undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future.

Tie everything together. Your social media sites, video sharing sites, website, stories in the press, email newsletters, all of it should list information about finding the others. Make sure when people get to one part of your coverage they will find out how to get to all the parts. See you in the media.

What Are the Qualities of a Successful Small Business Owner

depositphotos_84011318_m-2015Successful small business owners come from every background and have as diverse of personalities as anyone else, but they also tend to have certain character qualities in common. These qualities directly impact the way they think about their business and the way they manage it. While a full list of pertinent traits would be indeed voluminous, here below we discuss only a handful of the most important ones:

Visionary: Having a clear view of precisely what it is you want your business to ultimately become and why the product or service it provides is important is the very definition of a “business vision.” Without a vision, it will be difficult to stay “driven to succeed” because there will be no higher purpose for your activities than getting through the “daily grind.”

Goal-oriented: Long and short term goals, which translate into a detailed business plan, are essential to keeping motivated to get things done in a timely manner. When everything is, as much as possible, well thought out ahead of time and broken down into small, practical steps, it is simply easier to succeed.

Ever-learning: The most successful small business owners are always reading, asking questions, researching a better way to do things, and networking with others more experienced than themselves. They also often engage in formal, ongoing education such as business seminars and online classes.

People-people: To some degree, a business person must interact with others and build relationships that are mutually beneficial. This includes with clients, employees, partners, mentors, and suppliers. They will need to head up a team and collaborate with others in working toward a common goal in the most efficient way feasible.

Good with money: Without a steady cash flow, available investment capital, and a sufficient cash reserve, your business will likely soon fold. Knowing how to manage money and make the most out of a limited budget is key to success in the business world.

Organized: Budgeting time and money, scheduling workers, dealing with payroll, and even arranging your personal office for maximum productivity all require a good deal of organization. Routines must be established that allow you to accomplish as much as possible during any given workday, but disorganization will constantly thwart your efforts.

Tech-savvy: In the modern world, businesses must rely heavily on high-tech devices to accomplish basic tasks. Being able to use computers, smartphones, apps, and social media sites effectively and efficiently is almost required these days.

Resilient: There are too many ups and downs in the life of a business for a non-resilient person to keep his/her company afloat. Believing strongly in what you are doing, you will not give up easily.

Above, we listed 8 major character qualities that the most successful small business people frequently possess. No one, however, possesses all desirable qualities to the point of perfection- thus, humility and a willingness to improve must also characterize a good business owner.

Three New Apps To Add Hours To Your Week

Finding the elusive work/life balance can be a little like searching for something that exists only in theory. But it is out there, and with no shortage of helpful apps available to aid you in your quest, it can actually be attainable.

That said, here are three apps that can help you get the most out of each day, both in work and in life. Moreover, the time saved will help ease the stress and help you concentrate on other things.

1. Shyp

It’s never more fitting to mention Shyp than during the holiday season – even if Shyp encompasses much more than that. That’s because anyone who has dealt with post office crowds at this time of year can save time, stress and money thanks to Shyp.

What is it? In short, Shyp will come to you, pick up your items, and pack them and ship them anywhere in the world while using the most reliable, cheapest option available. Talk about taking the hassle out of gift-giving.

But there’s more:

*For starters, Shyp’s couriers will arrive at your office or desk within 20 minutes of being notified.

*Instead of using shipping addresses, Shyp’s customers get usernames instead. Those usernames are then synced with addresses and shipping preferences. In turn, that tackles the problem of not being home to receive a package and having to go off-site to get it. Instead, it can be delivered to wherever you are.

How It Works

Open the Shyp app, take a photo of the item you want shipped, and a courier will arrive to pick it up – for only $5. The package is then taken to a warehouse where the postage fee is determined.

2. Pocket

If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve probably had your productive time hijacked by an interesting article that keeps you engrossed for far too long. If the Internet is an ever-tempting distraction and you have a long list of articles to get through, then Pocket will come to the rescue.

How does it work? Put simply, you can save content and view it later with Pocket. You don’t even need to be online to view it, because Pocket downloads the articles (and videos) so you can view them anywhere later during your spare time – without a Wi-Fi connection.

3. LucyPhone

Getting put on hold while waiting for a customer service rep is about as much fun as standing at line in the post office as you wait to ship your package. Enter LucyPhone.

You can either choose from the app’s mega-list of companies or enter the company’s number and it will call it for you. If you’re put on hold, press ** and the app will take over the agonizing task of being on hold. When an agent becomes available, you’ll get a call back telling you so.