Monday, November 30, 2015

Ways to expand

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     Expanding can be a big step for a small business. Or it can be several small steps taken over time.

     You might open a new office or add a new group of products. You might add shipping for orders placed on your website and promote on social media. You might move to a new location or take off in a new business direction.

     These decisions take careful planning ahead--before you jump off the cliff. Always do a business plan before changing directions. Otherwise, you can overwhelm yourself and your business.

     Example: Ted runs a pet store--no pets, but everything else customers need for their pets. He carries foods, supplies, accessories, and more. To expand, Ted added shipping for orders placed on his expanded website. To his surprise, many of his current customers began ordering online instead of coming to the store. He began posting on social media, and more orders came in--from people in a much wider area. Ted had suddenly expanded his operation. He hired another employee to handle shipping orders.

     Example: Alec was the only physician in a small town. He wanted to expand by establishing a walk-in clinic in a neighboring town about 20 miles away. That town was one of several active suburbs of a large city. It was a big step for Alec. Suddenly, he had two operations, and the strain of keeping up with two offices began to affect him. He looked for another physician to run the new clinic, found a good candidate, and put together a partnership. Today, Alec runs four walk-in clinics, each with its own resident physician. 

     Example: Irene runs a small cafe serving breakfasts and lunches only. She decided to expand by adding dinners. She also decided to step carefully into the new direction. First, Irene began emphasizing healthy, farm-to-table breakfasts and lunches, using social media. Next, she began offering special Friday only dinners, featuring ethnic foods--one Friday it would be Mexican, the next Friday was Italian, then French and so on. Enjoying some success, Irene then extended dinners to Saturday evenings. She is letting the new restaurant's brand settle into the community's go-to thinking before taking another step. 

     Wandering into an expansion is not a good option. Expanding takes careful planning. Only if the numbers make sense, and only if your own intuition confirms the idea, do you proceed.

     Before expanding, always do a business plan. And that means paying attention to the marketplace. Can your expansion be supported?


Friday, November 27, 2015

Customer relations

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     Customers can be a gold mine. Doing more in customer relations can bring them back again and again. As a plus, they will refer others to you. 

     Example: Frank is a caterer. He helps each client make the most of their affair by showing them how to take it to the next level. It can be much more than food. This sometimes means suggesting a black tie affair or setting up a big tent with a dance floor and band to create spectacular gatherings. Frank's operation has moved from simple backyard events to managing large affairs for corporate clients. 

      Example: Eve is an accountant. She sees many of her clients only once each year--at tax time. She began spending more time with each client, showing them how to simplify their bookkeeping and educating them on the tax implications of what they are doing--and what they could do. This has solidified Eve's relationship with clients, expanded the amount of work she does with them, and attracted more clients. 

     Example: Ed runs a garden center. During spring and summer, Ed regularly hosts an event, free and open to the public, showing people how to lay pavers and bricks, how to build walls and fences, etc. He brings in representatives from suppliers--they are glad to contribute their time. These events have built Ed's reputation and expanded his customer base far beyond its previous reach. Even local landscapers and contractors attend the sessions and refer others. 

     Example: Gina operates a women's clothing and accessories business. She sells to walk-ins and through her website. She attracts customers through regular posts on social media. Every time a customer spends more than $100, Gina sends a personal thank you. When someone spends more than $500, she sends them a gift certificate. 

     Create good customer relations with your clients. Educate them. Show them how you can do more. Make sure they understand all you can do.

     Offering free information is basic to good customer relations. This separates small business from the big box stores and chain stores. Put tips and info on your website from time to time, and frequently post on social media. Show your customers you care. 

     Good customer relations can build your business. Remember, your customers talk about you in the community and on social media. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Increase your business

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     Your customers and clients tend to see you as satisfying only one of their needs. They pigeonhole you. You become the go-to place to get a single item or service.

     Joe takes care of my lawn. Mary is my fashion expert. Greg gets the kinks out of my neck. Amy styles my hair. And Frank makes brownies.

     You must continually remind customers of the other things you do. 

     Example: When Joe told a customer that he did more than cut lawns, it resulted in a conversation. Joe reminded the customer that he could put up a fence, build a gate, and put up trellises for the customer's roses. It resulted in more jobs for Joe.  

     Example: Mary draws fashion conscious clients to her upscale shop. When she began reminding them that she could do short fashion shows to punch up their parties and meetings, she began an expansion that has served to create more business for the shop's fashions. 

     Example: Greg is a chiropractor. He began reminding his clients that he was beginning regular monthly meetings at his place with a nutritionist talking and answering questions. This proved to be a powerful attraction to getting new chiropractic clients and referrals.

     Example: Amy built up her upscale salon business by catering to high end clients--and charging high end prices. When she began reminding clients that she would come to their place to cut and style hair for men and women, she entered a new level of business. She now does much of her work in offices, homes and private airplanes.

     Example: Frank's brownies were popular. People made a point of driving out of their way to pick up a box of brownies at his bakery. He began reminding his customers that he could ship to them. It worked. And when he began promoting on social media that he would ship anywhere, his business increased significantly.

     Every business tends to settle into a comfortable way of doing business. And customers/clients tend to settle into thinking of you in only one way.

     You can grow to a new level by reminding people of all the things you can do for them. You already know the first step.

     Get yourself out of the narrow way you are managing your business. Remind your customers/clients of all the things you can do for them.    

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Dreaming new realities

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     Every business owner has dreams. But getting caught up in dreams before their time can be dangerous.

     Example: Cedric Sr. started a tee shirt operation years ago. He worked very hard, keeping the business lean and mean. It supported the family and sent Cedric Jr. to college. When Cedric Jr. took over the business, he had bigger dreams. He expanded the old website and he posted lots of pictures on social media. Orders for tee shirts exploded, orders came in from all over, and shipments went out every day. Cedric Jr. arranged for a loan to expand the operation. He moved into larger quarters, bought more equipment, and hired more people. Suddenly, the economy tanked and orders dropped. He had trouble meeting the monthly payment on the loan. And then there was the rent on the bigger space. He laid off people, and some of his equipment lay idle. Going on social media was a good idea, but taking on lots of new debt and expanding too fast was a bad idea. Cedric Jr. let his dreams get ahead of reality.

     When you are trying to turn your dreams into reality, you do a business plan. Always factor in changes in the market you serve or want to serve. And always consider that the economy can change. Work the numbers--numbers don't lie, and numbers can put a hedge on dreams.

     Example: Kathy runs a small tea shop. Customers come in, browse the dozens of different teas, sip a sample, and purchase tea to take home. It was a nice little business, but Kathy wanted to expand. She familiarized herself with social media, and she began posting pictures on Facebook. Suddenly, her website was more active--people began ordering tea online. Many stopped coming to the shop, preferring online ordering. Then Kathy began offering standing orders--customers placed an order and Kathy shipped out replacements each month. Today, Kathy spends most of her time filling and shipping orders. She still enjoys meeting new customers who come to her tea shop, but her business is addressing a much, much bigger market.

     Expanding an existing business--no matter the size--takes careful planning. Doing that business plan is crucial to success.

     Turning your business dreams into reality means that you must use all the tools available to you. The most important tools are those involving the marketplace. A good business plan can uncover what you can expect in the market you plan to address.

     Don't know how to do a business plan? Do a search for "Business Plans" and you'll find lots of help. Spend your time then on the marketing section.   


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Buy new, buy used

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     As a business owner, you know how to save money. You know how to buy used equipment instead of shelling out the big bucks for new. 

     In the health care field, massage therapists, Pilates instructors, chiropractors and others save a lot by buying used equipment. The same can be said for restaurant and baking equipment, store shelving and refrigeration, printing equipment, auto repair, office equipment and fixtures, and countless other examples.

     Any business owner thinking of expanding should consider buying used--not new--equipment and vehicles. Used office equipment and computing equipment can serve just as well as new. You can find this stuff at steep discounts by searching out used items in good condition at trustworthy sources. 

     Example: Zack owned a small printing shop. His industry was undergoing big time technological changes, and Zack installed a high speed quick-print machine to satisfy some of his customers needs. But Zack wanted to remain small and specialized--he was not looking to compete with all the runaway technology that many printers were installing. Instead, he went looking for older presses. He found an old German-made press that he bought for pennies on the dollar--just over the scrap value of the iron it was made of. Today, Zack can turn out high quality, color work on his older machine and still satisfy customers requiring quick turnaround copies.

     Example: Mike spotted a new strip mall being built near a new big complex of retirement homes. He made arrangements to rent one of the new storefronts in the strip mall. Then he went looking to establish his dream bagel shop. A franchise would cost him $250,000. If he passed on the franchise and bought new equipment, Mike could get into business at half the cost. But he found an antique bagel making machine at a used restaurant equipment supply house that he could buy for $10,000. Mike jumped at the chance. He cleaned up the old machine, put it back in operating condition, and installed it in the front window of his new bagel store. It was like a museum--continuously operating machinery dropped bagels at the end of the line every few seconds. Mike got lots of free publicity, not only in local papers and on social media, but a national magazine wrote about his bagel operation as well.

     Before you disparage used, think about used vehicles and homes. And then there used transplants--hearts, livers, corneas, kidneys.

     Before you spend on new, consider the savings possible with used. Now, re-work your business plan and see how the numbers add up.    


Monday, November 23, 2015

Partnering with others

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     Getting together with another small business to hold an event helps both businesses. Together, they attract more attention and generate more excitement than either can acting alone.

     Partnering with another business is NOT about holding a sale or setting up a town-wide event. Those are different and take different approaches. 

     Many ways can be used to put together your business with another to hold an event. Hold workshops, sponsor seminars, set up informational meetings and demonstrations, hold a networking event, sponsor events to raise funds for a good cause. 

     Example: A health foods store partners with a nutritionist. Monthly sessions are announced on social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.), a news release is sent out, and store customers are reminded of the upcoming events. The nutritionist gives a talk and answers questions. The health foods store sets up a table of samples. Use your imagination. The sessions draw new customers to the store and new clients call the nutritionist. 

     Example: A bicycle shop partners with a fitness operation to hold Saturday morning riding sessions. People meet in the parking lot of a local restaurant. The $10 per rider charge goes to a local charity--which announces the event to its members. The event attracts new people to all the businesses as well as to the charity. (This same type event could include an auto repair shop where the people meet. How about a chiropractor, or a wellness center, a garden center?)

     Example: A potter and a florist put together a workshop. People can come and learn hands-on how to throw a pot on the potter's wheel and learn how to make flower arrangements and take care of house plants. The workshop, held in the pottery studio, attracts a great deal of attention in social media when announced. Both businesses get new prospects. 

     Partnering with other businesses to hold events helps to expand the participating businesses. Partnering puts a fresh face on what you do, and it offers opportunities to post pictures--before and after the event. 

     Posting pictures on social media is an excellent promotional tool. These pictures get people's attention, causes them to want to participate, and they pass the pictures to their friends which can result in referrals.

     Prod your business to the next level by partnering with another business to hold an event that draws more attention and expands your appeal. 



Friday, November 20, 2015

Promote for growth

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     It's not a matter of running a pet store. Pets can help you--no matter your business--to attract attention and reel in prospects and referrals.

     Chiropractors, wellness experts, restaurants, and shops of all sorts are using pets to promote their operations. Why? Because it works.

     Example: Ted is a chiropractor. He regularly posts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram--and all of these show pictures of his big dog. His dog is very active and the pictures show the dog jumping, running, chasing a ball, carrying a stick or curled up at Ted's feet. All this shows a message of a care-free, pain-free lifestyle. Ted doesn't write about bones and muscles--that information is on his website for people who want more chiropractic information. Ted's dog is the message. It is upfront, attention-getting, and draws in the viewer. Plus the pictures get passed around. 

     Example: Jan runs a consignment shop. Her big tabby cat really owns the place. He curls up in his basket on the counter or in the sunny front window, eyeing all comers and catching cat naps. Jan snaps pictures of the cat and posts on Facebook and other social media, generating continuing interest in her shop--as well as referrals. Jan's regulars have developed an attachment to the cat and they refer others--passing the pictures around among their friends. 

     Example: Tom runs a bar. To punch up interest, he installed two pool tables and a dart board. He brought in craft beers. But the thing that really got the place hopping was something else. Tom cleared off one wall and had a sign painter emblazon the words "Man's Best Friend" across the top. Underneath, he hung a reproduction of a famous painting of dogs playing cards. Then he invited everyone to post pictures of their dogs all over the rest of the wall. Soon, dozen of pictures of dogs and puppies appeared. Tom takes pictures of the wall and posts on social media. The bar is now affectionately known as Tom's Dog House. 

     Dogs and cats can be used in many ways to promote a business. Put your creativity to work. Today's social media offers many opportunities using dogs and cats to attract attention to your operation. 

     It doesn't matter what your business is--pictures of dogs and cats capture the viewer's attention, and that's the point. Then, they check you out and pass the pictures around. 

     The key for you is the non-stop picture-taking. Today, everyone can snap pictures and post them easily, inexpensively, and continuously. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Planning for disasters

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     Disasters happen. Fires, floods, computer glitches, power outages and burglaries can strike at any time. Key employees can have accidents and be laid up recuperating for months. 

     Owners of small businesses provide their own back-up. Think about the things that can go wrong, and have a plan to get you through the mess. Don't wait until the disaster happens.

     Example: Jim runs a small computing firm with three employees. The main component of his business is to continually monitor the operating systems of his client larger firms, assuring them uninterrupted and problem-free operation. Jim is set up to electronically repair computer problems remotely. A key employee, however, broke her back and would suddenly be absent for weeks. Jim had to scramble to cover the work the employee had been handling. He had to substitute himself in the technical aspects the employee normally handled. It was a valuable lesson. When the employee returned to work, Jim began paying attention to cross-training all his employees.

     Example: Mary is an expert in massage with her own studio. Over several years, Mary built up her client base and went looking for bigger space. She was careful not to consider ground-floor space because the river sometimes flooded the Main Street. She didn't want stairs because some of her clients could not manage stairs. She found space accessible by a ramp in a building with offices that were well above ground level. Her careful planning paid off--when the river flooded, she was high and dry. 

     Example: Ella runs a small graphic arts firm. The business was going well when suddenly the landlord informed her that she had 60 days to vacate the space. The lease gave the landlord that option. It also provided that the landlord would buy out the remaining months of the lease--a clause Ella had insisted on when she signed the original lease. Since there were two years remaining in the lease, Ella received a sizable cash payment from the landlord. She used the money to move, buy new equipment, and add an employee. The disruption in on-going work was significant, but Ella turned disaster into positive growth.

     Think through your own situation. Have a plan in place--at least in your head--to deal with that next disaster that might hit your business.

     Anything can happen. Big companies can ride out disasters--they have deep pockets. But your small business depends on you.   

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Freebies for your customers

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     Showing you care about your customers is easy. It's a matter of staying on top of customers' expectations and interests.

     Example: Peg runs a specialized collectibles business. Her only store is her website. She sells vintage board games, computer games, video games, and related items. Peg promotes heavily on social media--Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. In prior years, she charged for shipping. Today, just about everything ordered is shipped for free. In addition, Peg encloses a small free gift in every package that goes out. Her customers are a specialized lot, they are very loyal, and they refer others to her. 

     Example: Ana runs a restaurant. She promotes on Facebook, entering her specials every day. She gets lots of "likes" and a few comments that are negative. Ana responds to every "like" that comes in, and she also responds to every negative comment--putting a positive spin on her reply and inviting the person to get a free dessert when visiting.  

     Example: Julie is a massage therapist. To promote her services, Julie gives free demonstrations and talks at senior centers, group meetings, and corporate venues. These activities bring additional clients to Julie's place--many of whom have never before had a real massage. New clients always receive a gift certificate that they can use themselves or pass on to others.

     Example: Ken runs an auto repair shop. Customers needing major repairs always get more. Ken checks wiper blades, tire pressure, and several additional minor items--listing all this on the final bill, but entering "Our gift to you" instead of a charge. This builds goodwill.

     Example: Pepe runs a bakery. Every customer is invited to take a free cookie from the sample table he maintains in front of his display cases. Outgoing orders are bagged with a free cookie also. And he always asks the recipient for feedback on the freebie. It's Pepe's way of testing new products--sort of like a focus group. 

     Freebies can take many forms--whether you provide goods or services. Or whether you sell on the net or in a shop. Use your creativity.

     Freebies create goodwill among your present customers and clients. And that goodwill gets passed around, resulting in more referrals for you.    


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Engaging your customers

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     Customers can be a gold mine. But it's up to you to do the mining. They show up to pan for gold, but you must show them how to use the pan--and get what they want. 

     Your customers click on your website and hit the "Place Order" key. Or they come to your retail store and make a purchase. All of them are in a hurry--it's the way life is lived these days. 

     It's up to you to understand their predicament. They need your help on some level or they would not be there. Your promotions have brought them to you. This puts you squarely in their sights. 

     Everyone needs products and services--hopefully yours. But people also need information. They want answers. They want to know what you can do for them. They want to be entertained. It's all about them.

     Example: Irene is an artist. She hand paints silk scarves which she sells along with other items in her women's accessories shop. She generates lots of interest on social media--posting pictures on Facebook, Instagram and other sites. Her pictures show colorful silk scarves arranged in puffs and folds on real people. These pictures demonstrate how her scarves can enhance any number of outfits. Customers order from her website and stop in her shop. Many purchase other things as well. Irene has found the key to engaging her customers.

     Example: Bob is an accountant who sees clients only at tax time. He decided to take it to the next level. He emailed his clients, inviting them to an off-season group meeting. He would be talking about the latest tax rulings and regulations, answering all questions. He would also demonstrate new software they would find interesting. And he posted the session on social media, inviting all for coffee and cake. The meeting was very successful. Bob became the go-to expert for tax information and business accounting. And they spread the word in the community. 

     Example: John runs a furniture store. When a customer came looking for a recliner, John mentioned a matching sofa. Seeing no interest, he changed the conversation. He talked about room layouts and design. He put some computer layouts to work in explaining how a room could be transformed. This elevated the customer's interest to a new level, and it brought a one-time shopper back again and again. The customer referred others interested in seeing computer layouts for their needs and interests.

     Turn customer contacts into fun experiences, educational sessions, and a go-to place for information. The idea is to position your operation at the forefront of your customer's mind. Engage you customers and they will come back again and again, bring others with them.

     Put your customers at ease, educate them, entertain them, show you are interested in them. They will reward you with more purchases and referrals. 


Monday, November 16, 2015

Get rich with small biz

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     Getting rich can be a by-product of your chasing your dream business. Becoming wealthy might not be the goal, but it can happen.

     The reasons to set up a small business are many. They have to do with chasing that dream, being your own boss, seizing an opportunity, pitting your smarts against the marketplace, and earning a living. 

     Example: Ellie loved brownies. She knew there was a big market for them--to punch up meetings and to put the finishing touch on corporate and other events. But Ellie did not have a bakery, nor did she want one. She made arrangements to use a licensed kitchen--starting with a restaurant that was closed on Mondays. She began baking brownies and promoting on social media. She experienced immediate success, shipping to clients from her website and finding new ones on social media. Ellie ran the business for five years, growing every year. Then she sold out and retired.

     Example: Ranjeet is an expert in information technology. With social media exploding, he saw a unique market opportunity. He quit his corporate job and set up a small business showing other small businesses how to take advantage of the enormous opportunities they could access, using social media to grow their businesses. Today, Ranjeet employs several people and has hundreds of clients. Ranjeet is on his way to becoming rich. 

     Example:  Jon was a young man in a hurry. He used a sizable inheritance to establish an architectural artifacts business. He bought an old warehouse and filled it with items recovered from buildings being demolished. His stock included old windows and doors, iron fencing, antique gingerbread and banisters, hardwood carvings, used brick and much more. His clients are architects, designers, contractors and homeowners. He even recovered a motherload of yellow pine flooring, virgin wood dating back to the 1800s. Jon turned his inheritance and his dream into a business attracting well-heeled clients from far and near. 

     Getting rich depends on your efforts, your dream, your management, your alertness, your hard work and other things in your control. 

     Your dream is yours. Turning it into reality is up to you. It can put you on the road to becoming rich. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Facebook for small business

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     Facebook has proved to be an extremely valuable tool for small business. Posting a picture on Facebook is quick, easy, and free. 

     Example: Joe's business targets men. He does not have a shop, but he has a very active website. His best selling products are men's shaving items, belts, caps, underwear, socks, and other items. To promote, Joe uses pictures that he posts at least twice each week on Facebook and other social media. This drives lots of traffic to his website, including women who buy most of the items for the men in their lives. 

     Example: Kathy is a Reiki expert. Her client base was growing with referrals. She got certified in Reiki for pets. She now snaps pictures of dogs and puppies and posts them to Facebook. People exchange the pictures--and Kathy's expertise--with others and the calls come in. 

     Example: Sara runs a gift shop--unusual creations handmade by artists. She has a website, a presence on Etsy, and sells on Ebay as well. Sara promotes with pictures of jewelry, ceramics, photographs, small paintings, wood and iron ware. The pictures serve as a record of items in the shop as well as getting posted on Facebook. The photos attract people to her website and to the shop as well. 

     Example: Jeff uses Facebook to promote his garden center. His close-up pictures of blooming plants attract attention. In spring, he might show tulips and daffodils. In autumn, it's chrysanthemums and asters. The variations in pictures can be endless and easy to snap. Facebook pictures drive people to his extensive website. And then they drive to his garden center. 

     Example: Frank is an attorney. He regularly offers to speak at gatherings, club meetings, senior centers, and other group sessions. He asks for and gets permission to take pictures. These are posted on Facebook, and people pass them around to their friends. The result is that Frank gets calls from new clients to make appointments. 

     Facebook can work in any business. Snap pictures and post them. If you run out of ideas for pictures, snap pictures of puppies, kittens, and blooming flowers--these always attract attention and get passed around. A picture of a butterfly will attract as much attention as one of the Grand Canyon. 

     Don't know how to use Facebook? Go to the site, join up, and follow the easy directions. Post your picture and you're done with your promotion for the day. The whole thing can take as little as five minutes.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Expanding client base

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     Opportunities to grow your business are all around you. Expanding your client base takes two initiatives. You should pay attention to both.

     One way is to offer more to your present customers. The other way is to get more customers. The two are interrelated. 

     Example: John designs websites for clients. To expand, he began offering clients social media packages. He made it a point to visit each client, showing what he could do for them in the realm of social media. Some clients had no idea how social media could help them. Others were using Facebook, Instagram and others to promote, but John showed them how they could optimize effectiveness. Not only did John realize an expansion of services sold to clients, but new clients began to call him--as the word was passed around by clients. 

     Example: Sue is a hypnotherapist. She specializes in weight reduction and stopping smoking sessions--private and group. To expand, she reached out to physicians, informing them of her services. She also showed them that she also could help with pain management issues. This put in place an expansion of her former client base, building on what she already offered, but expanding into a new area as well.

     Example: Russ is an independent insurance agent. He has built up a client base filling various needs--homeowner's insurance, flood, accident, life. He began reminding clients that he could write other types of insurance--loss of business, key man or partner insurance, etc. His business expanded--because he educated his clients in all the things he could do for them.

     Example: Donna's restaurant was a local go-to place for healthy meals. Customers regularly returned and referred others. Donna also offered catering, but she did not remind people often enough that she could handle their parties and special events. When she mounted a social media campaign emphasizing catering, her business increased. 

     Every business tends to settle into a comfortable routine serving their customers and clients. And clients tend to do the same thing. 

     Break out of your comfortable zone. Remind people of all the things you can do for them. Blast it out on social media. Expand your base.

     No matter your business, your customers and clients tend to think of you in a narrow way. It's up to you to educate them.   

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Promoting with partnerships

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     Promoting is a continuing concern for small businesses. One way to extend the reach out into the community is by partnering with other small businesses. 

     This can be as simple as holding an open house, or offering free information, taking questions from attendees, giving free samples, and more. You already do this, but it can be much more effective when you partner with another business.

     Example: A chiropractor partners with a nutritional expert. They announce an open house. Emails go out, phone calls are made, a news release is sent, and the event is announced several times on Facebook. The big day arrives and people hungry for information show up. The chiropractor and the nutritionist talk about what they do, they pass out literature, and they answer questions from the audience. The session results in more clients for each of them.

     Example: A computer expert partners with a local cafe. Everyone has computer questions and everyone must eat. The audience enjoys a quick meal featuring locally-sourced farm products, and then the questions come, first about the value of healthy eating and what the cafe serves, and then about social media, viruses, new software, etc. The session draws new clients to each of these businesses.

     Example: A potter partners with a florist and they put together a free workshop. Demonstrations are provided. Attendees learn hands-on how to throw a pot, while others learn how to make an appealing flower arrangement and take care of house plants. By joining together, the two businesses attract many more than either acting alone. Subsequent Facebook pictures attract even more attention--and calls. 

     Example: A small independent book store partners with an ice cream shop. Book signings and readings for adults and children are held while attendees receive a free scoop. The sessions introduce new people to each operation. Later, pictures posted on Facebook bring even more.

     Events create excitement. Spread the word on Facebook and other social media. Two businesses coming together can create new customers for both businesses. 

     Success with promotions depends on getting the word out--ahead of the event. Facebook is a good mechanism to use.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Clothing aftermarkets

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     Starting a business in the clothing aftermarkets can be relatively easy. Used clothing is readily available--think yard sales, flea markets, consignment and thrift shops. 

     Sweaters, tee shirts, denim jeans, women's and men's outfits and more are thrown away by everyone, all the time. There is an endless supply for these materials--and they can form the basis of a business.

     Example: Jose is very creative and has a longtime interest in rugs and small carpets. He regularly visits consignment and thrift shops to search out and purchase materials. The expensive rugs he makes from all sorts of unusual and colorful materials, some cut into strips, others made into squares. Sometimes he dyes the materials. Then he weaves unusual rug patterns and sells to high-end gift shops and at shows he attends. Materials cost him next to nothing, and he prices to the market--some of his creations sell for hundreds of dollars. 

     Example: Eleanor began buying denim jeans at yard sales, flea markets and consignment shops. She accumulated quite an inventory. Her plan was to use the cleaned and cut up denim materials to make fashionable handbags, shopping bags, and caps for men, women and children. Some she embroidered. She began selling her creations online, promoting through social media. Pictures of her creations sold well, and she is looking to expand her small sewing staff to handle increasing sales--to individuals as well as shops.

     Example: Irene uses sweater materials to make unusual hats and scarves for women. She uses tee shirts to refashion into leggings. These have provided additional sales lines for her small shop featuring fiber arts. Promoting on Facebook has extended her market reach.

     Example: Pepe is an artist. He is always on the lookout for used men's belts and other leather materials. He finds a continuing supply at thrift shops, consignment shops, and flea markets. Pepe is specializing in creating hanging art pieces--some are framed in shadow boxes, others stand or hang as sculptures. But all are made from found leather materials--cut, twisted, refashioned. Pepe is making quite a reputation for his unusual art works. He sells at shows and online--using social media to attract attention to his website. 

     Using the clothing aftermarket as a supplier can form a good basis for a business. There is no end of materials--or what you can do with them. 

     Starting a business, or expanding into a new line of business, can be especially easy using the clothing aftermarkets. Use your creativity.   

Monday, November 9, 2015

Turning loose yesterday

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     Your products and services can become dated. As a business owner, you must recognize changing markets.

     Turning loose yesterday's products and services can be traumatic. But, if what you sold yesterday isn't selling today, what about tomorrow?

     Example: Ed used his CPA training to help clients with tax filings. For years, his business grew by adding new referrals. His clients were very small businesses--owner operated or with few employees. Then he began noticing a slow-down in calls from new clients. Ed recognized that more and more small business owners were signing up with tax firms offering online tax preparation. He could not compete with these. So, Ed began targeting the next level of small businesses--those with 25-50 employees. This market had more complicated tax liabilities. Owners appreciated--and paid for--his personal attention and advice. 

     Example: In the past years when videos ruled the entertainment world, Gene established a local video shop. Business was good as people showed up to rent videos. But fast-moving technology soon overtook the market for people who came to Gene's video shop. When he realized that the future held fewer prospects, he sold the shop.

     Example: Jack runs a machine shop. His main clients are in the aerospace, automotive, and health care fields. When 3D printing burst upon the scene, Jack saw a different future for his business. He installed one of the new 3D machines and hired a programmer. From this modest expansion, Jack has expanded into 3D printing full speed ahead. Today, more and more of his market is satisfied with 3D printed products. Technological changes are revolutionizing Jack's industry.

     Example: Anna runs a cafe. Her breakfasts and lunches attracted lots of attention with her traditional hearty fare. When customers began asking about locally-sourced eggs and breads, Anna took note. Her market was changing. Today, she serves meals made with organically-produced inputs, gluten-free breads, soups made the same day, along with coffee freshly roasted at a local supplier. Her cafe is attracting more and more people--especially since she began promoting her place on social media.  

     Markets no longer exist for buggy whips. Get rid of them. Move on. Turn loose your yesterdays as the market moves ahead.  

Friday, November 6, 2015

Facebooking small business

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     Facebook is a fantastic promotional tool for small business. It is almost effortless from the standpoint of your time. And it can be free.

     Example: Franklin is an attorney. He regularly volunteers to be a speaker at public events--club meetings, senior centers, organizational gatherings, etc. He talks about elder care concerns, what to do with traffic tickets, business organization, wills, and he answers all questions from the audience. He gets an agreement to take and use pictures of the meeting on social media. The pictures go on Facebook, looking like a news item. People see themselves, pass the pictures around, and subsequently, calls come in to Franklin's office for an appointment.

     Example: Leonetta is a therapist specializing in Reiki. Her client base is growing, and then she got certified for Reiki for pets. She regularly snaps pictures of dogs and puppies and posts them on her Facebook page. These pictures are exchanged among groups of friends--and calls come in. To speed up appointments, Leonetta posts Facebook pictures almost daily. To slow it down, she posts only once a week.

     Example: Sara runs a gift shop. She snaps a picture of every new item--giving her a record of her inventory. Many items in her shop are from artists and artisans who produce one-of-a-kind pieces--jewelry, ceramics, photographs, paintings and the like. She selects from the pictures those that she knows will attract attention and posts them on Facebook. It stirs interest and brings new people to her shop.

     Example: Robert uses Facebook to promote his garden center. He posts close-ups of blooming plants to attract attention. If he captures a butterfly, so much the better. In autumn, he posts pictures of asters and chrysanthemums, along with cornstalks and pumpkins. In spring, it's daffodils and tulips. He avoids people's faces but shows a hand now and then. Close-ups of flowers attract viewers, and they pass the pictures to their friends.

     Facebook can work in any business. The trick is to keep on snappin' and postin' as often as you need to. Nothing triggers interest more. 

     Don't know how to use Facebook? Ask any teenager. Go to the Facebook site and follow the simple directions. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Expanding and growing

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     Expanding and growing your business can be intertwined. Expanding means taking the small steps that can lead to real growth.

     Expanding means taking on a related market. This can lead to real growth for your business. The way to approach an expansion is to research the market, carefully plan out the steps you'll take, and then take the plunge.

     Example: Marcia is a chiropractor. She decided some time ago that she wanted to head in the direction of becoming a wellness center. She didn't know how many wellness experts she would be able to attract, and she didn't know how much space would be required. So she spent several months talking with holistic providers, looking at buildings, investigating the market, and doing the numbers--projecting forward several scenarios and arriving at a business plan that made sense. Today, Marcia's wellness center attracts clients looking for all sorts of treatments, including Reiki, massage, acupuncture, yoga sessions for individuals, nutritional guidance, aromatherapy, and other popular wellness interests. She provides space for the experts to meet and treat their clients--transients can simply pay her a fee, or longer term rentals can be made. There is a small room for information displays, including video. The center has attracted lots of attention in the community and beyond. Marcia still sees her chiropractic patients.

     Example: Bill runs a landscaping service. He cuts grass, trims shrubbery, helps homeowners put plants in their yards. He parks his truck and trailer behind his own house, and his garage is full of equipment and materials. Inside, he turned part of a bedroom into a small office setup. To expand, his wife reminded him, he needed to get the business out of the house, out of the garage, and out of the yard. To do this, Bill found a small garden center owned by an elderly man who was willing to enter into a lease-purchase agreement, selling the garden center to Bill. After carefully assessing the situation and the numbers, Bill jumped at the chance to expand and grow at the same time. Today, he attracts many more customers for an expanded list of services. He has added another truck and a crew to serve the needs of the bigger business. 

     Expanding your business means selecting additional markets to serve. When you serve more markets, you are growing the business. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Educate your customers

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     Your business can handle more sales than you have. You can sell more. But you know that.

     Did you know that some of your customers don't know all the things you can do for them? Some get accustomed to coming to you for one thing, but they ignore--or don't know about--all the other things you do.

     You must educate your customers. It's up to you to tell them about all the things you can do for them. Otherwise, they tend to pigeon-hole you as expert in only one thing. 

     Example: You hired a web site designer and you were more than happy with the result. Now you need someone to set you up on social media. You call your web site designer and ask for a referral. Instead, he tells you that he also can help you with social media. He had never educated you in all the things he could do for you.

     Example: Your regulars enjoy your restaurant's healthy meals. They come back again and again and refer others. But you never reminded them that you also do catering--you can handle small corporate events, home parties, and the like. But you lost that business when they called a competing caterer. 

     Example: Fred handles taxes for several small businesses. He knows that few people in small business give much thought to selling their business or practice. He announces a free seminar and invites all his clients. There, he discusses how to get a business ready to sell, what a buyer might expect, how to negotiate, what value to place on the business, etc. He answers many questions. During the following month, Fred gets calls from business owners wanting a private meeting with him to further pursue selling their businesses. On-going, it represented a big expansion for Fred's operation--he now works with businesses wanting to sell their operation.

     Example: Linda is a reflexologist with many happy clients. They return again and again and refer others. She is also certified in hypnotherapy--helping clients with weight reduction, smoking cessation, and other problems. This has resulted in two sets of clients, so Linda continually cross-educates so that all her clients are aware of everything she can do for them. 

     Every time you interact with your customers, try to remind them of all the things you can do for them. Otherwise, they think of you in a narrow way.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Business beginnings

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     A business frequently grows out of things we do in our early years. As a child or teenager, we become interested in an activity that can later become a viable business undertaking.

     Example: Tom worked summers during high school for a small construction company. He learned how to install siding, gutters and downspouts, build steps, paint and pour concrete and more. Tom saved his earnings. When he graduated high school, Tom could have started his own renovation and repair business, but he had a bigger idea. He used his savings to make a down payment on a three-family building that needed work. He put the place in tip top shape, rented the apartments to three tenants, and looked around for another building to buy.

     Example: As a child, Jennifer watched her grandmother sewing. Needle and thread became magical to Jennifer--things got joined together and became something new and exciting. Out of the scraps from her grandmother's work, she made little outfits for her dolls. As a teenager, Jennifer's sewing became more ambitious. Encouraged, she made blouses and tops to wear herself. Fabric fascinated her. She turned old jeans into jackets and handbags. When she graduated from high school, Jennifer and her grandmother opened a small shop. It was filled with Jennifer's creations and they sold well. While Jennifer created new designs, her grandmother waited on customers and helped with the sewing. They reworked the shop's layout, installed a short runway and small stage, and today they hold regular fashion shows featuring Jennifer's designs. She is now graduating her business to the next level, farming out production and selling to other stores.

     Example: Dave and Jim were buddies as teenagers and both were into fitness. They spent hours in the local gym working out and playing sports. When they graduated, they talked with the owner of the local weight training center about how to open a gym. Their idea was not to compete with weight training but to have an up-scale fitness center--offering weight reduction programs, healthy living, with a smoothie bar and vitamins and supplements. To their surprise, the owner proposed that Dave and Jim take over the weight training center and turn it into what they had in mind. The owner offered to structure a loan to cover the payout over several years. Dave and Jim were suddenly in business and on their way.

     These examples show how people can take their interest to the next level. Keep in mind that any activity can be turned into a business. It takes time, planning and lots of hard work.

     Whether you are in high school or stuck in corporate America, look to your interests and turn them into a business. It can be done at any age.

      Starting a business takes hard work, an attitude, confidence, and persistence. Just do it! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Avoid business strutting

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     You believe in your business. You know every aspect of what you do. You know where you are headed. You will not deviate from your plan because you are convinced that your plan is best and will get you where you want to go. 

     Careful. Strutting your own stuff in your business can be dangerous. It's one thing to believe in yourself, but it's another to turn a blind eye to what's happening around you.

     The marketplace is continually changing. Technology is continually changing. How you attract your clients and customers is continually changing. Effective promotional tools change. Strutting your business stuff must change as well. 

     Example: Mika designs handbags. She began her business because of her interest in leather as a fashion accessory for women. Mika's business made a splash in the industry--magazines devoted spreads to her leather handbag designs. Television shows brought her in for interviews. Then came attacks by animal rights activists who were opposed to leather. Suddenly, no one in the media called Mika. Her free media splash ended, and sales plunged. Mika was hard-headed and persisted with her leather bags. Today, she is struggling, but she is still strutting her original business model--designing handbags entirely made of leather. 

     Example: Sara also designs handbags. She uses leather and many additional materials--colorful plastics, natural bamboo, woven fiber materials including even glass fiber. Sara keeps a sharp eye on the marketplace. Her business plan includes several lines of handbags--different materials, different sizes and uses. She insists on top quality production, both with the handbags produced in-house and those under contract production elsewhere. When sales of leather bags went through a down period, Sara shifted with the market demands. She regularly contacts her retail partners to obtain their inputs, and she closely follows fashion industry trends. She has even used inputs from focus groups. Her business strutting is solidly grounded in the marketplace demands--not her business plan which gets updated regularly.

     Think of driving to the Grand Canyon. Alternate routes are everywhere. Different roads can get you there. You plan your route, but encounter inviting side trips, and these can alter your overall plan. 

     Business strutting occurs when you become a slave to your business plan. Business plans change as the world changes. Avoid business strutting.