Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Face of Small Business in 2013




13 may be generally regarded as a horrendously unlucky number, but it does not necessarily mean that 2013 is going to be a bad year for everyone. Especially for small businesses, the New Year comes with the promise of great new trends, but not forgetting of course the threat of new problems and disasters business owners may be faced with. So what are entrepreneurs and businesses faced with for 2013? What are the different trends to be excited about as well as issues to prepare for in order to ensure a productive and successful in this year of the snake? Let’s look at a few of them.

Resilience.

Living in a disaster prone area can show you the many horror stories of small businesses literally crumbling down into failure. A building can be destroyed in a matter of hours, if not minutes, and that’s really just about how long it takes for your small business dreams to be destroyed as well. In the wake of horrible disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis, entrepreneurs are striving to make their businesses more resilient so that they could bounce back from almost any dilemma that they face. It is, after all, the more agreeable alternative to rebuilding over and over again every time the weather turns for the worse.  2013 is for more resilient businesses.
Mastery of social media.
Learning how to navigate through social media sites is not hard, not in the least. Even 8-year-olds can set up an account and start cruising through Facebook and Twitter without as much as a batted eyelid. It starts to get hard when you start using these sites for marketing, because then you start considering factors such as post quality, schedule, and many others. Currently, there is something akin to a race going on, a competition for the mastery of social media, and whoever manages to rise above the random tweets and successfully bring together their social media efforts would have a lot to celebrate about for 2013.

Onshoring.

Through the years, it has become normal to outsource manufacturing as well as services to other shores. However, the winds have shifted once again and manufacturing is increasingly being reclaimed back into U.S. factories. A lot of factors have come together to bring about this trend, including rising costs of labor overseas as well as rising costs of fuel. Small businesses are at the forefront of this “onshoring” as it is called, especially since they make up a good portion of U.S. manufacturing. 

Booming unskilled workforce?

It is harder than ever gathering together a team with advanced skills in certain areas, especially since a slight move away from specialization towards being a “jack of all trades”. This brain drain is definitely one big issue faced by small businesses in 2013 as the struggle to find qualified personnel becomes more of a challenge. Only time will tell whether the demand for skill would slow down enough so that people can have a chance training and learning to fill the vacant positions for skilled personnel.
That’s only four of the different trends in small business for 2013. What do you think your own business would be faced with for this year?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Success Stories of Daring Entrepreneurs



Making it big is the dream of almost every small business owner, catching that break that would propel a simple idea towards national—and even global—followings. With so many examples coming before us, we all know that it is not such an impossible task and almost anyone who has the passion and the perseverance may eventually get his share of entrepreneurial success. I say “may” because there never really is a guarantee, not even if you do exactly the same things as those who made it did. Still, the fact is that there are entrepreneurs who have dared and who have conquered, and while the point is not to copy what they did, there are a few good lessons to pick up from their experiences nonetheless. Let’s look at three of these daring entrepreneurs.

Ahmed Khattak Unlocks the Cell Phone Market.


Khattak’s million-dollar business was a product of his frustrations with the U.S. cell phone market, to be more specific, his frustrations with buying a cell phone. He was dismayed, to say the least, at how hard it was for him to get his hands on a phone, especially given that he came to the country having no social security number nor credit history whatsoever. Of course, just as any other brilliant entrepreneur would, Khattak saw this as an opportunity that was waiting to be harnessed, and long story short, he unlocked the U.S. cell phone market while earning millions of dollars for doing so. Here are a few lessons to be learned at how this young entrepreneur changed the U.S cell phone market:

·         Funding is important for growth.  "I think the biggest mistake we made in the early going was not having as much funding as we originally thought we needed," was what Khattak said referring to how his company grew so fast that the funding could not keep up. Obviously, money is not something that anyone can just rustle up in the blink of an eye, but this shows just how much it is important to do proper projections for when your business grows. Planning is key.

·         Capital can come from the most unlikely sources. The last thing Khattak was probably expecting when he visited a dentist, who happened to be a fellow Pakistani, was getting a $200,000 check to use for his business. It’s curious how things can turn out so well, especially since other entrepreneurs can only dream of experiencing the same thing. The kicker here is that the dentist didn’t have a particularly strong belief in the business’ growth; he just wanted to help Khattak in his venture. 

Julia Erickson and Aaron Ingley’s Nutrition Bars for Dancers.


Energy bars are not particularly delicious, and yet they are eaten by dancers and athletes all over who need to keep healthy and fit. Julia Erickson made one of the best decisions of her life when she decided to take a crack at making an energy bar herself using ingredients such as dates, walnuts, pecans, rolled oats, sea salt and cinnamon. Her creation was a big hit among her fellow dancers, and that was when she decided to team up with her partner, Aaron Ingley, and start their business, Barre. What is a good lesson to take from Erickson and Ingley’s success story?

·         Consumers make great entrepreneurs. This statement simply means that whatever demographic you target as a business owner, being part of that demographic gives you a big advantage. In this case, both Erickson and Ingley were dancers and they knew exactly what dancers would need and want in an energy bar. Getting inside consumer’s minds is easy when you know personally how they think, and evidently that makes for good business.

Megan Duckett Sews Her Way to Success.

Image from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/224357

Megan Duckett was a woman who not only knew how to sew, but loved doing it too. And when her sewing skills were requested for her employer’s Halloween event, it was then that she started to realize that she had skills that not everybody has and that she could make use of these skills in order to offer something that people will pay money for. She painted herself as a specialist of sorts, and eventually her projects became bigger and bigger to the point that she was making more in a year than her salary could give her. Duckett is the very person many people aspire to be, someone who has managed to successfully make a great living out of doing something she loves. And this is what the greatest lesson from her success story is.

·         Hobbies can be businesses too. There’s a chant that goes “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” or something along those lines. But what if work and play are the same thing and that when you do what you love, you are earning at the same time? It’s a hard goal to strive for, but Duckett shows that it is entirely possible. With passion and some skills you can accomplish so much more than you would sitting in an office doing a “real job”.

Here are three great success stories that would hopefully inspire entrepreneurs and small business owners into getting big. Learn from these people and hopefully you would be writing your own success story and be the inspiration for future entrepreneurs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Something to be Thankful About: Business in Thanksgiving



This week marks the celebration of a tradition that started way back in the 1600s, when the very first of the settlers came to bring forth the emergence of a new world. It is because of these great pilgrims that we now have the America of today, and Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to acknowledge and be thankful of them, among other things. Having said that, this occasion also opens a lot of opportunities for small businesses, so let us look back and see how we could turn this celebration into something a small business can really be thankful of.

Let’s start it out with a blast from the past. Take a leaf out of the pilgrims books and see how they accomplished what they did.

This piece of advice comes straight out of Forbes.com in their article titled “Thanksgiving Tips: 9 Great Business Skills Entrepreneurs Can Learn from the Pilgrims”. It is a novel idea painting the pilgrims as entrepreneurs, but it all makes perfect sense in a way. From the tips listed in the article, here are some of the things entrepreneurs should have in order to go that extra mile to succeed.


·         Goals. The early settlers would never have gotten anything done without someone sitting down and working out the different objectives as well as their strategies in accomplishing these goals. In parallel, a business that doesn’t have clearly defined goals is like a headless chicken flopping about trying to go somewhere. There’s certainly some movement going on, but it will be dead sooner or later anyways. A successful business has direction.

·         Risks. No guts, no glory. No pain, no Gain. No risks, no success. That last one I made up on my own, but it really fits with both how the pilgrims eventually built entire settlements and cities from the ground as well as how entrepreneurs turn small start-ups into smashing businesses. If the smallest risks and the worst odds can deter you from pushing through with something you can succeed in, then there would never be any improvement, and neither will there have been America.  

·         Determination and hard work. This one’s a given and shouldn’t even need to have an explanation. Still, it’s important to stress this one over and over again anyways. I was never a fan of the quote “Good things come to those who wait,” at least not when it comes to business. I say “Good things come to those who work hard for it.”

·         Gratitude. The pilgrims, or what few of them survived the harsh environments back in the days, definitely had a lot of things to be thankful about. That’s most likely why they started celebrating Thanksgiving in the first place. You, as a business owner, have a lot of things to be thankful for too, and one of the most important would definitely be your customers. Be grateful for your customers and make sure that they know that you are thankful for them, and they will forever be loyal to you.
Back to the present, here are a few tips to make the most out of the Thanksgiving buzz:

·         Do something special for the occasion. Starting off with a more general tip, what this means is basically to come up with something unique in order to celebrate the holiday. Thanksgiving is as special as you make it to be, and if you can give customers that giddy “Yay, it’s a holiday!” feeling, you are doing things right. Give a huge sale or host a Thanksgiving contest, for example, and don’t forget to advertise through social media as well as through print ads from trusted printers like PrintPlace.
Image from http://tentblogger.com/upup/2008/11/

·         Turkey it up! Who doesn’t love food? Even if your business is far from being remotely related to food, a good ol’ turkey should drum up some customers for you. An example of this is giving special promos like “Free Turkeys for the first 10 customers” or something along those lines. Be bold, be creative!

·         Give people something to be thankful for. As a business owner, you have a lot of things to be thankful for, and for sure you have more things on your list than the poor and the unfortunate. Use Thanksgiving to give back and to give the less fortunate something to be thankful for, and forget about all the bad issues like corporate greed and the like. A good deed is its own reward. (Though it doesn’t hurt to get more business from customers who appreciate your good deed.) 

·         Build a microsite. It’s simple, it’s fun, and you can even use it year after year. While you should indeed make some tweaks to your website in order to celebrate the occasion, building a microsite especially for Thanksgiving works even better. At the very least, it makes it easier for people to find your holiday promos and services, and if it works well this year it would definitely work better the year after!

There is no reason to frown when this year’s Thanksgiving rolls along, especially if you have done research and made the right strategies for the occasion. If things work out, not only will you be thankful for having a business, but you will be thankful for having a successful business with loyal customers and a bright future.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Turning Your Start-up into a Booming Success



In recent years, the world has seen an uprising of ambitious entrepreneurs who decide to venture into the world of business. The shops and businesses these entrepreneurs establish are appropriately called “start-ups”, and there is a surprisingly good number of these start-ups which meet a measure of success just in their first years. In 2011, for example, 64% percent of start-ups met or exceeded their targets, with 72% projecting even better business conditions for 2012. And if these numbers are urging you to build your own start-up, a few tips are in order so that you don’t get swallowed up by the competition.

Know the signs of a successful start-up.
If you’re going to be one, you first have to understand what being “successful” really means, and that means familiarizing yourself with all of the signs that ensure a successful business. To name a few, a good start-up must have honesty and transparency, efficient communication, good customer service, and appropriate back-up plans. These are of course just parts of the smaller picture which come together to form a structured and effective business.
 Another important point regarding this is not only understanding what makes your start-up good or bad, but more specifically what your customers think about what makes you good or bad. Getting consistent and accurate feedback is a must so that you can make necessary changes quickly and effectively.
Get active in blogging and social media.
The internet is here and here to stay. And if you want to keep up with the stiff competition in the market, you are going to have to get with the times and be competitive with your social media marketing as well. Start a blog and set up your accounts, and get it done now. Navigating these sites are easy enough to learn and understand, but it’s all the different subtleties that would take a while to master.
The trick to getting start-ups up and running is to get recognized and extend your influence quickly. There is no faster and more convenient way to do this than using the power of the internet, but it is always important not to underestimate the repercussions of any actions done online. Nevertheless, there is no point being too intimidated that you don’t get anything done anyways.  

Use your connections wisely.
Ray Ozzie shares this piece of advice: Don’t underestimate the power of your connections. Very simple and yet profound at the same time. Pride might tempt you to try to handle everything yourself, but sometimes what you really need in order to get that break is to phone just the right person for the job. You don’t even need to directly have “friends in high places” either; it’s called a “network” for a reason after all.
That being said, having connections is not the same as knowing how to use them. The trick is knowing who to call, when to call, and to why to call (that is, call only for the right reasons). It’s a big waste having contacts that can help you but having no idea how to take things to your advantage. 
Start-up or small business.
This final piece of advice is to know exactly what the difference between a start-up and a small business is. It all boils down to your goals and where you want to be given a certain amount of time. If you know what makes one different from the other, then you wouldn’t have much problem positioning yourself and acting towards the fulfilment of your goals.
There’s no reason to wait, whether you are building one thing or the other. The most important thing is to act and to act quickly. As long as you have armed yourself with the necessary knowledge and preparation, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether you will succeed or not.