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Best Hire: Employee or Independent Contractor?

Best Hire: Employee or Independent Contractor?

As small business owners, sooner or later we are faced with hiring our first employee.  So which kind is best: full time employee or independent contractor?  Here’s a great post with all the pros and cons. 

The Pros and Cons of Hiring: Employee vs. Independent Contractor

BY LAURA SHERMAN | SMALL BUSINESS


[This article is a piece of part 11 of our Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Business – scroll to the end to see the other parts]

As a small business owner you will need to determine whether to hire full time employees or use independent contractors. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are basically the same thing. They aren’t.

Although you pay both kinds of workers to do tasks for you, they are not viewed the same by the IRS. And if the IRS suspects that you are not classifying your workers correctly, they might audit you.

The IRS defines independent contractors in this way: “The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.”

So, if you own a restaurant and hire two waiters, they would be employees. However, if you contracted a local handyman to come in as needed to fix anything minor that breaks in your restaurant, they would be an independent contractor even if you pay them hourly. The waiters show up to your place of business and work under you, while the handyman has his own business and simply shows up and fixes things his or her way.

There are pros and cons to hiring full time employees and independent contractors. Most small business owners wish to avoid the added overhead of having a slew of employees, but some don’t have a choice. You’ll need to evaluate your situation to determine what is best for you.

Advantages to hiring full time employees

When you hire full time employees, they will work for you thirty or more hours a week (fewer hours makes them part-time) and will usually have a long-term commitment to you and your business. The advantages to this type of relationship for you, the employer, are:

  • These employees will feel pride in their position in your company. Most people want the security of a job, but they also want to feel the satisfaction of working for a company that they can call home. They want to feel that they are an important part of the team. If you give them that, they may go the extra mile.
  • The hourly wage for a full time employee is often much less, because they have job security. If you were to hire out for the same work with a freelancer, you can often expect to pay quite a bit more.
  • You don’t need to scramble to find help when your workload increases. If you only rely on independent contractors and need urgent help, your favorite freelancer might be booked. Or it might cost you a lot more to hire one last minute.
  • You don’t have to wear all the hats of your business yourself. Instead you can delegate tasks permanently to others. This frees up your time to do the tasks best suited for you.
  • You don’t need to continually train staff on how you like things done. Your employees know you and can do the work without the need for continual direction.
  • If you want to take a vacation, you can be assured that someone is holding down the fort for you in your absence.

Disadvantages to hiring full time employees

As you consider whether you want to hire full time employees, you’ll need to consider the downside as well. There are certain requirements that come with having employees:

  • Although it isn’t mandatory, most full time employees expect benefits, like health care and vacation time. As you interview potential candidates, they will most likely be interviewing with other companies as well, who offer such benefits.
  • You’ll need to pay their salaries like clockwork, even if your business has a lull. In order to cover their paychecks, you’ll need to have a reserve of money in your bank account.
  • You’ll have specific payroll paperwork that is legally required. Along with this, you’ll need to withhold your employees’ taxes, social security, and Medicare.
  • You are responsible for your employees’ training and professional licensing requirements. These vary from state to state.

Advantages of hiring independent contractors

Small business owners usually prefer to hire freelance workers for jobs when they need help. There are distinct advantages to sticking only to independent contractors:

  • Although you usually pay more per job or per hour, you will most likely save money overall since you aren’t required to pay them any benefits and do not need to commit to a salary.
  • You have greater flexibility. When you work with an independent contractor and it isn’t a good match, you simply don’t hire them again. When you have an employee that doesn’t work out, you may need to fire them, which isn’t always easy.
  • You can hire the right person for the task needed, contracting someone with a specialized service. They often have many years of experience, so you don’t need to train them.
  • They are responsible for their own permits and professional licenses.

Disadvantages of hiring independent contractors

While hiring independent contractors has many advantages, there are some drawbacks as well:

  • You lose some control over how tasks are preformed, because you can’t closely monitor their work. You can guide them, but usually they aren’t on site and will run their business their way.
  • They are hired short term, so you might not get the same worker for the next project. They usually operate on a first term, first serve basis.
  • They have no sense of company loyalty, but are a hired gun for one specific job. They are not part of your staff.
  • They will not promote your brand, but their own. Their work is done under their business name, with their logos, etc.
  • All copyrights will be owned by the independent contractor, unless you draft an agreement stating otherwise.

There are times when the line between employee and independent contractor can become blurry. For instance, how do you classify a virtual assistant? In order to answer that question, you must evaluate the situation.

Does the virtual assistant have her own company name, work for you on a project-by-project basis, and operate independently with limited supervision? Most likely, they would be an independent contractor. However, if she works for you forty hours a week and you are her only client, she might be an employee.

Understanding the difference between an independent contractor and a full time employee will save you a lot of headaches in the future. Set up your business with the type of workers that you need for long-term success.

5 Dangers of Fast Growth.

5 Dangers of Fast Growth.

As Small Business Owners we know growth is the name of the game.  But, did you know you can grow too fast?  Here’s a great post warning you about what can happen.

5 Dangers of Overly Fast Small Business Growth Strategies

By Suzanne Kearns
Posted in: Small Business

 

Comments1

business growth team plantWhen you start your own small businesses, you immediately start thinking about growth. Maybe you just dream of eventually opening a second store, or you might envision becoming a huge conglomerate or one day franchising the business.

Growth isn’t just admirable – it’s expected. But often, small business owners don’t consider that growing a business too quickly can eventually cause the company’s demise. You can easily find yourself lacking working capital, which is one of the biggest contributing factors to the failure of one in six new small businesses.

You and your business can avoid the dangers of overgrowth. By managing your business correctly and scaling up at a good pace, you’ll guide your company on the path to success. Whether you’re running a home office or a company with many employees, the key is planning.

Make sure you know the five biggest risks associated with sudden, unexpected growth.

1. An Overbearing Debt Loan

If you don’t plan properly for an increase in business, you can wind up taking on far too much debt. Growth takes money, and especially during the early stages of growth, working capital will be low. Many business owners take on massive debt to feed the growth machine, and a vicious circle begins. Increased orders require you to take on more debt, and so on. Too often, the cycle breaks only because the debt becomes so high that it topples the business. Even though more money is coming in, you owe even more and can’t cover debts.

 

For example, if you owned a housecleaning business and suddenly began to get more customers, you’d need to purchase more supplies and probably hire some more help. These positive developments would involve a lot of cash flow, and they can quickly turn negative by eating up all of your reserves. The new business is good, so you give incentives to your existing customers to send you referrals, leading to even more customers. Again, you need more staff and supplies. Perhaps you go as far as adding a company car with your logo to spread the word and support the increased workload.

Your working capital completely depleted, you take the next logical step: getting a loan. At first, it looks like the increased profits will more than cover the credit payments. But while the client list is growing, the debt is piling on more quickly, and keeping up with payments becomes a struggle. The growth was good, but it came too quickly and caught you unprepared as a business owner. Better fiscal management would have allowed for controlled growth based on revenue and profits.

2. Being Unable to Satisfy Your Customers

As a small business owner, you’ll be thrilled to be in high demand. But you need to be sure that you can supply the level of service your customers expect. Personal attention is a key selling point that attracts customers to a small business, especially when you’re involved in an active local community. In the face of unexpected growth, you’ll face the challenge of maintaining quality with the increase in quantity.

Consider the case of the home cleaning service. With a manageable number of clients, you can easily give each one the personal attention that makes your company special. In fact, that personal touch is what got everyone talking about you, spurring the recommendations and the increase in business. While it’s inevitable that the bigger a business grows the less interaction the owner will have with the clientele, unless you manage expectations, some clients may end up feeling put out – and they’ll stop coming to you.

The answer to this problem is – again – managed growth. Calculate how many new customers you can take on without turning your back on the clients who got you started. As you grow, bring on a customer support staff to promptly attend to all of your clients’ needs.

3. Forgetting Your Original Goal

In an effort to expand your business, you’ll be tempted to move into somewhat related – but unexplored – territory. The housecleaning business, for example, could be growing at a comfortable pace when a satisfied residential customer encourages you to bid on the contract to clean a commercial building. It’s tough to resist the prospect of big contracts and new opportunities, but straying from your original business model too quickly can create a volatile situation. While you’re striving to succeed in an untested aspect of your business, you’ll be forced to turn your back on the duties and client base that got you started in the first place.

Entrepreneurs naturally want to try new things, and success often requires taking a risk on new ideas in unproven areas. But you have to carefully consider how much time you can devote to a new plan, and budget accordingly. More importantly, make sure you maintain the safety net of your current customers and business model. If your expansion effort doesn’t pan out, you need to be able to rely on the original concept.

4. Losing Employees

Any small business owner will tell you that your best employees are the lifeline of the business. But when a business experiences quick growth, lines of communication can break down. If you’re surprised by your business’s growth, you’ll get preoccupied with keeping up, and if your employees aren’t ready for it, you’re in trouble. You need to let your employees grow with the business, but training them for management and leadership positions takes preparation. If you catch your staff members by surprise, and you’ll likely lose them. For a small business, losing employees – especially longstanding ones – means losing institutional memory, customers, and money.

In the case of our cleaning business, getting wrapped up in all the new business could easily alienate an unprepared employee in charge of the residential aspect of the business. Without guidance and support, that staff member is left in the field guessing at what decisions are best for the company. Since this employee isn’t trained for management and doesn’t have your insight into the business model, you’re probably going to be unhappy with those decisions, and your customers will be dissatisfied too.

5. Focusing on the Short Term

It’s amazing to watch a company in the middle of a growth spurt. Cash rolls in and business owners think that they’re on the way to the top. Profit and loss sheets look good, and it starts to look like worrying about bills and cutting  business operating costs and expenses will be a thing of the past.

 

But a dangerous trap lurks in these bright days. In the search for good news, you can make the easy mistake of looking only at short-term profits. Instead, consider the plans that you’ll have to implement to sustain long-term growth and success. Don’t lose control just because you see a few good weeks and months in store. Making rash decisions to boost one day’s profits can cost you something – your cash reserves. And if you’re unprepared, those good days will suddenly end.

Remember that company car with the cleaning service logo? It may have been a little premature to have taken on the expense of a brand new car and decal work. Celebrate your success, but don’t overindulge.

Final Word

For your small business to succeed, the name of the game is growth. But growth is very complex. It’s hard enough to grow in the first place, so make sure that you handle it properly when that success comes. Keep your eye on three areas of the business: your systems, your staff, and your cash reserves. Successful growth requires taking the time to plan and prepare to sustain all three as your business increases.

6 Simple Steps to Starting Your Own Business

6 Simple Steps to Starting Your Own Business

Ever wanted to start a small business?  It can be the most fun you’ve ever had.  Here’s a great post telling how to do it it in 6 simple steps.

 

A Simple 6-Step Process to Starting a Small Business

Image credit: Shutterstock

Matthew Toren

MATTHEW TOREN

CONTRIBUTOR

Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com

 

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AUGUST 6, 2015

A great small business always starts out as an idea, but you have to transform that idea into action. That’s where many individuals can start to feel overwhelmed. It’s understandable to freeze up at the deluge of things that are required to get a business started, but getting going is actually easier than you might think.

Like any big goal, if you start by breaking it down into smaller tasks, you’ll be able to tackle enough of the actions necessary to get started. Here are six ways to break down the process and simplify getting started with your own small business.

1. Write a one-page business plan.
The key to a successful small business, especially in the startup phase, is to keep things simple and costs low. Costs don’t just mean your monetary costs, but also your time.

Many would-be small-business owners fall into the trap of trying to create the world’s biggest and most robust business plan. You’re only going to need that if you’re seeking investment or financing, and even if you will be seeking either of those things down the road, I always recommend small-business owners start out with by testing their ideas first before investing lots of time and money.

Related: Why You Must Really Know Yourself Before Starting a Business

So to get started, create your own simple, one-page business plan that is a high-level overview of the small business you’re about to start.

Define your vision. What will be the end result of your business?
Define your mission. Different to a vision, your mission should explain the reason your company exists.
Define your objectives. What are you going to do — what are your goals — that will lead to the accomplishment of your mission and your vision?
Outline your basic strategies. How are you going to achieve the objectives you just bulleted?
Write a simple action plan. Bullet out the smaller task-oriented actions required to achieve the stated objectives.
That’s it. It might be longer than one page, but it will surely be more organized and shorter than a full business plan, which could take weeks to write. If you need more information on the one-page business plan, or want to write out a full-blown finance-centered business plan, you can check out the book I co-wrote with my brother that has a robust explanation of both, Small Business, Big Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market From Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who did it Right.

2. Decide on a budget.
While I highly recommend you keep your costs as low as possible, you’ll still need to determine a budget to get started and how much you’ll be able to spend. If you’re self funding, be realistic about numbers and whatever you anticipate your budget to be. I’ve found that an additional 20 percent tacked on for incidentals is a realistic overage amount that helps you plan your burn rate.

Your burn rate is how much cash you’re spending month over month. It’s an important number for you to figure out to determine how long you can stay in business before you need to turn a profit.

You should set up your business with profitability in mind the first 30 to 90 days. It’s possible. But have a budget reserve so you can survive if things go leaner than expected.

3. Decide on a legal entity.
Filing paperwork to start a business costs money. Often, depending on your state, it can be a lot of money. You’ll need to account for city or municipality licensing, state incorporation or business entity fees and more. Do a thorough search ahead of time to determine what the filing fees are for your city, county and state before starting any business.

Often in the initial “test” phase for your small business, it can be wise to start as a sole proprietor, as it means less paperwork and up-front expenses. That can save you some big-time cash while you determine the viability of your business. Do be aware though that acting as a sole proprietor can put you at personal risk, so you’ll want to weigh the benefits vs. risks and then speak with a local attorney or tax professional to decide which is smarter for your short-term vs. long-term goals.

You can always file for a business entity once you’ve proven in the first three to six months of business that you’ve got a viable, sustainable model.

Related: When Starting a Business, Beware All the Taxes and Regulations

4. Take care of the money.
Whatever business entity you decide on, keep the funds separate from your personal accounts. This is a big mistake that makes tax time and financials so confusing. It’s really easy to set up a free business checking account with your local credit union or bank. All you’ll need is your filing paperwork, sole proprietor licensing information and an initial deposit to get set up from most financial institutions.

Don’t pay for an account or get any kind of credit lines yet, just get a holding place you can keep your money separated from your personal accounts. This should take you no more than hour at the financial institution of your choice.

5. Get your website.
Regardless of whether your business will be brick or mortar or online, you’ll need a website and that means securing a URL. Popular domain sites such as HostGator and Go Daddy will allow you to search for the website domain address of your choice and purchase it for as little as $9.99.

If you’re starting an online business, you can tie your domain to an online shopping cart and store front such as Shopify for a low monthly fee, or you can build a basic website yourself on top of your URL with do-it-yourself drag-and-drop site builders such as Weebly for a low fee. Both are less than $100 a month.

6. Test sales.
You have enough of a foundation now that you can start testing some sales. Try to spread the word in inexpensive and creative ways.

If you have a service-based business, get involved with your local chamber of commerce or small-business chapter immediately and ask what resources are available for you to speak, present or share information about your business. If you have a product-based business, test the viability of your product at local swap meets, farmers markets or other community events to test what the public really thinks (and if they’ll purchase) from you.

Drive traffic to your website through simple Facebook Ads with capped budgets, or set up a simple Google AdWords account with a budget cap to test if traffic is going to your site.

You can follow these six steps by yourself for not a lot of money. It’s a fantastic way to test the viability of your small business before throwing all your time and money into an unproven idea.

Related: The 5 Daily Essentials for Building a Successful Online Business

 

Here’s Why Blogging is Important for Small Business

Here’s Why Blogging is Important for Small Business

As small business owners we hear a lot about things like blogging and social media.  Our first reaction usually is “I don’t have time for that.”  I encourage you to think again.  Here’s a great post explaining why blogging is very important for small business.

September 30, 2015 // 8:00 AM

Why Blog? The Benefits of Blogging for Business and Marketing

Written by Corey Wainwright | @Corey_bos

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blog-benefits

I had a co-worker email me the other day asking for a blog post about the benefits of business blogging.

“It’s for a friend,” she said.

Sure it was.

I told her I’d shoot over one of our up-to-date blog posts about why businesses should blog and … I couldn’t find one. Whoops. Quite the meta mistake.

Download our free guide to business blogging here for even more reasons why you should blog, and how to get started.

So I’m doing it now. If you’re trying to explain one of the core tenets of inbound — business blogging — to your boss, a coworker, your mom at Thanksgiving, whomever, then send them this post. I hope it helps.

The Benefits of Business Blogs for Marketing

First, if you don’t know what a business blog is, this post, “What Is Business Blogging? [FAQs]” should get you up-to-date.

On the same page? Cool. Let’s move on to why you should use blogging as a marketing tactic.

1) It helps drive traffic to your website.

Raise your hand if you want more website visitors. Yeah, me too.

Now think about the ways people find your website:

  • They could type your name right in to their browser, but that’s an audience you already have. They know who you are, you’re on their radar, and that doesn’t help you get more traffic on top of what you’re already getting.
  • You could pay for traffic by buying an email list (don’t you dare!), blasting them, and hoping some people open and click through on the emails. But that’s expensive and, you know, illegal.
  • You could pay for traffic by placing tons of paid ads, which isn’t illegal, but still quite expensive. And the second you run out of money, your traffic stops coming, too.

So, how can you drive any traffic? In short: bloggingsocial media, and search engines. Here’s how it works.

Think about how many pages there are on your website. Probably not a ton, right? And think about how often you update those pages. Probably not that often, right? (How often can you really update your About Us page, you know?)

Well, blogging helps solve both of those problems.

Every time you write a blog post, it’s one more indexed page on your website, which means it’s one more opportunity for you to show up in search engines and drive traffic to your website in organic search. We’ll get into more of the benefits of blogging on your SEO a bit later, but it’s also one more cue to Google and other search engines that your website is active and they should be checking in frequently to see what new content to surface.

Blogging also helps you get discovered via social media. Every time you write a blog post, you’re creating content that people can share on social networks — Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest — which helps expose your business to a new audience that may not know you yet.

Blog content also helps keep your social media presence going — instead of asking your social media manager to come up with brand new original content for social media (or creating that content yourself), your blog can serve as that repository of content. You’re strengthening your social reach with blog content and driving new website visitors to your blog via your social channels. Quite a symbiotic relationship, if I do say so myself.

So, the first benefit of blogging? It helps drive new traffic to your website and works closely with search engines and social media to do that.

blogging-inbound

2) It helps convert that traffic into leads.

Now that you have traffic coming to your website through your blog, you have an opportunity to convert that traffic into leads.

Just like every blog post you write is another indexed page, each post is a new opportunity to generate new leads. The way this works is really simple: Just add a lead-generating call-to-action to every blog post.

Often, these calls-to-action lead to things like free ebooks, free whitepapers, free fact sheets, free webinars, free trials … basically, any content asset for which someone would be willing to exchange their information. To be super clear for anyone unfamiliar with how traffic-to-lead conversions work, it’s as simple as this:

  • Visitor comes to website
  • Visitor sees call-to-action for a free offer
  • Visitor clicks call-to-action and gets to a landing page, which contains a form for them to fill in with their information
  • Visitor fills out form, submits information, and receives the free offer

If you scroll down in this blog post, you’ll see a call-to-action button. In fact, 99.9% of the blog posts we publish have call-to-action buttons … and yours should, too. That is how you turn that traffic coming to your blog into leads for your sales team.

blogging-inbound-image

Note: Not every reader of your blog will become a lead. That’s okay. No one converts 100% of the people who read their blog into leads. Just get blogging, put calls-to-action on every blog post, set a visitor-to-lead conversion rate benchmark for yourselfand strive to improve that each month.

3) It helps establish authority.

The best business blogs answer common questions their leads and customers have. If you’re consistently creating content that’s helpful for your target customer, it’ll help establish you as an authority in their eyes. This is a particularly handy tool for Sales and Service professionals.

Can you imagine the impact of sending an educational blog post you wrote to clear things up for a confused customer? Or how many more deals a salesperson could close if their leads discovered blog content written by their salesperson?

“Establishing authority” is a fluffy metric — certainly not as concrete as traffic and leads, but it’s pretty powerful stuff. And if you need to tie the impact of blogging to a less fluffy metric, consider measuring it the same way you measure sales enablement. Because at the end of the day, that’s what many of your blog posts are. Think about the sales enablement opportunities blogging presents:

  • If prospects find answers to their common questions via blog posts written by people at your company, they’re much more likely to come into the sales process trusting what you have to say because you’ve helped them in the past — even before they were interested in purchasing anything from you.
  • Prospects that have been reading your blog posts will typically enter the sales process more educated on your place in the market, your industry, and what you have to offer. That makes for a far more productive sales conversation than one held between two relative strangers.
  • Salespeople who encounter specific questions that require in-depth explanation or a documented answer can pull from an archive of blog posts. Not only do these blog posts help move the sales process along more swiftly than if a sales rep had to create the assets from scratch, but the salesperson is further positioned as a helpful resource to their prospect.

4) It drives long-term results.

You know what would be cool? If any of the following things helped you drive site traffic and generate new leads:

  • Trip to Hawaii
  • Going to the gym
  • Sleeping

Good news, though! That’s what blogging does — largely through search engines. Here’s what I mean:

Let’s say you sit down for an hour and write and publish a blog post today. Let’s say that blog post gets you 100 views and 10 leads. You get another 50 views and 5 leads tomorrow as a few more people find it on social media and some of your subscribers get caught up on their email and RSS. But after a couple days, most of the fanfare from that post dies down and you’ve netted 150 views and 15 leads.

It’s not done.

That blog post is now ranking in search engines. That means for days, weeks, months, and years to come, you can continue to get traffic and leads from that blog post. So while it may feel like day one or bust, in reality, blogging acts more like this:

blogging_compounding_returns-1-1

So while you’re hitting your snooze alarm, surfing in Hawaii, and pumping iron, you’re also driving traffic and leads. The effort you put in yesterday can turn into hundreds of thousands of views and leads in the future.

In fact, about 70% of the traffic each month on this very blog comes from posts that weren’t published in the current month. They come from old posts. Same goes for the leads generated in a current month — about 90% of the leads we generate every month come from blog posts that were published in previous months. Sometimes years ago.

We call these types of blog posts “compounding” posts. Not every blog post will fit into this category, but the more evergreen blog posts you write, the more likely it is that you’ll land on one of those compounding blog posts. In our own research, we’ve found that about 1 in every 10 blog posts end up being compounding blog posts.

Screen_Shot_2015-09-22_at_11.57.42_AM

To me (and hopefully to you), this demonstrates the scalability of business blogging. While you might not see immediate results, over time, you’ll be able to count on a predictable amount of traffic and leads for your business without any additional resource investment — the work to generate that traffic and those leads is already done.

If you’d like to learn more about the long-term impact of blogging and how to reap even more benefits from the blog posts that are ranking in organic search for your business, check out this blog post, “The Blogging Tactic No One Is Talking About: Optimizing the Past”.

Secondary Benefits of Business Blogging

There are other reasons businesses might want to blog, but I think they’re smaller and stray from the core benefits of blogging.

For instance, I love to use our blog to test out big campaigns on the cheap — before we invest a lot of money and time into their creation. I also love to use our blog to help understand our persona better. And while this shouldn’t be their primary use, blogs also become great outlets through with marketers can communicate other PR-type important information — things like product releases or event information. It’s certainly easier to get attention for more company-focused initiatives if you’ve built up your own audience on your own property, as opposed to pitching your story to journalists and hoping one of them bites.

These are all great side effects or uses of a business blog, but they’re secondary benefits to me.

If you’re looking to start a business blog or get more investment for one you’ve already started, the reasons above are a great place to start arguing your case.

Are you already well underway when it comes to business blogging? Just starting out? Share your thoughts on business blogging below and what you’re looking to get out of it.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2013 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Duct Tape Marketing-A Book Review

Duct Tape Marketing-A Book Review

Today I am reviewing Duct Tape Marketing, The Worlds Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide, by John Jantsch.  (© 2006 by John Jantsch All rights reserved. Published in Nashville, Tennessee, by Thomas Nelson. Thomas Nelson is a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

As small business owners, we must recognize, like it or not, we are in the marketing business.  When you’re starting out, it’s hard to know what to do or when to do it.  In Duct Tape Marketing, author John Jantsch gives solid advice on building marketing plans that work.

In Part 1 of the book, Jantsch describes in detail how to build a sticky marketing system designed to help your prospects know you better and like you more.  There is sound practical advice on building a core message, creating marketing materials, and building a web site without breaking the bank.

In Part 2 there is sound advice on using various types of media, from ordinary print and direct mail, up to and including the internet. Here you can find ways to generate leads, turn leads into prospects, prospects into client, and clients into partners.

Part 3 concludes the book describing how to take what works for you and then do more of it.

The only fault I could find this book, was that it left me with the impression that you needed to do it all in order to succeed.  I feel, in reality, you should pick one or two things most suited to your situation, and pound away at those for a while before moving on.

That said, I still found this book to be an excellent guide for anyone who is a small business owner and particularly anyone who is considering starting a small business.

If you want to order this book now, just click on the link below the book jacket image to get it from Powell’s Book Store in Portland.

(In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Powell’s Affiliate.)

Click here to purchase this great book from Powell’s

Tyrannized by Your To Do List?

Tyrannized by Your To Do List?

Did you ever feel like your To Do list was dominating your life? What happens when you can’t check off all today’s tasks?  How do you feel?

We are told if we want to succeed, we have to have goals.  Written goals. With deadlines.  Then we are supposed to break those goals down into intermediate steps with completion dates.

If we keep working backwards, we eventually wind up with a daily list of things to do.  Things that must be completed in order for us to achieve the big goal one, two, three, or even five years down the road.

But…what happens when you can’t complete the list?  For us driven, goal oriented types, not completing the list puts the goal in jeopardy. Not achieving the goal is unacceptable.

So what happens?  Completing the daily to do list becomes the driving force in our lives.

I struggled with this for years.  I would set goals.  Set up milestones to be achieved. Then work my to do list each day, checking off the items as I completed them.

Then came the day when something went haywire at 8:35 in the morning and my whole day went in the tank. Sundown came and not one task checked off.  Immediately my disaster radar would kick in and I would feel overwhelmed.  My whole plan was in jeopardy.  I was failing.

Then a few years ago, I found a two-part solution.

The first part was to change my perception about how goals are achieved.

I would set goals, make plans and start down the path.  I recognized intellectually that some goals are met, others aren’t, and some get changed along the way.  Emotionally, if I set a goal, I became so invested in it failure was not an option.

I was so focused on completing the goal, that any task undone meant now I had more to do in a shorter amount of time as the completion date drew near. I watched with dismay as the to do pile grew bigger and time grew shorter.

Pretty soon, achieving the goal began to look impossible.

It was obvious I had to change something.  So, I changed the way I thought about goal achievement. Now I prefer to achieve a goal. If I don’t, it’s OK.  The sun will still come up tomorrow.

The second and most important thing I did was to change the way I looked at tasks.

I still have my to do list.  But, now at the end of the day, I sit down and make a list of everything I got done during the day. And, I celebrate the baby steps I’ve taken.

Instead of looking at how far I have to go, I look at how far I’ve come.

Instead of feeling like a failure, I feel the joy of accomplishment.

As the list of things done piles up, I can feel my goal getting closer and closer.

And the tasks that are undone?  They can go on tomorrow’s list. I am mindful of Murphy’s Second Law, “It always takes longer than you think.”

So, If you feel dominated by your to do list, try this.  For the next 30 days, sit down at the end of the day and list the things you got done. Now, celebrate those baby steps.

My guess is at the end of your 30 day trial, you’re going to feel freer than you have in years.

It’s not easy to change years of ingrained habit. I did it.  I know you can too.

Remember, achieving goals is a marathon, not a sprint.

Marathoners have a saying, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s mighty hard. Baby steps add up to 27.6 miles quicker than you think.

I hope you enjoyed this post.  If you would like to join my email list, here is the link
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Want to Tell Your Story? Here’s 5 Great Tips

Want to Tell Your Story? Here’s 5 Great Tips

The first basic truth of marketing is people buy from people they know and trust.  People want to hear your story so they can know you better.  

Many of us find telling our story is hard.  It doesn’t have to be.  

Here is an excellent post  giving you 5 great tips on telling your story 

5 TIPS FOR SELLING MORE OF YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE USING STORIES

BY: DAVE DEE ON: JULY 8TH, 2014 1 COMMENT


“If you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.”

So says Peter Guber.

Guber is Founder and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment, a business dynamo that spans movies, TV, sports entertainment and digital media.

And I agree!

Guber’s hit films include Batman, Soul Surfer, and Rain Man. He also owns the NBA Golden State Warriors franchise and is co-owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also appears on TV as the weekly entertainment and media analyst for Fox Business News, to name but a few of his accomplishments.

How does one person accomplish so much? Peter Guber says he has long relied on purposeful storytelling to motivate, win over, shape, engage, and sell.

He also says that what started as a knack for telling stories in the entertainment industry spilled over and evolved into a set of principles to achieve other goals.

This isn’t the first you’ve heard of the importance of storytelling. Dan Kennedy has long championed the idea that “stories sell.” They can help you capture your customer’s attention and sell your existing products and services better. They can build your reputation. They can engage your customers and turn them into loyal, raving fans. And much more.

And one more way to look at stories—they can serve as your inspiration for a product you create to sell.

Let me show you what I mean.

Here at GKIC, when we hear the same questions over and over from people about a particular topic, we know there is interest in that topic.

For example one area we get a lot of questions about is how to write persuasive copy that sells.

Why do we get a lot of questions about that? Because we have a story to tell about it. (Namely that Dan Kennedy, myself and our team of GKIC copywriters have all created persuasive copy that has sold millions and millions and millions of dollars’ worth of products and services.) This makes our story more valuable.

Therefore, knowing we have a valuable story to tell becomes the inspiration to create an information product to sell.

Here are five tips for finding your story that sells:

1)      Assess. What are the stories you tell over and over again? Do people always ask you about how you get so many customers? Or how you got your start in the business? Or how you are able to raise ten kids and stay sane?

If you are asked the same questions over and over, then chances are people are curious about how you did something and this could be a good indication of “your story” that will sell.

2)      Ask questions and dig deep. Often times, you have a GREAT story, you just don’t know it. Because it’s your life, it may seem boring or irrelevant, but to others, it’s “the” thing that hooks them.

This is frequently revealed when you dig deep and look for a “story behind the story”—much like the greatest journalists of our time do. Journalists find stories by using this technique and accomplish it by asking a lot of questions and assembling facts. In doing this, they often uncover the most intriguing nuggets and reveal the most fascinating part of the story.

What are the details of your story? Are there details you don’t tell very often (because people don’t know to ask you about them,) but when you do, they are riveted? This is the story behind the story.  Tip: You know you are on to something when revealing some details spawn many more questions.

This can also be the most painful part of your life. A great place to look for examples of this are in weight loss stories or rags to riches stories—where the writer describes in great detail hitting rock bottom and the secret that brought them huge success.

3)      Ask what big problems you have solved. Do you have a great story about how you solved a big or common problem? If you have more than one, select the story that best solves the problem and/or choose the problem you can best solve in relation to your prospective competition.

For example, let’s say you can solve the problem of attracting new, high quality customers and you can solve the problem of closing the sale. You are really good at both, however your competition is only good at attracting new customers. In this case, you might want to focus on your story of how you can help people close the sale better.

4)      Make a list of what makes you feel happy, strong and energized. When you find what makes you feel the most energized, often therein lies your story. You’ll discover not only the thing you are best at, but in relaying your story, you will have more enthusiasm which often translates to making more sales.

5)      Ask your closest friends and most trusted business associates what they think your best at.  If you still can’t figure out what your story is and how to turn that into a product, ask your most trusted advisors and business associates for feedback. Ask them their opinion of what you have to offer that is unique and what they think you do best. Ask them for stories or examples where they witnessed you at your best.

So my final question is—What’s YOUR story? Like Peter Guber and Dan Kennedy –when you find that, you’ll most likely discover an information marketing product (or two or three…) that is worth creating.

NOTE: If you want to hear more about how Peter Guber’s set of principles that anyone can use to tell stories to accomplish their goals, then you won’t want to miss Info-SUMMIT.  Not only will you get the chance to meet Peter in person and get your picture taken with him, but you’ll also be there when he reveals his techniques for:

  • Capturing your customer’s attention first, fast and foremost
  • Building your tell around “what’s in it for them”
  • How to create purposeful stories that can serve as powerful calls to action for your business and products.

For more information or to reserve your seat, visitwww.gkic.com/infosummit. But hurry—your chance to save up to $1900 is running out and seats are limited.

P.S.– Get “The 10 Rules to Transforming Your Small Business into an Infinitely More Powerful Direct Response Marketing Business” for FREE. Click here to claim your customer-getting, sales-boosting tactics.

Why is Story Telling Different from Story Building?

Why is Story Telling Different from Story Building?

Here is the ugly truth.  Whether we like it or not, as small business owners we are in the marketing business.  People will not beat down your doors.  If you want sales, you have to find a way to motivate potential customers. 

One way to do this is to tell your story.  However, there is a difference between story telling and story building.  Attached is a great post from Duct Tape Marketing telling us how to build a great story by asking some great questions. 

Help me out here.  I am a small business owner trying to take my business to the next level just like you.   After you read the post, please pick one of the questions and post your answer in the reply section.  

By doing this, I can learn what interests you the most.  Then I can build informative posts on things that matter to you.  

Thank you in advance for your help. 

THE EXTRAORDINARY CRAFT OF STORY BUILDING

This post is part of a creative marketing series sponsored by HP

One of my favorite Mister Rogers quotes goes like this: “It’s hard not to like someone once you know their story.” I love this idea because I think it delivers a powerful business lesson.

storybuilder

Image Salim Virji via Flickr

People connect with stories that move them and most every business can and should tell a story that helps prospects and customers connect at a deeper level. I truly believe the Internet, while making it easy to find information, has left us craving real connections, with real people, and the companies they serve.

Your marketing story should be one of the primary messages communicated in your printed marketing materials and throughout your web presence. I had a plumbing client years ago that printed his marketing story on the back of his invoices because he wanted remind his clients of the role his entire family played in his business.

A carefully crafted marketing story is a tool that can serve any organization trying to break through the clutter and connect with new markets.

However, most of the advice written about the use of a personal marketing story revolves around creating and telling compelling stories and while I ,do believe that the best leaders are great storytellers, I believe the new reality of marketing asks us to become great storybuilders.

The difference may seem subtle, but it embraces that fact that we must involve our customers and influencers in the creation of our business and our story.

  • We must include our vision for the future, but that vision should be a shared vision.
  • We must know everything we can about the goals, hopes and dreams of a very narrowly defined ideal client. (Super big bonus if you’re the client ie: I am a small business owners trying to take my business to the next level, I target small business owners trying to take their business to the next level.)
  • We must frame our story with a message that addresses the desires, challenges and unmet needs of this market.
  • We must involve customers in the finishing of the story by making their real life experiences central to the character development.

If you want to take this next giant step in evolution of your marketing in a way that turns your customers and prospects into collaboration partners and storybuilders sit down with a handful of your ideal customers and ask them the following questions with an eye on developing an extraordinary marketing story.

  • What do you know about where this business is going that no one could know?
  • What is your industry’s greatest flaw?
  • If your business could choose a new identity, what would it be?
  • What is your favorite customer story?
  • What is your secret wish for your business?
  • What is the greatest challenge your business must overcome?
  • What is your greatest fear for your business?
  • What is your greatest achievement/disappointment?
  • What about your childhood shaped you for this moment?
  • What choices have you made that you regret?

It may take some guts to pose questions like this to your best customers, but do it and you’ll be on your way to builder a relationship that can’t be penetrated by a competitors low cost offers.

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Why a High Touch Philosophy is Worth the Time

Why a High Touch Philosophy is Worth the Time

I think we all are aware of the challenge known as “Creating high touch in a high tech world.” As small business owners we concentrate on how to build our email list, or the number of “likes” for our Facebook Page.  Wouldn’t we be better served if we spent some time on building individual relationships?  

Here is a post with some interesting solutions to this vexing problem. 

Hi-tech is not a reason to sideline high-touch – a lesson for the travel industry from a shoe seller

NB: This is a guest article by Carla Caccavale, brand strategist at TrustYou.

I recently sat on a panel addressing destination marketers about just that: destination marketing today and tomorrow.

But when panel moderator Gene Quinn of Tnooz asked us to give our overarching take on the topic, I took off my marketing hat.

I shared what I thought what is most meaningful to me as a consumer: in this high-tech world we live in, don’t lose touch with high-touch service.

This doesn’t just apply to destinations; this holds everyone from hoteliers to shoe salespeople. It was my “shoe lady” at retailer Neiman Marcus who drove this point home just recently.

We are communicating more and more via email (sadly it is exclusively via email in many cases). So, as I am sure you can relate to, when I open my email at 6am I have at least 25 new messages waiting for me (in the span of six hours when I last checked before bed).

Many tend to be from retailers; buy this, try that, new product, big sale, etc. I must admit I fall victim to these emails (I am every clothing and shoe marketer’s dream). I have saved and texted the photos to Ronni, my “shoe lady” telling her I must have these.

I needed an intervention and decided on a self-imposed one. I made the conscious decision to delete all of these shopping-focused emails during the week. I am not going shopping, so no need to look and be tempted. Done deal. Or so I thought.

Soon after this decision I got an email from Ronni. She wanted to make sure I knew about the new promotion going on; spend $X,XXX and get an $XXX gift card.

She thought I would be interested and reminded me that she can help me shop throughout the store, not just in the shoe department where our relationship first began.

I thought to myself:

“Ronni, what would ever make you surmise that I would be interested in such a promotion?”

No, not really. I actually looked around to see if there were any cameras watching me. How does she know about my decision to delete these emails without looking at them? I was incredibly impressed that she reached out to me personally.

Then I thought of the travel world that I operate in.

  • Why isn’t anyone else doing what Ronni is doing?
  • Why isn’t the island that I love to vacation on not touching base to see how I am?
  • Why is the hotel that I like to getaway to for a weekend not checking in to see if I am in need of a night out?

Because they expect me to pay attention to the emails they are sending and Facebook posts they are pumping out at a dizzying pace.

Guess what? I’ve tuned you out. Information overload has gotten to me.

All too often we pride ourselves on the “size” of our database. How many email addresses we have to blast the next offer or sale to.

When was the last time that you followed up an email blast with a personal note? Sent along a reminder of a romance package and said:

“Dear Mr. X, We’ve missed seeing you and Mrs. X. If I can help make arrangements for a surprise visit, please let me know. I would be happy to handle you reservation personally.”

What if the spa associate at a hotel emailed a client and offered to not only help them at the spa, but make room and restaurant reservations as well (remember Ronni offered to help me throughout the store, not just in her department).

Two other points I made on the panel were:

  • look outside the industry in which you operate
  • take off your marketing hat and be a consumer

Which brands are leaving an impression on you?

Other than my four kids, do you know who sent me a Mother’s Day card? Women’s fashion site Tory Burch.

Okay, maybe not Tory herself, but I got a card and that stuck with me. It included a gift card, which I not only used, but wound up spending more on top of that

I don’t care if that was their plan all along. They are the only brand that thought to send a Mother’s Day card. Everyone else spammed me with Mother’s Day sales.

Whether it’s a follow up email, a handwritten note or, do I dare say a phone call, we cannot sideline the value of high-touch service when our guests are not with us.

We focus on the on the “in the moment”, but not the after the moment. Stop getting their emails and then never looking them in the eyes again. If you are just blasting (via mass email) and not hand holding, you are missing an opportunity.

In these email infatuated days the personal touch can make a difference. It can make the difference between spam and a sale.

NB: This is a guest article by Carla Caccavale, brand strategist at TrustYou.

Why is Selling the Most Important Skill to Have?

Why is Selling the Most Important Skill to Have?

Today’s blog describes why learning the art of selling may be one of the most important skills you can learn.  Yes, yes, I know, like many small business owners, you say, “I just don’t have time for that.”  Or, you might say, “I don’t want to be a ‘sales person.'”

Guess what?  Selling is a critical skill every business owner needs.  

Long ago, and far away, I had an economics professor in college who had a simple premise.  “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.” 

Read on to find out why this is so important. 

Why You Should Consider Taking That Sleazy Sales Job


By Tim Murphy • January 16, 2012

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Learning to sell is one of the best skills you can bring to your career — and life.

Recent college grads often think, “Meh/ugh (or some other whiny noise), I don’t want to do sales.”

Either they think a sales job is beneath them, they don’t want their pay to be tied to performance or they just “don’t like the idea of selling something.”

I’ve been there, too; I actually felt bad for my friends who were “reduced” to sales jobs right out of college. And I’ve seen friends adopt an air of apology when explaining that their job involved sales. Oh, the shame!

But that approach is plain old stupid. Being able to sell is everything.

Every idea you pitch to your boss,every business you want to start andevery job interview you have are all about selling. Sometimes it’s an idea, other times it’s a product or service, and it almost always involves selling yourself. The ability to sell is an absolutely critical skill, and taking a job that forces you to learn and master the art of sales early on in your career is a great move.

Get over yourself

If you are a recent college grad, chances are good that nothing is beneath you. Sorry, but that’s how it goes. People love to say they’re willing to “start at the bottom” and “work my way up the ladder,” but when they are presented with such an opportunity, they recoil in terror.

Taking a sales job is hardly starting at the bottom, but there’s definitely an air of superiority implicit in anyone who disregards sales as an unworthy profession.

Are you just afraid?

The reasons why we have negative perceptions of sales as a career vary, but part of it is the thought that salespeople are “sleazy.” That stereotype does a great disservice to young professionals everywhere. “Sales involves being sleazy,” so the flawed logic goes, “thus my dismissal of a sales position must be due to my integrity.”

The fact is that a career in sales can be quite challenging, and that’s intimidating. But associating a sales position with being “sleazy” allows people to give themselves a pass, rather than take on a difficult, sometimes uncomfortable job. In other words, a lot of people don’t want to do it because they’re scared.

To the bold goes the paycheck

While some of us are intimidated by the prospect of salary being tied to performance, others wouldn’t have it any other way. They see a set salary as a cap, a limit to their potential, while a sales commission-based salary is only limited by their abilities.

That’s why lots of people in sales make great money, eventually landing the set salary and the ability to make a bunch more via commissions. Adopt the right attitude and sales-based pay can be very attractive and lucrative.

Learn to pitch

The ability to sell is one of the most versatile skill sets a person can have. It doesn’t matter if you’re an engineer, an architect, a waitress or a business owner – if you can’t sell, you’re severely handicapped.

At some point, probably more often than you’d think, we all have to sell, and taking a job in sales forces you to learn the craft quickly. Making sales calls and presentations hones your critical thinking, on-the-fly thinking, public speaking and interpersonal skills like nothing else.

Plus, part of making a sale is negotiating – another tremendous skill set. By the time you need to negotiate a salary, ask for a raise, buy a house, a car, a business or sign a lease, the practice you’ve had at negotiating and working through alternative prices to close a deal will pay huge dividends.

Bottom line: taking a sales job is a great way to jumpstart your career, make good money, become a pitching and negotiating pro, and turn yourself into a well-rounded professional.

You might not want to be “in sales,” but the fact is,you don’t really have a choice. You’re going to have to pitch, sell and negotiate regularly throughout your life. Rather than brushing off sales as “not for you,” why not embrace it and get to work mastering a skill you’re going to need, regardless of profession?

Tim Murphy is founder of ApplyMate.com, a free application tracking tool.

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