Sunday, October 28, 2012

Niceness Matters

Have you ever been to a coffeeshop and gotten rude service or even just mediocre treatment?  Bet you thought twice about going back to that same spot.  Maybe you didn't even leave a tip that day.  Have you ever been someplace when they were overly friendly, remembered you from your previous visit, complemented you on your outfit or asked how your day was going?  How did that make you feel?  Probably, you left feeling pretty good and made a mental note to go back to that same spot.

Niceness is a necessity for your business.  And, guess what?  It is free.  Here are some things you can do to make your business a little more friendly:
  • Have the first contact someone makes with your company be a kind and friendly face.  This first contact sets the first impression of your company.  Make it a nice and friendly one. 
  • Get rid of employees who are rude and too cool to be nice to your customers.  They create an environment of unfriendliness and only attract those of similar attitudes. 
  • Management must adopt this friendly approach and hire and train friendly faces to promote this culture within the business.  If management fails to adopt "friendliness matters" as a principle, it simply won't happen. 
  • Being friendly to your customers doesn't mean you are a pushover.  You can be friendly while still being hardcore about your bottom-line and not bending the rules.  
  • Don't blow anyone off.  Let folks know you can't help them and be direct but do it with a smile. You never know who they know or if they will need you in the future. 
  • Take complaints and anger from customers with a calm approach, don't overact and lash out.  Continue your pleasant attitude and don't let a few rotten apples get you down.
Remember, you just have to add a smile and a good attitude and it will attract customers to you.  

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tips for Working at Home

Working at home sounds like a dream come true, until you actually start working from home.  Whether you are working from home to save costs on a new startup venture or small business idea or staying at home to take care of kids, we are all confronted with the same obstacles when trying to work from home.

Obstacles to working at home:

  • DISTRACTION: At home, we surround ourselves with things and people that comfort us.  Our pets, loved ones, favorite hobbies, television shows, visitors and phone calls can all be a distraction to focusing on work.  
  • MOTIVATION:  With multiple distractions, the will to be motivated on the task at hand can be an obstacle to getting the job done.  
  • SOLITUDE:  There is no one to evaluate your performance or cheer you on.  You are alone and the solitude can provide little encouragement to completing necessary work. 
  • NO MONEY:  Starting up your own business can take a lot of work before you see some income results.  You will be spending more money than you are earning.  It can be easy to get discouraged.  
  • NO STRUCTURE:  Working on your own means you don't have a set time to come into work.  There are no hours or company rules.  A lack of structure can be an obstacle to sticking to a set schedule and get enough work accomplished during the day. 

How to Make Working from Home Work for You:

  • ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES:  Just because you are at home doesn't mean you are available to every thing an every body.  Set up a separate area as your work space - off limits to distractions.  Have a work computer, desk and chair as if it were in an office.  Keep it professional and let others know that this area is your work area and when you are at work you are in a "do not disturb" mode.
  • SET UP A SCHEDULE:  Maintain regular work hours and try to stick to this schedule.  Even if you decide to work 12 hours a day, you need to set your 12 hour day and have start and end times.  This schedule will help you make time for other things and other people but still allow you to get your work accomplished. 
  • ESTABLISH GOALS:  Set up daily and weekly goals to monitor your progress and maintain your vision of where you want to be in the end.  These goals will help retain your motivation as you check off one goal after another and make headway on your dream career.  
  • GIVE YOURSELF WHAT YOU NEED:  Stock up your office with paper, toner and all the supplies that you need.  You have to have the proper tools in order to be a success.  So prepare and give yourself the tools you need to do the job. 
  • SEEK INPUT FROM OTHERS:  It can be lonely in your new workplace - on your own and away from co-workers and those who can provide constant feedback.  Network with others in your chosen profession, seek their input and advice, ask for tips and help.  In this manner, you can develop a group of associates and not feel so isolated. 
Working at home can be tough work.  But, it can also be quite rewarding.  You are on your own and it is your time to shine.  Make the most of the experience and provide yourself with all you need to be great at what you do.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Which VOIP Service: Reviews of Nextiva & CallCentric

Small businesses still need phone service.  It can be costly to spend hundreds of phone minutes on your personal cell phone for your business.  Also, telephone numbers associated with your business offer the added bonus of allowing for a professional voicemail message system to greet your clients and multi-phone exchanges can give the appearance that your company is busier and larger than it is.

VOIP phones are an affordable solution for your business communication needs.  VOIP which stands for Voice over IP is basically a phone communication system over the Internet or making calls over the Internet.  Since you probably have broadband Internet in your home or office, VOIP provides an affordable solution to landline or cell phone usage.

VOIP phones can look like traditional office phones
Benefits of VOIP:

  • affordable;
  • easy to set up, no need to be a computer expert;
  • number portability;
  • choice of local or 1-800 numbers;
  • loaded with calling features such as caller id, call waiting, and voicemail exchanges or extensions.  
Cons of VOIP:

  • phone quality depends on bandwidth of your Internet connection, it won't work on dial-up or slow connections;
  • some services do not offer 911 connections or you have to pay extra for those calls;
  • power is a must, no electrical power equals no phone service. 

I have two phones with Nextiva for $60.00/month for unlimited service nationwide.  The phones were free with my service.  It is a month to month contract so can be cancelled at any time.  The phone came fast and preconfigured.  It was easy to set up the voicemail box.  The only downside to Nextiva is the customer service.  If you have any trouble setting up your phones, it is almost impossible to get them to understand and fix the issue.  Save the time and trouble in dealing with Nextiva customer service and just get an IT expert to come into your office and help out.  I was able to port my existing business phone numbers to Nextiva with no problems.  The system has rarely gone down for longer than a few hours since I signed up over a year ago.  Overall, the system is reliable and I don't have to worry much about missing any phone calls.  

CallCentric gives you VOIP service for just the price of calls.  For as little as $5.00, you get a phone number that can make outgoing calls.  I use this phone service for an Autodialer system which is a computer that makes phone calls to a list with a recorded message.  There are no setup or monthly fees for outgoing calls.  Phone numbers that accept incoming calls have varying price ranges from $19.95 to $1.95 with $8.95 being the price for office unlimited and $3.95 for a toll-free number.  Ability to get a local phone number on CallCentric depends on what part of the country you are located in and the number availability.  More local areas are being added on a regular basis, so the opportunities will only increase.  Paying per call may seem expensive but it really only adds up to 2 cents per connected call.  You can use your own IP phone with the service.  CallCentric was very easy to set up and easy to use.  I have had no problems with making calls or had a need to call customer service.  Your account at CallCentric can be cancelled at any time with no penalties.  Their user friendly website gives you technical guides for how to set up your CallCentric number with the most popular phone systems.  In addition, you can login to your account and print out call reports.  Overall, the service has been really great.  

There are many other VOIP service providers.  These are just two companies that I have had personal experience with in setting up and using.  It is important to research the all the providers you are interested in to see which one has the features you need for your company.  Good luck on your search for the VOIP system for you. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Be Different to Seal the Deal

With every small business in the world trying to get customers at the same time and even offering the same product or similar product/service, you have to stand out in order to get noticed.

There are a number of ways in which you and your small business endeavor can distinguish itself from the crowd:

  • Mission.  Develop a meaningful mission that characterizes your company.  Give people a reason for others to support you over competitors and feel proud of this association.  If your mission is something that people want to be associated with, they will follow you with loyalty and enthusiasm.  
  • Options.  Offer your clients a unique opportunity or service that others cannot match.  Agree to work on a weekend or over a holiday at the same price to set yourself apart as someone who will always be there for your client.  This can help you get new clients and be seen as reliable and dependable by those who need your services.
  • Special Deals.  Provide special incentives to new clients and repeat customers that you advertise on a regular basis to keep the information well known and active in the minds of both potential and current clients.  Such an incentive might be the difference between someone going to you or one of your competitors.  
  • Personal Touch:  Make your clients feel important by giving them a service or product that seems personal to their needs or situations.  Such a personal touch makes people feel like they are getting catered, individual attention, and that you care about their well-being.  Developing a personal relationship with your clients will cause them to come to you with gripes or complaints instead of mouthing off to others and allow you to solve the issue/problem before it even gets out on the Internet or spreads through word of mouth.  Clients who feel comfortable with you will always come to you first out of loyalty and because they benefit from that personal relationship with you. 

Good luck in your efforts to stand out from the crowd and build your business. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Networking is About Maximizing Opportunities

Any type of business owner needs to invest time and energy into networking.  Networking is simply developing relationships with others.  This process involves getting your name out there and meeting people.  Every contact you make is a potential connection to a new client or new job, so it is important to make a good impression.

Places to capitalize on networking opportunities include:

  • community events
  • churches
  • business openings
  • neighborhood coffee shops
  • gyms.
I think you get the point.  Anything you do and anyplace you go can be a networking opportunity.  So, be prepared. Always have your business cards (as in take them everywhere you go), so that you have a way to pass on your contact information.  You never know when someone is going to want to learn more or follow up with you, so it is important to have your information close at hand. 

Networking is Easy

Networking involves introducing yourself to others.  Let the conversation flow naturally and at its own pace.  There is no need to "oversell" yourself.  People will naturally ask what you do for a living.  Talk about your business with enthusiasm and confidence, and people will be drawn into learning more about your business.  A certain percentage will ask you for your business card. Pretty soon, your business and contact information will spread.  

Include your website, Facebook or Twitter accounts on your business card.  These online sites are excellent opportunities for others to connect with you and get to know your business.  

Two Key Points about Networking:
  • treat every contact as a lead to a potential client or job opportunity
  • always be prepared to present information about your business.
Building your own business is hard work.  It is more than just a 9 to 5 job.  It is your life, your startup money and your future.  Maximize all opportunities for networking because you never know which contacts will pay off at the end of the day.  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ways to Save Money for Your Small Business

Many small business owners waste their limited resources on services/products that they don't need.  Here are some simple tips for how to save money so you are not going broke before you have even started your endeavor:

  • Open a FREE small business checking account at major bank such as Capital One that will allow you to open an account with a deposit of about 200 dollars.  Skip the credit cards if you know you will not have much money to start.  No sense in getting in over your head. 
  • Never order checks from your bank.  Waste of money.  Open the bank account and then go online to find cheaper alternatives such as Checks in the Mail or Checks Unlimited.   Just about any place has cheaper checks than your bank.  You really don't need a big, fancy binder for all your checks either.  Save your money.
  • Never buy deposit slips.  Just get a stack of blank counter deposit slips from your bank for FREE.  They work just as well.  You can still use them to make deposit in the overnight deposit slot or in the drive through.  
  • Keep a simple spreadsheet to manage your finances such as an Excel file or a simple Quickbooks program.  If you are starting off with little funds, you don't need the most expensive program on the market.  I bought an older version of Quickbooks for $9.99 off of ebay and it works just as well because I did not need their online services or expensive payroll programs.  I can easily reconcile my spreadsheet with my bank statements on my own.  When you are starting off small, it is easy to do it yourself. Upgrade as your business expands. 
  • Scared of doing payroll yourself?  No problem.  TKT Enterprises  offers a very simple and affordable payroll system you can download onto your computer that will help you do payroll.  The program calculates the taxes for you and helps you do your payroll tax deposits and end of the year tax forms.  All you have to do is input employee information and the hours they work for each pay period.   You can even do manual payroll checks and print out payroll stubs on regular paper to save more money.  This program is very affordable at $14.95 for the whole year.  If you stick with this software, than your yearly upgrade is even cheaper (about half price).  You can't beat the price and it works great. 
  • Consider using PayPal for credit card orders if you can't afford the high frees associated with processing credit cards.  Sure there are fees with PayPal that come out of the money you will collect.  However, PayPal is fine for online orders to start.  As you build your business, you can use the money you have made from PayPal to upgrade to other credit card processing services.  All of them are expensive, involve monthly fees, early termination fees and high charges for chargebacks.  Because of the costs, you want to make sure you are making money and can afford this investment before you sign that contract. 

Hope that these tips will help you save money in your small business. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Branding on Social Media Sites

A brand represents everything about your company ~ what you stand for, what you do and where you will be in the future. Branding is a way to spread information about your company to a wide audience. All businesses need to engage in some type of branding. There is so much competition for limited dollars that even your small business needs to work on brand development. Social media sites are a good way to spread your brand for FREE and to a large audience.

Keys to Developing Your Brand:  

In creating your brand, you need to think about what you want to represent. Vague concepts such as stating that you are "efficient" might not distinguish you from another company. Take a look at how other companies are describing themselves. If you are using the same or similar language, your company will not stand out as being unique or offering anything special. To make people pay attention, your brand has to contain a different message from your competition.      


Be consistent with your message. Make sure the Facebook, blog and Twitter accounts for your company spread the same message. Being all over the place only confuses your audience. Be specific about what you do and what your company offers and spread a consistent, unified message through all your social media sites. People will be more likely to remember your company at a time when they may need your services if you are consistent.

Respond to questions, complaints and other comments on your social media sites in a timely manner. The downside of being on a wide variety of social media sites is that people have wider access to ways to leave you negative feedback and it can be quick to get out of hand. Be aware of all of your networks and do not overreact to negative comments. Respond to complaints in a timely way so that others know you are responsible, block followers who are abusive and keep encouraging and rewarding those who leave you positive feedback.  In this manner, you will encourage positive comments and keep negative posters at bay.

Good luck on developing your brand.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to Follow Your Dreams & Achieve Your Goals

How to Follow Your Dreams & Achieve Your Goals

Free Marketing Ideas for Your Small Business

Small business owners often spend a lot of money in advertising only to see very little return.  You don't need fancy, glossy brochures to legitimize your business.  You can get more clients right now but doing a few things that are absolutely free.

A web presence is a must in today's economy.  People go online first to find everything they need from hiring a plumber to ordering a pizza for dinner.  Too small or not enough funds or expertise to manage your own website?  No problem.  There are a number of free outlets at your fingertips.

* List your business on Yellow Pages online.   It is free to create a listing for your business.  You can list your location, hours, website and email.  It can take up to 10 days for them to verify your listing, but it is well worth the wait.  A listing on will give you added credibility.

* Social media provides a variety of outlets to get the word out about your services and expertise.  Create a Twitter and Facebook site for your business to post daily about special offers, services and success stories.  These accounts can quickly generate you hundreds even thousands of followers.  You can encourage your current clients to give you good reviews on these social networking sites and get their online friends to follow your sites.  Social media provides free press and an online presence, all without spending a dime.

* Put your flyers in neighborhood businesses, stores and churches.  A lot of places will allow you to place flyers about your business or services at their location for free.  It is simple to make a few flyers on your computer and post them around town.  You can make lots of flyers that people take with them.  Or, you can print one flyer with tear-offs at the bottom with your contact information.  Yes, this is old school.  But, it really works.  Even the busiest person has to go to the store and can pick up a flyer and will remember that personal outreach when they need your services.