Category Archives: Start Ups

Small Business Wisdom: What To Expect in Your First Year

What can you expect in your first year as a small business owner? After tracking our first year as a business and following thousands of others on the journey, we can tell you that you’ll go through several ways of looking at your business, or paradign shifts. Here are the main ones covered in our video of what to expect in your first year:

You’ll also hear about the milestones you can expect to reach in your first few years.

Weeks 1 – 4: The Fake Start

The Fake Start paradigm shift occurs when you first jump into the idea of starting your own business. Get ready to do some serious talking and planning! You’re putting your business together during this first month and making sure that everyone around you knows it.

Weeks 5 – 8: Small Business Realities

You’re making a paradigm shift to Small Business Realities thinking when you start to realize that small business is different than every other type of business. This four-week period is about testing things out and learning the rules of small business (“”Cash is King” and “Personal Brand is Small Business Brand”, for example.) You’ll concentrate on getting some cash into your business, assess how long you can wait for cash to start coming in, and determine what prices you’ll need to charge in the future to keep your business running.

Weeks 9 – 12: Getting to the 2nd Ring

In Week 8, at the tail end of the Small Business Realities paradigm shift, you may still be only selling to friends and family. That’s okay. But during Weeks 9 to 12 you need to make a third paradigm shift.

Getting to the 2nd Ring thinking forces you to consider how you can sell to strangers. You’ll need to:

  • Assess who you know outside of the circle of friends and family that could be potential customers.
  • Learn about networking
  • Get business cards so that you always have a way to quickly and conveniently give people your contact information. .

Weeks 13 -16: Unlearning (Relearning)

At Week 13, four months into your small business journey, the Unlearning (Relearning) paradigm shift begins. This is a time to go over your progress so far and tweak your plans and processes for the future to include what you’ve learned.

Maybe you need to do more definitive goal-setting. Maybe you need to examine your revenue streams and determine whether they’re all working optimally for you. Maybe your marketing plan needs some changes. Maybe you need to consider a potential referral partner who take on work that people who want you to do that’s not a service you offer.

This paradigm shift is about asking, “Is this real? Did what I try during the first 3 months work, or do I have to change things up?”

Weeks 17 – 21: Asking for Help with Your Small Business

In Month 5 you’re going to start adding people to your team, shifting your business paradigm from one where you work alone to one where Asking for Help is healthy and encouraged. Finding someone to talk to about your business (not family or a significant other – they’re sick of hearing about it by now), who can offer a second opinion about issues you face and help you keep your energy up, will keep you from waking up at night with business concerns stuck in your head. Mentors are ideal for this.

Weeks 22 – 25: Cash-O-La!

This month’s paradigm shift is around money. You will learn:

  • Why “cash is king”
  • Why reducing costs is important
  • How you may be able to benefit from bartering
  • How attention to all the things mentioned above raises your profit margin.

Still with us, business owner? Good! You’re doing great!

Weeks 26 – 28: Breath(ish)

You need to make the Breath(ish) paradigm shift now because at this point you’ve been going full-speed for six months! You need to slow down and make sure that you’re taking care of yourself as well as well as your business.

Put a self-care plan in place if you don’t have one, to avoid burn-out. Be sure that your plan is something that you can keep doing over the long-term.

Week 29 – 33: Think Bigger about Your Small Business!

As you shift your business paradigm to Think Bigger, you’re looking for an elephant. Not literally, of course, but an elephant of a new client that brings in a lot of money with consistency, or a current client to whom you can sell more services. You can look for elephants in a couple of ways:

  • Reconnect with contacts you made when you launched. Let them know that you’re still around, offering services and welcoming referrals.
  • Consider making your business your full-time job if you haven’t already. Give some thought as to how you’ll structure Accounts Receivable when the time comes to do so.

Can you think of any potential elephants right now?

Weeks 34 – 37: Graduate

As you start making the Graduate paradigm shift, you might feel to need to move on from your mentor – you’re having some success, you’re feeling confident, and you’d like to go at it alone. Take a couple of weeks to consider your decision, trying to stay humble and realistic as you evaluate where you are with your business and whether you can keep up the momentum on your own. At the end of Week 37, make the decision about whether to graduate from your mentor.

Weeks 38 – 41: Do Bigger for your Small Business

Now the business paradigm shifts to Do Bigger – you’ve thought about how you’d like to make your business grow, now what structure do you need to put in place to make it happen? As you make this paradigm shift, you’ll think about:

  • Action plans
  • Scalability and processes
  • Re-investment
  • Whether you need employees or partners

Guess what? You’re almost there..

Weeks 42 – 52: Sustain Your Small Business

In Sustain, the the last of the paradigm shifts for your first year, you’ll focus first on strengthening your business through its customer service and its branding, and then on you. You’ll ask yourself:

  • Is this making me happy?
  • Do I want to continue?

Hopefully you do! Congratulate yourself for making it through your first year…you did it!

View What to Expect When You Are Starting to learn about the Small Business Solver modules that are the most useful for small businesses in each paradigm shift. And view more of our webinars on our You Tube Channel!

Contact us at smallbusinesssolver@gmail.com if you have any questions…

Sales Presentations: How to Own the Room as You Sell Your Stuff!

Our live webinar series is motoring through summer, with the fast-paced and information-packed “How to Give a Great Sales Presentation, Small Business-Style!” This webinar focuses on 4 key areas of giving sales presentations: Audience, Content, “The Nerves”, and Was It Good?

The Audience

Tailor your sales presentation’s message for different groups. You need to know who your audience is and what they care about so that you can present useful information. If you don’t know about your audience and what’s useful for them, find out:

  1. Attend the event yourself (if possible)
  2. Ask the organizers about the people who will be attending and what they’re likely to want to hear about.
  3. Show up early talk to people prior to your presentation about why they’ve come and what they’d like to hear from you.

A sales presentation should signal to your audience that you understand their core values and that your own core values align with theirs. If you can’t connect with your audience on that emotional level, your audience is unlikely to buy from you. Remember – sales are emotional!

Sales Presentations and Content: The Beginning and the End

When you’re planning sales presentation content, pay special attention to the beginning and the end – they serve important functions! The beginning of the presentation should contain the ” hook” that catches peoples’ interest. An effective hook:

  1. Is very clear and simple
  2. Has some sort of number or return on investment (investment being time spent watching the presentation.) 
  3. Draws people in by asking a question or telling a story.

Your hook may be your only chance to get peoples’ attention, so make it a good one!

The end of a sales presentation should invite the audience to take a concrete, reasonable next step. The step should be a gesture their interest in what you have to offer. Don’t ask them for the world! You might invite them to:

  1. Pick up your business card on the way out
  2. Schedule a phone call or coffee date with you to chat about their needs
  3. Stay after for a few moments to see a quick demo of your software or website.

Pro tip: You should never have to say “Thank you” to indicate that a sales presentation is over. It should be clear to the audience!  

Sales Presentations and Content: Benefits versus Features

You’ll feel compelled to tell your audience all about the features that make your product or service is the best on the market. Resist that urge. Instead, tell your audience why it *matters* that your product can do what it does and why it’s important that a job be done just the way that your company can do it. Convince them to hire you by telling them the benefits of doing so!

Consider how you might use the following as you present benefits:

  1. Emotional words to further capitalize on the power of talking about benefit.
  2. Vocal intonation and body movements to break up the conversation
  3. Moments that “pop!” to emphasize points that you want your audience to remember.

You want to make an emotional appeal with your sales presentations because (say it with me!) sales are emotional!

The Nerves: No Big Deal

Everyone gets a little nervous about speaking in front of groups. There are ways to work through it! Use these techniques when your nerves start to get the better of you:

  1. Be sure that you’ve practiced enough before your sales presentations. Most people need to practice a presentation between 7 and 20 times. 
  2. Show up first. Be in the room as everyone arrives and even talk to people a bit if that’s possible. You’ll feel in control of the room and the audience will see you feeling confident and ready. 
  3. Don’t take a deep breath just before you start presenting, as you may start to hyperventilate. Instead, exhale and force all the air out of your diaphragm and allow it to refill. Then go in and own it! You’ve got this!

Was Your Sales Presentation Good? How You Can Tell

You don’t need a lot of training or a fancy post-presentation audience questionnaire to evaluate how your sales presentations go over. You can monitor the standard indicators of audience interest and engagement as you’re presenting:

  1. Are people interrupting you to ask question as you’re presenting ?Questions about implementation and logistics are an especially strong sign of interest. 
  2. What is the body language saying? Engaged people will lean in, maintain eye contact, nod and smile. Bear in mind that body language in a business-to-business sales presentation can be trickier.
  3. Are people taking even small actions after your sales presentations? Even if someone just takes a business card from your display table, congratulate yourself. You caught their interest! Now you need to follow up and move them along your sales funnel!

We have lots of information about presentations on our website, and all our resources are available to small business owners on a pay-what-you-can basis! Sign up for an account and check us out!

You can also see more of our webinars on our YouTube Channel.

Credibility: How Can You Get Your Customers To Trust You?

When it comes to sales, vour credibility is critical. Trust is as important in your relationships with your customers as your it is in your personal relationships. As a business owner, you need mustunderstand that:

  1. All sales are emotional. Whether you own a convenience store in a small town or an internationally-known software company worth millions of dollars, you ultimately appeal to emotion, not logic, to make your sale.
  2. Gaining credibility, or a customer’s trust that you know what you’re talking about and that you’ll do what you say what you will, is one of the 3 Tenets of a Sale.

Credibility and Sensitive Trust

The trust that you must develop with customers, who are likely people with whom there isn’t a long and complex personal history, is called sensitive trust. Senstive trust is different than the sensible trust that develops between people in long-term relationships (family, old friends, and significant others), and must develop much more quickly in order to establish the credibility needed to close the sale.

Let’s examine the 3 Tenets of a Sale, or the Sales Funnel, to see how you how you develop that sensitive trust?

The 3 Tenets of a Sale

The 3 Tenets of a Sale, or the Sales Funnel, theory is based on the idea that as people buy from you when they:

  1. Know you
  2. Trust you
  3. Like you.

Marketing is a great way to build sensitive trust and keep people buying from you.

You can use Small Business Solver’s Marketing Solver tool to find a whole list of simple-to-implement marketing strategies that can increase your credibility in a flash:

  1. Get business cards
  2. Record a professional voice mail message
  3. Develop a web presence (not necessarily a web site!)
  4. Ask for referrals/testimonials
  5. Use branded contracts/invoices
  6. Rent a post office box
  7. Get a 1-800 number
  8. Look for media cover opportunities (press releases, articles, etc. – not paid ads)
  9. Encourage customers to leave online ratings on sites like Google and Yelp
  10. Do presentations (keynotes, panels, webinars)
  11. Hire a virtual assistant or use a calling service to look bigger than you are
  12. Make brochures to hand out to clients interested in larger or B2B sales
  13. List your products in established online stores (Etsy, Yahoo, Alibaba) for better SEO rankings and streamlined customer experience
  14. Respond to blogs, letters to the editor, related forums to raise awareness of your company
  15. List awards your company has won – even small ones
  16. Develop an online portfolio
  17. Go to networking events

Which marketing strategies are you currently using? Which ones could you easily start using?

Building credibility is hard work, and it’s easy to be very hard on yourself if you inadvertently let a customer down. However, if you do, don’t throw up your hands – the situation is salvageable! Plus it is important to know how to rebuild trust in this situation. Remember, nobody’s perfect – you are not the first to do this, you won’t be the last. Handle it gracefully, to the best of your ability, and forgive yourself.

Learn More about Credibility

All the strategies in this 20-minute video are low-cost, can be implemented quickly, and do wonders for your credibility. Watch the webinar for details on how to implement each one, pick one or two to try this month, and let us know your results! We’d love to hear from you!

Was this helpful? Watch more webinars on our YouTube Channel!

How To Write An Awesome Email!

Email isn’t going anywhere! Take your email from “average” to “awesome” with Small Business Solver Marketing Manager Sarah Levis. In this webinar you’ll learn about:

  •  Whether An Email is Necessary
  • Deciding What Kind of Email is Necessary
  • The Importance of Tone
  • The Power of Good Editing
  • A Clear Call to Action
  • Tools of the Trade
  • Checking Your Work
  • Subjects – Write, Test, Revise
  • Before You Send – Writing Your Greeting, Pause Before You CC, Know the Laws

Links to check out to make your writing even better!

How to Start Selling NOW!

Get a pen and pencil and take notes, because the quicker you start selling, the quicker you start making money!

In this webinar you’ll learn:

  • Why the length of the average sales cycle means that you need that you need to start selling as soon as possible after opening your business.
  • Why the reasons people give for why we they’re not selling aren’t usually the real reasons
  • Why it’s good to “fail fast”
  • How you can quickly and cheaply create a web presence while you’re waiting for your website to be ready
  • How to create your first batch of business cards/brochures, and why they don’t have to be perfect
  • Why you don’t need inventory, or even a prototype, before you start selling
  • How to quickly draft a serviceable client contract
  • How to choose a business name and how long you should give yourself to do it
  • Why your business doesn’t need to be a corporation before you start selling
  • Why you need to talk about your business with other people

Everything that Carla talks about is an action step that could get you selling within 2 weeks. Which step are you going to take? Let us know in the video comments, on Twitter or Facebook, or at smallbusinesssolver@gmail.com…and don’t forget to come back and tell us how it goes!

Writing a Business Plan to Get What You Want!

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail – that’s why writing a solid business plan is the best first step you can take toward making your dream of owning a successful small business a reality.

In this recording of our “Writing a Business Plan to Get What You Want!” webinar you’ll learn about a Business Plan and its sections, including:

  1. The importance of deciding who the plan is for
  2. The Business Overview – Talking about The Opportunity and why what you offer is The Solution; defining the target market; describing the unique aspects of a business that give it a competitive advantage and how the business owner intends to keep that advantage
  3. Vision – Where the owner sees their company in 3 – 5 years, the ultimate goal for the business, and a description of the exit strategy
  4. What to include in the Marketing Research section – Industry trends, consumer trends, wider general trends (government, economic, technology) that may impact a product; a business’ main competitors and their potential impact.
  5. Sales Projections – How to calculate reasonable sales projections to include in a business plan
  6. Management Team – Why is the owner the best person to launch this business, given their support team and contacts?
  7. Marketing and Sales Strategy – The plan to get the word out about products given factors like prices, location, size of area to be covered, marketing budget, and projected sales
  8. Operations – Discussion of operational issues like processes and delivery; how processes will be tracked to ensure completion; who handles human resources issues like hiring, scheduling, etc., and how they will be handled. 
  9. Action Steps – The importance of showing the company’s goals for today, as well as its Short Term and Long Term goals.
  10. Financial Projections – Demonstration that the business is financially viable and sustainable over the long-term.
  11. Executive Summary – Written last, but first thing reader sees. Must entice reader to keep reading.

Have you noticed some changes at Small Business Solver recently?

We’ve done a relaunch, and we’re very happy with what we’ve added to the program:

We’re very excited about all these things, but in today’s post we want to draw your attention to our webinar series, which began on March 28, 2019. Small Business Solver co-founder and CEO Carla Langhorst did a presentation called “Make It Fly!” where she talked about how to evaluate whether your business idea is a good one, using Small Business Solver’s Make It Fly Idea Tester.

You’ll learn about:

  • How to test business ideas (and why we don’t)
  • Questions to ask to determine your idea’s viability as a business
  • Determining your breakeven numbers
  • More good questions to ask and things to think about

The webinars will run bi-weekly, each one covering a different topic. Please do sign up, attend, and let us know what you think of the webinars! We would love to hear your feedback.

Click this link to sign up for one or both webinars

See you soon!

Non Disclosure Agreements (NDA) – What You Need To Know

Having a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is a smart move for any small business owner. You might need to share confidential information that you don’t want shared with many different business relationships that you have in place.

For example,
– Your employees might have access to company secrets, intellectual property, future strategic plans, customer pricing, and many other pieces of information that you don’t wish to have shared.
– Your business partners or investors where you are sharing financial information and your future plans.
– Your banker where you are sharing financial information including the debt and equity information.
– Your customers or suppliers who you are sharing information with on pricing, marketing tactics, and other information that allows you to be a good strategic partner with them.
– Anyone else that you share confidential information with that you don’t want to become public information.

If you want to have an NDA, you can learn more about them and download a template here: https://clausehound.com/

Thanks to Cobalt Lawyers (http://cobaltcounsel.com/) and ClauseHound (https://clausehound.com/). The information provided may not be relevant to your jurisdiction, this information is not a substitute for obtaining legal counsel, nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship with you, the reader.

How To Set Up An Ecommerce Website

If you aren’t online, then you are missing out on business.

Especially with the advances, there are some really easy ways to get started. But there are also some complexities that will creep up depending on how you are planning on setting it up.

Some things that will help you figure out what platform and set up that you need for your ecommerce site are:

1. How many products are you selling?
2. What type of products are you selling?
3. How many places are you shipping from?
4. How many places are you shipping to?
5. How many states, provinces, and countries are you shipping to?
6. How many transaction do you have?

Go through the main points of what you need to consider. See some of the options out there. And learn what to look out for.

Contact the Expert

Kagan Mustafa
kagan@smallbusinesssolver.com

Who Do You Need In Your Business?

Starting your own business takes a lot of work and activity! It is crazy to think you can do everything yourself.

But who do you need and when do you need them? Be prepared to find these people or if you have them keep them for when you need them.

People are the most important resources out there, so make sure that you are managing them well.

Topics that are covered are;
– Who do you need as a technology company? What is the best practices for this type of structure?
– Who do you need as a service business? What are some of the specific challenges that are faced here?
– Who do you need as a manufacturer? How do you ensure that you will continue to grow and not become overwhelmed?

Contact The Expert

The Small Business Solver Team
info@smallbusinesssolver.com