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 [email protected] 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!

Email Tips To Make You an Email Pro!

Take your online communcations from “average” to “awesome” with these email tips from Small Business Solver Marketing Manager Sarah Levis.

Email Tips to Take Today!

A recent article from “Forbes” indicated that a corporate employee sends and receives 105 emails a day and can spend 28% of the day dealing with email. So learn how to use how to use this tool effectively! In this webinar on email tips you’ll learn:

  1. Whether An Email is Necessary –> Is email the best way to deliver your message? The most effective way? The most appropriate way?
  2. Deciding What Kind of Email is Necessary –> What’s the purpose of your email? How can you clearly indicate that to the reader?
  3. The Importance of Tone –> Is your tone appropriate for your purpose? Are you using conventions that don’t come across well in text, like sarcasm or teasing?
  4. The Power of Good Editing –> Have you edited your writing to eliminate jargon, excessive words, and weak words and phrases?
  5. A Clear Call to Action — > Does the reader know exactly what you need them to do in response to your email?
  6. Tools of the Trade –> Have you made effective use of the tools available to you in your email client to make your email as clear and accurate as possible (Spell Check, Grammar Check, signature, pre-written text blocks)
  7. Checking Your Work –> Have you proof-read your email for errors? Has someone else looked over it for errors that you may have missed?
  8. Subjects – Did you send test emails to make sure that your subject doesn’t land your email in SPAM folders?
  9. Before You Send – Writing Your Greeting, Pause Before You CC, Know the Laws –> Is your greeting appropriate and accurate? Is everyone (and no one more) on your CC list that must be? Are you in compliance with your country’s SPAM regulations?

Links to check out to make your writing even better!

  1.  21 of the Best Email Subject Lines We’ve Ever Seen – HubSpot
  2. GDPR Compliance Information – ZDNet.com
  3. Grammarly: Free Writing Assistant
  4. How to Use Gmail (Ultimate Beginner’s Guide) – Envatotuts+ Learning Guide 
  5. How to Write Emails Like a Marketing Pro – Aytekin Tank for Medium
  6. How to Write Email with Military Precision – Kabir Seghel for the Harvard Review
  7. Outlook Help Center
  8. The Ultimate List of Email Spam Triggers – HubSpot

Follow these email tips and keep these resources handy and you’ll be writing exceptional email in no time! Oh – watch the webinar, too! If it’s useful, check out our other webinars on our YouTube channel!

Small Business Sales: How to Start Selling NOW!

Get a pen and pencil and take notes, because here’s the thing about small business sales: the quicker you start selling, the quicker you start making money!

Small Business Sales: Getting the Ball Rolling

Despite what you may have heard, you don’t need to wait for a website/business card/brocures/inventory/insert reason here to start selling. In fact, it’s in your best interest of your small business to start selling as soon as possible! In this webinar you’ll learn:

  1. 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.
  2. Why the reasons people give for why we they’re not selling aren’t usually the real reasons
  3. Why it’s a good thing to “fail fast”. Seriously!
  4. How you can quickly and cheaply create a web presence while you’re waiting for your website to be ready
  5. How to create your first batch of business cards/brochures, and why they don’t have to be perfect
  6. Why you don’t need inventory, or even a prototype, before you start selling
  7. How to quickly draft a serviceable client contract
  8. How to choose a business name and how long you should give yourself to do it
  9. Why your business doesn’t need to be a corporation before you start selling
  10. Why you need to talk about your business with other people – lots of other people!

Anything on that list in an action step that could get small business sales rolling within 2 weeks. What are you waiting for?

So, which step are you going to take for your business this week? Let us know in the video comments, on Twitter or Facebook, or email us at [email protected]. Don’t forget to come back and tell us how it goes!

Was this useful? View more of our webinars on our YouTube channel!

Writing a Business Plan to Get What You Want!

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. That’s why why writing a 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!” you’ll webinar, you’ll learn about what you need to think about as you draft a business plan, including the sections you must include.

Decide For Whom You are Writing a Business Plan

Your plan will look very different depending on who will be reading it. Potential readers might include:

  1. Yourself
  2. A bank
  3. Potential investors
  4. Potential partners

If you’re writing a business plan for yourself, you’ll include different information than you will for anyone else. Similarly, a bank may want different information than a potential partner.

Write the Business Overview

The Business Overview is the section to include the following things:

  1. A description of The Opportunity
  2. A summary of why what you offer is a solution
  3. A desciption of your target market
  4. The unique aspect of your business that gives you a competitive advantage over other businesses in your niche
  5. A brief summary of how you plan to keep that advantage

The Business Overview paints a picture of your business at a point in time.

Write the Vision Section

In the Vision Section, paint a picture of how you see your business in the future. Include details about:

  1. Where you see your company in 3 – 5 years
  2. Your ultimate goal for your business
  3. A description of your exit strategy

The reader will appreciate that you have thought about the future.

Write the Marketing Research Section

Drafting this section is a very important part of writing a business plan. Consider including:

  1. Descriptions of the industry trends, consumer trends, and wider general trends (government, economic, technology) that may impact your products;
  2. Your business’ main competitors and their potential impact.

It’s worth taking time to do any necessary research to write this part of your plan.

Write the Sales Projections Section

The webinar recording goes into how to calculate the sales projections that you should include when writing a business a plan.

Write the Management Team Section

In this section, describe why you, as the owner, are the best person to launch your business, given your support team and contacts.

Write the Marketing and Sales Strategy

Discuss your plan to get the word out about products given factors such as:

  1. Price
  2. Location
  3. Size of area to be covered
  4. Marketing budget
  5. Projected sales

If you need help with this part of writing a business plan our Marketing Solver tool can get you started #ShamelessPersonalPlug

Write the Operations Section

The Operations section is a discussion of issues like processes and delivery. You might want to include details about:

  1. How you’ll track processes to ensure completion
  2. Who handles human resources issues like hiring, scheduling, etc.
  3. The processes in place to handle human resource issues

Nailing down processes is dry work, but necessary. Take the time to protect your employees and yourself and get them in place.

Write the Action Steps Section

Discuss the company’s goals. Break them down into three levels:

  1. Today’s Goals
  2. Short Term Goals
  3. Long Term Goals

Again, this shows that you’ve given thought to your company’s position at the moment and to the direction in which you’d like it to go.

Write the Financial Projections Section

Use this section to demonstrate that the business is financially viable and sustainable over the long-term.

The Last Part of Writing a Business Plan: The Executive Summary

Yes, you write this section last…but it’s the first thing reader sees! Make it compelling! It should make the reader want to keep reading. Are you ready to start writing a business plan?

Was this useful? Watch more of our webinars on our YouTube Channel!

Small Business Solver is Better Than Ever!

The Small Business Solver logo - A cartoon man in business attire stands smiling against a blue sky with a cloud in it. "Small Business Solver" in black and "www.SmallBusinessSolver.com" are centred in grey on a white text box next to him.

Small Business Solver has done a relaunch! We’ve worked hard on our website and modules and made some changes to what we offer, and we’re very happy with what we’ve come up with:

  1. 100 new training videos and 105 coaching guides
  2. PowerPoint slides for business centers and incubators
  3. A pay-what-you-can option for business owners and a low-cost plan for coaches that wish to use our materials in their trainings
  4. A new staff member, Sarah Levis, to help with marketing and to respond quickly and efficiently to customer concerns.
  5. A monthly email newsletter to keep all our contacts up to date on company activities
  6. A bi-weekly educational webinar series designed to educate entrepreneurs on a variety of issues affecting today’s small business owner.

We’re very excited about all these things, but in today’s post we want to draw your attention to our live webinar series, which debuted 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:

  1. How to test business ideas (and why we don’t, even though we should!)
  2. Questions to ask to determine your idea’s viability as a business
  3. Determining your breakeven numbers
  4. More good questions to ask and things to consider

The live webinar series will run bi-weekly, each one covering a different topic. You can get the schedule for each month, including topics, in our monthly Newsletter. Please do sign up for the webinars, attend, and let us know what you think of them! We would love to hear your feedback.

We post Recordings of all of our webinars to our YouTube channel. Check them out and let us know which one is your favourite.

See you soon!

Non-Disclosure Agreements And You!

A cartoon man and woman hold up a sign that says "Non-Disclosure Agreement!"

Using Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) is a smart move for any small business owner. As you run your business, you’ll work with a variety of people in a variety of contexts, and you may have to share confidential information with them.  You’ll want assurance that the other party won’t share that information with anyone else.  Situations where this concern arises include ones where:

  1. Your employees 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.
  2. You’ve shared financial information and future plans with business partners or investors.
  3. You’ve given an accounting firm your financial information, including the debt and equity information, so that they can do your taxes.
  4. You’ve shared information with suppliers on pricing or marketing tactics to be a good strategic partner.
  5. Anyone else with whom you share information with that you want to keep from public knowledge. 

Consider using non-disclosure agreements any time you’re sharing confidential information, especially if keeping that information secret is crucial to your success – if your baking tastes better because you use an ingredient that no one else does, or your product lasts longer because you use a manufacturing technique that no one else has thought of, you don’t want that secret getting out so that other people can also start benefiting from what makes you superior in your market! 

Learn More About Non-Disclosure Agreements and Download a Template 

Thanks to Cobalt Lawyers  and ClauseHound. 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.

Have you checked out our webinars yet? Head to our webinar channel and check them out! Tell us which one you like the best!

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
[email protected]

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
[email protected]