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2011

White-in article.pngThere are several factors that could lead a small business to hire a consultant, even if it’s temporary.  In general terms, you might need specialized expertise for a specific period of time, such as while networking your computers or launching a web site.  Or, you might want to have stable subcontractors whom you can bring in to meet seasonal demands or to handle larger projects.

 

There are many different types of consultants. The following are six types of independent contractors you might consider hiring depending on your small business’ needs:

 

Computer Consultants come with varying levels of skill and expertise.  Make sure that the consultant is comfortable with a broad range of hardware and software and that the individual is actually a consultant, not a reseller.

 

Information Technology Consultants do not offer the same services as computer consultants. IT consultants are more strategic than operational and can help pinpoint technology needs, hire and oversee your service providers, advise on product selection and manage complex projects such as database development, network architecture and e-commerce design.

 

Human Resources Consultants can be brought in if a company has a hiring or staff management problem that cannot be handled internally.  HR consultants can handle executive recruiting, temporary staffing of skilled workers, policy and manual drafting, and benefits administration.  HR consultants can range from sole practitioners, or they can be from boutique firms or large outfits.

 

Sales Consultants are often hired for a number of reasons:  Perhaps your track record of deal closings is not as good as it could be. Or, maybe you know how to close a deal, but have limited experience building and training a sales team.  You may also need help creating a compensation and incentives structure for sales employees if you’ve grown in size.

No matter what type of contractor you are seeking, there are some guidelines you should consider as you undertake your search and hiring process:

  • Pull Quote.pngTap your personal network, use social networking sites like LinkedIn and Craigslist and ask for recommendations from professional associations in your area.
  • Consider the size of your business and your particular needs when deciding whether to hire a large brand-name consulting firm or an independent contractor
  • Conduct a comprehensive interview
  • Forget the words “verbal agreement.”The structure of your business relationship, the scope of work, fee arrangements and project timeframe should all be spelled out in a legally binding contractual agreement.
  • Test the waters
  • Keep costs under control
  • Don’t forget to build an exit clause

 

 

Working with experienced consultants can be an effective way to grow your business without taking on the risk of adding permanent staff.  However, remember that a consultant is only as good as the client relationship allows.  Be a good partner with your consultants by committing the time upfront to explain projects, making yourself available when needed and working toward making consultants feel like they’re part of your company. 

Touchpoint

10 Signs You Are a Bad Boss

Posted by Touchpoint Oct 25, 2011

Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngI thought that I once had the Worst Boss Ever.  It was back when I was a young lawyer. My boss acted as if I had practiced law for a decade but I was only a year out of law school. He was abrasive, mean, condescending, and once handed me a box with about 5,000 sheets of paper in it and told me to have it analyzed – by the next morning.

 

 

Man, I hated working for him.

 

 

But then I heard about my buddy’s boss. His main tactic is to scream at his employees, threaten to fire them and then fire some. He fires different people every week. He leads, such as it is, through sheer intimidation. He sounds like a real jerk. Worst boss ever? He’s up there.

 

 

The funny thing is, I bet that both my old boss and my buddy’s boss both think they are pretty good bosses; that they get the job done. But employees know there is a whole lot more to being a boss than that. So, are you a good boss or a bad one?

 

 

Here are 10 Traits of a Bad Boss. Test yourself:


 

1. You are arbitrary: Good bosses set rules, fair rules, and anticipate that everyone will live up to these standards. People who work for these bosses know what is expected of them. But, bad bosses either have no policies, or move the line, or otherwise are arbitrary. They reward employees they like, don’t acknowledge those they don’t, and altogether acting capricious in their policies and rules.

 

 

2. You micromanage: A bad boss hires people, but never trusts them enough to do their job on their own. This makes their employees afraid to act or make a mistake. This boss butts in, micromanages, criticizes, and rarely grants an employee the room to do their job independently, let alone well.

 

 

3. You gossip: A good boss is supposed to lead and inspire. A bad boss engages in petty office politics and gets involved in the day-to-day machinations that they should be above. Gossiping about employees is bad form for any boss.

 

 

4. You are abusive/abrasive: This is the boss my friend works for. This sort of  boss often mistakenly believes that yelling and intimidating people “keeps them on their toes.” It does keep them on their toes all right, peeking around the corner for a way out of this horrible workplace.

 

 

5. You are unprofessional: Maybe you make inappropriate comments or crude jokes. Whatever the case, your employees really don’t like you because they may feel uncomfortable around you.

 

 

6. You have no manners: Even bosses are expected to say please and thank you. In fact, bosses should do so more often because the boss sets the company tone. If you don’t thank your people for a job well done, say you are sorry when you make a mistake, or otherwise lack basic manners, you are a bad boss.

 

7. You treat people like children: The people who work for you are adults. They are grown up. If they need to stay home one day because their child is sick, then they should have the ability to tell the truth and be treated like the adults they are. But the bad boss berates employees, does not trust them, and really does not trust them to be responsible people.

 

8. You don’t foster teamwork: Great bosses create teams of people committed to company goals. Bad bosses alienate people and teamwork is an oxymoron.

 

9. You steal credit and/or give no credit: A good boss gives credit where credit is due. Bad bosses do not and some of them even steal the credit due to another.

 

 

10. You are a slave driver: Bad bosses work people too hard and think nothing of it. They expect extra hours from employees but don’t reward them for it. They act like having a job should be its own reward and that working extra hard for no extra pay is reasonable. It’s not.

 

 

Honorable mentions: The boss who never sets goals. The boss that never makes exceptions to any rule or policy. The boss that refuses to lead.

 

Have you ever have a bad boss? Share your experience with the SBOC community below


 


 

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

AtoZ picture.pngAs a small business, you might find it daunting to try to keep up with new technologies. There may be technologies that you can’t even define. The following is an “A to Z” overview of hot technology trends that you might want to explore for cost savings, marketing penetration or helping streamlined operations:

 

Analytics encompasses such new forms as “next-generation analytics,” which allows companies to make forward-reaching business decisions, and “social analytics,” which measure, analyze and interpret interactions among people and online content.

 

Browser add-ons are third-party software tools that can be accessed on the toolbar of browsers such as Internet Explorer, Safari and Mozilla Firefox.  Add-on tools include design, collaboration and communication functions. Small business owners can use these third-party software tools to bolt quickly onto existing browser software. Now once-unimaginable services run natively on web tools.

 

Consumerization of IT refers to the fact that many companies, large and small, are saving money by allowing employees to use their own devices – such as tablets or smartphones – at work.

 

Data visualization has currently reached a lower price point and may be useful for data-intensive businesses, i.e. those that do high-volume Internet sales.

 

Easy mobile payment allows small businesses, and even microbusinesses, to take credit and debit card payments in settings that might have been cash-only in the past, i.e. arts and crafts fairs, mobile kiosks and homes.

 

4-G wireless cellular devices receive service that’s similar to the robust, plugged-in Web access that can be found in the office. Now, small business owners can browse the internet quicker. Additionally, all major phone carriers will be offering it.

 

Geo-coding converts a street address to equivalent geographic coordinates. Geo-coding creates the maps that local businesses often display on their websites.

 

Hybrid cloud is a combination of private intranet-based applications and public applications housed on a server by a cloud vendor.  Small businesses might want to have both in case their customers have sensitive data and if small business owners want to avoid hiring internal IT staff to install and configure applications.

 

iOS and Android operated devices are gaining popularity among businesses, particularly small to mid-sized business owner. Given Apple’s focus on updating its operating systems to be more secure and manageable, the iPhone established a foothold in the enterprise space, opening the door for exploring uses for the iPad and Android-powered devices.  Increasingly widespread adoption of various mobile technologies will allow small business executives on the go to access online information and multimedia content, and even have videoconferences with partners and customers in remote locations.

 

Jobcasting involves using podcasts to advertise open positions at a company..

 

Knowledge management tools are the process through which organizations generate value from their intellectual and knowledge-based assets.  This insight can help businesses foster innovation by encouraging the free flow of ideas, improve customer service by streamlining response time and boost revenues by getting products and services to market faster.

 

Location-based mobile and Internet marketing is particularly effective for small businesses that want to reach out to customers in real time to offer discounts, promotions and invitations to events when the customer is in the vicinity of their establishment.

 

Multimedia marketing and communications will involve video being integrated into consumer electronics, digital and Internet-based television, mobile computing and social software. Increasingly, small business owners will need to use create content using video. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2012, more than 25 percent of the content that workers see in a day will be dominated by pictures, video or audio.

 

Network appliances allow small businesses to use one piece of hardware that can encompass phone servers, document servers, e-mail servers, firewalls and routers.

 

On-the-go videoconferencing is now possible for businesses of all sizes to connect via smart phones and tablets with built-in video cameras and video-calling features.

 

Predictive financial modeling tools are being developed that can alert small businesses if they are at risk of losing money.

 

QR Codes are two-dimensional barcodes that small businesses can embed into advertising and direct mail pieces.  The codes link potential customers to a website, allow them to call your business or offer them a vCard when they scan the code with a smartphone.

 

Redundancy of data, documents and applications are facilitated by having cloud- and PC-based tools side by side.

 

Search engine optimization, or SEO, is a practice by which small businesses can drive more traffic to their websites.  Strategic keyword, tagging and coding techniques are becoming more sophisticated and may require the advice of an outside consultant.

 

Pull Quote.pngTouch-controlled work tools, inspired by Apple products, now include products that streamline small businesses’ daily operations, like printers and desk-top PCs, and that allow more interaction with customers via less-expensive touch-screen point-of-sale kiosks.

 

Unified communications is a relatively new term that refers to using a single interface for various types of communications.  For example, small businesses can use a UC system to view their voice, text and e-mail messages all in one inbox.

 

Voice-activated software is improving in quality and reliability and allows small business users to navigate a computer and create documents more quickly than they could with a keyboard.

 

Web-based office software offer cloud-based word processing, spreadsheet and other applications that increase work product efficiency and allow backup and sharing in real time from anywhere.

 

Xtranets, also known as extranets, are growing in sophistication to allow secure outside access to internal intranets for the purpose of information sharing and ecommerce.

 

YouTube continues to be a fast and cost-effective forum for small businesses to post online videos as a means of advertising, marketing and communicating with customers.

 

Z-Wave is a wireless mesh networking technology that allows business owners to manage and control lighting, appliances, HVAC and security systems in their establishments even when they are offsite.

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Social media, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube, can be a viable platform to reach your targeted audiences. Companies – large and small – that aren’t creating and sharing digital content are missing an opportunity to communicate and build relationships with a mass consumer market.

 

You may want to consider adding video content to your social media marketing strategy as another way to capitalize on these opportunities. Video marketing does not necessarily require expensive equipment and high-production values.  With affordable video cameras and easy-to-use software, video has become accessible for small businesses.

 

The number people who watch online videos is staggering - most web users watch 186 videos a month, according to digital marketing research firm comScore.  Posting your video on YouTube will give you access to the channel’s 20 million monthly visitors

 

 

Once you decide it’s worthwhile to create a marketing video, you must then determine what you will be filming.  The following are some examples of how you might use video to promote your small business:

 

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Product Demonstrations:  These are short, demonstrational videos about how to use your product or how it might fit into a viewer’s lifestyle.  They can be very effective in capturing customer attention for your company’s website and these types of videos are appealing because they are often easier to follow than a printed manual.  Budget permitting, you can hire professional talent, but you don’t have to.

 

 

How-To Videos:  Showing your customers how to do something new without directly promoting your product or service is a great way to position yourself as an expert in your field.  For example, a hair salon can create videos about how to create simple up dos and a kitchen appliance company can give cooking demonstrations.  If you post your how-to video on YouTube, be sure to use strategic key words, so your video can be found by customers who might be interested in your product.  Also, do not forget to display your web address prominently on the video page in order to drive business back to your site.

 

 


Viral Marketing:  Equip select, responsible customers with inexpensive video cameras and ask them to submit videos of themselves using your product in amusing ways.  This type of word-of-mouth marketing is cost effective and can be more compelling to potential customers than a paid advertisement.

 

Here are some considerations to bear in mind if you’re considering using online video as part of your marketing mix:

 

 

 

Online videos are easy and inexpensive tools for small business owners.  So, don’t be shy; grab your video camera and show what your company is all about.

White-in-article-portrait.jpgFor many entrepreneurs, making money is just one benefit of their small businesses

 

By Sherron Lumley

 

There’s an age-old debate about the meaning of life: Is it being loved and helping others, or is it licking the middle out of Oreos and racing speedboats? Whatever credo one chooses—altruism, hedonism, or a happy place in the middle—the personal fulfillment that comes from achieving life goals can be possible through small business ownership.

 

Of course, people go into business for many reasons, be it to gain more personal freedom, enjoy some extra income, or simply to follow a wild dream. However, as the amount of time and life invested in a business grows, its existential importance to the owner often begins to grow as well. Suddenly the enterprise becomes something more than just a way to pay the bills or an answer to that age-old question: “What do you do for a living?”

 

Pull-Quote.pngInstead, business owners increasingly come to see their firms as a way to create something wonderful, an opportunity to make the world a better place, a source of personal contentment, or as the start of a family tradition. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that many people thoroughly enjoy their work and that, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, two-thirds of Americans now plan to work into retirement. With years of experience, maturity, and plenty of energy, today’s “workers are increasingly finding financial and personal fulfillment in running their own small businesses,” the organization says.

 

The thrill of the hunt

Julie Hunter looks like the girl next door, but when she dons her glittered helmet, short-shorts and roller skates, she enters the roller derby arena under her stage name “Glitterotica,” co-captain of the Hellcats, a TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls team in Austin, Texas. “If you remember how Christmas was when you were a kid—the most exciting day of the whole year—that’s what it’s like,” she says of the rough-and-tumble contact sport. Hunter’s small business, Medusa Skates, sells roller skates and derby gear online to customers throughout the U.S. and internationally. “I started the business because I love derby so much,” she says. “I plan to skate until I fall apart.” But even after she lines up for her final jam, the sport will still be a part of her life.

 

“It’s a way for me to stay involved with the demographic,” says Hunter, who credits the all-female roller derby, billed as “the most entertaining sport in the world,” for teaching her leadership, marketing, and advertising skills, not to mention assertiveness. “I don’t look tough,” she says, “and a lot of the girls are quiet and shy at first, but derby helps people a lot. I used to be deathly afraid of public speaking, but now being in front of 3,000 people or on TV is nothing,” she says. Medusa Skates is a way for her to help people learn about the sport that she has played for the last five years. For Hunter, enriching oneself literally goes hand in (gloved) hand with empowering others.

 

Celebrating success when hard work pays off

Chris and Susanne Carlberg, who just celebrated 33 years of marriage, launched their wine vineyard Christopher Bridge Cellars in 2001 after Chris retired from teaching high school. “It’s our labor of love,” Susanne says of the business, located in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, a cool climate region known for fine Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir wines.

 

“We have to know every aspect of our business and there are many challenges,” Susanne notes. “People see a beautiful bottle of wine and it looks glamorous, but it comes from years of sacrifice and working very hard.” She and her husband operate the vineyard together, with Susanne doing the marketing and communications and pitching in with production at crush time and Chris making the decisions such as when to stop fermentation and which oak barrels to use, elements that give the wine its unique characteristics. Still, she says that some of her business’s biggest payoffs involve the intangibles. “It’s twice as good when you work side by side as we do and you’re so happy.”

 

A triple bottom line

More and more, owners of for-profit enterprises of all sizes are adopting the new concept of a triple bottom line (TBL or 3BL), where they seek to meet social and environmental goals in addition to the normal financial ones. The triple bottom line breaks down into three P’s: profit, people, and planet.

 

“Companies that focus solely on profits are out of sync with the times,” says Tim Sanders in his book Saving the World at Work. Sanders, who was the chief solutions officer at Yahoo from 2001 to 2005, helps develop next-generation business strategies. His book heralds a new business era that he calls the responsibility revolution, wherein people want to make a positive difference, thrive, and achieve significance, ideas that strike a chord with many of today’s entrepreneurs.

 

Leveraging social and environmental differentiation is a way for small businesses to take advantage of what many are already doing—fulfilling personal goals for a better world through the decisions they make for their companies.

 

Susanne Carlberg agrees. “Our business has gone in the direction that is the most environmentally friendly,” she says. “We are creating momentum closer to home and want our wines to be known in the local community. Because of this, we try not to be extravagant in our pricing.” As a result, the Carlbergs’ white wines start in the $14 to $18 range and their reds in the $20 to $30 range, in sync with what is affordable locally.

 

Because social responsibility and helping others is a big part of the Carlbergs’ personal philosophy, they also promote several causes such as Doctors Without Borders and the Wholistic Peace Institute in Portland, Oregon, which brings in Nobel Peace Laureates to speak to local students. “Education has always been a top priority for us,” says Susanne, noting her husband’s former career as a teacher. They also support many local charities with various tastings and small events to boost the fundraising. “In the end, everyone wins,” she says.

 

And back at the roller derby in Austin, Texas, helping people is equally important to Hunter and her teammates. “TXRD has always been involved with the Austin community through local events and by donating our money, time, and swag to many charities including BACA (Bikers Against Child Abuse), GENaustin (Girls Empowerment Network) and SafePlace. And while Hunter clearly enjoys the experience of running her own small business, she also relishes its role as part of something larger. As the TXRD website puts it: “We love our town and our fans, and it shows.”

HomeOffice.jpgThe theft of intellectual property (IP) is estimated to cost U.S. businesses (small, mid-size and large) up to $250 billion a year due to stolen ideas and lost revenue.  The unlawful use of a business idea, a competitor using a similar logo, copied packaging or the disclosure of a secret recipe to the public are events that can cause hardships for a business.  In fact, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) created a dedicated website to help small businesses counter intellectual property threats and to inform the public on the benefits of a strong IP protection.

 

As you start considering how to protect your company’s intellectual property, here’s a broad overview of the different types of protection available:

 

  • Trademarks are used to protect words and symbols that represent your company or brand.  You can either officially register your trademark with the USPTO or eventually qualify for common-law trademark rights if you use your trademark for business purposes consistently and continuously.
  • Copyrights are designed to give writers, artists and musicians, or companies that house this kind of intellectual capital, exclusive rights to control when and how their work is reproduced and distributed.

 

  • Patents are used to exclude others from making, using, selling inventions or offering to sell them.  The idea is to prevent others from using the invention or claiming it as their own. 

 

 

Pull Quote.pngIn addition to protecting your intellectual property, you may be able to derive additional business value from it.  You can start by taking an inventory of what undiscovered IP you may have in your company. Intellectual property may be obvious, like software or a unique invention.  However, the following may also be intellectual property:  business models, customer data and employee expertise and software code are also intellectual property. According to Inc., the following are some examples of ways to capitalize on intellectual property:

 

  • If you have a great brand, you can license your name or logo to other companies for co-branding.
  • If your business is data or research heavy, you may be able to repackage customer, market and industry information for sale to other companies or to raise your profile as an industry leader.
  • If you have a homegrown product that has more than one use, you can license it to a wide variety of unrelated industries.

 

You wouldn’t think of taping your business plan to the front window of your business, or leaving your inventory on the front curb.  Why would you leave your IP exposed, vulnerable and free for the taking? Take steps today to protect your small business.

Every day, there are 11 million meetings held in the United States, and 3 billion take place each year.  How can you, a small business owner, make the most out of company meetings? Small Business Owner.png

 

To start, there are different types of meetings. To ensure you are being smart in your approach, know the type of meeting you intend to hold:

 

  • Brainstorming meetings should be held when you want to generate as many ideas as possible. This is the one type of meeting where you can do away with a specific agenda.
  • Action-oriented meetings should be conducted when a crisis is looming or a deadline is approaching. Participants should be given enough time to gather their thoughts and recommendations before the meeting.
  • Short-term planning meetings will likely involve key decision makers. These types of meetings will likely include teamwork, so it’s important to make sure everyone understands what the meeting is about and what you’d like to accomplish during the gathering.
  • Long-term planning meetings are likely to include most, if not all, top executives, and many small businesses will invite the entire staff as well, if budget allows.  If many employees are involved in the meeting, make sure to choose a format that either maximizes the opportunity for executives to share their vision with the employees – or for employees themselves to discuss what changes they’d like to see to help the company meet its goals.

 

When conducting meetings, time is often money.  If decisions are made, creative solutions are devised or consensus is reached, then you might consider the meeting to be efficient and a good use of employees’ time. If, on the other hand, the meeting consists of long discussions on topics that are irrelevant for the meeting or an information dump that is difficult to follow, then you might feel you’ve wasted time and money.  The following are tips to running a productive business meeting.

 

Stay on point

Since a meeting can easily go off the rails, you should take some initial steps to ensure the gathering proceeds smoothly and efficiently.

  • A meeting shouldn’t be a comprehensive update from each member of your management team; disparate issues such as monthly goals and long-term planning initiatives. By contrast, meetings that are relevant to all attendees and that focus on one or two topics tend to work best.
  • While creative brainstorming sessions might not require a tight agenda, most meetings should have a detailed one that is distributed in advance
  • Briefly speak with employees who will be leading the meeting and determine which agenda items are most essential. It’s also important to discuss what needs to be accomplished during the gathering.

 

Maintain order

  • Although you might think you’re being productive by multi-tasking during a meeting – answering e-mails or working on another project – it has been proven to lessen your creativity and interfere with long-term retention.
  • Whether you’re running the meeting, taking notes or just sitting in, try to show up on time and stay until the end. This will help make sure everyone is on the same page once the meeting concludes, and a recap to somebody who missed some of the meeting will not be necessary.

 

If you plan your meeting and invitation list strategically, motivate attendees to make meaningful contributions, prepare a comprehensive agenda and use some conversation-guiding techniques – you can make sure your meeting is one that’s worth having. Do you have any tips on how to run successful meetings? What challenges have you encountered? Share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.

 

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Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngAbout four years ago, needing to redo my own website, I put out an RFP and received proposals from a lot of designers. I eventually settled upon the one guy whom I liked best and he recommended that we build the site using an underlying architecture, the Content Management System (CMS), with something called Drupal.

 

I learned at that point that there are no shortages of CMS systems available, all of which are designed to, essentially, allow you to easily update your website. For reasons too complicated to get into here, it turns out I hired the wrong guy, wasted a lot of money and time, and had to start over from scratch.

 

At that point, my assistant and content manager extraordinaire, Vivian, kept telling me that the obvious answer was to use something called WordPress. At the time, WordPress was gaining a reputation as an easy and powerful blogging platform which was, increasingly, being used to build websites too.

 

Long story short – we built it with WordPress and I couldn’t be happier. It was indeed simple and inexpensive

 

It’s no wonder then that WordPress has become a very popular choice for websites large and small. I knew that WordPress had reached the tipping point when not one, but two, of the major sites I write for (national and well-known sites and brands), redid their sites with WordPress.

 

So if you need to redo your site or, shame on you, create a site, then let me suggest that you follow the lead of the big boys (and small boys too) and consider using WordPress. Here are six reasons why:

 

1. Themes: Creating a website with WordPress is surprisingly easy. There are literally hundreds of themes to choose from and most are free. These themes can be used as is, or they can be customized. You can see some of the best themes here.

 

2. Web 2.0 Out of the Box: Far too many small business websites are boring cookie-cutter sites that look like they were built circa 2002 or so.  In fact, many were. But, we are now living in the Web 2.0 era where people expect to see not only cool designs, but some site interactivity.

 

That is what you will get with a good WordPress theme: It will look and feel very current with slideshows, flash movies, blogs, video, comment options, advertising spots – the whole shebang.

 

You no longer need to be stuck with a drab site.

 

3. Great CMS: As indicated, CMS is the Content Management System. This is the backend tool that allows you to easily, in real time, add an article, blog, or video to your site without having to know code or hire a webmaster. Its WYSIWYG tool (pronounced ‘wissywig’ for What You See Is What You Get) is very reminiscent of any document creation software, like Microsoft Word. As such, the WordPress CMS is simple and intuitive and designed to make adding or changing content to a site a breeze.

 

4. Cost: Most WordPress themes are free, and those that are not cost less than $100, generally. Customizing your theme, if desired, is relatively easy.

 

5. Support: WordPress is open source software, meaning there is an army of developers who write code and improve it. As such, getting help is easy because so many people work with and know the program.

 

6. SEO: Maybe the best part of WordPress (although they are all best parts really) is that it makes Search Engine Optimization a snap. Built into the WordPress dashboard are SEO tools you can use to make sure your site shows up in your target audience’s search results. Your pages will be indexed correctly, your content will be chock-full of keywords and your site will be friendly to search engine spiders. How effortless is that?

 


About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

By 2025, seniors are projected to outnumber teenagers two to one, and by 2050, the number of seniors in the United States will be close to 88.5 million.  By extension, revenue for home care providers may grow 4.5 percent and the number of home healthcare services may increase by 11.4 percent by 2014, according to IBISWorld.

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Baby boomers will likely seek less-expensive, out-of-hospital healthcare as an alternative to hospital procedures.  This could create opportunities for the proliferation of independent medical care businesses, such as outpatient surgery centers and walk-in clinics, which are run by medical professionals who are able to prescribe medication.  Further, getting to and from outpatient services will increase demand for medical transportation services.

 

An overwhelming number of baby boomers, 9 out of 10, have expressed a desire to age at home.  If these boomers stay in their homes, home care businesses, such as companionship care and home health aide

services are likely to increase in the future. 

 

While many healthcare-related jobs require interaction with patients, there are financial and administrative roles in which workers do not require contact with patients. These types of positions include healthcare billing, coding, payroll and other back-office jobs. If you’re considering starting a healthcare-related business, here are some tips to keep in mind:

 

  • If you open a medical franchise, try not to put all your eggs in one basket: You can have separate divisions related to travel nursing, in-home companionship and medical transportation, for example.
  • Typical fees for non-medical care are $16-20 per hour, and even higher for in-home medical care.
  • Opening an emergency medical transportation service may require some specialized permits, including state-mandated transportation licenses and registration with the state Health and Human Services Department.
  • For any health-related business, if you are going to accept Medicaid, you have to register with the state’s Medicaid office.
  • Marketing may be more effective via networking, word-of-mouth and referrals from retirement homes and assisted living facilities.  Most people want detailed information that you can’t get from traditional advertising when it comes to something as personal as healthcare assistance in the home.

 

Have you considered opening up a healthcare services company? Or, are you already involved with one? Share your experiences with the SBOC community below.

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Most family-owned businesses tend to operate by the rule of thirds– only a third of them make it to the second generation, and only a third of the businesses in that group remain in business by the third generation, and so on.


If you are currently running a family business, considering joining your family’s business, or weighing the pros and cons of bringing your children into the fold, the following are some thoughts that you may want to consider, as you begin to think about what challenges you may encounter – and what opportunities could lay ahead.

Challenges

  • If you bring your children into a family business at a young age, you may have to walk a fine line between teaching them about hard work, working as a team and allowing them to pursue their own separate dreams.
  • Older members of the family may not understand or value concepts such as market share, database marketing or social networking.
  • Family members may have to play multiple roles, ranging from manual tasks like painting and repairs, to executive duties like negotiating partnerships or securing bank loans.
  • While new family businesses may require flexible work roles at the beginning, eventually you will need to outline every person’s responsibilities, compensation level, long-range goals and line of command.
  • Certain patterns of behavior or types of communication between family members, like one-upmanship or a tendency to correct someone’s grammar, may be played out in the business realm as well. 

 

Opportunities

  • Cross-generational entrepreneurs tend to pass on traditional values such as perseverance, a willingness to get your hands dirty and ways to build trusting relationships with customers and self-sacrifice.
  • The choice of how much to grow your business is up to you.  If you are in a family business because you enjoy the flexibility and camaraderie, you may want to keep your company small and local. If you’re in business for big profits, you may want to strive to take your business international or spin off subsidiaries.
  • Family-owned businesses foster resiliency as they center around a close-knit management team, which has a vested emotional and financial interest in the company’s survival.
  • Without pressure from shareholders, family-run businesses may be able to take more time to achieve profitability and take business risks without needing to justify decisions to others invested in the company.

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Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngWhile I have done my share of sales, like I’m sure you have, I would never call myself a “sales superstar.” Fortunately, in my line of business, I get to meet many people who do in fact fit that description, begging the question, what do they have in common?

 

Let me suggest it is five things:

 

Sales Superstar Secret #1: Language is Vital:  Brian Tracy, maybe the world’s best salesman, tells the story of how his first sales job was selling soap door-to-door to earn his way to YMCA Camp. He heard rejection after rejection until he oh-so-slightly rephrased his sales pitch. Instead of asking, “Would you like to buy a box of soap?” he said instead that he was selling soap, but that “it was only for beautiful women.” Thereafter he says, getting to camp was a breeze.

 

Your choice of words is critical, Tracy says.

 

Secret #2: Know the Most Important Question to Ask: In his great book, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, author and master salesman Jeffrey Gitomer says there is one question to ask a customer that is critical to sales success:

 

Ask: “When I say [name of your product], what one word comes to mind?” This tells you what the customer’s hot button or pain point is and allows you to deal with it.

 

(Gitomer also says that one of the dumbest questions you can ask is, “What will it take to get your business?” You should know.)

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss.

 

Secret #3: Build Rapport: Rapport, once established, will make your sales almost effortless. Once you create rapport with someone, he or she begins to trust you, and with trust, walls and reasons melt away.

 

There is a sales strategy that suggests that if you quietly mimic your customer’s intonation and physical movements you will subconsciously create rapport. This may or may not be true, but it sure does seem sneaky. Consider instead building rapport the old fashioned way: By being your best self, finding things in common, and being friendly and helpful.

 

One way to do this is to ask questions, and then actually listen to the answer. Sales king Tom Hopkins says that, “The human body has two ears and one mouth. To be good at persuading or selling, you must learn to use those natural devices in proportion. Listen twice as much as you talk and you’ll succeed in persuading others nearly every time.”

 

Secret #4: Go the Extra Mile: Because it costs so much more to win a new customer than it does to keep an old one, it behooves you to foster your relationships with your current clientele. Part of that is doing your homework and keeping up to date on where your customers are and what they need. A little extra effort into learning about a customer, for instance, by studying trends in their industry or knowing a bit about a competitor, can go a long way towards impressing that customer and keeping him or her around.

 

Remember this too – it can takes up to six interactions to close a sale. Going the extra mile means being willing to see a potential customer again and again, continuing to build rapport, until the sale is made.

Finally, going the extra mile also means following up. Sending thank you notes, checking in to see if the product is working out, and that sort of thing builds rapport for future sales.

 

Secret #5: Sales is Like Golf: If you have ever played even a little golf you know that the harder you try, the less successful you are. But when you ease off the throttle a bit and trust your natural abilities, when you stop trying so hard, that is when the great shots appear.

 

Well, to a certain extent the same is true in sales. It is a paradox: Just as you make the great golf shot by not caring about the great golf shot, so too can you get the sale by not worrying about the sale. A customer can sense when a sale is your priority, and will back off accordingly. But once he is convinced you are more concerned with helping him solve his problem, rather than being more concerned with selling, you will birdie the sale.

 

 


 

About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

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