4 Simple Rules For Struggling Part-Time Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners

 

Last week, I asked you – what’s keeping you stuck with unfulfilled potential in your business?

I hope you looked at the seven common traps that ensnare entrepreneurs and small business owners and decided not to fall prey to them.

This week, I want to speak to those of you who are feeling stuck because your business has not moved beyond it’s part-time status. You are still in your day job and had hoped by now that you’d be enjoying the full-time freedom of being your own boss.

Don’t worry! It WILL happen. Your focus right now isn’t on the speed at which you can transition into a full time business. Your greatest concern is being fully able to sustain yourself and your business once you do.

Here’s my advice to you…

DO NOT Quit Your Day Job.

At least not until you have six months of business and living expenses saved. This is especially true if your business has not been consistently profitable over the past six months.

Find Your Niche.

One of the most daunting tasks of the small business owner is focusing on a specific target market. Most believe that in order to sell more, they have to offer a larger variety of different types of services and products to a wide variety of people. They don’t want to sell to everyone. Reality check – The days of general stores are over. Particularly online, consumers are looking for businesses that specialize. You have to find a need-something a specific group of people want, -and fill it.

 Have an Online Presence.

This may seem like an odd rule. After all, this is 2012, right? You would be surprised, though, at the number of small business owners who still don’t have even a basic website. If this is you – start developing one today! Even if you don’t have an online retail business, consider that the internet can still play a valuable role in your company. Having an online presence eliminates the limitations of physical location and broadens your customer base by, literally, millions. It’s also a great tool for promoting yourself and letting people, even in your own area, know that you’re there, and what you’re doing.

Refuse to Quit

Successful entrepreneurship requires creativity, energy, and a drive to keep going when you fail. Few people realize that before Bill Gates created the extremely successful Microsoft 3.0, he created a Microsoft 1.0 and 2.0, both of which flopped-but he kept at it. And that determination and refusal to give up is what will separate successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones. Arm yourself with optimism to get beyond the ‘No’ or the trouble. There’s nothing wrong in failure-just don’t repeat the same mistake twice!

Quoting Les Brown, ” You have greatness within you!” And, that greatness is also within your business. Tap into the awesome and vast untapped potential that is within your business so that you can begin to impact more people, earn more profits, and enjoy the freedom of the lifestyle you truly desire- and deserve!

I hope you’re joining me tomorrow for From Potential to Prosperity! It’s this month’s free business training call and I’m sure it will help you to move your business into the phenomenal success it is destined to be. Reserve your spot now – http://www.beneciaponder.com/teleclasses/

Until the next time we meet, I’m wishing you lots of passion, purpose, and prosperity!

Benecia Ponder

7 Step Plan To Get Going With Networking

Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, feel like you have the gift of gab or just don’t know how to make small talk, networking know-how is very important for your business success. There is a notion in business that I believe most of us subscribe to that says “all things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to those they know, like and trust.” And the key to this is obviously being able to develop relationships.

Think of networking as the cultivation of mutually beneficial, win-win relationships. In order to be win-win, there must be GIVE and take (notice the emphasis on give). Networking shouldn’t be viewed as “events” where you go to sell your business. When effective networking is taking place, the parties involved actively share ideas, information, resources, etc.

Ok, so you know that you should be networking because it is one of the most cost-effective lead generation activities when used wisely, appropriately and professionally. But, maybe that seems easier said than done. Here’s a seven step plan to really get going with networking for your business.

1. Check out several groups to find the best chemistry and perceived value. Most groups will allow you to come and visit at least a couple of times before you have to join. Go and ask around to find out why others have joined and what value they get out of belonging.

Resist the urge to just go join the Chamber of Commerce simply because everyone tells you that’s what you need to do. If that’s not where your target group can be found, then you might just be wasting a considerable amount of time (and money).

I’m not telling you not to join the Chamber. Just be clear about what you’d like to get out of this or any other group. If it’s to find prospective clients or referral sources, then you need to be networking where those resources can be found.

2. When you find a group or two, join and go to all the meetings you can. Don’t go just once or twice expecting things to happen and then if they don’t quit. Building mutually beneficial, win-win relationships will take some time.

The contacts you make need to constantly see your face and hear your message. Continual contact with others over time will open up opportunities for you to go deeper and learn more about each others thoughts, ideas and capabilities in regards to your respective businesses.

Know, like, and trust generally only happens over time. Being regular and persistent will pay off.

3. Get involved – be visible. Do as much as you can to make yourself more visible within the organization. Volunteer to help with meetings, be on committees, or become a leader or board member.

Being involved does a couple of things for you and your business. First, you’ll get more opportunities to establish connections and get to know some of the contacts you’ve made even better. Secondly, the higher the visibility you have in the group, the less you’ll have to work to make new connections. Instead, as new people come into the group, they will likely seek you out because they view you as a leader within the organization.

4. Keep your circles of contacts informed. Don’t just assume that running in to someone once a month (or even once a week) will cause them to start doing business with you or sending it your way. You need to let them know what’s going on when you’re not at that particular group in order to inform and educate them.

Send them invitations to your events or open houses. Send them email or letters to share big news or success stories, especially anything of relevance to them or those in their networks of contacts. If you believe that you have valuable ideas, information and resources to share with others, then doesn’t this just make sense?

5. Work at GIVING referrals and sharing valuable information. That’s right, you need to be willing to GIVE before you get. That means you need to get to know other members and what makes a good prospect for them. What kinds of information might you have access to that could be useful to them?

You may initially think you don’t have much of value to share with others (besides your business and what you provide). Part of the key to getting good at giving is to not make assumptions. For example, don’t assume that some basic resource (e.g., a web site) that you’re aware of is familiar to someone you might be talking to just because they are the “expert” in that field. Be willing to ask if they know about the resource and ready to share if they don’t.

Want to get better at actually giving referrals? Here’s a simple question to ask someone you’re connecting with. “How am I going to know when I meet a really good prospect for you?”

Just the fact that you are willing to explore giving will elevate your know, like and trust factor.

6. Focus on Quality, not Quantity, Quantity, Quantity. It’s not necessarily about the number of connections you make, but about the quality of the ones you do make. Are they mutually beneficial, win-win relationships?

Quality connections will be identifiable because all involved parties will be actively sharing ideas, information, and resources. Yes, it is true that you need to spend some time and effort getting to know the other person(s) and what’s important to them. But, you also need to be clear and actively thinking about what information or resources you want and need.

Staying in touch with and following up with a smaller number of quality relationships will generally be much more productive than trying to follow up with a larger number of superficial contacts.

7. Be persistent, but be patient. The goal of a networking event shouldn’t necessarily be to come away with prospects every time you go out, but to come away with great connections. Networking usually takes time to get the relationships developed and nurtured.

Don’t approach networking as a scary proposition or a necessary evil for being in business. Take the pressure off yourself and really focus on how you might be able to connect with someone you meet. Focus on them first and look for ways to be useful to them. As you become known as a connector you’ll eventually be ready to reap what you sow.

8 BIG Small Business Mistakes

Here’s an interesting notion: Do you realize that there are mistakes you can make at various stages of your business’ growth that can be slowly killing it for months or even years if you don’t watch for them?

Well, these mistakes do exist and they are not just reserved for the rookie companies. Many working businesses, including those you might think are “successful” because they’ve been around for 10+ years, are often still making them… and are possibly losing a lot of money and/or wasting a lot of time in the process.

Although some of these big and sneaky mistakes seem aimed more at service type companies, they really do fit the bill for almost any type of industry. I’ve done my best with the listings below to give examples to prove it.

Underestimating Project/Service Time– This is a big one and it pertains to service companies as well as companies that sell a product. This is a service company’s bread and butter. If you don’t estimate your time to perform each and every service in your repertoire, you will get burned and there is little you can do about it but bite the bullet and learn from it. The best way to estimate time is to do it once yourself or watch your best employee do the task and then throw in a little fudge factor on top of it. For product companies, time becomes an issue with logistics so be aware!

Not Knowing YOUR Company Numbers/Incorrectly Setting Prices– Notice I emphasized the word “your”. It’s a common mistake to use a competitor’s as your pricing gauge without actually knowing why they use those numbers. Think about the nightmare you will get yourself into if you take a competitor’s price, cut it by 10% and then start selling. What if the competition has a bad pricing structure and is barely making money or even losing money?!?! What if your costs are more than theirs?!?! You can use competitor as a starting point but you can’t base your whole strategy on it.

Different industries have their own variables as far as costs go and you need to be aware of them for your project or product pricing. What you pay for a product you are going to sell is not the only cost to have in your head when you are pricing products. How much your labor and materials cost for a service is only a piece of an hourly rate. Employees cost more than just salary and not every employee is part of your labor cost. Every company has insurance to pay for. There are tons of overhead expenditures that need to be part of your price. Oh, by the way, the big one that many people forget about in their price is the quality factor. What you include as “standard services” or “standard product features” as well as job site etiquette or in store service or warranties all need to go into your pricing. I’ll get to more on why in the next segment.

Not Charging for All of Your Time & Costs– This seems like a stupid statement to some but I bet most business owners will admit that they have given away a little too much of the farm at times. Hey, there is nothing wrong with giving a little extra here and there to show you care. But either way, that’s not what I’m talking about here. What concerns me are those that put a lot of quality into their work or products or stores and do not cover the cost for it. As an example, say you run a service company and your competitors don’t do a certain standard service that you do. You can’t just undercut their price to steal a job; you need to have that cost covered in your rate and advertise the fact that it comes with the price upfront. Stores undermine themselves, for example, when they put more people on the floor for customer service but don’t charge for it. These things cost you money and when your competitors don’t do them it costs them less money. Put out better service and then under price them, and your competition just has to wait a little bit for you to fall on your face so they can swoop back in.

As a business owner you need to believe that you are providing your clients worthwhile wares that deserve to be paid for. If you get the chance to explain why your prices are higher, then take that opportunity and do it. If they don’t like the fact that you include things that others charge extra for later or that you treat them better, then they are most likely completely price shoppers. You don’t want them as regular customers anyway. Trust me.

Not Getting Paid Fast Enough– That’s right, the old cash flow issue. As long as you are actually making enough money to pay the bills, this problem can be solved, prevented or at least made to be not as bad as it could be. Here’s the deal:

First off all, bill customers very promptly. It is very common for a small business to not have the procedures or systems in place to get invoices generated and out the door in a timely fashion (see the next segment for more). Again, this would seem unlikely since that’s the reason why we are doing the work- to get paid. But it is very easy for the people responsible for getting this info to the billing people to be too busy to get it there or not have enough organization to give it to them the right way.

The second part to slowing down or stopping a regular cash flow crunch is to make the quickest payment deals possible with customers and the slowest possible with vendors and employees. If there is any way not to pay employees any more than twice a month, you better do it. Contractors always have an issue with this. If you must pay weekly, then tell them before they are hired that they will be getting the first week held back, essentially buying you a week. It will help, I promise.

Part three involves credit. If your company can get a credit card, then get it. This allows for certain important things to be bought (that you can afford) that might come up during a cash flow crunch. Better yet, especially if you have no choice but to deal with 45+ day customer payments, do your best to get a company line of credit. This is a must if you plan on selling to the government or doing commercial service work. These clients often have 60 to 90 day wait periods.

Failure to Have Solid Systems and Procedures in Place– Too many procedures (known as “red tape”) is the reason why many people start their own business in the first place. Unfortunately, having no procedures and systems in place at all is not an alternative. Depending on the type of industry, business owners must come to a happy medium or chaos and the unknown will ensue. Some basic examples where procedures or systems are needed include billing, collections, payroll, hr (interviewing, hiring, vacations, benefits, job responsibilities, etc.), manufacturing, operating equipment, maintaining equipment, inventory, sales calls/visits and logistics to name a few.

Even a one person show needs to have some admin procedures in place. This will make it easier to hire temps and subcontractors and control what they are doing for you. Without at least a watered down version of a system or procedure to do everyday work, you will be to blame for causing many major headaches as your company grows. I can’t emphasize how important this is for when you bring on new employees. I’m sure you heard this before, but I am also a big proponent of having an employee handbook even for one employee. It’s amazing the trouble people can cause business owners just because they allow you to pay them.

Spending Advertising Money Just to Say You Advertise– I would almost rather see my clients not advertise then to spend without regard to tracking the results. There is no point in a marketing campaign if you do not put things in place that allow you to measure how well the plan is working. The other wasteful part of marketing that many people make the mistake of doing, is not tracking their previously successful campaigns. Why some people think that just because a $400 dollar a month ad worked once very well for one busy season, that it will automatically work every year after that is beyond me.

Spreading Yourself Too Thin– This is a classic mistake made by every entrepreneur. The key is to figure out when you are at that “wearing too many hats” point and start getting some help. The solution here is to know your strengths and to be able see when you are not performing the duties that demand these skills. If you are the best sales person on the company, you can’t get caught up in day-to-day operations. If you do, sales will slip and eventually you won’t have any operations to worry about. Think about this to help you figure out if you are spread too thin: Did you really go into business for yourself to work 80+ hours a week?

Not Getting Help Soon Enough– Set goals to know when to hire people to take over where you are light on knowledge. Not getting help or waiting too long can kill a company. Most people who start a business do it because they are good at the technical end or the sales end. If you know the best way to make a widget, then your strength is in production and that is where your time should be spent. Hire an outside company or consultant to take care of the sales and marketing and then hire inside when you can afford someone full time. Don’t be something to your company that you are not. It will only hold you back.

The three big issues people like to tackle themselves but usually are least knowledgeable about are legal issues, accounting/bookkeeping issues and daily operations issues. The odds are that these three things are your weakest link so if you don’t have a partner that has the background for these subjects, then be prepared to get help as soon as possible. It’s preferable that you do this before you start a business.

Although looking for these problems at any time is a good idea, the end of a year or season is an excellent business interval to make sure you are not making these errors. Take the time, or make the time, to fix these problems. If you don’t know how to reverse the problems, then get some help. If you really don’t have enough time to either figure out if you have these issues or know they are there and can’t break away long enough to do it right, then get some help.

Attract Your Ideal Clients With Client Eligibility Criteria

Hi! Welcome to this edition of The Flourishing Entrepreneur Laser Coaching Moment.

Most entrepreneurs make the fatal mistake of trying to be a jack of all trades – they try to help everyone do everything. In this edition of The Flourishing Entrepreneur Laser Coaching Moment, I am challenging you to narrow your focus.

Determine the profile of your ideal client and set a set of eligibility criteria for your services. When you do, you’ll find that the quality of your clients and the services you provide to them are elevated

Enjoy!

Benecia Ponder
Entrepreneur Coach and Founder of The Flourishing Entrepreneur Master Class
http://theflourishingentrepreneur.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/beneciaponderfanpage
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/beneciaponder
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/BeneciaPonderTV

Why Do People Buy What You Are Selling

Hi! Welcome to this edition of The Laser Coaching Moment with Benecia Ponder.

Do you know why people buy what you are selling? If not, it’s time for you to find out.

Oftentimes entrepreneurs and small business owners have a hard time attracting new clients into their business because they have not uncovered the things that motivate their clients to buy.

The bottom line – your clients buy from you because your services alleviate their pains and fulfills their desires. All of your communications with your potential clients should let the know that you understand their pains, you identify with their desires, and your services will give them exactly what they need and want.

Enjoy!

BeneciaPonderTVBenecia Ponder
Business Success Coach and founder of The Flourishing Entrepreneur
http://theflourishingentrepreneur.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/beneciaponderfanpage
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/beneciaponder
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/BeneciaPonderTV