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15 Oct 2018

How To Squeeze The Most Money Out Of Your Company With A DIY Sale

https://i2.wp.com/c3n4sovn.cloudimg.io/cdn/s/s/_production_edit_content-images/wk10-sale-banner-LP-uk.png?resize=457%2C227&ssl=1With the huge group of baby boomers hitting retirement age, we’re seeing a lot of businesses up for sale—and Gen-Xers won’t be far behind.

When the time to exit rolls around, it’s extremely important to get the most value out of your company, because there are no “do-overs” when exiting your business.

Consequently, a large and growing industry has developed around the business of selling businesses. Not to question the value of those in these ancillary businesses, but let’s face it: They all take a share of your money, and the goal of selling your business is to end up with the biggest chunk of change in your pocket. Right?

If you’re thinking of selling your business, be sure to explore all your options

This is why if you decide to sell your company, you need to explore all your options before you commit to one path. There might be popular business brokers in your community that are recommended, but they are going to take at least 10% of your proceeds, so don’t sign on with anyone just because of convenience.

Take a long look at doing a DIY or hybrid DIY sale of your business. I recommend this approach because today, more than ever before, you have excellent free resources available to you, including:

  • Free advice from experienced retired owners and executives
  • Excellent internet assets
  • A dedicated Small Business Administration (SBA)
11 Oct 2018

This Single Trait Will Make Your Business Competitive

صورة ذات صلةNot all of them are household names — yet — but Fast Company’s 2018 Innovation by Design award winners are well on their way to being recognized disruptors. What each of these organizations shares isn’t a product or design methodology. Instead, it’s the kind of team members they hire. And those are team members who challenge the status quo.

For instance, the architects at NBBJ have reimagined the corporate workspace in their biophilic design of Amazon Spheres, a greenhouse-turned-office. And a group of Microsoft employees expanded the global app user base by developing Seeing AI, an app for the visually impaired. When it comes to innovation, employees and their ideas matter. Employing the right workers translates to massive evolutions in industry solutions and game-changing ideas.

“The team is something we pay a lot of attention to — particularly how passionate they are,” says Amy Gu, managing partner at venture capital fund Hemi VC, who was recently named one of Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 winners. “Sometimes ideas come from a random thing in your life. But that random idea will somehow become a big idea if you have the right people with the right passion.” Finding people with the right passion requires a recruitment process that goes beyond the conventional to uncover a cadre of winners eager to rattle a few cages.

Interviewing for Innovation, Not Just a Skill Set

Traditional interviewing techniques may put experts in seats, but those experts may not possess the necessary attributes to innovate. A great example is curiosity, which leads people to constantly ask the “why” in everything. “Being curious” is hardly a résumé staple, yet it’s integral to forging a new path.

Another seldom-considered characteristic among team members who can’t stop innovating is a general eccentricity. Perhaps such people have unusual hobbies, or they might be moody creatives. Often, these folks bring outlooks that can totally transform the way a business operates.

Why don’t more personnel managers look for these and other out-of-the-box traits, such as multidisciplinary thinking or unflagging excitement? According to 88 percent of executive participants in an academic study, innovators are a crucial component for competitiveness. Yet recruiters generally aren’t trained to interview in an innovation-focused way; thus, the most inventive candidates may slip between the cracks.

In order to ensure your company doesn’t squander the opportunity to hire for this competitive advantage, you need to change the way you investigate potential hires. Use these four tactics to identify the next innovators you invite to join your team:

1. Explore a candidate’s curiosity.

Predicting candidates’ curiosity is inquisitive work. You have to drill down deeply to learn about their history of imagination on and off the job. This can be accomplished by asking about interesting or unusual campaigns they spearheaded or how they solved a particularly puzzling problem.

As you listen to their responses, look for nontraditional (versus conventional) styles of thinking. Do they seem like by-the-book rule followers who need guidance at every step? Or do they seem to thrive when dealing with the unknown or unpredictable?

2. Build a team of diversified hobbyists.

Even if your company exists to develop enterprise software, you shouldn’t just hire computer science grads. Why? All you’ll get is more of the same. However, if you hire someone who offers a different perspective, you might have a chance at upending your industry.

Outside interests tell a lot about people, from their energy levels to their values. A diverse team will naturally bring unusual concepts to the table, so make sure to ask candidates about new things they’ve learned and what they like to do in their free time.

3. Seek out naturally thirsty learners.

Ready to jettison the applicant with four degrees because the candidate seems overqualified for the position? It’s time to reconsider. Many times, people who obtain multiple degrees aren’t especially money-motivated; they’re propelled by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, which makes them an asset to your team.

They’re also trained to repurpose existing facts into bold new approaches. According to Isaiah Hankel, CEO and founder of Cheeky Scientist, an industry training platform for academic Ph.D.s, constant learners will bring innovation in droves. “By definition, a master’s degree of any kind requires the recipient to master a field,” explains Hankel. “On the other hand, a Ph.D. requires the recipient to add to a field.” Remember that multidisciplinary thinking I mentioned? These candidates have it baked right in.

4. Uncover how an applicant strategizes.

During your next interview, consider having the candidate perform a task alone or in tandem with your employees — maybe even alongside other interviewees. You’ll not only get a better understanding of how he or she works collaboratively, but you’ll have a better sense of his or her method of strategically solving an issue.

You’re looking for a personality filled with imagination and creativity plus an approach different from your own. After the experiment or presentation, debrief the applicant. Discuss his or her thought processes. You’ll gather insights you couldn’t get just by asking interview questions.

Even if your startup isn’t determined to earn an innovation award, you can still boost your competitive prospects by putting innovators on the payroll. Each new viewpoint represents a chance to take a quantum leap forward.

Serenity Gibbons is a former assistant editor at The Wall Street Journal. The local unit lead for the NAACP in Northern California and a consultant helping to build diverse workforces, Serenity enjoys gathering insights from people who are creating better workplaces and maki…

Serenity Gibbons

10 Oct 2018

4 Examples of How loT Makes Your Business More Efficient

4 Ways Small Business IoT Can Help a Company Work More EfficientlyBenefits of Small Business IoT

Take a look at these 4 ways the IoT can help your small business work more efficiently.

Increase Awareness

As a business owner, it’s a good idea to print and use flyers to build awareness and inform potential customers about your business, products or services. The IOT has made information easily available and accessible. One of many amazing things IoT has led to in the healthcare industry is the development of self-monitoring and wearable health technology that will suit almost every type of budget. The availability of smart gadgets to better your health and provide readily available information combine to create a consciousness about health and wellness.

Provide Free Assistants

If you can’t afford a human assistant but could use some extra help to manage your day-to-day tasks, you may consider Google Assistant. Other professionals prefer Amazon Alexa or Siri. People turn to these devices when they’re connected to task management systems and calendars. The devices have the ability to control other smart devices, removing tedious tasks like scheduling and research from the long to-do lists all business owners have. One of many things small business owners should know is that it’s smart to take advantage of free assistants and other tools that simplify your day and boost productivity.

Utilize Smart Locks to Improve Safety

Businesses are turning to smart lock systems; they allow users to give access to buildings instead of tangible keys. Small businesses can control and monitor a door from any location. Smart Lock can also tell if a door is open, and those who use this system can select a package that includes a camera at the door bell, so they can view the visitor before opening the door.

Small businesses can also invest in cameras to monitor security footage in different locations around their business. No need to hire a security guard when you can trust in the IoT options to view your surroundings and boost safety at your brick and mortar location.

Better Transport and Delivery of Goods

If your business has shipments coming in and out, the IoT will help you – it allows for real time tracking. With the implementation of sensors and smart tagging, all individuals with access can easily track the transport and delivery of the packages – something that is very valuable for small businesses that are sending sensitive information.

Smart tags and sensors are game changers for the retail industry. The IoT devices have the ability to track where every item is located in real-time, even identifying the location of an item within a warehouse. This allows for efficient stock and inventory tracking.

The IoT industry is improving the way people work, boosting efficiency. If you’re trying to compete with larger businesses, this efficiency is a key part of your growth and success. The IoT automates office tasks, from customer service to managing resources, to make your life easier and your business run better. Adopt and embrace these offerings if you want to stay competitive in the business arena.

by Megan Totka

09 Oct 2018

Got a New Business Idea? Don’t Ask Anyone Else’s Opinion

A few months ago, a bright young man named Charles came to see me for advice about a business he was starting. The business, he said, was a hedge fund of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. There were actually more than 1,500 types of cryptocurrency at the time, and the number had been growing fast, but he said he was trading only the few that were well-constructed and likely to last. “What do you think about cryptocurrency?” he asked.

I’ve heard some version of the question “What do you think of my idea for a business?” over and over for the past 50 years. First-time entrepreneurs always want to know what I think. I gave Charles the same answer I’ve given all the others: “It doesn’t matter what I think. All that matters is what you think.”

“But you must have an opinion,” Charles insisted.

“Sure, I have an opinion,” I said. “So what? I may be wrong.” And then I told him a story.

It happened in early 1969, when I was a newly minted, 26-year-old lawyer with my own practice in Brooklyn. A guy named Richard Nader came to see me. He had an idea for a rock ‘n’ roll concert business featuring performers from the 1950s. He was planning to stage the first concert at the Felt Forum in Madison Square Garden. He wanted me to put up $25,000 to help fund it. “What do you think?” he asked.

I told him I thought it was the stupidest idea I had ever heard. Understand, the country was still experiencing the British Invasion set off by the Beatles, who scored three U.S. No. 1 hits in 1969–five years after they first topped the Billboard Hot 100 with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Motown was also going strong. I couldn’t imagine that enough people would want to hear a bunch of washed-up rock ‘n’ roll bands to fill the Felt Forum, and I wasn’t alone. Nader had already spent four years trying to interest well-known music promoters, including Dick Clark, in his idea. After striking out with everybody else, he finally managed to borrow the money he needed from a furniture manufacturer and put on his first two Rock & Roll Revival concerts on October 18, 1969, with performances by, among others, Bill Haley and His Comets, the Coasters, the Shirelles, and the Platters.

Both shows sold out. So did almost all of the 25 oldies concerts he went on to produce at Madison Square Garden. They were so popular, in fact, that they had to be moved from the Felt Forum, which could accommodate about 4,500 people, to the main arena, which held up to 20,000.

Over the next 40 years, Nader took his oldies shows to giant venues throughout the United States and Great Britain. He even produced an oldies movie based on the concerts. A company bearing his name that he started in 1989 is still staging oldies concerts today, nine years after his death.

In the early days of his business, Nader would always send me two front-row tickets to his concerts in Madison Square Garden. It was his way of reminding me how wrong I had been about “the stupidest idea I had ever heard.” That idea wound up making him millions and millions of dollars and transforming the rock ‘n’ roll concert business.

I got the message. Since then, I have never told entrepreneurs starting businesses what I think of their ideas. On the contrary, I have urged them as forcefully as I can not to ask for or listen to other people’s opinions of their ideas. The world is full of naysayers happy to tell you how crazy you are to take a chance on a business.

I think my story convinced Charles that there was no point asking me about his idea. I told him I was very willing to offer my thoughts on how he might implement the idea and what was the likeliest way to raise the money he needed. He thanked me. I asked him to keep me posted on his progress. I’ll let you know what happens.

@NormBrodsky

09 Oct 2018

China: What Xi Jinping Means For Your Business

China's President Xi Jinping at the first session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People. / NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

Xi Jinping has arguably changed China more than any leader since the reform era began in the late 1970s. Much of what is happening in China today would have happened regardless of the leader due to its size and growing wealth, but Xi has provided direction and a compelling vision for the future. With high economic growth rates, rapid infrastructure development and modern living standards (combined with visions of political and social control) China now offers a refined model of ‘modern state-led capitalism with Chinese characteristics’ that is unique – an attractive mix to many emerging market leaders. As this model is promoted by Chinese leaders this is becoming a global competition for market dominance in developing countries, especially in certain key sectors such as SMART infrastructure, high-speed rail, payment apps and satellite navigation.

Xi Jinping and his administration are pursuing five key strategies in developing this new China model, which presents significant challenges and opportunities to foreign companies wanting to do business in and with China:

Reinserting a reinvigorated Party into daily commercial life

As the son of an early revolutionary (a ‘princeling’) Xi believes the Party is central to China’s continued success and stability. An unprecedented anti-corruption drive has seen thousands of Party members removed or jailed. The Party is now leading policy in a way not seen since Mao’s time. Party cells in corporations are now mandated (a tip: you already had the representatives even if you didn’t know it) and tasked with promoting ‘Xi Jinping thought’ and driving Beijing’s agenda – an initiative that is somewhat contentious even in China.

What does this mean for your business? This means Party and state priorities are driven down to the working level in the country’s local and foreign businesses. State-owned enterprises will, of course, be the primary agent of change, and often they are your biggest competitors or clients, so you need to understand their new priorities. But even privately owned businesses are on the hook, especially the bigger ones in sensitive areas like new technologies. It will be increasingly necessary for foreign investors in China to be perceived to be supporting national goals championed by the Party and this needs to be factored into your strategic planning. And don’t be unnecessarily concerned about Party cells being established in your company – as a client of ours said, ‘It’s much better to be upfront and be able to engage than to have everything hidden.

Recentralizing government to increase efficiency and implementation

Since Mao’s death, China had been run on a broad consensus basis. Power was devolved from Beijing to the provinces and to government bodies beyond the Party. This allowed for rapid economic growth, but also stalled reform and encouraged bureaucratic infighting and corruption on a grand scale. When Xi took over five years ago, he instituted a number of ‘leading small groups’ to address issue-specific reform challenges (i.e. state-owned enterprises, healthcare, banking, etc.). Since March 2018, these groups have been merged into a re-organized bureaucratic structure streamlined by sector and focused on regulation and reform. Think you could count on that latest initiative being watered down or never get the ‘chop’ of approval? Think again. Once fully operational, these structures are intended to circumvent time-consuming consensus and as a result changes are expected to come very rapidly and often without much prior notice.

What does this mean for your business? Any complacency means being caught flat-footed when rapid changes to policy and regulation occur. Companies can no longer focus government relations merely on gaining market access, relying on a slothful retired MOFCOM official sitting in the corner office; rather, companies need to engage with government for the purposes of risk management, proactively reaching out to officials at multiple levels across the bureaucratic structure to understand policy and regulatory changes, and make adjustments before they take place. This is an excellent example of how strategies used years ago when entering China will not work now.

Refining a strategic national industrial policy for a transitioning economy

Even casual observers of China are awed by the speed and scope of its economic development, not least all because it is a society that is rapidly going cashless thanks to popular mobile payment apps. But the old model, which was successively driven by foreign investment, foreign trade and, most recently, heavy capital investment, is no longer sustainable for a number of reasons – debt, demographics and environmental degradation to name a few. Xi and the leadership have developed a strategic, long-term, robustly funded plan to vault China into the next era. Called the Made in China 2025 program, it focuses on China becoming independent with home-grown technology and launching manufacturers into high-tech production. The government is providing generous financial incentives to a large swath of commercial sectors and emerging technologies from air compressors to AI, robotics to high-speed rail to guarantee dominance in key sectors that Beijing has identified as crucial in its effort to become the leading, global economic power.

What does this mean for your business? This means an increasingly uneven playing field with Chinese competitors moving quickly from ‘good enough’ to being able to provide premium products that compete with any multinational. Made in China 2025 will benefit your domestic Chinese competitors, who will have the opportunity to reap the benefits of tremendous resources – funding for investment, special projects and R&D, tax relief, subsidies – and be favored in the government’s effort to identify opportunities for industrial consolidation and create champions. Some of our clients are scrambling to readjust market strategy after key sectors were suddenly declared off-limits to foreign suppliers. Foreign companies are likely to face a more aggressive regulatory enforcement environment and decreasing access to the China market.

Regulating and enforcing (with Chinese characteristics)

Streamlining regulation, the government entities responsible for enforcement and regulations under which they operate have been a focus for President Xi. Part of the structural changes introduced in early 2018 included the creation of two super-regulatory bodies with immense powers: the National Supervision Commission, which sits at the highest level of the government and is responsible for enforcing Beijing’s edicts and regulations across all levels of government; and the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR), which is a ministry-level organization that combines anti-monopoly, anti-unfair competition (including commercial bribery), pricing, food and drug, labor, environmental protection and intellectual property regulators into one powerful body. The SAMR represents the streamlining of supervision, investigation and prosecution, and poses the risk that companies are more likely to face increasingly sophisticated enforcement on multiple fronts.

What does this mean for your business? The long Chinese tradition of broad laws, written vaguely and selectively enforced, is coming to an end. China is increasingly a place where companies are expected to operate according to promulgated regulations or suffer penalties for non-compliance – in other words rule by law (as opposed to rule of law). While this may simplify things and provide greater clarity, some of the consequences are already evident in the ongoing barrage of anti-competition, environmental and workplace safety enforcement – not only has enforcement been sudden and rapid, in some cases it has resulted in immediate shutdowns or detention of factory managers in severe cases. This crackdown isn’t temporary; it will be a regular feature for businesses operating in China. Companies need to look at their China strategies and operations from the regulators’ perspective and identify threats and vulnerabilities in this new environment.

Reasserting China’s role as an emerging regional and global power

As a natural progression to its rapid growth, demand for global commodities and its role as the world’s largest trading economy, China is increasingly a regional and global actor in a way it has not been for centuries. It has reclaimed and militarized large parts of the South China Sea, launched its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to extend infrastructure (and influence) across Eurasia and the Indian Ocean (gaining the controlling interest in 75 ports across 35 countries in the process), and installed its first foreign military base in Djibouti. Approval for global mergers must now be sought in Beijing as well as Brussels and Washington DC, and some companies have had to scupper global M&A strategies when they couldn’t obtain China’s approval (e.g. Qualcomm and NXP). China has also created a series of ‘parallel international institutions,’ including the AIIB, the SCO, and the ‘16+1’ grouping with the states of Eastern Europe. In short, China is intent on setting its own global agenda, a more Sino-friendly world order.

What does this mean for your business? With economic clout and an expanded international presence comes influence, so just as Britain and then the US dominated markets and set global standards in past eras, so too will China in this century. This will naturally cause friction with other countries but it also represents a significant opportunity. China’s planned investment in the BRI alone will allegedly total over USD 1 trillion and some foreign companies are already reaping the commercial benefits of supplying this initiative, often via their China operations. But corporate headquarters have to be aware and stay attuned to the changing nature of China’s influence and sensitivities (e.g. the recent dispute with international airlines over nomenclature referring to Taiwan) as well as the opportunities China’s expansion presents.

CONCLUSION

The news today is filled with breathless and dramatic accounts of the changes in China and China’s increasingly active engagement with the world, many times ending with zero-sum predictions of a decline in reach and success for multinational businesses. We do not believe this is a foregone conclusion; however, threats to multinational companies abound if they blindly carrying on doing in China what they have been doing there for decades. China is in the process of creating an alternative ecosystem and a systemic challenge to capitalism as practiced in liberal-democratic societies: a state-led, regulatory-driven model governing companies, capital, society and data that will require foreign operators to adapt to a new playbook. The result is that your future China business may not resemble the rest of your business in key aspects, nor will it necessarily be similar to the business models you used when your company first entered China.

Dane Chamorro is a Senior Partner and Bliss Khaw is a Director at Control Risks – they are both former residents of Shanghai and fluent Chinese speakers.

By Dane Chamorro and Bliss Khaw

 

 

 

07 Oct 2018

Planning for success for your business

صورة ذات صلةThe traditional business plan has seen its ups and downs over the years. While still recommended for start ups, especially those seeking funding, business experts and assorted talking heads waver on the role of the traditional business plan for existing firms.  The necessity and value of a lengthy document stuffed with research, carefully worded text, and financial analyses is often seen as too cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive. “The business world is changing too fast! By the time the plan is done, it’s outdated!” they say. Besides, an existing business already knows what it does well, who it targets, and how to reach their goals, right?

Not so fast.

Here is the reality: businesses always need to plan effectively, regardless of how long they have been in business. The questions that effective planning seeks to answer are always relevant.

  • “What are we trying to accomplish?”
  • “What will be required?”
  • “Who are we targeting, and how will we reach them?”
  • “How much money will we need?”
  • “Will we make any money?”
  • “What is our competition doing?”

Here are six great reasons why your business needs a plan.

1.  To define success:

The planning process helps you get very clear about what success will look like for your business. If you don’t know the target, how can you hit it?

2.  To assess your market:

Proper planning helps you validate both the size and makeup of the market. Are there enough customers who want what you offer? What do they look like and where are they? What is your competition like, and can you compete effectively?

3.  To discover what it will take:

A good plan helps you ‘count the cost’, so you know what you are getting into.

What will it cost, in time, effort, and resources to attract your ideal customers, to expand your reach, add staff, or build that new location? What will you need to learn? How much money will you need to invest? Can you get there from here?

4.  To identify ways you will achieve:

Planning helps you uncover the strategies that will generate the results you seek. What methods will be used to get your message to the right market? What marketing tools will you use? What kind of skills do you need on your staff? What partners will you work with to increase your odds for success?

5.  To avoid mistakes:

Too many businesses fail in the early years. Many mistakes are probably preventable, if you take the time to learn from those who have ‘been there, done that’ and lived to tell the tale. Mistakes will be made, no question about it, but a good plan will help minimize the most common mistakes, and potentially uncover and correct others before they happen!

6. To engage your team:

A growing business depends on a team of talented and dedicated employees. A solid business plan, effectively communicated with your employees, helps them better understand what the overall business goals are and how their efforts will contribute to hitting the target.

Writing an effective business plan has many benefits, whether your business is just starting out or in the third generation. Take advantage of what the planning process can do for the future of your business. It’s not the Plan; it’s the PLANNING that makes the difference.

05 Oct 2018

5 Creative Ways to Use Periscope to Build Your Business

Mobile streaming is a great way to help you build your business. It is a way to connect with your customers and ensure that you have access to a powerful tool. The best tool out there is Periscope. This is one of those tools that is becoming the social platform of the future and it is offering a great and innovative way to reach new people. Here are the top 5 creative ways to use periscope to build your business.

  1. Live Demonstrations of Your product: Periscope is the perfect platform to allow you to share the details of your new product on the web. You are able to do an amazing interactive display with all of your followers and you can answer questions from them in real time as well. You can show all of the features and all of the bells and whistles of the product.
  2. Update Industry News: When you are in a certain niche, one of the best things about that is that you are able to break news that is going to be important to your industry. You can share trends, new products and other news that is going to allow you to update all of your readers with what is happening in your industry. You also can invite others to the discussion with a blog post or with a video about what is happening.
  3. Connecting With Influential Minds! There are many people out there in your industry, you want to make sure that you are taking the time to show up to all of the broadcasts out there which are important to you as well as to ask questions and interact with them as well. A large part of that is also making sure that you share the questions and the broadcasts as well on social channels. By using Periscope to its fullest advantage you can also develop a relationship with that influencer as well and see how you are able to have a more personal one on one session with them
  4. Show the Behind The Scenes View: When viewers feel like you are taking them on the inside, you are instantly making a connection with them and that will ensure that you are able to know that you are making a connection and making your viewers feel really special.
  5. Get New Subscribers: You want to make sure that you are able to always share your mailing list when you are going to provide a live broadcast, there are many ways that you will be able to have access to some of the best options when you offer an incentive for people to sign up for your newsletter as well. You want to offer a value of some kind like an ebook, a newsletter, a download or something that will ensure that there is going to be a new way for your clients to have value in what you have provided to them by them sharing their email address with you.
05 Oct 2018

How Review Sites Can Affect Your Business (And What You Can Do About It)

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Chances are, you’ve already gotten a taste of the power of review sites and what a single customer review can do for (or to) your business.

Review sites are no longer reserved for consumer products and restaurants. Now, they’ve taken on professional services such as medicine, hospitality and beauty as well as a recent surge in brick and mortar businesses such as grocery stores and gyms. They even have a place in our capital management firm, where we find review sites useful for seeing behind the scenes and helping to guide our underwriting decisions.

And, what’s more, BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey found that 93% of consumers read local reviews to make a shopping decision. In other words, no one’s getting away from the consumer-driven economy.

For that reason, if you want to build a successful small business in today’s market, you need to know how these sites can affect you, what they are and what you can do about it.

Review sites can affect your business.

Just how much can customer reviews – and your reputation on a relevant review site – affect your business?

The 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey found that negative reviews convinced 94% of consumers surveyed to avoid a particular business.

In addition, the BrightLocal survey found that 73% of consumers surveyed said they trust a local business more if it has positive customer reviews, whereas 50% of consumers said that negative customer reviews make them question the quality of a business.

More surprisingly, 85% of consumers in the BrightLocal survey trusted online reviews as much as they did recommendations from friends and family, which suggests that online reviews now hold nearly as much sway as personal referrals.

However, as powerful as positive reviews are, it’s negative reviews that I believe are more likely to spread through word of mouth.

Word of mouth has been – and, in my opinion, always will be – a powerful form of marketing and social proof. However, with the internet and the review sites that have grown from it, the equation is now more complicated.

A bad customer review on the right high-profile or niche review site can make a real impact on your business. On the other end, an amazing one can provide just the social proof your business needs to take it to the next level.

If you want to develop a positive reputation in the eyes of consumers, and maintain that good reputation, I believe you need to stay on top of customer reviews as closely as you would anything else.

Doing that is easier said than done, but the process for staying on top of customer reviews and your reputation on major review sites can be fairly straightforward.

Here are some tips for taking charge of your reputation on review sites and handling customer reviews.

Monitor all relevant review sites.

First, you need to know what the major review sites are for your industry or niche before you can do anything about them.

Here are some of the biggest and most important:

• BBB.org

• Yelp

• Facebook

• Google

• TripAdvisor

• Foursquare

• Yellow Pages

Keep in mind that your industry might include one or more important niche review sites, so I recommend doing your homework to find all of the relevant review sites to follow.

Once you’ve gathered a fairly comprehensive list (even the major sites, such as BBB, Yelp, Facebook and Google is a good starting point for now), you can start to monitor your reviews on those sites once or twice a week depending on the volume of reviews you’re receiving.

Turn negative reviews into positives.

In my experience, one of the most important things to do when it comes to handling customer reviews is to reply to negative reviews.

According to the ReviewTrackers survey, “45 percent of consumers say that they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.”

While I believe you should first look for a way to resolve the issue, sometimes there is no way to do so. In that case, it will still look a lot better to visitors looking over your reviews if you’ve replied and assured the reviewer that you’re sorry for their bad experience and want to reach out to reconcile.

There may or may not be any hope for fixing the review itself; however, at the very least, new visitors will see your efforts and know that you care, which can go a long way toward helping negate the effects of that bad review in the eyes of consumers.

Be persistent about obtaining positive reviews.

I believe customers are more likely to leave a negative review after a bad experience, so you need to be diligent in attracting positive reviews to relevant review sites.

In many cases, simply obtaining enough positive reviews to drown out any negative ones will be enough to maintain a good rating on any average review site. However, this can be difficult to do.

The best time to ask for a positive review is typically after a customer has had a great experience (i.e., they’re emotionally motivated to take action), as those customers will often want to give back for the amazing service you provided them. Even just a “We’re on Yelp!” sign that’s visible as they walk out can make a big difference.

Stay away from fake reviews.

Eliciting fake reviews is completely unethical to me, so this should be a given, but just in case it’s not: I believe you should never attempt to obtain fake reviews.

The last thing you want is to be kicked off a review site for violating their terms of service.

The ability to reply to negative reviews can be one of your most powerful weapons, and that’s placed in jeopardy by soliciting fake reviews. That’s aside from the fact that if you’re found to be obtaining fake reviews, you can be fined, as illustrated in a 2013 New York Times article (paywall).

However, in addition to this, consumers can generally smell fake reviews from a mile away. If you’ve ever come across an obviously fake review or multiple reviews with the same general written format, you know it’s a bit of a turn-off. Ultimately, I believe it will do your business more harm than good.

source forbes

03 Oct 2018

Apps for Your Business

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Business owners should constantly be looking for technology to make their business and employees more productive. While computers and smart phones come with a calendar, it might not be the best option for you or your business. Thankfully, there isn’t a shortage of other options.

Shared calendar apps make it easier to collaborate with co-workers and schedule meetings. Business News Daily talked to business owners to learn which shared calendar apps they use and why.

Here are the top six shared calendar apps they recommended.

Asana is more than a shared calendar app. While it has calendar features, it also makes it easy to manage team projects and tasks. The Timeline feature shows every piece of a project, how it all fits together and helps you track changes. Asana has a mobile app and has more than 100 integrations.

Asana doesn’t have a free plan, but it offers free trials and a lite version.

“Asana isn’t just a calendar though, it’s an enterprise resource planner that includes a shared calendar function, but it also provides other collaboration tools we require,” said David Alexander, designer, developer and digital marketer at Mazepress. “The pro of this approach includes having task management, communication and reporting tools all within a single interface … put simply, it’s one of the tools I couldn’t live without.”

Credit: Asana

Calendly is automated scheduling software that works with your calendar to automatically check your availability. It claims to help schedule meetings without a lot of back-and-forth emails. Other features include the ability to schedule buffer time between meetings, time zone detection, compatibility with apps like Salesforce, GoToMeeting, and Zapier, and it grows with your team.

“I use Calendly. I like to set up my podcast interviews,” said Michelle Ngome, host of the Networking With Michelle Show. “There is a free and a paid version. The free version allows you to use one category, while [with] the paid version, you can set up multiple categories. Plus, you can customize the URL.”

Ngome said her favorite feature is that it syncs with Google Calendar, and she can schedule personal appointments in Google without updating her schedule on Calendly. The program also integrates with Outlook, Office 365 and iCloud calendar.

Credit: Calendly

Google Calendar is an integrated online calendar designed for teams. This calendar integrates seamlessly with other G-Suite products, including Gmail, Drive, Contacts, Sites and Hangouts. This app can be accessed on laptops, tablets and phones.

“I use the Google Calendar app to book all my appointments with clients,” said Ana Santos, UX Consultant. “It’s also handy for video meetings, because it syncs with Google hangouts if we assign a video conferencing option to the event.”

Santos’ favorite feature is Google Calendar’s ability to sync your calendar across all devices and browsers if you’re logged in with your Google account.

Credit: Google

Outlook is a common calendar app, which makes it easy to use for business because it’s familiar. If you have an Exchange, Office 365 or Outlook account, you can share your calendar with other users. You can also create additional calendars for specific projects and share it with co-workers.

Credit: Microsoft

Teamup offers shared calendars for groups to simplify organizing, scheduling and communication. Businesses can choose from both a free and paid plans. Further, Teamup offers a live demo of its software as well as a three-day trial so you can see for yourself if this app is a good fit for your team.

This program was built specifically for groups, and its calendars are easy to use. Calendars are organized by color, and they can easily and securely be shared with other team members through a secure URL.

“I spent ages looking for a good shared calendar to manage events and holidays for a spread out team of people,” said Ben Taylor, founder of homeworkingclub.com. “I eventually opted for … Teamup. It gave me the ability to set up lots of different even categories, [it] allowed staff to pull their choice of calendars into their own software using ICS feeds, and [it] even comes with an app for iOS and Android.”

Credit: Teamup Solutions AG

With a lengthy list of features such as team timelines, zoom levels, project roadmaps, and a sharing timeline, Teamweek makes it easy to collaborate with your team. Its free plan works for a team with up to five people, and its mobile app lets you collaborate on the go. Paid plans start at $39 per month for up to 10 people and include projects roadmaps, annual view and custom colors.

“This is a visual resource for planning, managing, and scheduling our team’s projects,” said Alexis Davis, founder and CEO of H.K. Productions. “It serves as an open calendar so everyone knows who’s working on what, when, and how far we are from reaching our intended goals. I think intention, communication, transparency and everyone’s awareness of their roles and responsibilities is essential when choosing the right technology for your team’s productivity.”

 

businessnewsdaily , Saige Driver

03 Oct 2018

these 3 creative justifications could be killing your business without you even realizing it

Who here has ever been tempted to cut corners with their business? I’ll admit it, I have.Sometimes, you get that voice at the back of your head, saying: You’ve already spoken with your sales reps last week; that’s good enough. You have a gazillion things on your to-do list… you don’t need to check in with them again.

Now, I call this the “creative justification” trap. You know those justifications that sound as though they make sense, but are actually a cop-out? Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.

In your personal life, you might say to yourself “I’ve been sticking to my diet the whole week, so I deserve a cheeseburger this weekend,” or “I’ve saved a lot of money this month, now I can finally buy that new smartphone.”

You get the point.

Now, when you take a step back and think about it, you’ll realize that these creative justifications are nothing but excuses for you to cut corners.

And when it comes to your business, creative justifications can be very dangerous. In particular, make sure you avoid coming up with justifications in these three areas…

1.  Blaming external factors.

When things go wrong, plenty of entrepreneurs look for external factors to blame.

“Clients aren’t buying our new products because of the economic downturn.”

“I’m getting bad reviews on Yelp because my competitors are creating fake profiles.”

But here’s the thing — while these creative justifications might make you feel better, they won’t help you grow your business.

So what if there’s an economic downturn? Are you going to cancel all your product launches, and let your sales stagnate? No, you have to figure out a way to work through it, and drive more sales despite the downturn.

2. Compromising on ethics.

Making money is pretty dang important to me, but you know what’s more important? Being ethical and honest.

Say your supplier tells you they can swap out your materials for something lower-grade (and cheaper!), and your customers won’t know the difference. If you’re really struggling, you might be tempted to take up the offer, and use creative justification to ease your guilt.

Don’t do it. In this day and age, consumers value authenticity and honesty above everything else, and being ethical is the key to building a great business.

3. Moving away from your core business.

Your core business is your strength and your foundation, and you should never get distracted or move away from it.

I know, it’s easier said than done. You’ll always hear of exciting new opportunities and projects that you can jump in on. Your customers might also tempt you: “Why don’t you also offer X? If I pay you extra, can you do Y?”

It’s easy to come up with a creative justification — you might think to yourself, I need extra cash to pay for the unexpected costs that came up last month, so I’ll just do this one thing.

Well, here’s the problem: the first step in the wrong direction will open up the possibility for the second step. And before you know it, you’re moving away from your core business. So don’t waver, and politely turn down any opportunities that are not aligned with your core business.

Creative justifications make you feel better about yourself, but as an entrepreneur, you can’t afford to bury your head in the sand and cut corners with excuses. Ditch these justifications once and for all, and make the right decisions for your company!

INC @realtommymello