Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Ask the right questions

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Are you a master at addressing new people you meet, engaging them by asking the right questions? Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas, in their book, Power Questions emphasize that focused questions will help you build relationships and win more business.

It makes sense. Most people are flattered when you express an interest in them. When you ask open-ended questions of a new acquaintance or  of a new client, you set the stage where you can actively listen letting the person opposite you  do the talking. Listening is a powerful tool when you take the effort to absorb and synthesize what you are hearing.

Here are several useful tips from Power Questions they the authors refer to as the Socratic Approach:

Instead of “telling”, ask.
Instead of “being the expert”, encourage others to share their expertise.
Instead of “controlling knowledge”. Obtain the experiences of others.

Now for the one I like the best:
Instead of “showing people how smart you are”, “show others how smart they are.”

So, the next time, you are meeting someone new, see what you can learn about your new acquaintance by asking the right questions.

Convey Your Message in Three Minutes: the Successful Elevator Speech

In our daily lives, we all have to communicate to influence the actions of others.  Sales people in particular know this fact of life very well.  They have to gain someone’s attention and they may only have a few minutes to get beyond the introduction.  Similar, a job seeker maybe out and about trying to convince prospective employers that their skills and experience are worth paying for.  A three minute introduction might be the launching point of a expanded discussion down the road.

A while back, as a business librarian, I began attending networking events at various chambers of commerce.  At a monthly gathering I used to attend, we would stand around in a circle and each person would have an opportunity to give a 1 minute elevator (it was all we had time for).   Over time, I began to observe which speeches sounded the most effective. Clearly, many of the introductions went as follows, Hi, my name is Mary, I run a full-service insurance agency, please call me if you are interested in purchasing insurance”.  Once you heard enough of those, you tended to tune them out.

However, there were others that were creative, they were novel and had lots of pizazz.  The best ones were so memorable probably because they made us all laugh.

So, where I am leading with all this?  I recently picked up a book called, Small Message, Big Impact: the elevator speech effect by Terri L. Sjodin.

The importance of having a well-planned short and concise speech is not all you will learn. It provides great tips and tricks to help you get the foot in the door or pique someone’s interest to want to learn more about you.

Social Media for Small Business Made Easy!

 A review of Face2Face:Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections by David Lee King

Many people are quite comfortable using social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube in their personal lives but are clueless about where to begin as business owners or professionals. David King provides a very clear and concise approach to encourage business owners and professionals to establish dialogs and relationships in the online world. It’s a terrific resource. Topeka and Shawnee Public Library (where the author is employed as their Digital Services Director) is certainly an excellent example of how to make effective use of social media for any organization.

Build Relationships for Success in Business

I came upon an article today on the website, .Inc that resonated with me. The article was 10 Great Habits of Charismatic People by Jeff Haden.  Have you ever stopped to think about what it is about charismatic individuals that make them charismatic? Hmmm.   Rather surprisingly, it’s not all about having good looks although being physically attractive certainly  doesn’t hurt.  In fact, you may find that good looking folks are not necessarily charismatic.

According to the referenced article, personality probably trumps good looks in the charisma department.  Rather, charisma is about taking a keen interest in others. They are good listeners. They are not solely focused on themselves and tend to be humble. Above all, they like to make others feel good about themselves.  In my opinion, the last bit is paramount.

How is this relevant to being a small business owner or someone pursuing a career?  We all need to establish and build relationships to be successful. In business, it’s about focusing on the customer and being interested in his or her needs.

Similarly, whether you are looking for a job or you wish to be successful on a job, one needs to focus on building relationships.  In the book, “I Got My Dream Job and So Can You”, the author, Peter Leibman says, “Stop Looking for Jobs and Focus on People”.  This simple statement really clicked with me. I have long believed, in order to be successful on the job, the most important element is getting along with people (although you also have to know your stuff).

So, focus less on yourself and develop a greater interest in others!

Startups on a Small Budget

Are you tired of looking for a job or are you tired of the job you have? Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup cites numerous examples of successful startups that involved very little capital to start. He provides an interesting roadmap for anyone who is ready for the challenge of a new adventure.

It’s chock full of real examples of successful startups based on simple ideas that were launched with a modest amount of money.  Each chapter contains a concise summary of the key points covered which is perfect if  you would like to thumb through the book quickly.

I really enjoyed reading Chapter 2, “Give Them the Fish.”   When the author began discussing the concept of providing “value”, initially, I said to myself, “Oh no, how many times have I heard this one.”  But, alas, it sounded way better than what I had expected.  Simply put, “value” is about helping people.

Above all give people what they want rather than what you think they should have.  Hence, “Give them the Fish”.

Your appeal should be at the ground or emotional level.  Aim to better people’s lives.  There is nothing wrong with that.

It’s Better to Give Than to Receive!

Remember the old saying, It’s better to give than to receive?  That simple expression can apply to so many  aspects of life.   

I believe it can even apply to the practice of networking these days.  We all know that networking in business circles is the rage in the quest to find contacts and leads to grow a business.   Anyone can work a crowd by going around saying, “Hi Joe, my name is Mary, I am the sales manager of XYZ.  Need any widgets, these days?”  Admittedly, such an introduction sounds a bit crass and you might not win many friends  with a line like that. I am sure you can picture the stereotyped used car salesman whose only objective is to close the sale and run.  The shortrun is all that counts in that situation.

Instead, a better strategy is to focus on establishing a rapport and even forming a bond with someone you may have only  just met.   That’s just a start.  Then, share information, offer expertise, and provide suggestions. It will should show that you are more interested in goodwill than making a quick sale.   Remember,  the saying, It’s better to give then to receive”. 

It can even apply to the management of a business web site, or blogs, Facebook and more.  The practice of  sharing helpful  information with  customers or contacts will go a long way to establishing meaningful relationships.  When used effectively, you will very likely gain even more customers and more business.

Social Media and Small Business

If you are running a small business, taking advantage of social media tools can be the great leveler between you and the big boys.  Can’t afford expensive ad campaigns on television or radio? No problem.  Channels such as the Internet combined with mobile technology should be your friend. The beauty of an online presence is that a well-designed web site and its trimmings can make your company appear larger than it actually may actually be. Who can tell a “mom and pop” operation from the behemoth anymore?  If your company is internet-based, who knows if you even have a warehouse full of inventory. The manufacturer or distributor can be carrying it all for you.

About social media. Develop a dialogue with your customers. That’s what it’s all about today. By establishing a direct communication link between you and your customers, you learn about their likes and dislikes.  They will tell you what they like about your products, your customer service and more.  Isn’t that what you should want anyway? Your customers can help you hone what to sell and improve your level of service with the feedback they provide.

So, develop a conversation with your customers through the likes of Facebook and Twitter.  Let them know about promotions with a Tweet.  Enable your customers to post comments on Facebook.  Why not share your expertise by writing postings to a blog linked to your web site.

If you don’t know where to start, there are lots of books out there about social media and small business.  The more you read and observe how others are using it, the more it will make sense.  One book I recommend is the Complete Idiots Guide to Social Media Marketing by Jennifer Abernethy.  It’s fairly comprehensive and easy to follow.

 

 

QR Codes and Small Business

With the growth in the use of smartphones among consumers, funny looking barcodes seem to be cropping up all over the place.  What am I referring to?  QR Codes also known as quick response codes.  Instead of a horizontal string of black bars, a QR code looks like a randomly placed bunch of boxes that form a  a square.

Find QR codes on product packaging, advertisements in newspapers, in-store displays, posters and signs.  Consumers will be directed to web sites, email addresses, and yes, cooking recipes.

Android, blackberry and IPhones are all able to read these codes with downloadable apps. Businesses and other entities in the nonprofit world are using them to attract attention with customers, patrons, donors, etc.

An article in The Wall Street Journal, Small Retailers Take Advantage of Smart Phone Boom, cites a coffee shop that is using QR codes to direct customers to their menu.  Busy people on the go can scan the QR code on its ads on trains in Vancouver, BC before ordering their morning coffee and breakfast roll. By the time, they reach the cafe, voila, their order is read to go!

With so many different channels of communications available today, it’s difficult to stand out in the crowded market place.   So, market your business in unique and creative ways to be noticed.

Your local library has all sorts of books about the latest marketing tools.  Just check’em out!

A Novel Way of Financing a New Business

Obtaining funds to start a business can be difficult. Lenders even with a guarantee from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), expect the borrower to bring sufficient capital to the table as well as quality assets as collateral. 

Here and there, you hear about how people manage to start a business with nearly nothing and you wonder how they did it.  You hear about people who max out all the credit cards, continually transfering balances one from card to another.  And that’s a job, to manage that charade.

Recently, I was reading an article on SmartMoney.com about a startup business owner who was able to fund his new business with a 401(K) rollover.  It’s a really clever strategy if you can pull it off.  It’s known as a Rollover as Business Startup or ROBS.

You set up a corporation with a new 401K.  Then, you roll the funds from your old account into the new one to purchase stock in the new company.  Alas, you now have the cash to fund your new company. Got all that?

For more information, please see article, How to Fund a New Business with a 401(K) in the digital version of Smart Money.

What Online Newspapers and Magazines Have to Offer Small Business Owners

I believe most people are finding the volume of information available in cyberspace to be overwhelming.  Fortunately, information professionals figure out ways of sifting through it.  Within our own specialty fields, we tend to establish a comfort level with a select number of sources. I am one of them.

Several online newspapers provide some very help guides and tips for small business owners.  Luckily they tend to be fairly dynamic and therefore their offerings are always changing.  From day to day, you never know what you will find, so it’s not a bad idea to breeze through them every so often.

One of my favorite sites happens to be the Wall Street Journal.  They have a tab at the top, labeled, “Small Business.”   On April 3rd, I found an article, entitled, “Getting Money Into the Hands of Small Businesses”.  Karen Mills, chief of the US Small business Administration was interviewed by the WSJ staff.  Then, on the 7th of April, I found an article about tapping retirement money to fund a business.

 Another favorite of mine is ColoradoBiz.  As the title suggests, this is a Colorado specific magazine for business although the articles tend to have a broader perspective.  Gain some inspiration from reading success stories of local entrepreneurs.  You will also find lots of tips and steps to improve your business.

The online version of Entrepreneur magazine offers something for everyone.  If you are looking for basic start-up information, you will find everything from business ideas, to business plans and obtaining financing.  Beyond the fundamentals, other content includes, home based businesses, franchises, technology, sales and marketing and more.  You will also find similar offerings on Inc. magazine’s web site as well.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.