Managing the change from Employee to Entrepreneur

Managing the change from Employee to Entrepreneur

Moving from the stable life of a full-time employee to the uncertain and chaotic world of owning your own business requires a change in mindset, something that many new entrepreneurs don’t realise. In fact, the habits that you worked on to build to be a successful employee may not necessarily bring you the same benefits and success as an entrepreneur.

Your mindset and attitude is probably the major determinant of success in pretty much every walk of life. The thinking patterns you habitually adopt largely govern the results you achieve. But different circumstances and situations require different ways of thinking, something that anyone looking to leave paid employment and make it on their own, must be aware of.

Here are a few tips on how to manage the move from an employee to an entrepreneur, and the shift in thinking that is required.

1.Put money aside – While success as an entrepreneur often boils down to mindset, there are practical aspects to be considered, like cash. You’ll be going from a salaried employee to wondering when your next check will come in. If possible, before you leave your job, put away an entrepreneur fund with 3-6 month’s worth of expenses (perhaps more, depending on the nature of your new venture). Having a solid safety net will allow you to focus your energy on building your new business, rather than worry about how you are going to pay the bills.

2.Not agreeing to every request – As an employee, you probably got used to saying “yes” to any and all requests that came your way. It meant you were reliable and a team-player. But, this approach won’t get you far as an entrepreneur. As you will be pressed for time, agreeing to and doing everything just isn’t possible. But more importantly, as an entrepreneur, you need to set the agenda, not just follow everyone else’s wishes. Get used to saying “no” to everything but your main priorities.

3.Responsible for all decisions – good and bad – Entrepreneurs have an incredible opportunity to create something from nothing, in a way that’s not possible working for someone else. But this means making big decisions about what must be done, when and how. You can’t wait for things to happen, or for someone to tell you what to do, you must make them happen. Successful entrepreneurs also understand that opportunities may be short-lived, and so develop a sense of urgency that helps them achieve their goals.

4.Short and long term vision at the same time – Work for others and you are mainly responsible for ensuring that what needs to be done now, is done. As an entrepreneur, you have to think ahead and see the bigger picture. You have to consider the potential pitfalls and opportunities, and make decisions based on uncertainty. This requires you to come to terms with the fact that your actions today, will have an impact on your business in the immediate and even far future.

5.Breaking out of your ‘comfort zone’ – As an employee, you’re used to working within set boundaries and rules. As an entrepreneur, there is no box to limit you. You see what others don’t, test new ideas, seize new territory, take risks. This requires courage, a thick skin and the ability to keep going despite rejection and scepticism.

6.Long hours will be common occurrence – The typical entrepreneur often finds that he or she needs to work longer hours than back at the office. This is why it’s important to start something you love. Also, as an entrepreneur, while you might not be tied to a desk or computer 24/7, you will always be thinking about your business, what it’s doing well and what it could be doing better.

7.Constantly upgrading yourself – As an employee, you have a job description, requiring a specific skill-set. Being an entrepreneur involves learning many new skills, unless you have the funds to outsource what you’re not good at or don’t want to do. That could be learning to set up a spreadsheet, getting investors on board, marketing your ideas, crafting your perfect pitch, or using unfamiliar technology. What needs to be done, has to be done – there is no other way.

8.Being familiar with important numbers – Where numbers are concerned, it’s enough for most employees to know what’s coming in and what’s going out. As an entrepreneur, you have to delve deeper, because your cash flow is what will keep you in – or out of – business. Ultimately, it’s your sales, costs, profit and loss that will either give you sleepless nights or an enviable lifestyle. But without the guiding light of those numbers, you won’t be able to track where your business is going.

9.Being a multi-tasker – As a company employee, there’s someone to call when the server stops working. And you probably don’t think about if the office was cleaned or the plant was watered. But, when you start your own business, you’ve now got to fill a number of different roles – from tech support one hour to sales and marketing the next, and accounting, even cleaning. Before setting off on your own, ask yourself if you’ll be comfortable wearing all these hats, including the less-than-glamorous ones

10.Social life may have to take a backseat – As an entrepreneur, and being in charge of everything and everyone under you, there is a lot on your plate. The concept of weekends probably won’t exist anymore because you are hard-pressed for time and need to sacrifice days off. This is something you need to be prepared for, and at the same time find ways to work around. You don’t want to overwork yourself and get burnt out in the initial stages of setting up your company.

These are just a few basic changes that you should expect when you make the jump from employee to entrepreneur. The earlier you adjust to a business owner’s mindset, the better for you and your company.

Inspiring Creativity at work

Inspiring Creativity at work

Before getting into how to inspire your employees to be create, and think beyond the traditional ideas let us first determine why it is important for your employees to be creative, even if your don’t consider yourself a business that requires it. It’s simple: Creative people tend to be more motivated because they’ve achieved something. They’ve discovered a better way of doing things or they’ve solved a problem by thinking outside the box. By successfully finding solutions, they’re more motivated to work. And the more motivated they are, the more productive they are. And the more productive they are, the more satisfied and motivated they are. The cycle endlessly recreates itself.

Here a few tips on nurturing and encouraging creative thinking at the workplace.

1.Identifying the problem – Before you can increase creativity in your employees, you need to figure out why they’re not creative now. Once you know where to look, the answers are usually obvious. If you decide your employees don’t have the best knowledge, skills, abilities and resources, then you need to decide how to get them further education and training, hire better people or provide more challenging experiences.

2.Encourage Free Thinking – It may seem obvious to promote free thinking, but it’s not always the way that businesses work. Often we stick to the tried and tested route, simply because it works. But free thinking helps keep your business sharp, relevant and profitable. It’s all about leaving behind old, outdated models, and discovering new ones. Create a culture in your business in which employees are encouraged to think freely and express their ideas.

3.Schedule Brainstorming Sessions – Sometimes the best way to encourage creativity is to schedule it into the day. Set aside time for a weekly brainstorming session that involves all your employees. Encourage employees from different departments to interact with each other. These kinds of cross-workplace discussions can lead to ideas that are better simply because diverse viewpoints are taken into consideration.

4.Set an example – The best way to encourage employees to be creative is by setting the tone at the top. Display an appetite to be creative and bold, by straying from the usual path wherever it can be done. They will be more likely to follow your lead with confidence.

5.Adequate Break Times – The best creative thinking comes when the brain has time to relax. Frequent and scheduled breaks can actually boost the creative spirit in the workplace.

6.Take Field Trips – Get out of the office and take your employees to visit other companies, conferences or even just parks. Field trips can get them—and you—out of their everyday comfort zone and into a space where new thoughts and ideas can take hold.

7.Communicate Openly – No matter how creative your employees are, you’ll never know about it if you’re not talking with them about their ideas. Talk openly with them, both formally and informally, about what can be done better, what can be improved, and what their overall ideas are for changing the business.

8.Evaluate, Measure, Track – When your employees come up with creative ways to improve the business, boost sales or bring about other improvements, make sure to evaluate the changes. The evaluation process is just as important as the implementation stage, since it can give you and your employees a sense of what works, what doesn’t and why. It can also give you the chance to fine-tune new procedures in order to make them work even more effectively.

Creative business practices can seem abstract and out-of-reach, but in fact, they’re accessible to any business owner who’s willing to foster them. Once you make creativity an active and important part of your working culture, your business—and your employees—will flourish.

Top Six Reasons why SMBs in India Need A Website

Top Six Reasons why SMBs in India Need A Website

In India, about 57% of SMBs use a company website as their primary online presence. 1 A website allows you to promote and engage with customers directly. It is also easily scalable to meet the needs of your business. So you can start small and invest more as needed. It is the best online marketing tool to invest in.

There are six reasons why SMBs invest in building a website:

  1. Reach new customers: The top priority for most small business owners is finding new customers. A great way to find these new customers is by expanding your business footprint through a website.
  2. Increased credibility: About 62% of SMBs in India created a company website because it makes the company look more credible. 1 A website lends a sense of legitimacy and credibility to businesses.
  3. Improve customer interactions: About 73% of SMEs in India would recommend investing in a website to their peers.1 Websites help businesses create awareness and strengthen customer relationships. They also help establish and maintain communication between businesses and their current and prospective customers, which may include among other things, business initiatives and promotions.
  4. Increased visibility online: You can start taking advantage of marketing tactics such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). So it’s easier for potential customers to find you online.
  5. Complete brand control: With a website, you control how your business is presented and can manage your online identity according to your individual preference. Even free, template-based, website builders offer a good level of customization.
  6. Enhanced marketing opportunities: With your own website, since you’re no longer restricted by the limitations of someone else’s site, you can provide ample information about your business in the most optimal way. In addition, a website can act as an aggregator of all your marketing activities including, among other initiatives, what you do in social media. You can also take advantage of free cloud services, such as video creation tools and blogging tools, to amplify your marketing efforts.

Get Started Online | Search your business domain

 

Creating a Strong Culture in a Small Business

Creating a Strong Culture in a Small Business

When discussing business culture, what comes to mind? To different people it can mean different things. It can be a “brand, motto, values, uniforms, or behaviours. It could also be service level, company policy, or customer relationship management.

Culture can be a set of attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, and customs. These cultural cues are ingrained in the members of the business, team, or group, and then accepted as the norm. Beliefs about the role of the business, and how business activities fall into this understanding of culture, is typically dictated by how employees interact within their own cultural boundaries. Small business culture will determine what kind of customers it attracts, the service it delivers, and its growth.

In a small business the employees tend to be more invested. Small businesses can pride themselves on customer intimacy, less bureaucracy, and flexibility. Employees in small businesses are likely to share the same understanding of goals, processes, and expectations. Considering this, it is very important to build a strong company culture that guides the actions of the employees, to reflect the values of the company.
Company culture should begin in the early stages of training, train to retain employees who align with the culture and believe in it. If employees don’t buy into the company culture, everything else is wasted.

How do you build a strong and unique culture that will inspire and motivate employees to follow? Here are a few pointers:

1.Define and document your ideal company culture – Consider your business’ values, mission and contribution to customers. Using this as a starting point, think about what kind of culture fits best. Every business is different. Once you have defined the culture you would like your company to have, document it – in the form of company vision statement or a dream map to show where the company is headed. By creating a set of shared beliefs, everyone has a framework for how to set priorities, make decisions, treat customers, and treat each other. And having it in writing acts as a reinforcement of the common goal everyone is working towards.

2.Hire for Attitude – Employees are the messengers of your culture, and benefit from the culture perks. Hire with an emphasis on attitude (does their attitude fit the company culture, do they exude the vision?) and worry less about their weaknesses. You can manage to fix or minimize weaknesses. Add personality traits that fit best in your culture to your job ads so you get candidates that are suited to your company’s style. One bad hire can have a huge effect on your team’s morale, productivity and ultimately your bottom line.

3.Create an Enjoyable Atmosphere – You don’t need to be the next Google with slides, sleep pods, free food and massages. Small gestures can make big differences. Having a neat and clean office with comfortable furniture can make a world of a difference. Healthy snacks, tea and coffee, can be small, yet effective morale boosters. Create a list of small perks that you can offer your employees and try to incorporate one each month. Perks create happy employees; and happy employees are more productive

Also, sprucing up the workspace to reflect your culture is one way to go – through music, art, sport, games; whatever adds some fun and life to the space. Get feedback from employees about the kind of environment they’d prefer. Small changes like this can liven up the workspace, especially one in which you spend so much time.

4.Empower Your Employees – It’s great to have processes and procedures, but sometimes it’s also a good idea to give your employees a chance to use their initiative. Trusting an employee to make decisions can be a big leap of faith, but it can also make that employee feel empowered and own their work. Listening to your employees and taking their views into consideration is a way to make them feel like they belong, and respected. Usually employees are just as keyed in – if not more keyed in – to the company’s real culture.

5.Team building Out of the Office – Team building is about taking time outside of the business to interact with your co-workers and supervisors on mutual territory. Simple things like arranging a summer picnic, going to a relevant speaking event or even doing some small scale volunteering, can help employees feel refreshed and excited to work. They will come back with increased focus and productivity. If a company expects employees to love its customers, the company must love its employees.

6.Opportunities for Continuous Learning – Learning does not need to be in a classroom environment. Think of creative ways for employees to share their knowledge. For example, create a library of books or encourage job shadowing each other. These small things will create conversations and improve awareness of what else is happening in the business.

7.Clear communication – Now that you’ve identified your company culture and hired the right people, communicate it regularly both internally and externally. Also, within the company and with customers, keeping channels of communication open and simple help in creating a more open and transparent culture.

8.Provide feedback – To engage your employees, you have to build a structure that allows for regular and constructive feedback. There should be a way for both the employee and supervisor to offer each other feedback. This holds true for family businesses, too. Have weekly or monthly check-ins before or after shifts where you encourage free flowing feedback. Consider implementing monthly or quarterly reviews, and ask employees to fill out surveys about their supervisors to gather unfiltered feedback.

9.Be patient – Company culture takes time. While the tips above will get you started, a business culture has to evolve naturally. In time, you’ll be able to define your culture to anyone that asks. For now, work on the little things and let the process grow.

Culture acts like a foundation that has the strength to see the business through tough times, while keeping it grounded during good times. Creating a sustainable and unique culture doesn’t have to cost thousands, and can really affect how a team interacts with each other, building stronger relationships, and a stronger business.

Using emojis in e-mail marketing

Using emojis in e-mail marketing

E-mails with special characters aren’t just a blast to write, they could potentially help your e-mails get more opens and clicks – if you’re using them correctly. Why are emoji becoming popular in e-mail marketing campaigns? Because they grab your attention much quicker than plain text, plus they convey a sense of fun or something special as you’re scrolling through your e-mail. Also, emojis save space and manage to convey emotions that sometimes words can’t.

Here are a few pointers on how to use them to your best advantage:

1.Use online sites to find emojis/emoticons – There are a number of websites where you can find emojis/emoticons that can be used in e-mails. Simply copy the emoji that you want and paste it into your subject line.

2.Tone – Will emoji fit your tone? If you have a serious brand, say one that handles financial data, emoji might seem unprofessional to your customers. Ask yourself if quirky symbols or smiley faces fit your brand and make sure you test on small segments of your audience to measure how your larger subscriber base will react.

3.Audience demographics – If you market to millennials, emoji may hit the mark because they’ve become part of their daily life. That’s not to say that older customers won’t embrace them, but if you market to an older population who may not find them engaging, be sure to test before you implement them.

4.Make it relevant – With so many emoji, you can usually find one that will complement your message. You don’t have to rely on the most popular emoji every time.

5.Test to make sure your audience responds well – Before using emoji, run split tests to see how your customers react to them. In a split test, you’ll send one group of customers an e-mail with an emoji in the subject line, and send another group the same e-mail minus the emoji. You can use the difference in open rate to decide whether emoji are a good fit for your audience.

6.Test to make sure emoji display properly – Before you send your e-mail out to a large group, you’ll want to see how emoji render in different e-mail clients, and on different devices. It’s better to catch the problem early and troubleshoot before you send the e-mail to your subscribers.

7.Your e-mail should live up to its subject line – It should go without saying, but fill up your e-mail with good content that’s relevant to your subject line. Emojis can be considered micro-microcontent. In other words, teasers to micro-content. So, if your e-mail is a flop, an emoji isn’t going to help the situation.

8.Don’t Overuse Emoji – Don’t use an emoji just for the sake of using it. Make sure it is relevant to your campaign. Adding a bunch of happy faces and hearts is probably not going to get you great results. More than likely your reader will be annoyed and delete your e-mail before opening it. Especially if you do it frequently. It can also convey a lack of professionalism if people are seeing cutesy symbols that have no relevance to your brand or message.

These are just a few pointers to get you started in using emojis, so that you stand out and grab attention.

Financial Tips for Small Businesses

Financial Tips for Small Businesses

Accounting is usually a dreaded task for most small business owners. It’s one of those back-office tasks that never cross your mind when you decide to run your own business, and yet it sucks up your day and makes running a successful business that much harder. But there’s hope, and it starts with getting organized.

Here are a few tips to help business owners trying to tackle their accounting:

1.Keep it separate – To avoid things getting messy and complicated separate your personal and business accounts. By keeping separate bank and credit card accounts for business and personal, you’ll save yourself hours of work and make it easy to keep track of deductible expenses in one place.

Separate your personal and business bank accounts. It’s easy to lose track of your cash reserves and keep funding your business expenses from your personal account. Pay your business expenses from a dedicated-for-business credit card with a fixed credit limit. This gives you the flexibility and control to plan your cash in-flows in order to meet your cash-outflow.

2.Budget your spending – The best way to run your small business is to know how much money you need to make in order to break even and how much you have to spend to run your business on a daily basis. The key to financial discipline is realistic balancing of needs versus wants.

3.Consider HR costs – When you’re looking for insights into your businesses spending, don’t forget to properly track what is likely one of your biggest expenses: labour. Whether you’re paying a full staff or you’re the only one on the payroll, make sure you’re tracking the costs of wages, benefits, overtime and any other costs associated with labour. By tracking your spending on labour, perks and benefits, you may find you have more money to incentivize your employees — or that you’re outspending your budget. Either way, doing the calculations now can help you make better decisions later.

4.Schedule time – Set aside about 15 minutes every week to organize your finances, and don’t let other things take priority during this time. You’ll have more insights into your business, be able to make more informed financial decisions and have everything organized when tax time approaches. Something always feels more pressing than your finances. But when you find the time every week, you’ll feel your stress levels — now and at year-end — fall fast.

5.Don’t Spend, invest. – Spend your hard-earned money on things that will reap long-term benefits. Every expense has two faces: current benefits and long-term benefits. Businesses that spend on a long-term investment nature reap its benefits much longer. But remember to balance the cost versus the benefit. If your expense doesn’t directly help you in increasing your business or quality of your work, don’t spend on it.

6.Maintain Records – Keep all receipts, organized, in a safe place where you will be able to find them when you need them.

7.Be lean and efficient – A business has two types of costs – fixed costs and variable costs. Fixed costs are like body fat. You have to bear the weight whether you make money or not. Instead of buying expensive, proprietary software, try working with free and open source software. Try Skype meetings instead of travelling long distance. Maybe try even bartering for much-needed services with professionals (for example, help an accountant with their marketing material in exchange for a free tax return, etc.). Be lean without diminishing customer satisfaction.

8.Don’t forget to get paid – This one seems pretty obvious, but you would be shocked at how many small business owners don’t properly track invoices and customer payments. If you’re not keeping proper records that you can make sense of at a glance, it could be months before you realize you have outstanding invoices. You could be collecting payments late, or missing some altogether. Make sure you’re properly tracking all payments due and recording when each invoice is paid, how long customers generally take to pay, and which customers you’ve had difficulties collecting payments from in the past.

9.Hire an expert – Get an account. Their intimate knowledge of the profession as well as tax laws will save you money almost every time. It can be tempting to save some money and do it yourself, but it’s almost never more cost-efficient in the end. An accountant will be able to guide you and keep you penalty-free. When things get technical or taxes are due, save yourself the money, time and headache and call in a trusted professional.

These are just a few basic tips that we hope will inspire you to take on the task of accounting and get organised

Tech tips for small businesses

Tech tips for small businesses

Technology and small/new business go hand-in-hand. Technology can really help with managing business efficiently and handling growth. The premise is fairly simple — most technology solutions offer a level of automation that can handle increased workloads, giving you the ability to take on new business, expand to more regions and enter new markets.

With limited funds at your disposal, how do you make the best use of your resources when spending on technology, and more importantly how do manage the use of technology. If you are grappling with such issues, here are a few handy tips to help you.

1.Don’t compromise on quality technology – Your business might not rely on state-of-the-art kit but your productivity does rely on your communication channels not breaking down. Computer and network glitches can cost you financially and in manpower. Find out exactly what you need and get a second opinion.

2.Ensure your website is in top shape – Sometimes it is the only contact your client or customer will have with you. Often it’s the first and last point of contact. Make sure it’s easily navigable, know your traffic sources and ensure you have an efficient data capture form.

3.Outsource if needed – As a growing small business, make use of the expertise and economies of scale that vendors can provide when appropriate. Instead of building additional departments, you can orient your workforce around your business expertise so that your long-term human capital costs align with your long-term sales strategies. By utilizing strong service-based outsourcing firms for operational needs — like IT, accounting or HR — you’ll spend less time hiring, maintaining and evaluating fringe staff. This will give you more time to focus on your strengths.

4.Data collection and analysis – Advances in computing technology have driven the growth of large-scale data collection and analytics. Gain key insights into your business by utilizing the right tools — a proven strategy for creating greater value from the same set of resources.

•Web Optimization: A strong web presence is mandatory for the majority of today’s small businesses. Site monitoring tools like Google Analytics allow you to monitor web traffic, view patterns and better-understand your most effective Internet marketing strategies so that you make the most of your Internet reputation.

•Project Tracking: Understand resource expenditures on business projects by utilizing various project management tools available to track time and cost allocation.

•Sales Monitors: Spreadsheets are familiar and straightforward but leave a lot to be desired in terms of providing actionable insight. Cloud-based solutions such as Salesforce can show you when, how and where your customers are spending, leading to better knowledge about how your business development team is doing.

5.Make sure you’re mobile – Business won’t wait for you to be back in the office. Smartphones and tablets are rapidly overtaking desktop use in the workplace. The workforce is more mobile than ever and your business practice needs to reflect this. Ensure you are contactable and can do your transactions on the run.

6.Security is key to tech success – Data breaches can cost you a lot – in terms of money, time, reputation, brand value and more. Ensure that you have a strong password policy, secure networks and that utmost importance is placed on protecting data. Your employees should be made aware of how vital it is to keep data secure.

7.Take advantage of teleconferencing – As geography becomes less and less important and travel more expensive, reliable teleconferencing services are more and more vital. There is a range of online services, some free and some with paid-for add-ons, such as conference recording, presentation sharing and moderation controls.

When implemented correctly, an innovative technology strategy can play a key role in helping small businesses take a step towards their next phase of growth, and increase their size and scale of operations without overstretching resources. Technology helps small businesses and start-ups do more with less and better positions them to compete with larger organisations.

Social media tips to save time

Social media tips to save time

Social media is a great way for small businesses to promote themselves as it is fairly inexpensive and very effective when done right. But as a small company or start-up you have limited resources to devote to this important platform. Very often you struggle to keep a basic Facebook Page up and running, as it requires constant time and effort.

Here are a few tips to help you better organise your social media efforts that are will save you time:

1.Understand how social media will benefit you – There are dozens if not hundreds of ways to use social media for business. Not every strategy will fit your business goals. So first of all you need to step back, look at your marketing plan, and pick two or three ways that social media can fit into that plan.

2.Have a schedule in place – Despite what you might think—or have read or heard—you do not have to add a new post to every social network every day. This can eat up a lot of time from your daily schedule and leave you feeling just plain overwhelmed. The important thing is that when you do post, make sure it is valuable content that will generate a good response from your fans and followers.

Figure out what is going to work best for you. Know what time of the day/week you can expect to get more interaction from your target audience. If you know that the majority of them are only online in the evenings, then make sure you are posting in that window. Otherwise, your fans will likely miss your latest update because they’re at work.

3.Limit to Two or Three Platforms – Target and master a couple of platforms, rather than dabbling in many. Social media has become complex. Each social platform has more features and the learning curve is steeper. Focus on the platforms your customers spend the most time on or that fit your industry. The 80/20 rule applies here. By focusing on just two or three, you use your time efficiently and you’ll have a bigger impact on the platforms because you can learn more about how to use them

4.Create a content stockpile – As a part of your social media schedule, set up a time during the week where you or a chosen employee sit down and brainstorm content ideas for blog posts, status updates, tweets, etc. This will eliminate the stress of having to come up with something on the spot from one week to the next. Then, when the time comes to update your posts, you can just select something from the pile and post.

5.Link your networks – When you are doing things on your own, it can be hard to find the time to post to multiple accounts. You can link each of your profiles so that when you post on one account, say your Facebook page, then it is also sent out to the others and vice versa. Tools like Buffer, Tweetdeck and even Facebook Scheduled Posts can make this happen in the background for you.

6.Use social networks for customer service – Take advantage of social media as a way to provide better customer service. You can quickly and easily respond to any issues or comments that customers leave on social networks rather than having to wade through e-mails or have customers waiting to speak to someone on the phone. This can be done by offering a specified time of the day for any customer service issues on your Twitter or Facebook accounts, and letting the customers know when that is.

7.Get automated – Use tools that allow for automation and scheduling posts in advance from your content stockpile. This will save you a ton of time. You can schedule certain things, but you still need to go back and make responses where needed and take time to actually interact with your followers when needed.

8.Combined engagement – Other tools make it simple to monitor and update your accounts from one spot. You can use Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to create a dashboard that lets you handle multiple social media accounts from a single platform, saving you time. Create alerts for important topics such as your company name, product names and competitors. Create Twitter Lists of your most important customers, partners and media contacts so you can monitor their activity in real time.

9.Set up topic alerts – Save yourself time from searching for industry news articles by setting up a Google Alert for specified topics. You can search through the results for news that relates to your business. When you find something of interest, you can share it with your followers.

10.Measure — but Only What Counts – Social sites like Facebook and Twitter keep adding increasing amounts of social analytics. Pick a few metrics that directly impact your business. For example, track which types of posts get the most click-throughs to your product pages or lead capture form. When deciding which metrics to track, ask yourself: how does this benefit my business?

Social media is going to be an important marketing tool for businesses for a long time to come. With useful tools and planning, you can save plenty of time on social networks while still getting the most benefits from them.

Struggles faced by Small Business owners

Struggles faced by Small Business owners

Every small business has struggles – some early on, some during growth, others just pop up here and there. As an entrepreneur or owner of a small business you should know that you’re not alone, there are others out there facing the same things you are going through.

While these problems are not unique to running a small business, they are more challenging due to limited resources. Some of the common struggles faced by start-ups and small companies are:

1.Attracting customers – Most small businesses would say that their “largest struggle” is: to attract a constant stream of new customers/clients that can and will pay for their services/products. Ofcourse every small business has to address this challenge in different ways to carve out a niche that serves their purpose. But when you are just starting out, it’s incredibly hard to get noticed and show that you’re credible.

2.Playing multiple roles – One of the greatest struggles of the small business owner is finding the way to ‘do it all’. As the owner with limited funds to hire competent staff for every aspect of your business, it comes down to you to handle all areas – from administration to production. It sometimes becomes difficult to find time to do your own work as you get bogged down with e-mails, paperwork and supervising the work of others.

3.Visibility – Most small businesses struggle with being seen. A restriction on resources means not enough funds are available for aggressive marketing and advertising. Not being visible means losing out to existing customers who are checking out competitors, as well as potential customers who can’t find you.

4.Finances – Funds are always limited, every cost to the company has to be carefully weighed against future benefits. Very often to meet the expenses of the business, the owners have to take a cut.

5.Saying No – As a small business, it’s important to know your process and what customers and clients are a great fit for your business. A common challenge faced is saying no to certain leads coming in because they aren’t a fit for the business model. When you’re growing, leads and customers are the heartbeat of your business and you need them to keep your doors open. But you can cripple your business and your reputation if you take on customers you can’t get results for or are going to be so incredibly high maintenance that your other clients suffer. Walking away from revenue in order to respect your business model and limitations as a small company is no easy task.

6.Rejection – In any business – irrespective of size, being turned down or away comes with the territory. But this can be extremely challenging in the case of a small business, where the owner and the company and very closely linked. Rejection of the product or service that your company has to offer can feel personal, and get you down. It’s very important to remember that it doesn’t reflect on you as a person.

7.Delegating – You might be tempted to do everything yourself in order for it to be “perfect”. But this is not sustainable in the long run, as your business grows. You will be required to handle the important tasks while leaving others to be delegated. This is a struggle a lot of entrepreneurs face, not being able to pass on the reigns to someone else, because of the fear that they won’t do as good a job as they would. You won’t be able to reach everywhere, leading to a decline in the quality of your work. Learn to delegate, and trust that with your guidance and supervision it will be done right.

8.Networking – As a busy entrepreneur with endless task lists and just so many hours in a day, the temptation and ease of staying behind a PC and doing things electronically is appealing. But this can keep you from going out and meeting people. Face-to-face networking and speaking to groups create such valuable relationships quickly that they can really pay off. The best things happen in business when you are right there with people.

9.Finding The Right Employees – As a start-up or small business with limited capital, it is not easy to find qualified talent willing to join with no or limited guarantee of future success. Finding, keeping, and developing people are time consuming and extremely important tasks, as your employees are the face of your business. The impact of their decisions and actions are far stronger in a small company than a large organisation.

10.Being Open to Change – It is difficult to crack the formula to a successful business, and when you do you might not want to change your business structure if things are going well. It’s important to remember that there is always room for improvement for growth of your business. Change is inevitable, what works today, might not tomorrow. As hard as it was to get it right the first time, you can’t be hung up on it. To stay ahead of competition and be relevant to your customers, you have to be flexible and open to change.

CRM for a Small Business

CRM for a Small Business

Is CRM even needed for a small business, you might wonder. Before we get to that, let’s understand what it is all about.

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, a term first coined in the 1990’s. The literal and original meaning of the expression “Customer Relationship Management” was, simply, managing the relationship with your customer.

Today, Customer relationship management (CRM) is a term that refers to practices, strategies and technologies that companies use to manage and analyze customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, with the goal of improving business relationships with customers, assisting in customer retention and driving sales growth.

Like many buzzwords, the term CRM has been adopted by IT system vendors to fit their product. CRM might be used to describe a cloud CRM systems for sales people (Sales Force Automation, Opportunity Management), for marketing people (Marketing Automation, Campaign Management), for Helpdesks (Customer Service and Support), email and voice logging, and so on. CRM systems are designed to compile information on customers across different channels — or points of contact between the customer and the company — which could include the company’s website, telephone, live chat, direct mail, marketing materials and social media. CRM systems can also give customer-facing staff detailed information on customers’ personal information, purchase history, buying preferences and concerns.

According to Wikipedia, “the generally accepted purpose of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is to enable organizations to better serve their customers through the introduction of reliable processes and procedures for interacting with those customers”.

Given the above definition and purpose of CRM, it is obvious then that CRM as a concept, policy or strategy is essential for any and every business irrespective of size.

In fact, some believe that small businesses need CRM more than larger competitors. This is because small companies rely more desperately on the value they get from each individual customer. Local marketplaces typically have a limited population of customers. Plus, you must compete with other large and small businesses for those customers. With CRM, you can get firmer control of which customers offer the most value so that you can dedicate your marketing efforts at getting them in the door and retaining them.

The three key reasons that CRM is important for a small business are as follows:

1.Increase profitability – According to Forbes, it is “six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.” Therefore retaining an existing customer for life should be a company’s primary objective.

A CRM solution can help organizations increase profitability by building and maintaining strong relationships with their customers and prospects. By retaining customers there will be less need to spend money on marketing, to find and acquire new customers. CRM solutions allow a company to maintain relationships with customers by knowing what they want and when they want it. The data collected from website traffic and enquiries allows a company to be able to strategically target certain products and services to the correct prospect or customer. By knowing what a customer or prospect has been viewing on the website, the company will be able to provide content or a follow up call offering them the services or products they are interested in – thus leading to higher possibility of making a sale. It is also vital to recognize the importance of building new relationships with prospects to bring in additional revenue. A CRM can help with both, nurturing existing relationships and acquiring and building new ones.

2.Increase productivity – Automation is key to increasing productivity. Where a team manually inputs data and searches through different files to find the information needed, a CRM solution automates this for the entire organization, with the click of a button. CRM solutions allow teams to create reports across many different databases with the requisite information, in a few simple steps. Consequently this means that time can be better utilized – for following up leads and converting prospects into customers leading to more sales.

3.Improve customer service – It is estimated that only 7% of organizations follow-up with their web leads within an hour. The sooner a lead is followed up the higher the possibility of converting them into a customer. It’s all about first impressions and getting to your prospects in good time, because chances are they have contacted your competitors too. In fact, according to Forbes, 71% of organizations waste their web leads by taking up to 47 hours to follow up with them.

A CRM system will assist a sales team in following up with leads in real time, as and when they come in. It will give reminders to prompt when a lead or customer needs following up with, allowing the sales team to nurture a relationship with their prospects and customers. Having these reminders will allow an organization to contact their prospects and customers at the right time, meaning time won’t be spent bombarding them with unwanted phone calls and emails, or they won’t go unattended for an extended period of time. Real time customer engagement is about giving the customer an experience as personal as possible.
Businesses essentially want to establish connections with new customers, retain them and develop long-running, loyal relationships. CRM thus becomes extremely important as it greatly aids in that.