Wednesday, December 30, 2015

How to Evaluate Home Based Business Opportunities

With the economy in flux, and whispers of recession turning into frank discussions of how long the downturn is expected to last, it's no wonder that more people than ever before are taking a second look at home based businesses. For some, the ability to make money online is a way to make ends meet as the costs of everything from fuel to food spiral upward. For others, being able to work from home is the best of both worlds: they can earn a decent income while being able to greet the kids when they get home from school. Virtually everyone appreciates a home based business' flexible hours and lack of a commute, as well as the rewarding feeling that comes from creating your own financial security.

As appealing as a home based business is, it's often difficult to evaluate programs. After all, there are hundreds - if not thousands - of opportunities available. Here are five tips to help you separate the best from the rest.

1. Find reputable online reviews. There are websites that specialize in guiding would-be home based business owners toward legitimate opportunities. The best sites offer valuable information so that you can make money at home, as well as essential website marketing tools.

2. Free vs. paid. There are both paid and free home based business opportunities. If you have money to invest in your business, paid opportunities can often reap greater financial rewards. That's not to say, however, that you can't make money at home from a free home based business. You simply need to understand the potential risks and rewards associated with each type.

3. Passive vs. active. When evaluating opportunities, it's important to know how much time you have to devote to your business. Some require actively selling products or services, while others rely on utilizing marketing tools to harness the power of the Internet and create a passive income stream. Many people find that the most lucrative home based businesses fall somewhere in the middle, enabling them to work minimal hours while maximizing income.

4. Diverse revenue streams. Although the ability to make money online has been around for several years now, the path to success is constantly evolving. Those in the know recommend diversifying your home base business revenue streams. In other words, you should launch several different types of online businesses to ensure that if one source of revenue slows, another can make up the difference. Like the old saying, "Don't put your eggs all in one basket," diversification is key.

5. Start small and plan to grow. If you're new to home based businesses, it's going to take a bit of time to learn the ropes. The challenges are by no means insurmountable, but you'll still need to get your systems in place, develop a game plan, and become proficient in your new venture. Most experts recommend that you begin with one opportunity, master that, and then add another. The ramp-up period varies from person to person, but most people are able to launch one home based business per month, and then add about one per month.

Once you find the right opportunities and the right fit, becoming a successful home based business entrepreneur isn't difficult. In fact, it's probably one of the most rewarding efforts you'll ever undertake.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Your Small Business May Be At Risk Unless You Have A Security and Recovery Plan

Don’t think your small business is at risk?  Think again.  Whether you realize it or not, your business has valuable information and assets that probably are not protected right now.   Your business likely has confidential client information, proprietary business knowledge or just internal knowledge that you wouldn't want to be exposed to criminals or competitors.  The loss of this information could have a devastating impact to your business.  While business insurance is an important part of your protection, it cannot protect clients from identity theft or your business from unscrupulous employees or competitors.

No matter how big or small, your business needs to have a security and recovery plan in place that determines what risks you have, helps protect against those risks and sets plans in place to handle the most likely types of losses you may experience.   Your plan should also look at the both the ‘physical’ and the ‘virtual’ aspects of your business.

Start by considering the types of risks to which your business may be vulnerable.   What if your business information was lost or stolen?  Do you have customer files or records, tax receipts, bank statements, business plans, customer work products?

Next, consider the physical aspects of your business that may be vulnerable.  Do you have unique office equipment, inventory, computers or trade specific tools?

Finally, look at how you do business.  Do you rely on technology, the internet or employees with unique skills?  Does your business model depend on repeatable processes that are unique to your business?

Now, consider what would happen to your business if these parts of your business were lost, destroyed or stolen.  Could you continue operating if you lost your client files?  Could you be sued by customers if their personal information was exposed? Could you be the target of negative publicity?  Could your competitors benefit if they gained access to the information?  What if you lost email access for a day?  What if that key employee suddenly left for another job?  What if your office space caught fire or was flooded?

Your security and recovery plan should put in place the safeguards and policies and procedures to prevent some of these risks and the potential to negatively impact your business.  Physical access to buildings is relatively easy to control although most small business have little more than a lock on the front door.    Should you consider locking file drawers? Is inventory controlled?  Does every employee have access, even to things that are not part of his or her job?  Could a disgruntled or fired employee return to the work space after hours with an extra key copy?

Your plan should consider how to protect the ‘virtual’ parts of your business also.  Do you have backups of any important files?  Do you have passwords, account numbers and other ‘keys’ securely guarded?  Do your computers have virus and firewall protection and is it up-to-date?  Do you have internet and email usage policies in place to protect your employees form harassment charges?

What about remote employees or workers who ‘take work home?’  In today’s highly mobile environment vital business information can now be easily accessed outside of your physical controls?  Do your employees know how to safeguard laptops, cell phones, flash drives or even print outs of business information once they leave your work space?  What if a laptop is stolen from a worker’s car or home or hotel room?  Do you have a backup of the data that was on the laptop? What if your employees are accessing your information from a coffee shop Wi-Fi?  How do you know if your clients and business are protected?

Lastly, your security and recovery plan should consider how you would handle the most likely losses. For instance, if the computer that holds all your sales information crashes, you should probably have a plan to immediately restore that information from a backup.  Where is the backup tape or disk kept Who has access to it and most importantly, who knows how to restore a backup?  If you office is flooded, how quickly can you relocate?  Can some employees work from home or other remote locations temporarily?  If client information is stolen, do you have a way to contact them?

Most small business owners likely have taken first steps like purchasing insurance and putting locks on the front door.  Unfortunately, few have taken the time to really understand the potential risks to their business.

Taking the time now to at least put together an informal plan will go a long way in the event of a real disaster or other loss.  Even the best planning obviously won’t protect against all disasters but it can certainly lessen the impact to your business once one occurs.

Aubrey Jones is President and founder of Riverbank Consulting, Inc.  Since 1996 he has worked to protect internet banking clients for one of the top US financial institutions including serving as a Risk Manager.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sales Training Tip - Keeping Customer for Life

Marketing and sales will, of course, be of the utmost importance to the success of your small business.  However, do you even know the difference between the two?  Marketing is everything your company does to reach out to the consumer and find potential clients.  Marketing is preparation for sales.  Sales is everything your company does to actually sell your particular product or service to the consumer and usually involves meetings with clients, calls on prospective clients, networking, and utilizing internet resources.
 
Marketing your company involves identifying and finding your target consumers.  You must find creative ways to get their attention and prepare them to make a purchase.  Marketing itself is made up of the 5 P’s:  product, positioning (how the customer perceives you in comparison with your competitors), place, price, and promotion.

When developing a marketing message, you are priming your customers to make a purchase.  In order to do this effectively, your marketing message must have substance.  Yes, the graphics and logos are important, but consumers want you to make you point as clear as possible as quickly as possible.  In order to do this, address these six issues in your marketing campaign:

1) Capture your audience’s attention with a message that clearly defines who you are addressing.
2) State the problems or desires of your audience.
3) Briefly describe your product.
4) Describe the benefit your customer will derive from your product.
5) Use testimonials or the like to give you message credibility.
6) Let the consumer know exactly what action they need to take next.

Customer Service

One of the most important aspects of small business management is customer relations – the interactions between customers and employees.  As a small business you have to provide the customer with better, more personal service in order to compete with the larger, more established providers in the marketplace.  You also have to look to the future and develop ways to keep your customers coming back year after year.  When a problem does occur, take advantage of the opportunity to build not only customer satisfaction, but customer loyalty.

Tips for Teaching Top-Notch Customer Service:

  • Determine what you really mean by excellent customer service.  You have to have a thorough understanding of what you want to provide so that you can provide it consistently.
  • If you really don’t know what your customers want and expect from you, do some research.  Talk to focus groups and ask your complaint department what the most common complaints are relating to customer service. 
  • Give your employees the freedom to go above and beyond the call of duty without punishment.  Let them know they have a wide array of responses to choose from and that you trust their judgment.
  • Train your employees to share pertinent customer information among themselves – likes, dislikes, quirks, needs, interests, etc. – can all be useful knowledge.
  • Give employees an example to model by committing yourself to excellent customer service as well.  Show them what you expect through your own interactions with customers.  In addition, always reward those who go beyond the call of duty.
  • Provide training for all employees – not just those on the front line.
  • Don’t expect change immediately.  It will take time for a new standard to be set in your organization.
  • Expect mistakes and acknowledge them.  Use these incidents as an opportunity to recommit yourself and your organization to superior service.  Apologize for any slip-ups and really listen to the customers complaints.  


Keeping Customers for Life

As a small business, you must cultivate relationships with your clients in order to ensure their continued patronage.  Studies have shown that it is much easier to continue a customer relationship than to cultivate a new one.  The first step to retaining customers is to keep your word.  Do what you say you are going to do in order to make your business worthy of a customer’s repeat business.  Expect that clients will return.  Many businesses look to the customer to prove that they are worthy of their attention by returning on a regular basis instead of cultivating a relationship from the very beginning.  Once you establish a good relationship, make it a policy to go above and beyond.

The customer should remain your focus – not your bottom line.  Your bottom line will only come into play if you can establish a business based on long-term customers.  Make sure that you are treating your employees as well as you are treating your customers.  You want lifelong employees in order to provide a stable, consistent environment for your lifelong customers.
Offer incentives to repeat customers.  Consider promotions such as “Buy 10 – Get the Next One Free” or “25% off on your next visit” to lure customers back into your establishment.  Finally, be choosy about the relationships you cultivate.  There are customers who are not worth keeping around for the long-run.  If a customer is a troublemaker, don’t worry about letting him move on to a competitor.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Brand Development - You Should Improve Your Branding

It might be almost blasphemous to talk about letting go of old brand equity and laying an old brand to rest, but there are times when change is needed. Reformulating and re-designing, or even overhauling an old brand can be a wise decision. If sales are flat and show no sign of growth, you’d better stop kidding yourself and hire a branding consultant.

Brands are an extremely vital element in your product and corporate value proposition. With communications so pervasive today, corporate branding and product branding are becoming fused as one. Corporate brands are increasingly powering product brands and product sales and that pose some substantial risk, as those sub brands can’t be as easily re-positioned when they falter.

Brand Culture

As time passes, culture changes, new technologies and new competing brands appear and they change the perception of value that is available in a marketplace. Old sales propositions won’t fly in the face of 20 or more other competitors offering the same benefits and features. With cultural, economic, technology changes, and corporate changes, your aging brand image and brand equity may end up doing more harm than good. Your former branding successes could leave your brand and company stuck in the past.

A good example of age related branding problem is in the realm of computer products. I recently bought a new laptop computer because my old one just couldn’t keep up with my multitasking and other work needs. At the retail store, there were computers with Intel or AMD microprocessors to choose from. The key matter wasn’t really microprocessor speed or capability. In the past, the Intel logo would have compelled me to buy only computers with their processors regardless of what other features were available in the computer. The Intel brand was clearly in a class by itself. Not this time. This AMD powered computer was low priced and had the memory I required along with other features such as a 100 Gb hard drive, high-resolution screen, numerous ports and adapters and a long lasting battery. It only weighs a couple of pounds and the AMD logo seemed to look better too.  It says: AMD Turion 64 Mobile Technology. 64 bits and mobile compatibility. Why doesn’t Intel mention that on the computer they have their products in?

Laptops are hot and prices are falling. My 15-year-old nephew just bought his first laptop on eBay, since they are cheaper and more accessible. So the whole “culture” of shopping and purchasing computers has changed.

Everyone is buying high-resolution screens and I was eager to ease my eyestrain from long hours of viewing everyday. The huge hard drive was great and the laptop looks good too. The old Intel brand just didn’t have the effect it once did, and their competitor, AMD, just sold one of their processors. The laptop is working great and now Intel processors don’t dictate which computer I’ll buy.

To me, the Intel logo and brand brings back memories of old Pentium computers. This is worsened by the fact that today’s processors have changed and they are running at lower speeds. This confuses the speed benefit that Intel had its brand positioned around. The technology change in viewing screens, memory, and processor use in the computer has moved the market away from where Intel was positioned. The Intel corporate brand powers sales of their new processors, but they can call those new products anything they want and it won’t effective my decision.

What Intel needs to do now, is to associate its processors with the features and benefits that consumers and B2B buyers make decisions upon. Computer branding is not all about the processors anymore and the old Intel brand image is deeply tied to old technology. Even the brand name Pentium is associated with the computer culture of the 90’s.

Here’s the issue: the old Intel brand was so successful in 90’s that it’s trapped Intel in a time warp. Intel needs new branding that ties it to the future, not the past. To get there, they are probably going to have to jettison the past.

Google is a good example of modern branding and a brand that is not tied solely to web search engines. The brand is now diversified strategically to associate it with everything people are doing on the web. Google is omnipresent, and its brand image is solely in its relevance to the current Internet culture.  Google won’t let its common search engine role diminish its branding power.

Hanging onto to Old Branding Concepts

There’s a lot of reason why brand managers, CEO's, and marketing managers resist rethinking their branding and redeveloping their brands. Most often, they don’t want to leave their comfort zone and risk a short-term blip in profit. Some don’t want to make an investment in hiring a branding consultant to look at the options. Branding experts examine a brand to discover its current problems, the culture of the marketplace, and to determine if a new brand identity or brand positioning would be fruitful. Some old brands are doomed, but most are just stale and not in tune with the target market. A branding consultant can provide crucial insight into market perception, brand value building, brand loyalty development, and to discover the brand value proposition that could breathe new life into your brands.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

How To Interview Sales People Successfully

Since the dawn of free trading only two things have ever mattered; producing a quality product or service and the ability to sell it successfully. By successfully, I mean ensuring that you achieve maximum profit from the sale, while the customer is delighted with their purchase. In most cases the Business owner understands what they need to produce, but more often that not rely on someone with sales skills to sell it.

Would you know a good sales person from a bad one?
While many company founders realize that they may not have the requisite sales skills, would they be able to recognize and hire someone who could sell? It is a recognised fact that four times as many business fail due to poor salesmanship, rather than poor products. Can you afford an other Sales person, based on the margins of what you intend to sell?

Thus hiring the right people to sell for you is one of the most important decisions most companies will make.

Unfortunately hiring is a bit like selling. First you must find prospects. These are the candidates that you will interview. To do this you must create a job spec. This will be your advert.

How to create a sales job specification.
Like marketing, this step must not be rushed. First understand exactly what you want the person to sell (Product Mix). Whom you wish them to sell to (territory) and how they should sell (Quota). You then need to ensure that you compensate them appropriately through a mix of base salary, Commission and Benefits.

Assuming you arrived at your targets, using an appropriate mix of sales history and market research, you will need to do a similar exercise on the cost of the sales person. In other words, can you afford them, based on the margins of what you intend to sell. It is also imperative that you offering a competitive package, if you want to attract the right level of person.

So now assuming you have advertised your position on the likes of www.salesjobs.ie or have advised an agency, what do you do next? You should partition the CVs that you get in, by sorting them into piles of “no” and “possibly”. You may have an agency doing this for you, or you might have a stab at it yourself.

The First Interview – by Phone or in Person?
The next step is to telephone interview the “possible” candidates. I would select about 10 candidates to interview by telephone. At ½ an hour each, it is 5 hours well spent. The purpose of this step is to whittle down the number of applicants, to no more than 4 per position to be filled.

I have a telephone interview sheet, which I have refined after years of interviewing sales people, and it works pretty well for me. The key facts that you need to ascertain from the interview is as follows.


  • Does the person have a good telephone manner? 
  • Did they research your company well? 
  • Why they are leaving their current role, what their package expectations are? 
  • Are they a strong performer as quantified by their results – how did they compare to their colleagues, how much money did they earn? 
  • Will they be a good fit with your company and prospects? 
  • Do they understand what a good sales process is, and have they experience of using one? 
  • Can they generate leads for themselves? 


This is a non-exhaustive sample, the key is to get score all of the answers they give – I do it from 1-5, and only when I have completed all of the telephone interviews, do I add up the scores and rank the candidates. You will be surprised how high your “gut feel” candidates rank. The reason behind this is that you used a repeatable process with all candidates.

Does the P65 Really matter?
When bringing the final candidates to your premises for final interview, you should ensure that they bring with them their last 3 years P65. This will verify their “sales figures” and earnings – it is amazing how few potential employers actually check this out. In addition you should also ask them to supply the details of two referees. I like when these referees are previous or existing customers.

If you have not had professional help in interviewing up to now (the most cost effective is at the telephone interview stage), I would strongly recommend you get in someone who has been a sales manager who has hired and fired sales people in their career. There is an old saying that “It takes one to know one” – this basically says that sales managers can smell a rat a mile off that someone who has not had day to day contact with sales people might miss.

On the final interview day, I would suggest that you have all the people come down on one or two days, and have them meet at least three of the following, as well as yourself; the business owner.

- Some of who does marketing
- An existing sales person, if you have one
- Someone in Customer Support
- Someone in Production (or a consultant if you are a service company)

This way, all the people who could end up working with this new person will at least have a view. At the end of the day, you will have the final say, but it pays to hear other people’s opinions.

Could luck, good hiring and most importantly good selling with great profit!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Home Based Business - Important Steps To Success

Ready to start your home based business?

Here's some facts that prevent most beginners from ever reaching that goal, and what you need to get started. The main question lies in the fact of whether you have what it takes to run a home based business?

Take the first steps now to starting your own business and get started right immediately. The first rule is self motivation. This is a key factor to getting started, so please don't pass it off. You must motivate yourself to take action in your life by redirecting and maintaining your attitude and ambition. What drives you to push yourself to the limit when the chance arises? Is it your family, friends, certain environments, tight schedules, love, or maybe even the initial goal on everyone's mind... Money? Whatever thrives you the most is what you need to keep your mind set on during the initial setup. This is what can destroy a vast majority of new business owners during the preparation process. Don't ever lose sight on what is pushing your ambition to rise above.

Second is about attitude and confidence. If you don't have a strong business attitude, then you will not survive in the business world. Be willing to do what it takes to succeed and don't make room for excuses. Excuses don't get the job done. If something needs to be initiated, or completed, then just do it and do it right. This is where confidence comes into play. You must be confident, but not preferably OVER-confident in your journey to succeed. If you have absolutely no confidence in yourself, then get some fast. Everyone can have ambition to succeed given the correct incentive and measurements. Make your own destiny! Don't wait for it to knock you down when you're not looking. You can take control and decide your fate for yourselves. Ambition is locked away in everyone's mind, so whatever it is you need to unlock that particular door, get it done. Clear your head from standard issues that will prevent you from succeeding for your future.

Now, set your mind to goal setting for a minute. What we want to do here is figure out what sort of goals you're looking to get out of life. Where would you like to be right now? How much money do you want to earn every week, month, or year? Have you reached 50% of your goals yet? This is a critical step in inspiration to push your agenda further than can be imagined. Imagine for a second that all of your bills are fully paid, but don't stop there. Imagine all of your bills are paid for the next 5 years without a blink of an eye. Owning your own home, and maybe a beach house or two. Drive anything you want, because it didn't even chip your bank account to purchase it. Basically, how far do you want to go. Would this be considered greed? Absolutely! That is the reason for rapidly advancing technology, health-care drugs for longer survival and better health, and amazing opportunities that are available to the general public... which will also take us to the next step.

Money management is VERY important. If you cannot control your money, then you will need to learn better patience. Patience with money earned will keep you from losing it all, after it's been made. Control yourself, and control your money. Set your daily/weekly/monthly budget and enforce it! If you cannot control your funds now, then start today and write a strict budget. Keep your goals in mind always, so you don't make extravagant purchases that were not necessary. If you do reach high goals and use your money accordingly with investing, or other resources, then you will have plenty of time to "throw your money around". So, be sure your budget is set and let's move on to the next step.

Research, research, research! This is probably one of the MOST important steps that you are going to take in your business planning. Do your research thoroughly and make absolutely sure that your knowledge will cover everything you need to know. Information is the most valuable commodity and most everything you'll need to know can be easily obtained online right now. Find out exactly what you need to be happy in your life, and set your mind to it. What do you have easy access to. There may be many things right under your nose, that you will kick yourself later for not thinking about it sooner. Find out what it is you enjoy. Don't always go with what your heart tells you in business, or you may not survive. Be truthful and realistic with yourself when deciding your business. Be sure that you WILL NOT LOSE MONEY. If you LOSE money from your business, then it's pointless to start in the first place.

Figure out what you want out of life. What is your primary goal? What type of schedule do you require? You can find the easy life, if you dig deep enough.

Do you have easy access to get started right now? Be sure that you know exactly what you are plunging yourself into. "Don't sink with a ship that has a near-sighted captain". What is the history of the businesses in the particular market that you're researching and what strategies were they using. You must find out whether the profit potential is endless? ...or does it have a cap-off point as well. How much time and work is it going to take to setup and ultimately operate? Be sure to keep plenty of "you" time for yourself. You don't have to work 24 hours a day to achieve your goals. Residual income is the key to making effortless money and obtaining your rightful financial freedom. Make your business work for you, instead of the other way around. Remember, you are the driver. You have the control to stop, go, and turn things around at any given point. You can start a business for less than a hundred dollars and turn it into a multi-million dollar success. So, do your research!

Now, we can move on to scheduling your business plan. Write it, or type it, and record it. This will take some time to think over and it definitely should. You should not rush this process by any means, since it will be YOU taking the action which will result in the overall consequences or rewards. Figure out how much money you want to earn on a periodic basis, and be sure to set your goals into a progressive mode. Once you've reached this point, you will need to keep site of your goals and realize you are the ONLY one that is going to make the difference. Time is much too important to waste in any circumstances, so be very careful with your decision making performance. Always take care of your well-being. Your health always plays an important role when you are taking a new leap in life.

Take care for now and good luck finding your success!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Emotional Side of Business

Do your emotions get in the way of sound business decisions?

Women, in particular, let their emotions get in the way of sound business judgment.   In business it is very necessary to be analytically and logical.  Each decision should boil down to one question:

“Will this be good or bad for my business?”

Society views women as nurturing caretakers and many have been raised to fit that model.  The problem stemming from this is that women are always concerned about not hurting the other person’s feelings.  They feel obligated to “be nice” by transacting business even though the action does not fit their business model or make good financial sense.

Have you ever been expected to make an expensive purchase for your business, and did you go through with it even though it was too costly, for fear of “not being liked?”  

Handle business swiftly and politely with a smile to avoid confrontations.  Your first response is to acknowledge the request.  Then, within the framework of the conversation, explain why you cannot meet the request.  For example, I had an exciting opportunity to combine forces with a local TV news program.  Their research was impeccable indicating a very high number of anticipated hits on my website and calls to be received if I were to sign up for the program.

After the presentation, and request for $50,000, I agreed it was of great value.  I then said, “If your statistics are true, I would need to build up my infrastructure which will take longer than your short time frame allowed for commitment.”

I agreed with their statements and used their own words to show the flaw in their reasoning for a quick decision. This method enabled me to excuse myself from the project and eliminated hard feelings.

You cannot afford to purchase from everyone.  You must learn to remove the emotional side of business and set realistic expectations of others.  Too often women will get upset if an acquaintance does not purchase; will not trade links on websites; and will not offer referrals.   They feel it’s owed to them.  

I suggest you take the “I” and “You” out of the equation and, instead, think in terms of the bottom line for your business.

Relationship selling is based on a win-win strategy.  Each business owner must understand the needs and challenges of the other.

When someone tells you ‘No’ at any point in a conversation, the very best thing to do is to stop and ask, “Why?”  Getting angry, walking away and stopping all communication is not the least bit helpful.

If you take the time to ask “Why?” and get a history of experiences, there will be three positive outcomes from the question.  First, if an error was made, you will know what that error was and will not repeat it elsewhere.

Second, you will become adept at always understanding two viewpoints (yours and your prospect’s) which will work in your favor from that point forward.

The third scenario, and best of all, is by questioning you may easily find a solution that will satisfy both of you.

Once you know who your best prospects are, stay with that market and you will be far happier as more business comes your way.  We've all heard, “It’s not personal, it’s just business” and now we must heed that expression.  
 
Ask yourself, am I making reasonable requests of others and am I making the best decisions for my business?

Additional Ideas to Build Business you way include, Determine if the goodwill outweighs the cost on smaller decisions; Analyze the pros and cons of larger decisions; Will you still be able to pay your bills after adding the new commitment;
Feminine intuition is an advantage – listen to your initial reaction as it’s usually correct.  If you are truly uncomfortable making a quick decision, request a day or two to reflect on the ramifications, good and bad, of the request.  No one can be offended by you giving serious consideration to what is being asked of you.  This last step will enhance your relationship selling and will present you as highly credible.

Strive to build a sound business environment.  Your center of influence will grow And Your Business Will Prosper.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Things That Make You A Successful Entrepreneurs

Studies have shown that successful entrepreneurs possess these characteristics:

Self-confidence 

This is that magical power of having confidence in oneself and in one's powers and abilities.

Achievement Oriented 

Results are gained by focused and sustained effort. They concentrate on achieving a specific goal, not just accomplishing a string of unrelated tasks.

Risk Taker 

They realize that there is a chance of loss inherent in achieving their goals, yet they have the confidence necessary to take calculated risks to achieve their goals.

Entrepreneurs are people who will make decisions, take action, and think that they can control their own destinies. They are often motivated by a spirit of independence which leads them to believe that their success depends on raw effort and hard work, not luck.

So which of these three main characteristics is the most important? Believe it or not, it has to be self-confidence. Without self-confidence, nothing else is possible. If you don't believe in your abilities, then the first challenge that arises may knock you off the path to achieving your goals. Here are a few things to keep in mind for maintaining a higher level of self-confidence.

Positive Thinking 

Well, it all starts with a positive attitude, doesn't it? Believing that something good will happen is the first step. Negative thinking simply is not allowed. You must truly believe that there are no circumstances strong enough to deter you from reaching your goals. Remember too, that positive thinking can be contagious. When positive thinking spreads, it can open doors to new ideas, customers, friends, etc.

Persistent Action 

Now all of the positive thinking and believing in the world is useless if it is not applied towards a goal. You have to take action, no excuses are allowed. This action must also be persistent. Trying once and then giving up is not going to be enough. Keep at it one step at a time. If you can't get by a certain step, then find a creative way to try again or just go around it.

At the beginning of this article we identified a few traits that are common among successful entrepreneurs. You should be able to look ahead and see yourself where you want to be. Now just maintain a strong belief in yourself and your skills, stick with it, and don't give up. If you can do that, you're already half way there!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Voice of Customer Service

Customer relationship management tools abound, yet let's hear it for old technology. Your voice is the most multifaceted customer service tool in your toolkit. Your voice can convey concern, care and compassion. It can alternately convey boredom, neglect or contempt. Your challenge: to insure your voice reinforces the service you strive to deliver through your actual words and action.

Customer service is about more than mouthing the words customers want to hear. You have to sound believable. How do you sound? Try this experiment. Call your own answering machine and leave yourself a message normally intended for your customers. Now replay it. Are you convincing? Does sincerity ring from your voice or are you just mouthing cliches in a disinterested fashion?

Depending your tone of voice you can alternately sound:
Compassionate or Condescending
Confident or Insecure
Knowledgeable or Ignorant
Attentive or Disinterested
Focused or Scattered
Alive or Comatose


Pick one of the following phrases:

“Thank you for calling. We’re excited to serve you.”

“Welcome back. It’s so nice to see you again.”

“We’ve missed you. Thank you for coming in again.”


Mouth it a few times to a colleague next to you or over the phone to a friend.


- Now ask your listener: "How do I sound?"

- When you’re mono-tonal you may sound flat and lifeless.

- How does this sound when you’re tired? Uninspired?

- How does this sound when you’re expressive? Do you generate good will and energy?

- How does this sound when you’re sincere? Is there a genuine quality to your voice?

- How does this sound when you’re friendly? Does warmth emanate from your conversation?

- How does this sound when you are smiling? Does your good humor come translate?

<b>Mirror Mirror on the Desk</b>
There is a reason many telesales and customer service representatives have mirrors on their desk. It’s not to admire their beauty or to insure the proverbial spinach isn’t stuck to their teeth. In this case, the mirror has two purposes. First, as a reminder to reps to smile while on the phone. Even though their smile isn’t seen by listeners, it is felt. When we smile it loosens up our jaws and relaxes us. This is then conveyed through our voice. We sound more relaxed, friendly and open because we are. The act of smiling activates certain muscles in our face and neck and actually alters our disposition for the better. The mirror both reminds us to smile and confirms we are when we glance at it periodically. Not to sound overly Dramatics, but “What you see is what they get.”

<b>Inflection</b>
When we consider the message our voice sends customers, don’t forget to consider your inflection. It is important to understand where in a sentence you put the emphasis. What words do you accentuate? Which words do you emphasize? Depending on your placement of accent you can send different messages with the same set of words. Consider the following statement: “It’s all over my friend.” Depending on the placement of accent and pause, this statement could either lament the end of a successful run of some sort, or be describing the result of a sick bird flying overhead of your pal.

Similarly, this statement, based on inflection, may send two entirely different messages: “What’s that in the road ahead?” or “What’s that in the road, a head?” You can see how inflections inform. Let’s make sure the information we convey is supported by our inflections.

Actors often take the Shakespearean phrase “to be or not to be, that is the question” and repeat it alternately while emphasizing different words. For instance, one variant might be “To be or NOT, to be THAT is the question!”

Revisiting our triplet of phrases let’s see how inflection alters their meaning:

“Thank you for calling. We’re delighted to serve you.”

We can place the accent on different words to convey different sentiments. The capital letters indicate the words being accented through our inflection.

“THANK you for calling. We’re delighted to serve you.”

“Thank you for CALLING. We’re delighted to serve you.”

“Thank you for calling. We’re DELIGHTED to serve you.”

“Thank you for calling. We’re delighted to SERVE you.”

“Thank YOU for calling. We’re delighted to serve YOU.”

For yourself, try this same exercise with each of the statements below, accenting different words within each sentence so as to find the inflection that best conveys your sentiment.

“Welcome back. It’s so nice to see you again.”

“We’ve missed you. Thank you for coming in again.”

<b>Voice Your Concern</b>
Using a pleasant tone, effective intonation, and empathic emotion your voice can go a long way toward helping customers feel heard, valued and cared for. Mama was right, it is more than what you say, it's how you say it too.