Archive for the ‘Business Solutions’ category

New Year, New Strategic Plan

December 17, 2018
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When you have a great business, you want it to thrive and grow. However, you may be in a panic because you realize the New Year is fast approaching but you have not created or tweaked your strategic plan for the year. Let this serve as a reminder of the importance of a feasible and functional plan for the success of your business.  

What are the benefits of a solid, viable, annual strategic plan? Consider your strategic plan an energy focus: your vision put in action. A strategic plan helps you move your business forward.

Strategic planning, coupled with the crucial follow-through, matters if you want to have a sustainable, successful business. Whether you are a solo-entrepreneur or a big conglomerate, there is no getting out of planning. Here are key elements to consider when you are developing your strategic plan:

Vision. What is your mission, your business reason for being? This is the why of your business. Be realistic. It’s ok to dream. In fact, dreams are part of the beginning of your business and should remain an integral part of it. Most businesses are born out of dreams. Without the dream, there is no vision. Without a vision, there is no mission. Everything else follows the dream. 

Review. If you have an existing business, what did the previous year look like? Build your strategic plan on the information from that analysis. If you are just beginning your business, use the information you gathered from studying your market.

SWOT. There is no way around objectively examining your business strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Goals. Set SMART goals. In other words, goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable (Attainable), Relevant and Timely. Additionally, your goals should be realistic – based on real possibilities. If you have a staff, involve them in setting these goals.

Identify. Who is the person(s) responsible for each goal and objective? Involve that person(s) in the strategic planning. Of course, if you are an entrepreneur, the person responsible is you. Keep in mind that it does not prevent you from identifying others outside of your business that could be a part of helping your business thrive.

Monitor. A strategic plan should be a living, breathing document. A good guideline to follow is to analyze your plan quarterly, reviewing your key performances. Have you met your goals within the timeframe you established? Why have you (or haven’t you) met your goals and objectives? Make the necessary adjustments needed, embracing new opportunities or challenges that may have presented during the quarter. 

These are just a few of the components of your strategic plan.  There are other aspects that you should consider. To learn more of them, read my previous article which provides additional useful information for developing your strategic plan.

The truth is, there is no way out of developing a strategic plan. Working in your business without a strategic plan is like driving to a new destination without a roadmap.  You must have a clear plan of how to navigate to your destination (your vision) or you will meander through any route and possibly face detours without a clear way to get to your success. The length of your plan is not important. What is important is that you address all aspect of your business. A well excecuted strategic plan can be transformative for your business. Don’t ring in the New Year without having an updated strategic plan.

 

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Is There a Business Card Scanner for You?

November 29, 2018

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Even though the virtual business card is readily available through companies such as Switchit, or vCard Global, it is not completely taking over, yet. The use of paper business cards remains as popular a way to provide quick information as it was when the business card first came on the scene a couple of hundred years ago. That said, the transfer of all that information to your database and contacts also remains as tedious and time consuming as ever. Good news! The transfer of information from the printed business card has been high tech for some time and the popularity of apps that can quickly arrange information into databases and contacts continues to grow. Let’s face it, whether digital or paper, if you are in business or have a career, you have a business card and that business card can either take a lot of your time organizing or a lot of storage space on your desk (or wallet). At least the problem is solved: there’s an app for that.

It’s time to eliminate that drawer full of business cards. If you don’t obtain any other apps for your business, you want to get a business card scanner app. These apps will allow you to store your business card information quickly and efficiently. These are a few of the apps that can keep your contacts handy and help you run your business more efficiently. Some of the apps listed below are free. It’s up to you to find the app that works best with your budget. A partial list can be found below:

Wantedly People – scan up to 10 business cards at the same time.

CamCard – read and save business cards to phone contacts and email accounts; syncs across platforms.

Evernote – scan contracts, receipts, business cards, and any paper. Share or save documents; available only for android.

Haystack – create your own digital business cards, share them via email or text; scan paper cards.

Scan Biz Cards – card scanning, calendar integration, cloud backup and a web portal for backup and online access; three different versions.

World Card Mobile – automatically sort recognized information by name, company, position, address, phone number, email address and other fields. Then it exports information to the address book on smartphone effectively. 

ABBYY Business Card Reader – scan and store contact information from business cards in up to 25 languages.

FoxCard – especially helpful for those with lots of business cards; reads and saves multiple cards at a time.

Microsoft Office Lens – scans business cards, documents and whiteboards.

As you can see there are a multitude of possible choices, each invaluable to increasing your efficiency. It’s up to you to do the research and then choose the scanner that works best for you and your business. And if one doesn’t work, you can always delete and choose another. By digitizing your business cards you will keep your contacts safe and always at your fingertips.

If you are still looking to save time, contact ETBS. We can help you at Exceptional by doing all the work for you. We can arrange those business cards on a spreadsheet for your convenience. Don’t be afraid to explore what works best for your business needs. And remember, we help you find business Solutions.

Now that’s a time wise business Solution you can use!

Don’t forget to leave a comment or some of your business solutions.

Business or Hobby – Which Do You Have?

October 26, 2018
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Are you operating a business or are you enjoying a hobby? It is up to you to decide if you  are running a business or if you are indulging a hobby. I’m not just referring to the IRS definition of hobby versus business. The IRS has a fairly straightforward litmus tests for determining whether or not you have a business. No, I am referring to how seriously you treat your business. 

There are certain activities that you should be engaged in to insure that your business will be successful as a business and not straddle the fence between hobby and business. Usually hobbies are taken up because there is an interest and a passion for the activity and, in truth, most people get some kind of enjoyment from and have a passion for their business, too. In fact, many entrepreneurs start their business from the passion they had for a hobby. Their hobby – their passion – allowed them to see that there was a need and even a demand for their product. Not a bad premise for a business. However, IRS aside, there are a few things you should be doing in order to succeed at your business.

To increase the odds of your business success and to ensure that your endeavor is not viewed as hobby, a few items are listed here. Some of them pertain to the IRS definition of business and, of course, you should always consult your tax accountant for advice. Others items are generally viewed as best practices for acheiving success in your business. Consider your answer to the following questions to help determine whether you have a business or hobby:

Do you have a business plan that you could take to a bank or other funding source to seek additional revenue?

Do you have a business strategic plan that clearly outlines your goals (especially your monetary goals)  and how you intend to reach them?

Do you spend money on marketing and advertising?

Do you invest in continued education?

Do you have insurance for your business?

Do you keep accurate and detailed records of expenses, travel, etc.?

Can you access the services of a lawyer or a tax accountant?

Do you have a clear vision of what success looks like?

Do you make changes if you see that the current way of doing business is not yielding the results you were anticipating?

Do you seek the expertise of outside sources if you need additional assistance to get your product or services out?

These are just a few of the questions to ask yourself in order to determine whether you are truly taking your enterprise seriously or whether you are engaged in a hobby. If you are lacking in any of the criteria, ask yourself why you are and if there is anything you can do about it. Adopt as many of the activities in the questions as you can.

Nearly everyone wants to succeed whether it’s with a business or a hobby, however, you should be very clear about how you view and classify your endeavor. That will play a major part in determining your success. If it’s a hobby, no problem. Have fun with it! If it’s a business, you can enjoy it, too, but most of all, make a profit!

Can Your Small Business Recover from a Disaster?

September 26, 2018
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What if your town and your small business were hit by a disaster? Could you recover quickly or would you be in jeopardy of losing your business? According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as much as 40% of small businesses don’t recover after a catastrophe. This is a sobering fact given that so many storms, including fire storms, are hitting the globe, often in rapid succession. 

Further, certain parts of the US are more prone to specific types of disasters than others. For example, earthquakes and fire storms are greater possibilities in the west than in the east. But in the Southeast there is the threat of hurricanes bringing torrential downpours and damaging winds spawning widespread flooding as in Hurricane Matthew and most recently, Hurricane Florence. In the North, a tremendous snowstorm could bring business to a halt, even damage your building.

You need a plan to recover and survive. Taking action immediately is crucial, but action before the diaser could mean the difference between survival and folding. There are steps you can take before a disaster to protect your business. Be proactive and follow these suggestions:

1. One of the first things to do for your business is obtain the best insurance you can afford. Know your agent and your policy. Keep your policy in a safe, accessible place. If you are affected by a disaster, make a claim as soon as you can after the disaster has occurred.

2. In the event of a disaster, contact your employees as soon as you can so that you can be sure they and their families are safe. Human life and livelihood are most important. 

3. Have money set aside for disaster and emergencies. Even if your business is not touched physically by the disaster, your customers may be affected and their spending may drop off, or even disappear, in the face of a disaster in your area.

4. If you have employees, it would be useful to have an occacional disaster drill. If there are any deficiencies in your preparedness plan they should show up in a drill. If the area you live in has an occasional townwide or statewide drill such as the tornado preparedness drill, participate. Preparation doesn’t have to cost a lot of money, but a small investment of time could mean your business survival.

5. Good recordkeeping is crucial to any business, but in a disaster it is very possible that you won’t have access to your files. Best practice is to keep your records and documents in the cloud.

By now most of us are well aware that disaster can take the form of fire, flood, hurricane and earthquakes, even terrorism. Don’t let being ill prepared contribute to the impact of the disaster. Preparation could mean the difference between recovery for your small business or your business becoming one more victim of the disaster.

Is Fear Blocking Your Success?

July 23, 2018
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Do you understand just what it is that is holding you back from achieving the success you work so hard for? While you may not be fully aware of it, FEAR may be at the core of the answer to that question. Fear may be preventing you from seeing phenomenal success.

I hear many friends and colleagues discussing the ups and downs of their business. If they are asked what is standing in the way of being successful, or even just starting a business of their own, I hear things like:

  • I don’t have the funds I need to be really successful.
  • I need to keep my current job because I need healthcare coverage.
  • I just don’t know what it is or have the tools and time it takes to keep the business running smoothly.
  • Now is not the time to build the business.

However, if any entrepreneur or business owner were to analyze what is truly holding them back, they are sure to find fear at the heart of most of the reasons and the excuses. 

Fear actually takes many forms and some of  those fears may involve legitimate concerns. However, that very concern can be your catapult to success. Here is what fear blocks on your road to success:

  • abundance,
  • exuberance,  
  • a healthy outlook on your business and life,
  • collaboration with others,
  • expansion of your business,
  • authenticity,
  • action/motivation,
  •  change.

When you operate from fear, you often engage in and embrace “worst case scenario” thinking. At the appropriate times this may be good, but when it takes over your thought process and you become immobilized, fear has blocked your way to success.

Visualize fear like a tree and just as the tree is rooted to the ground, fear can be fixed solidly in your minds. Again, like the tree has many branches, you may have many fears that contribute to success or failure.

There are solutions to avoid or overcome fear. I’m not saying they are easy solutions, but they are solutions that will help you become unstuck, nonetheless. These are just a few of the things you can do or attitudes you can adopt to help harness those fears:

  • Be aware when fear has reared it’s ugly head. Be honest with yourself and don’t rationalize that what you are feeling or experiencing is legitimate if it really isn’t. Most people have a fear of public speaking, but is it always grounded in any real danger. Meditation and prayer can help you recognize what is legitimate and what is irrational.
  • Embrace success as your “just deserts.” You deserve to succeed in your business but you must claim that as your right.
  • Be specific about what your fear is and look at the root cause. Is it rational or is it irrational without basis in reality?
  • Keep your vision and goals in the forefront when you are confronted with fear. Look at the small steps that you need to take. This will help mobilize you and help drive out fear.
  • Let go of perfectionism. This is one way of thinking that has it’s root cause in fear, but is often masquerading as an ideal to achieve. Yes, you want everything you do to reflect the best, but recognize that if you wait for everything to be perfect, for every moment to be perfect, you may be left waiting a long time.
  • When in doubt, take some kind of action. Even a little action can move you past your fears.

I admit that, on the surface, this is a rather simplistic approach. There can be so many layers and facets to fear that it is not easy to forage through and overcome them. Rather, I am giving you fuel to think over and that will hopefully propel you into action. Fear is a very difficult emotion, one that can be clearly standing in the way of your success or one that is operating as if it is a legitimate thought process. It can keep you stuck on mediocrity and even in failure. Fear is at the root of many unrealized and unfulfilled dreams and, without a doubt, it interferes with the success of your business.

The Ability to Change Is Good Business

June 21, 2018
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You’ve owned your successful business for some time, but have you made any changes recently? Or have you resisted change, failed to come up with new ideas, even looked at your competition’s latest innovation as a passing fad? The ability to change is good for your business success. On the other hand, failure to make changes can lead to eventual failure of the business. 

It is imperative that business owners remain alert for the emergence of new competitors that are in similar businesses or create innovations to make their products more appealing to customers. There are many examples of businesses that failed to respond to new competition or failed to institute changes.

For instance, the social network, Myspace was here before Facebook. However, Myspace faltered and Facebook took off. It is imperative for businesses to keep abreast of and act on new opportunities, technological or otherwise, that could add more value to your business and deliver more service to your customers.

Changes can be fast and explosive, generally a reaction to an external event, for example, a new competitor emerges, or an existing competitor changes focus. What would be your  response if technology is introduced that has the potential to bring about major changes within the business? Is your response negative or positive? Blackberry is an example of a company that failed to react to the emergence of a competitor with better technology within their product. The iPhone came in and virtually wiped out Blackberry’s appeal. All but those ultra-loyal Blackberry users switched and became loyal fans of the iPhone when Blackberry failed to introduce a phone of their own until much later. It was a slow and costly reaction to changes.

Changes can also be gradual. These changes are generally a part of the strategic plan ,  and anticipated as part of capacity building and growth. A strategic plan is the best attempt at forecasting what may be coming and also in setting up the company as a leader, introducing cutting edge innovations.

Let’s look at the demise of Borders Bookstores. Their strategic plan was to increase the growth of bricks and mortar stores. They resisted, even ignored, the obvious: books were selling online and people just weren’t going to physical stores, not as they had to in the past and certainly not in enough numbers to justify the growth of bricks and mortar facilities. Digital books were the hot item – convenient to read and carry. After all, the device you were reading on was probably literally in hand already. To top it off, digital versions of books were usually less expensive, making consumer choice even easier. Borders closed its doors.

Admittedly, if the business owner is embracing change, it is the employee that will often resist that change. Change can be perceived as a threat if it is not handled correctly. Smart businesses will be proactive and create a culture in which the perception of change is not a crisis, but is structured as an opportunity. This will reduce the stress and possible resistance of staff. Change can be instituted that much faster and certainly smoother.

There are many ways to introduce change. New employees is one way. Using the strategic plan is another. Further, staff should be urged to become change agents, using their imaginations, looking at the business from the prism of “what if?” This fosters acknowledging the inevitability of change as a positive. It is very important to build in processes to promote change and growth. Employees are better able to adapt. In short, adapting to change is the goal. Without it a business fails to change and the business is headed for eventual failure and, unfortunately, in this fast paced business world today, that failure will come sooner rather than later.

Toys R Us is an example of a business that failed to respond quickly enough to technological changes, i.e. Amazon and the Internet. While children may have loved the experience of shopping at Toys R Us, it was the parents who took them to the physical building and consequently made the purchases. Parents opted for convenience.

Charles Darwin was correct when he said, “It is not the strongest of the species that will survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one that is most responsive to change.” Failure to adapt in an increasingly fluid and unpredictable environment leads to a failed business. Remember, the dinosaurs were the strongest animals on the planet at one time. 

Running a business means change happens. To  insure you are flexible enough to survive, make change a part of your business strategy. When that happens, change is good because change means success.

7 Habits to Develop as a Successful Entrepreneur

May 23, 2018

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Ok. Take a bow and give yourself kudos and high fives if you are an entrepreneur. You are one of those special people who see the world from the prism of “what if” and who holds a strong belief in your own abilities to control your destiny. Being an entrepreneur calls for “true grit” and a set of habits that could help you succeed. Here is a list of 7 of those habits:

  1. Put your customers first – always. Your customers are your success (or failure). You need them just as they need your product. Make your product indispensable. Go the extra mile to help them. When they need your product, they will turn to you.
  2. Establish a routine including setting regular sleep hours. Sleep deprivation is helpful to no one, least of all to the entrepreneur. It dulls your thinking and your reaction time. Creativity is dulled. Health can become compromised and without good health, you cannot expect to be successful. In addition, that routine should include some form of exercise whether it’s yoga in the morning or a brisk walk in the afternoon or both. And set aside quiet time or meditation as a part of your routine.
  3. Practice continued education and constant reading, especially of nonfiction. Attend conferences, workshops or classes. Continual learning opens the mind and leads to new ways of thinking. The consequences?  New innovations and improved products.
  4. Promote your business wherever and whenever you can. Cultivate an instinct to see opportunity everywhere and in every encounter. Act on it. Discuss your business, leave a memorable business card.
  5. Develop “thick skin.” There will be failures and rejection. You must be able to understand that failure can sometime be a part of great success. Just realize there is often great reward in perseverance and determination
  6. Practice informed optimism. Don’t blindly believe you will be a success. Definitely believe in your ability to be a success but put some study and information to it. Study trends; analyze profit and losses – yours and others. Look at your threats and opportunities. Create a strategy around those. This is what could be called informed optimism.
  7. Take care of yourself. Take regular vacations. Reconnect with your family and yourself. Really unwind. Visit a spa; go to a ball game. Take a break from the routine. There is validity to the old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Literally, your mind will not be as sharp and you will not be as interesting a person to be around when your entire focus is always work.

None of these habits are complicated, but habits must be developed and cultivated to be of any use. You have to put them into practice on a routine basis. Your enterprise, regardless of what it is or how large it is, will benefit and thrive from the beneficial habits you follow. After all, you are in business to succeed and to make money. Adopting a few sensible habits can put success in your reach.