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// by Tim Davis / May. 28, 2015 0 comments
Entrepreneurs

Through hard work, creativity and collaboration, small business owners and entrepreneurs contribute to our local communities and economies every day.  They play a crucial role in our society and deserve to be recognized for their dedication and success. 

In celebration of National Small Business Week, The UPS Store launched the Small Biz Salute campaign, recognizing small businesses for their hard work and providing an opportunity to support one another. In collaboration with SCORE and local chapters of the Small Business Association, we hosted Small Biz Salute events in Seattle, Austin and Atlanta, uniting entrepreneurs in each city. Attendees seized the opportunity to make meaningful connections, share best practices and gain valuable advice from small business experts.  

At each event, a local entrepreneur shared their story and advice and encouraged others to discuss their challenges and successes. In Seattle, freelance writer and lifestyle coach Kelly Clay focused on the importance of mentoring. She talked about the influential role that her mentor plays in her life, providing both personal and professional support. She stressed the fact that as a small business owner, you can't do it all on your own. She advised attendees to seek help, guidance and advice from peers and other experts in your field.

"No matter where you are in your small business journey, you can benefit from both mentorship and mentoring," said Clay. As small business owners experience obstacles and opportunities on their paths to success, she encouraged everyone to remember and apply the valuable advice they've received along the way.

In Austin, Founder and Owner of Chi'Lantro BBQ Jae Kim, told his captivating journey of turning his small business dreams into a reality. From a food truck with one customer on the first day, to multiple trucks and a brick and mortar location, Kim inspired the audience to never give up. When experiencing growth, he advises entrepreneurs to put a high priority on the well-being of your staff. Through honest communication and an open-door policy, Kim wants his team members to feel comfortable expressing their feelings about both work and personal struggles.

Atlanta entrepreneur, Steven Carse, CEO of King of Pops engaged event attendees through his vibrant story of small business success. Discovering fresh fruit popsicles on a trip to Central America, Carse took action to turn these delicious treats into a booming business. He shared the importance of getting involved and giving back to your local community.

"We encourage our community to be part of our business. It brings you closer to your customers and fosters the mindset of community support," Carse shared. "From free yoga nights to learning tours at our community farm, we invite everyone to experience more than just popsicles." Carse also advised that every entrepreneur should always find joy in your work and have fun. This positivity will shine through your employees to your customers and improve overall success.

The events left attendees in each city inspired and encouraged to keep moving forward on their small business journey. They shared and learned valuable personal and professional advice while expanding their local networks in a fun, relaxed environment. National Small Business Month is the perfect time to focus on how to give back to the everyday entrepreneur and salute them for their hard work and contribution to our society.

Tim Davis
President
The UPS Store

Tim Davis became president of The UPS Store, Inc. in July 2012. He joined the company in March 2002 as vice president of technology. In March 2004, he became vice president of iShip, Inc. (a UPS subsidiary). In January 2005, in addition to his iShip responsibilities, he reassumed his position as vice president of technology for The UPS Store, Inc. He was appointed to vice president of operations in November 2009. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from The Citadel as well as an MBA from the University of Tulsa.
The UPS Store | Facebook | @TheUPSStore

// by David Finkel / May. 27, 2015 0 comments
Cash Flow

One of the biggest obstacles to scaling your company is cash flow.  Yet when a company struggles with cash flow they generally have a knee jerk reaction, “We need more sales.”  The painful truth is that often more sales is the worst thing for that company, as the cash flow challenge comes from a different cause.

Here is a simple diagnosis tree to follow down to get to the root of your cash flow challenges.  You’ll notice that only one is poor sales.

Cash Flow Challenge Cause #1:  Poor collection on your receivables.

It’s my observation that many businesses ignore this vital function because they are uncomfortable asking people or companies for money.

Yet the cost to the business can be massive, and only compound as the company grows.  Remember, once you make a sale you have all those costs of goods sold.  If you don’t collect on that sale you’re actually worse off than if you never made the sale in the first place.

Imagine Acme Inc. has gross sales of $1 million per year, with 5 percent of its sales going uncollected.  Well you say, that’s just $50,000 out of $1 million in sales—that’s just the cost of doing business.

But hang on for a second.  If Acme Inc. has 20 percent operating margin (i.e. a pretax profit margin) then that $50,000 of uncollected receivables you were so willing to write off as “the cost of doing business” represents an instant increase of 25 percent operating profits if it were collected!

So the first place to look if you are suffering from a cash flow challenge is at your balance sheet and collections practices.  Are you collecting all of what you are owed?  Are you collecting this money in a timely basis?  How much are you spending on your collections efforts?

Cash Flow Challenge Cause #2:  Your pricing is off.

Most businesses set their prices when the business is new and desperately needs business, and as a result, set pricing levels low. Over time, the business may make nominal increases to pricing every few years, but rarely does the owner ever sit down and fundamentally rethink his pricing model.

Look at your gross profit margin.  That number is a great tool to help you ferret out if somehow your pricing model is off.

This can happen to anyone.  For example, I was coaching a CPA firm in Mississippi that was struggling with cash flow.  We did a “margin analysis” breaking down their gross profit margin on every client and discovered something.  One third of their clients, which we put in to “Bucket A” were high margin clients.  One third of their clients (Bucket B) were low margin clients.  And the final third of their clients were negative margin clients (Bucket C) which meant they were losing money on every sale they made to these Bucket C clients!

We immediately raised pricing on all Bucket C clients or gently guided them to other firms.  Next, we went back to the Bucket B clients and both raised pricing and looked at ways to reduce the production cost to do the service work, both of which improved their margins.

Pay close attention to your gross profit margins, including breaking it down by client or product or service category.

Cash Flow Challenge Cause #3:  Your expenses are too high relative to your sales volume.

Costs matter. Early on, business owners know this and agonize over every penny spent. But as the business grows, you will no longer be able to be the hawk watching closely over every dollar spent. 

Go through you P&L statement and question every expense, especially the big three—staffing, capital expenditures (e.g. equipment and plant), and office costs.  Can you make any cuts?  Can you negotiate with your vendors for better pricing?  Can you make a fixed expense variable (e.g. paying a performance fee vs a salary, locking in an option to renew versus an obligation, etc.)?

Cash Flow Challenge Cause #4:  Your sales are too low.

After looking at the above three cash flow issues, the bottom line cause may simply be that your sales are too low. 

Can you encourage your customers to upgrade to higher value products or services?  Bundle in complementary items to increase your average unit of sale?  Do all you can to reduce attrition so you keep your customers longer?  Etc.

So before you rush off to sell your way out of a cash flow challenge, make sure you take a moment to see if that is the real root cause of the crisis.

David Finkel
CEO
Maui Mastermind
A former Olympic level athlete turned serial entrepreneur, David Finkel is the CEO of Maui Mastermind®, one of the world’s premier business coaching companies. He is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of ten books.
// by Rieva Lesonsky / May. 26, 2015 0 comments
Business Data

Is your sensitive business data really safe, or are you just fooling yourself? Even if all your tech security precautions are in place, such as updated software and firewalls, employees could be putting your and your customers’ data at risk, according to a new survey.

Human error was the number-one cause of data security breaches last year, according to a study by BakerHostetler, accounting for 36 percent of incidents. The next most common causes were outsider theft (22 percent), insider theft (16 percent), malware (16 percent) and phishing attacks (14 percent).

Only two-thirds of the incidents were detected by the company itself; in the rest of the cases, the company didn’t know about it until an affected party contacted them. Worse yet, the average time that passed until a breach was detected was 134 days—more than four months!

A lot of bad stuff can happen in four months, especially if your industry involves handling sensitive customer data like credit card numbers, Social Security numbers or health data. So how can you protect your small business from employee error when it comes to data security?

Of course, you should still use basic security measures, such as automatically installing software updates, setting up firewalls and using antivirus software. But those technical protections alone are not enough. “Social engineering” is the biggest risk small businesses face when it comes to data security, according to IT security expert Kevin Mitnick, founder of KnowBe4. Social engineering is any method by which hackers or thieves trick individuals into divulging information—whether it’s a phishing email that has them click on a malicious hyperlink, or a phone call posing as a bank employee and asking to confirm an account number.

To alert employees to these risks, set data security policies and stick with them. Make this part of your employee handbook and require every employee to demonstrate knowledge of the policies.

For instance, policies requiring employees to select complex passwords, change passwords every three months and always log out at the end of the day can help keep you safe. Use one of the many automatic password generators and/or password keepers, such as Roboform, LastPass or Norton’s, to ensure employees aren’t just picking “password” or “123456” as their passwords. You should also restrict what type of information is given out over the phone.

Habits die hard, and employees tend to revert to easier ways of doing things. Updating your policies and providing new training every six months will help keep employees on top of security trends.

Of course, your employees aren’t the only weak links in your business’s data security. You need to be just as aware of the risks and equally strict in following your own procedures.

Last, but not least, know that not all security breaches are electronic. According to the BakerHostedtler study, more than 20 percent of breaches in 2014 involved paper records. Limit access to sensitive paper records to employees who really need access, and regularly shred documents that are no longer needed for your files.

Not sure what steps to take to fully protect your business? Your SCORE mentor can help. Visit www.score.org to find a mentor today. 

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
// by Aliana Marino / May. 22, 2015 0 comments
Who's Nurturing Today's Businesses?

This month’s SCORE infographic highlights the current trends of small business ownership. It also identifies the growing impact of female and Latino entrepreneurs on the economy and employment.

The number of women-owned businesses is growing 1.5 times faster than the national average.

From 1997 to 2014, men-owned businesses showed a:

  • 34.4% increase in number of companies
  • 6.5% decrease in employment
  • 45.1% increase in revenues

During the same time period, women-owned businesses showed a:

  • 67.8% increase in number of companies
  • 11% increase in employment
  • 72.3% increase in revenues

Flower Infographic

9.1 million women-owned businesses hire 7.9 million employees (other than the owners) and generate $1.4 trillion in annual revenue. The highest industry concentration is in health care and social assistance, educational and other professional services.

…And more and more businesses are owned by women of color

Ownership Growth

Business ownership by women of color increased from 1 million in 1997 to 3 million in 2014. These businesses increased:

  • 193% in number of companies
  • 216% in revenue

The growth of Latino-owned businesses is up 43% since 2007.

Latinos open small businesses at a rate 2 times the national average. Number of Latino-owned businesses:

  • 1.57 million in 2002
  • 2.26 million in 2007
  • 3.22 million in 2014

Download this month’s SCORE infographic for more details. To start or nurture your own small business, work with a SCORE mentor for free.

Aliana Marino
Communications Manager
SCORE
Aliana is passionate about helping small businesses thrive and getting the word out about the great work SCORE mentors do across country. 
score.org | Facebook | @SCOREmentors | More from Aliana                   
// by Hal Shelton / May. 21, 2015 0 comments
Business Plan

Over the last few months, I’ve discussed a number of different ways you can set yourself up for success when writing a business plan. I’ve also looked at some of the common business plan mistakes, and how you can avoid them.

In today’s post, I’d like to take a deeper look at 10 smart things you can do when writing, and rewriting, your business plan.

1. Write a clear two-page executive summary.

Your goal in the executive summary is to energize the reader to read the whole plan. Make a persuasive case upfront for why the business will be successful and why you are the right person at the right time to lead this business to success. Be sure to include clear statements explaining your value proposition and competitive advantages.

2. Emphasize the customer need or problem you are satisfying.

 Your business plan should be about the products and services you are providing to satisfy a customer need or fix a customer problem. Show how you can drive demand: Provide evidence of the size and acuteness of the problem and how you are uniquely satisfying/solving it.

3. Understand your own strengths, skills, and time available.

Often start-ups consist of one employee — you, the founder. What are your skills, what do you like to do and not do? How much time do you have available? These are important questions to calibrate your expectations and determine where you will need support.

4. Spell out the business model.

For yourself and for a lender/investor demonstrate how you are going to generate revenue. How are you going to get paid? And for what will you get paid? Who are your customers, and in what sales channels do you find them?

5. Include a believable sales forecast.

The sales forecast must be supported with detailed action plans encompassing your marketing and sales process; including lead-generation strategies, open-for-business campaigns, demos, and overall messaging. Using industry benchmarks will provide credibility for your sales forecast.

6. Request funding consistent with the needs shown in the forecasted financial statements.

The funding request that’s made in the executive summary needs to be supported by the forecasted financial statements, which are usually for a minimum of three years

7. Tell a banker or angel investor how you will use the funds they provide.

This is called “Use of Funds.” Investors want their funding to go to company activities that will generate future revenues and grow the business. The Use of Funds section doesn’t need to go into much detail, but it must cover all the funds requested.

8. Revisit and refine your first draft.

Write a draft, put it down, think about it, do more research and experiment; then write a second draft and repeat the process. As part of the research, learn from others, get differing opinions, and seek advice from similar businesses in other markets. It is unlikely that any one person will know it all. While entrepreneurs are usually strong willed, they also need to be good listeners and learn from others’ mistakes and accomplishments.

This will take time, but the quality of the plan will significantly increase as you come back with more information and insight with each draft.

If you already have a business plan, you many think you’ve done all you need to.

However, even the best business plans can benefit from revision. Here are a couple tips for updating your business plan:

9. Keep up with changing markets.

Just as your market will change over time, so should your business plan. While your initial business plan might rely on some assumptions about your target audience and what they need, once your business is up and running, you may discover new factors you hadn’t originally considered, including competitor reaction to your business entering the market. Be sure to incorporate this new insight into your updated plan.

10. Update your financial forecast.

Use the results of the past year as a base in developing financial forecasts for the coming year. As a small business, focus on cash flow. Use your business plan as a segue to an annual goal setting and budget process.

Key Lessons

  • A well-thought-out business plan occurs over time, including a lot of interaction with others to learn about your business and market.
  • A focused and up-to-date business plan is the path to good decisions regarding your business idea.
  • A well-presented business plan will facilitate reaching potential customers and funders.
Hal Shelton
Author and Mentor
SCORE

Hal is a SCORE mentor who is passionate about helping small businesses start and grow. He has been a CFO and board member for NYSE/NASDAQ publicly traded companies and nonprofits. He is currently an active investor in early-stage technology companies and is the Amazon bestselling author of The Secrets to Writing a Successful Business Plan

// by James Thornton / May. 20, 2015 0 comments
unsubscribe

Internet users are a fickle breed. One day they sign up for your newsletter because they are interested in a particular topic, then spend the next weeks doing their darndest to bash away said newsletter whenever it plonks into their inbox. Newsletters can infuriate people so much so, that they despairingly reach for the unsubscribe button. 

But why do people do this? If you’re running an email marketing campaign, it’s important you find out. With a few tweaks to your strategy, and with the help of good email marketing software, it’s possible to turn would-be unsubscribers into avid readers.

Here are some of the main reasons that people may be unsubscribing to your newsletter, along with some expert advice on how you can address each problem.

Problem: You’re sending too many emails

People hate a clogged-up inbox. When was the last time you heard someone complain that they aren’t receiving enough emails? One of the sure-fire ways to put off customers is to send them too many emails. They will start to see your newsletter as a menace in their never-ending battle to clear their inbox. A recent GetData study reveals that the volume of emails is the main reason why people unsubscribe from a newsletter.

On the flip-side, you don’t want to be sending too few mailouts. People can forget that they subscribed to you in the first place and unsubscribe, since they aren’t sure why they are getting your newsletter.

Fix: Perform periodicity tests

“Creating multiple drip marketing campaigns that you can test against one another will help determine this (if you are sending too many/too few emails),” says Nick Campbell, brand strategist at Partiqal, who has worked on campaigns for brands such as Kia, Kmart, and CI Games“

“Send more messages to one randomized group, and less to another, and then look for the best engagement and conversion rates. You can test any number of variables in this way, as long as you are controlled in your approach.”

Problem: Your content is irrelevant

One of the top reasons people unsubscribe to emails is if they aren’t relevant to the recipient. ‘But then why did they sign up in the first place?’ you ask. Perhaps they signed up to it when they had a particular need or interest that’s no longer there. For example, they were buying a house at the time, but now they’re settled and don’t need a newsletter about properties in the area; or, they were really into petcare products but then their dog died. 

In many cases, there’s no point trying to win these people back, since they simply aren’t your target audience. It could, however, be the case that you’re simply not responding to the questions your customers want answered.

Fix: Segment your readership

“The more you know about your subscribers, the more relevant a marketer can make the content,” says Brett Farmiloe, Founder at Markitors, who is a Mailchimp email marketing specialist. “The most important tactic lies in list segmentation. Rather than lump every subscriber together, invest time in segmenting subscribers by campaign activity and collected data.”

Problem: Your newsletter isn’t optimized for mobile

These days, more than half of emails opened are done so on a phone or a tablet. No matter how elegant and sharp your newsletter looks in a browser or desktop mail client, it could look like trash when rendered on a mobile. You have to make sure that your newsletter is mobile-friendly, or your audience will be hitting the unsubscribe button in droves.
 
Fix: Adopt responsive design

“Design and code your emails to be responsive,” says David Carpio, Director of Email Marketing at Zeeto Media. “Most statistics show that half (if not more) users are opening their emails on mobile. If you’re not using responsive design – or are mobile-friendly at the very least – you’re doing yourself a disservice, but more importantly, your subscribers.”

Problem: Too much (or too little) content

People generally don’t have time to read long emails, so it’s important that you keep your newsletters concise to avoid them getting overwhelmed and reaching for the unsubscribe button. Likewise, if you’re very light on content in your newsletters, your subscribers won’t see the value in your correspondence and could become ex-subscribers.

Fix: Use the “three-second scan”

“The best strategy I've found is what I call the "three-second scan test"- look at an email for three seconds (no longer) and tell me what this email is about. If that can't be clearly answered in three seconds, you likely have too much going on within your email,” says Nick Marvik, CEO of Northwest Tech (NWT3K), who previously worked for Amazon.com as an email marketing expert.

“Simplify your email and focus on direct calls-to-action -- take the user outside of their email inbox to further educate them. Don't use email to try and stuff everything into one package. Often times, minimizing the amount of content within an email and focusing more on the main message and CTA will dramatically increase your overall click-through-rates.”

Problem: You’re sending newsletters at the wrong time

Email open rates vary based on what time of day the newsletter is sent. As a result, it’s important to think about when you’re sending it out to avoid people missing your content. If they are constantly missing your content, then eventually they may just unsubscribe without paying any regard to what you’ve got to say.

Fix: Aim for the middle of the week

“We try to send on a Tuesday or Wednesday morning around 11 am EST,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO at MyCorporation. “We find that we have a fairly high open rate in the middle of the week as opposed to the beginning, when readers are busy, or the end of the week, when people are ready for the weekend. Also, East coasters tend to be later to work, so we send it out later for those on the east coast.”

James Thornton
Chief Editor
GetApp

James is chief editor at GetApp Lab. He has worked as a software journalist for the last 15 years, documenting everything from the rise of the smartphone apps to the impact of cloud technology of modern business. He's excited about how apps are shaking up the worlds of HR, sales, and business intelligence.
GetApp.com@GetApp​ More from James

// by Rieva Lesonsky / May. 19, 2015 0 comments
Business Credit

  According to a survey by Creditera, nearly half of small business owners don’t know they have a business credit score—even though that score is critical to obtaining business loans and other forms of financing.

More scary statistics from Creditera’s research:

  •  20 percent of small businesses have considered closing their doors in the last 12 months, and financial issues are prominently cited as a reason why.
  •  26 percent of entrepreneurs didn’t expand their businesses or hire more employees because trying to find the funding to do so is too frustrating.

Lack of awareness about your credit score has big repercussions for your business’s goals and vision. About 40 percent of the small and midsized businesses Creditera polled didn’t know their business credit scores and those entrepreneurs envisioned business growth of less than 5 percent. However, nearly 75 percent of the small and midsized business owners who do understand their business credit scores have loftier goals, envisioning business growth of 5 to 20 percent.

They say knowledge is power—and clearly, knowledge of your business credit score, how to improve it, and how to protect it can give you the power to grow your business. So where should you start?

  • First, check your business credit score by contacting business credit reporting agencies D&B, Experian and Equifax. If you see any errors, correct them. Continue to check your report regularly (at least once a year) for accuracy.
  • Don’t mix business and personal credit. Many small business owners charge business expenses on personal credit cards, and vice versa. This is a big mistake. Always use business accounts to cover business expenses—otherwise, your business won’t build its own credit report.
  • Pay your bills and vendors promptly. Just as with personal credit, making timely payments is of the essence in maintaining a good business credit score. Also ask your suppliers to make sure that they report your payment history to the relevant business credit scoring agencies, since not all companies will do this unless you ask.
  • Use credit wisely. You need some business credit to build a credit score. It’s best to have a few different business credit cards so that if one company suddenly changes terms or lowers your limit, you won’t get caught short. Also consider obtaining a business line of credit, using it and paying it back. It’s best not to use all your available credit—try to keep usage to 30 percent of your total credit available. This reassures lenders that you have plenty of wiggle room.

Need help getting your business credit score in shape? Your SCORE mentor can help you develop a plan for improving it. Visit www.score.org

Rieva Lesonsky
Columnist and CEO
GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. 
// by Jeanne Rossomme / May. 18, 2015 0 comments
Latino Business Man

Last week I attended the Inaugural Summit of America's Future - Conversations on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Inclusion, and Leadership presented by the Aspen Institute Latinos and Society program.  http://www.aspeninstitute.org/events/2015/05/11/latinos-society-inaugural-summit The purpose of this event, full of leaders from the business, political and educational communities, was to deepen the understanding of the US Hispanic market, both as a community and as business leaders. 

The demographics are striking.  By mid century 85% of the US population growth is projected to come from Hispanics.  This will be a young group with the average age just 18 years old.

And as entrepreneurs, “Latinovators” are a significant and growing force for the US economy:

  • Hispanics are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs.  In general foreign born Americans start businesses at three times rate of non-foreign born.
  • Latino-owned businesses represent half a trillion in revenue and $3 trillion in purchasing power.
  • The Latino community is super engaged in social media and are the highest users of Facebook and instant messaging.

In the panel discussion Latinovators: Inventors, Entrepreneurs and Change-makers several impressive entrepreneurs talked about their successful companies and the struggles in getting there:

Tanya Menendez, Co-Founder and CMO of Maker’s Row http://makersrow.com/ , a platform to help companies find American manufacturers.  Tanya was named as one of Forbes “30 under 30” entrepreneurs to watch.

Ricardo Garcia Amaya, Founder of VOIQ https://www.voiq.com/, an app that instantly enables a mobile on-demand call center – expanding access to jobs for call center operators and access to quality, affordable call centers to businesses.

Sarahi Espinoza Salamanca, Founder and CEO of DREAMers RoadMap http://dreamersroadmap.com/, an app to help connect undocumented immigrant students with college scholarships and financial aid. Sarahi herself is a DREAMer (and winner of a recent innovator’s award) and created this business concept after struggling to get college funding.

When asking this inspiring group, “What is the Secret to your success?”, they offered this advice:

  • Work hard and be tenacious. There is no blueprint so keep searching for information and resources.
  • Think bigger.  Though Latinos are over-represented in numbers as entrepreneurs, this panel saw an issue of scalability.  Think bigger and look for ways to create a business model that can be repeated. For inspiration look at solving problems within your own communities.
  • Dont underestimate the power of small checks.  The greatest hurdle for Latino entrepreneurs is access to capital.  There are still few Latino venture capitalists and angel investors so many new start-ups struggle with migrating through the process and pitching involved in getting first round funding.  Instead, this group recommends reaching out to the Latino community with requests for “small checks” to get started.  Even $1000 will get a developer in Argentina and can help get a business through those critical initial pre-revenue months.  Be comfortable asking for money, going to meetup groups and getting the word out.
  • Ask for help.  Find mentors who believe in you and push you. Coaches talk to you, Advocates talk about you and Mentors talk with you.  Create and sustain a network of all these supporters.
  • Embrace failure.  Ricardo Garcia Amaya’s uncle said it best, “You are a clown until you are not”, or get comfortable with failure.  Deep down you need to know that you will survive failure and therefore can continue to take the needed risks.  Failure is important because this is how you learn.  When people say “no”, ask why and learn from it.
  • Believe in yourself.  Share your story and others will jump onboard.

PS Check out thedream.us, a website on getting an affordable higher education.  The site features colleges (such as Miami-Dade Community College) that can offer a four-year undergraduate degree for a total of $25,000 as well as some $81 million in scholarships.        

Jeanne Rossomme
President
RoadMap Marketing

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.
www.roadmapmarketing.com | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne

// by Aliana Marino / May. 15, 2015 0 comments
game plan

In this month’s client success story, Ken Jenkins, president of GotProHealth, discusses how he fulfilled his dream of entrepreneurship after playing in the NFL. He found new coaches at SCORE who helped his small business thrive.

A different playing field

After 5 years of rushing the football, Ken Jenkins hung up his helmet to start his next career. He spent the next 20 years working in various fields like banking and IT, but nothing felt right. Then he became a massage therapist, married an acupuncturist and discovered the benefits of alternative medicine. Ken knew these complementary techniques would also help his NFL buddies manage their post-football ailments.

Ken and his wife Amy felt more people should know all their health options, but one issue arises in the world of alternative medicine—you don’t know whom to trust. They realized a solution. Why not create a network of the best alternative healthcare practitioners available around the country? They established this network using a vetting process, so anyone could find a trustworthy and qualified provider nearby.

New coaches

In 2012, SCORE developed a partnership with the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) while Ken was a member. The organizations joined resources to help ex-NFL players explore entrepreneurial options for life after football. Ken took full advantage of the partnership. He attended a SCORE workshop and met SCORE mentors Dee Rogers and John Clarke.

Ken worked with his new coaches to develop all aspects of GotProHealth. Joe helped with financial aspects and established business milestones. Dee assisted with marketing strategies. They met once a month for six months, then once a quarter, and now twice a year. The result: a growing network of alternative medicine providers who not only treat Ken’s NFL teammates but people who never stepped on a football field.

Beyond learning business tools and strategies, Ken also found emotional support. He says being an entrepreneur means staying up late worrying about everything. “It’s nice to be able to call someone…to always have a resource when you get stuck. I can’t tell you what kind of security blanket that is. That makes us feel that we’re not out here doing it alone, that we have someone to talk to who’s been through what we’re going through. There’s never been a problem that they haven’t been able to help us with.”

Create your winning team

For aspiring small business owners, Ken offers some straightforward advice. “SCORE is a free resource, and you would be a lunatic not to engage them. You can’t get that kind of information for free.” He explains that if you paid the true cost of SCORE’s resources, it would “put you out of business before you get into business.”

“SCORE is willing to walk you through and hold your hand through the process. Why wouldn’t you use it?”

Get in the game and start your small business today. SCORE mentors are ready to coach you to success. 

Aliana Marino
Communications Manager
SCORE
Aliana is passionate about helping small businesses thrive and getting the word out about the great work SCORE mentors do across country. 
score.org | Facebook | @SCOREmentors | More from Aliana                   
// by Jennifer Riggins / May. 14, 2015 0 comments
payroll down, revenue up

We live in uncertain times. This is even more true as entrepreneurs. Even when we have stability, we are reasonably worried it may be a fleeting moment, as so much of our professional lives are outside of our control. Hiring a new team member is a big gamble, not just for our end-of-the-month balance sheet, but because we may be attracting talent away from other roles, when we can’t guarantee them a paycheck. 

This article is to teach you how to keep payroll down and revenue up by automating where you need to, as well as when automation will risk your bottom line.

Marketing automation for your startup

A lot of people look at marketing as an art, but really it’s more of a science, relying heavily on experimentation and analytics. For now, you still need one full-time employee, or maybe even part-time or freelancer, fulfilling this role, but, instead of them having to hire a whole team, your bootstrapping startup can get by with that one savvy marketeer and a whole lot of inexpensive marketing automation tools.

This is exactly what ecommerce retailer DollarHobbyz.com has done to scale their business rapidly but cautiously. 

"We are in an age where there truly is an app for everything. The collection of great business apps for email, shipping, inventory, social media management, and more, has allowed us to increase our productivity and, ultimately, revenue,” cofounder Richard Arkell said. “We’ve invested many hours researching and implementing the most beneficial apps, SaaS and they have paid off a hundred-fold.” 

Arkell said in particular that their two-man marketing team has jumped on apps as a way to multiple their effort, not their monthly budget. DollarHobbyz marketing team alone uses this array of tools:

  • Moz SEO and website management tools
  • Ahrefs for social media and search engine automation (SEO)
  • dotmailer email marketing and automation
  • Buzzsumo for content marketing and competitive analysis
  • SEMrush for SEO and search engine marketing (SEM)

“We have exactly two people in marketing right now, and they are able to handle what many companies would need entire teams devoted to,” he said.

Sales automation for your startup

There is a plethora of sales tools, including, but not limited to customer relationship management software or CRM. You can always start out with a good old Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet but eventually, particularly if you have a distributed sales team focusing on sales that take more than one conversation, you’ll eventually have to upgrade to a CRM.

When your team is still small, particularly five or fewer focusing on sales, you can’t go wrong with small business-focused CRMs like ZOHO or Insightly, both which have decent freemium plans, usually free up to a certain number of contacts.

Go for a sales tool that helps you keep your prospects’ contact information in order and which works to prevent confusing account duplication, but that also has some customizability. Since open-ended questions and their open-ended answers are really important to build and maintain client relationships, it’s always nice to have a CRM with large text boxes where you can internally share details about the client and the sales process. 

Customer support automation for your startup

Customer support software is a testy topic, as overdoing the automation here could not only lose future business, but risk your current customers. 

Good support automation means giving clients multiple places where they can find answers themselves. Searchable knowledge-base tools automate the answering of common questions from pricing to payment to tech nitty-gritty. 

Social media tools like Hootsuite and Buffer may fit into the marketing column, but are most important for customer support. When something goes wrong or a customer is frustrated or simply when they can’t find your contact info they resort to the very public arenas of Facebook and Twitter first. In order to seem responsible and in order to be responsive, you need to use a social media monitoring tool that you and your colleagues have connected to your mobile for fast response, any time, any place. Even if it’s to just to follow them back and ask them to direct message you their contact details so you can fix it first thing Monday morning, both your current customer and your prospects peeking in on your social media channels will expect response within the hour. 

Above all else, once you’ve automated the basics, make sure it is very clear how and when they can get in touch with an actual human being. Your website footer and your social media must have a phone number or in-use Skype for customer service. You should be clear of times support is available, but then also offer a place with a simple form they can fill out with phone number and a few different times (with area code) to call them back.

When something does go awry or even when a customer is clearly satisfied, other team members need to know. Go for a customer support or tech support tool that integrates with your CRM or sales tools so that the sales rep can know if something went wrong on the support end and be prepared with how the call was handled.

Most importantly, remember, you can automate a lot but you can’t lose the human touch in your business, particularly with customer service.

Go with what works for you and your small business

As a CEO or manager, you need to examine each of your business processes and think about where automation will work for you and for your customers. Take advantage of almost every business software’s free trials to experiment, and focus on tools that work together to streamline your operations. While software expenses are tax write-offs for your business, adding too many tools will actually slow you down, so play around with the right level of automation for you and your small team.

And it’s not just automation that will grow your revenue rapidly.

“Another huge contributor to keeping costs down and revenues up is teaching efficiency practices in all areas of the business – whether it’s the exact process of sealing a package, or as simple as teaching keystroke shortcuts on a keyboard, every efficiency means higher productivity and lower payroll,” Arkell said.

Always look for the right combination of the human touch and tricks and tech to make your small business prosper, keeping revenue up and payroll down until the right moment arises to scale your business.

Jennifer Riggins
Marketing Consultant
eBranding Ninja

Jennifer Riggins is a Jersey Girl in Barcelona, using her passion for writing and marketing to help small businesses define their vision and brand. This eBranding Ninja has a special love for Spanish start-ups, SaaS, and any innovation that helps you grow your business.​ 
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