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3 Strategies Small Businesses Can Use to Gain an Advantage in Bad Times

A recent study by Intuit, the software giant behind QuickBooks, Quicken, and TurboTax, found that three-fourths of small business owners expect to grow this year, in spite of all the talk about a recession, corporate layoffs, and consumers cutting back.

Now, it’s probably safe to say that small business owners are a relatively optimistic group. Part of their optimism, though, comes from that fact that two-thirds of the people surveyed said they had survived a recession before. They’ve done it by putting their customers first and focusing on their finances.

georgeWhen I first started studying entrepreneurship, my perception was that large companies created the jobs. Our colleges train us to work in bigg business. It’s true that large companies tend to hire a lot of people during boom times, as do small companies. But during tough economic times, large companies cut back. Interestingly, small companies tend to pretty much hold their own.

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marylynn If you’re keeping an eye on the news, you see that a lot of large companies are cutting marketing and even customer service. They’re cutting jobs and even entire departments. They’re streamlining.

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As numerous studies have shown, the net effect of this is that, over the course of the business cycle, almost all new jobs come from small businesses.

Opportunities created by large businesses for small businesses in bad times

As large companies make cuts, astute small businesses can gain an advantage by using any or all of the following three strategies:

#1 – Turn bigg companies into your customers.
They’re reviewing their operations. If what they cut is what you do – it’s your service – market to them! They may still need that service in some capacity … take advantage of it!

#2 – Recruit their talent
A lot of the people they’re laying off are very talented. These are people that you may have never been able to get before. Recruit that talent. Provide them with a nice place to fall.

They may look for something more stable or some place where they feel more of a sense of ownership. Your business could be the answer they’re looking for!

#3 – Go after the large company’s small customers.
With the cuts they’re making, they have few resources to take care of their customers. It’s the old 80/20 rule – they’re likely to super-serve the 20% of their customers that constitute 80% of their sales. Then they may cut back on service for all the rest.

Go after these customers that are facing reduced service. They may be a small account to a large company, but they may be one of your biggest customers!

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How to Get Noticed in Job Market 2.0

Today on The Bigg Success Show, we welcomed Phil Rosenberg. Phil is the founder of reCareered, a career coaching service that helps job searchers get past the biggest challenge in today’s competitive jobs market – to get noticed.

 

Phil, what does reCareered mean?

 

 

It means someone who is seeking a job change, or trying to revitalize their career, or someone who is between jobs and wants help with how the job markets have changed in the last eight years or so.

 

How has the job market changed?

 

 

Eight years ago, the majority of resumes were delivered on paper. Around 2000, it changed to where most resumes were delivered digitally.

 

And how does that change the resume itself?

 

 

It changes it completely. The paper-based resume had to be static. The only way to customize it was by a cover letter. A digital resume can be searched. It also increased the number of resumes that went into most companies, by as many as ten-fold.

 

We always hear about search engine optimization and how you want to rank at the tops of the pages for Google. But apparently you can do the same for your resume … it can be optimized?

 

You bet, and it’s especially critical in today’s world. Most major employers get thousands of resumes for each job, but they only staff to look at twenty to thirty. That’s two to three percent. So your goal, in submitting your resume today, is getting to the top two or three percent. Through resume search optimization, you can manage that process rather than have it be random. My strategy with my clients is to make a resume a single-use document – to have it infinitely customizable so that you’re gaming the search engine and forcing it higher up the search page.

 

How do we make a good impression right upfront?

 

 

There’s been research from the University of Toledo and Stanford University that states that interview decisions are made within the first two to thirty seconds. That blew me away. The rest of the interview is just somebody justifying their initial decision. So it’s a “gut feel” decision that may occur even before you shake hands. It’s all about preparation. Learn about your client – how they communicate (verbally and non-verbally), how they dress, how they look. If you want a job, go to a place that’s close to their office and sit there during lunch. Talk to people from that company who are getting lunch there. On a Friday night, go to Happy Hour at a bar close to their office and talk to people from that company. When you talk to them, watch their body movements. What’s the tone they use? What’s the speed they use to talk? You can also do that with their written communication – their web site, annual reports, press releases. The key to all this is communicating to your audience that it seems like you already work there.

 

It reminds me of the book, Guerilla Selling. It’s all about learning about your customer, in that case, but in the case the employer you’re going after – getting as much information as you can, wherever you can. It’s amazing how much information you can gather.

 

Sure. That’s also an effective way to use LinkedIn, Facebook or your own personal network. Chances are you have contacts within that company. A lot of people only use those contacts to see what jobs are available and to ask them to pass their resume along. They leave out some of the greatest uses of a network – talking to people within an organization to find out what an organization is like and what the communication style is like. Listening for how they’re answering questions rather than just what they’re saying.

 

This is fantastic advice because you do want to fit in. It’s all about mimicking. When you’re at an interview, should you sit up straight and lean forward or should you try to have your body language be similar to the body language of the interviewer? From what I’ve read, you should try to mimic that person.

 

That’s exactly what you’re doing – it’s called mirroring. You’re trying to show that you fit in. You speak the same language. You’re really trying to act like you already work at the company. It takes a ton of preparation. A lot of people aren’t willing to put that preparation in, but the people who do get a huge, almost an unfair, advantage.

Phil's links

You can get free daily job tips from Phil at his blog or visit his main site, reCareered, the place for resume search optimization and job search 2.0. 

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Am I Paying My Salesperson Too Much?

Bigg Challenge
Max is a business owner. He hired a salesman about a year ago. Max put him on the same compensation plan that his other sales people were on (a small base salary with an incentive).

The guy has done a phenomenal job. Max’s company is showing record sales and profits, largely due to this sales person. But here’s the problem: this salesman is now making more money than Max.

Max wants to know if he should adjust his salesperson’s compensation.

Bigg Advice
What should you do about this, Max? Here’s what we think …

Nothing!

Here’s why …

Is it costing too much?
It is possible to over-compensate your people. You can’t design a system where a small number of top performers win bigg while the company loses money.

But that’s not the case here. You’re also making more money, Max. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

Handle with care
We’ve heard of great sales people who were let go when a situation like this occurred. It does happen. But remember the nursery rhyme about the goose that laid the golden egg?

This sales person is the goose. Handle him with care. Like the old Proverb says,

“Kill not the goose that lays the golden eggs.”

Your bigg payoff
Don’t miss the bigg picture. The bigg payoff for owning a business often isn’t what you make each year. It’s what you make when you sell it.

You’re building an asset whose value is based on the income of the business, sometimes called owner’s cash flow. As your bottom line increases, so does the value of your asset. That’s your bigg payoff.

How you can get paid more
You’re making record sales and profits so you can probably afford to add another salesperson. Before you do, look at your infrastructure and capacity to make sure you can support an additional salesperson.

If you can, then go for it!

There’s a good chance, if you do that, you’ll be the highest paid employee of the company again!

Model this employee
We would suggest cloning, but okay … we won’t go there! 

So try to find someone with traits and characteristics similar to this salesperson. To do that, think about what you know about him.

What industry did he come from, if he came from outside your industry?

What experience did he have?

What education?

Are there any other clues you can get from his background?

If you did a personality assessment as part of your hiring process, what did his look like?

And ask your sales person if he knows anybody who might work out well. Bigg goal-getters know bigg goal-getters.

Thanks Max for sending us your bigg challenge. We wish you bigg success!

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Help! I Need Somebody!

Today on The Bigg Success Show, we welcomed Denise Griffitts. Denise is the founder and CEO of Your Virtual Assistant, a company that provides highly trained administrative professionals for support, technical and creative services for small businesses, start-up businesses, individuals, and online entrepreneurs.


Virtual assistants are in bigg demand

Denise talked about the growing demand for virtual assistants, who work for you from their home. They work within your processes and system. If you don’t have processes set up, they’ll even help you do that.

A virtual assistant can help you with just about anything that doesn’t require them to be on site. Denise’s niche is serving online entrepreneurs. She lets you take care of the front end of the business by partnering with you and handling the back end.

“A virtual assistant takes away all the minutiae from your day.”
Denise Griffitts

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Think about what you really need help doing. What’s causing your time seepage? By thinking about the minutiae that’s sapping your creativity and letting a virtual assistant take care of it, you’ll feel a sense of freedom and be able to move forward more quickly.

How affordable is a virtual assistant?
A virtual assistant is a contract employee. You don’t have to pay their taxes and Social Security. You also don’t have to pay for their office space or equipment.

Denise has a Rate Calculator on her blog. It allows you to calculate the difference between hiring someone in your office and hiring a virtual assistant. Denise says the savings are considerable.

Could you benefit from a virtual assistant?
Denise talked about her biggest client, who had a project she needed done within three weeks. This client had a concept and an announced date for completion. That was it!

In three weeks, Denise and her team helped her client produce a product. They created a CD, did the art for the CD, created audio, print work and art work. It was in her customer’s hands by the deadline!

As Denise says, “Most everybody these days could use a virtual assistant.”

Would you like to be a virtual assistant?
Denise is looking for people all of the time. If you have online experience and would like to earn some extra money, send Denise your resume to resumes@virtualassistantindustry.com.

Denise will review your resume. If that looks good, she’ll interview you. After that, she’ll assign you a project. If you perform well on that project, then she brings you on as a full virtual assistant.

So if you want to hire a virtual assistant or be a virtual assistant, check out Your Virtual Assistant!

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Failure to Do This Harms Relationships

Have you ever had a service company just show up at your door even though they told you someone would call first?

Have you ever had a co-worker promise they would get information to you but then drop the ball?

Have you ever asked a sales person to get back to you on a proposal but then they never did?


What was your impression of that company, co-worker, or sales person when they didn’t follow-through?

It probably wasn’t favorable. You realize that you can’t count on them to do what they say they’ll do.
   
Follow-through: an essential element to building your personal brand.
A brand carries with it the promise of expected benefits. Every time a promise is not delivered, the brand suffers.

Promises are easy to make, but not as easy to keep. But if you want to build trust, you have to make good on your promises.

“Say what you’ll do, then do what you say.” Author unknown
 
This separates people who achieve bigg things from people who don’t. Even if it’s just a little thing, you risk leaving the impression that you don’t follow through.

We often have the best of intentions, but it’s impossible to judge someone on their intentions. So we do the only thing we can do – we base our opinions of people on whether they deliver on their promises.

Be careful not to over-promise.

If we surprise someone, we should surprise them in a good way – by doing more than we say we’ll do. It’s not good to disappoint them by doing less than what we say … or not doing it at all.

Today’s bigg action item – Develop a system to record every promise you make.

Do whatever works for you, whether that is an old paper system or something using new technology.

One simple way to do this is Jott. Whenever you make a promise, just call and leave a message about what you need to do. Jott will send you an e-mail or text message reminder. That coupled with your personal calendar can keep you on track. Here’s the best part – Jott is a FREE service.

There are two keys to making any system like this work:

  • Budget a little extra time after each activity.
    This will allow you to write down or record anything you promised.
  • Make it a habit.
    Really focus on using your system every day for the next two weeks.

Or you could do what George does. Mary-Lynn reminds him of his promises. Speaking of which, he has to go pick up the dry cleaning that was ready last week!

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What to Do if You’re Not Happy with Your Job

ByWynn Bigg
Bigg Success Contributor
04-15-08  

Wynn Bigg Today

Daniel and Debra are two of my closest friends. My wife, Fanny, and I recently attended the wedding of their “little girl”, Denise. Only she isn’t so little any more … I know I’m biased, but she was a beautiful bride.

It was great to see old friends again and catch up with all their comings and goings. But it’s the conversation I had the day before the wedding that I wanted to talk about today.

Fanny and I got to Dan and Deb’s house early Thursday afternoon. Dan was out-of-town on business; he wasn’t expected in for about five hours. Fanny, Deb, and Denise went shopping to take care of some last-minute details before the bigg day.

That left Derek and me. Derek graduated from college about three years ago. I’ll never forget the look on his Dad’s face when Derek went up to get his diploma.

Derek went to work for a large company. He was so excited because they had selected him for the management fast-track. He would rotate through a number of divisions and assignments over the next few years.

Derek and I hadn’t seen much of each other since he started his job. It was a gorgeous day, so we sat down by the pool to catch up.

I said, “Geez, Derek, I can’t remember the last time we really got to talk.”

“Yeah, it’s been a few years, Uncle Wynn.” The kids called me “uncle”, although we weren’t actually related.

“So how have you been?”

“Doing pretty good.”

“How’s the job?”

“It’s going pretty well.”

“Is it everything you hoped it would be?”

“Well, I guess I’ve learned quite a bit.”

“I’m sensing that you’re not telling me something.”

“Well, I guess the job’s alright … it’s just not everything I had hoped for. I feel like I could be doing so much more.”

“Why do you feel that way?”

“I have friends who have done so much better.”

“But Derek, you can’t judge yourself by your friends.”

“I know, I know … but I’m nearing the end of their management program … I just don’t feel that there are any good opportunities for me.”

“Why is that?”

“Because they keep cutting back … they’re selling off the companies where I really wanted to go.” He squirmed in his chair, and tugged on his tee-shirt. “I guess, Uncle Wynn, I’m just not as happy in my job as I thought I would be,” he hesitated before continuing, “what do you do if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing?”

“Ah, that’s a good question, grasshopper! You know, I get asked a question like this a lot. It’s really a very simple answer … you have to either change the job or change jobs.”

“What do you mean … change the job?”

“Well … you’ve made an investment in your current job. So has your company. So it makes sense to first try to change it so that it makes you happy.”

“How do I do that?”

“First, decide what you want from your job. We make the best decisions we have with the information we have. But we’re constantly getting new information. When you took this job, you made the best decision you could. Now you know more about your company, there have been some changes, and most importantly, you know more about yourself. So what do you want now? That’s the first thing you have to do.”

“Okay, so what’s the second?”

“Talk to your supervisor, or your HR people. Tell them what you want to do … what you want from your job. See what options they may have.”

“And if they can’t come up with anything that fits, I’ll have to start looking for a different job.”

“That’s right, Derek … you either have to change the job you have or you have to change jobs. Because work is too bigg a part of your life to not be happy at work.”

“Wow, Uncle Wynn … that helps. I’ve really been stressing over this. Thanks for the advice!”

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Who Creates Jobs – Small Companies or Large Companies?

ByWynn Bigg
Bigg Success Contributor
04-07-08   

Wynn Bigg Today

bigg_vs_small

ADP, a leading provider of human resource solutions worldwide, recently released the ADP National Employment Report. Once again, it highlighted a trend that has occurred for years. They found that most job losses for the period covered were at large companies (defined as companies with more than 500 employees) while small companies (defined as companies with less than 50 workers) increased employment.

That’s why I love small business! It’s good for us!

For years, it’s been found that over the course of the business cycle, large companies tend to remain relatively flat when it comes to total jobs.

During boom times, they tend to hire a lot of people, usually outpacing small businesses.
Then times get tough and they tend to lay people off. The net effect is few net jobs gained.

Small companies also tend to hire when things go well, but they don’t tend to lay off people like their large company brethren. So the net effect is a significant increase in jobs.

When it comes to creating jobs, David trumps Goliath almost every time! Research has shown for years that almost all of the net new jobs come from small businesses!

You can participate in this phenomenon in three ways:

#1 – Support small business.

When it makes sense, purchase from small business. They have to deliver good value, but if it’s a toss-up, choose the small business!

#2 – Work for a small company.

You’re less likely to face a layoff, as mentioned previously. You can also be a bigger player in a small firm. It’s a great way to get an inside look at what it takes to run a business. You may even get a participation in the success of the business.

You have to weigh your options, but you may find that you enjoy working in a small company much more than a large one.

#3 – Start your own small business.

Change creates opportunity for business owners. That’s the good news – change is happening faster than ever! So there’s more opportunity than ever to start your own business. Look for change to find your opportunity.

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Should You Buy A Franchise Or Go It Alone?

By Bigg Success Staff
02-07-08

Bigg On Small Business

sunflower 

So you want to be in business FOR yourself. But you’re not sure you want to be in business BY yourself. You want to know if you should buy a franchise or go it alone. In the end, only you can make that decision by understanding the advantages and disadvantages of pairing up with a company that offers franchises (“franchisor”).

Most franchisors today offer business-format franchises – you buy an entire operating system, not just the rights to distribute a product or license a name. So we’ll focus on business-format franchises in our discussion today.

Advantages of buying a franchise

  • Proven concept
    A good franchise system has been proven. They have units in place. The kinks have been worked out. Consumers have voted with their dollars. Owners are earning a good return on their investment of time and money.
  • Recognized brand
    A good franchisor makes a bigg brand available to small business people. They have a trademarked name, logo, slogans, identification materials, and more. You don’t have to spend time and money building a brand; the franchisor has done it for you.
  • Proven systems
    With a good franchise, you get a complete operating system. They have tested how to produce their product or service in the most efficient way. They continue finding new ways to improve their operations through scientific testing and measurement.
  • Proven promotion
    Along with proven systems, a good franchise has market-tested advertising in place. As a franchisee, you participate in effective advertising campaigns developed with the resources of a bigg company.
  • Training
    A good franchise system trains you and your staff to run your business profitably. You’ll probably be required to complete extensive training upfront. You’ll likely be obligated to update your training regularly. You’ll have training programs for your employees, as well, so they get to the top of the learning curve quickly.
  • Ongoing support
    With a franchise, you are the local branch manager of a large chain. You’ll get support from your parent company on an ongoing basis. You’re also part of a club – other franchisees who are motivated business owners just like you. Since you don’t compete with each other, you can share tips on how to be more successful.
  • Buying power
    A good franchise organization brings economies of scale to you. Because they buy in volume, you’ll often get significant discounts on essential products and services.
  • Site selection
    A good franchisor can help you research markets to determine the best place to locate your business. Beyond that, they can help you select a specific site within that market that has the traffic you need to succeed.
  • Store design, construction, and layout
    Consumers today are looking for an experience. With a franchise, you get a proven store layout that maximizes your sales through effective sales psychology. In many cases, they can also help you get the store built.
  • Benchmarking
    A good franchise system delivers critical numbers to you so you know how you’re doing and where you need to improve. This will help you tweak your operations and give you goals to achieve.
  • Marketable asset
    When you’re ready to move on, a good franchisor may help you find a buyer. They are constantly fielding calls from people interested in getting into their system. Your business will likely be easier to sell if it’s part of a large franchise system.
  • Less downside risk
    Research on the success rates of franchisees shows mixed results. However, these studies look at the entire spectrum of franchise organizations. If you do your research, you can find a system where your risk is less than going it alone.

Disadvantages of buying a franchise

  • Start-up costs
    All of the benefits listed above don’t come without a cost. You’ll have to pay an initial fee to become part of any franchisor’s system and start reaping the benefits. This fee may be offset, in part or in whole, by the discounts you get on purchases through their system.
  • Ongoing costs
    You’ll be required to share a percentage of your sales or pay a fixed monthly fee. You may also be required to participate in system-wide endeavors, like coop advertising. You’ll likely be required to adhere to certain operating standards, which will cost you money.

    Hopefully, these costs pay for themselves (and more) through your volume discounts and an increased value-perception in the minds of your customers.

  • Partnering problems
    When you’re part of a franchise system, their image is your image. A customer from your city may have a bad experience with a franchisee in another community. So they won’t patronize your business. That’s why good franchisors maintain such exacting standards.

    If your franchisor runs into trouble, financially or otherwise, you may be hurt as well. Whatever happens to the chain as a whole, for good or for bad, will likely impact you. Make sure your franchisor is financially sound before you sign on the bottom line.

  • Lower upside return
    If you have less risk, you often accept less return. You’ll have the additional costs discussed above. You may also have less opportunity to grow your business – you may be restricted to a certain territory in which you can market or operate.

    Keep in mind, you can always buy additional franchises. Many franchisees have become bigg businesses in their own right through owning and operating multiple locations!

  • Loss of creative control
    Mavericks need not apply! When you buy into a franchise system, you are agreeing to use their system, not yours. You can make suggestions on how to improve it, but they decide if you can implement it.

    This is perhaps the biggest disadvantage to buying a franchise. Some people just can’t be happy under these circumstances. They don’t make good franchisees.

A business-format franchise is an “instant business” – just add capital and start! You can’t get more turn-key than that. There are many advantages to buying a franchise. There are a few disadvantages. In the end, only you can determine if a specific franchise opportunity is right for you, or if you should go it alone!

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Jiibe Talking

By Bigg Success Staff
01-24-08

Leading-Edge Application

000095_jiibe_screenshot

Our friends used to tell us about great places to work. That’s the old way of doing it … now there’s a new way! It used to be that you had to sign on the dotted line to find out what a company was really like. Now you can learn in advance!

Jiibe rates companies based on fourteen factors to determine what it’s like to work for them. Then, they use sophisticated techniques to analyze the information and write summaries of companies and their cultures. And these summaries are fun to read!

Jiibe helps you find companies with a culture that matches your values and style. Based on people who know – that company’s employees!

Find your ultimate workplace by visiting Jiibe today – it’s FREE!

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