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The Coming Age of Small Business – Part 1

small-businessIt’s one of the most famous opening lines of any novel. Charles Dickens, in A Tale of Two Cities, wrote, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”

Could the same be true for small business owners today?

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Many small businesses are struggling. According to Discover’s Small Business Watch, half of the small business owners surveyed reported cash flow problems over the last three months. The good news is the number is down slightly, but it’s still significant.

It’s been tough to get credit. Vendors are more demanding than ever while, at the same time, customers are paying slowly – especially if you do business with certain state governments.

But it’s also a great time to be a small business owner.

In a post awhile back on the Harvard Business blog, Peter Bergman said small companies will win. He talked about a small business that had won large accounts – and got prepaid – even though they were competing against much bigger, more established companies. He says clients aren’t looking for …

big names …
flashy offices …
lots of time in the industry …
highly-capitalized vendors. 

So what do they want?

Bergman says: “Small is the new big. Sustainable is the new growth. Trust is the new competitive advantage.”

He reports that even senior level managers at many large companies have lost faith in their companies. As go the employees, so goes the company.

People want to do business with people they trust.
Not companies.
Not organizations.
Not institutions.

People.
People want to do business with people.
People want to trust again.
People want to do business with people they trust.

Increasingly, that’s small businesses. Trust is one of the reasons small companies have an inherent competitive advantage right now.

So to capitalize on this trend, super-serve your customers in your chosen niche. Build relationships by building trust and you’ll create a competitive advantage.

It’s hard for large companies to create a culture of trust. It’s much easier for small business owners.

If you think about it, we’re back where we started. In days gone by, we did business with people we knew.

It wasn’t about the promises of a faceless brand; it was about the promises of a person. Deliver on your promises and you’ll be a bigg success!

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Thanks so much for reading our post today. We trust you enjoyed it!

Please join us next time when we’ll look at this topic again by exploring two other ways small businesses can gain a competitive advantage. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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money-in-handA recent MSNBC article says there aren’t many shopaholics left due to the recession. Then it explores how retailers are responding to frugal consumers for the upcoming holiday season, which accounts for up to twenty percent of annual sales for many of them.

Last year, holiday sales were down 3.4%. This year, even more Americans are dealing with job loss, fear of job loss, wage cuts, a drop in home prices and a rise in credit card interest rates.

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So what will consumers do? What's a retailer to do?

Working twice as hard but not making anymore
Let’s start with retailers. Dropping prices to push out inventory has become the norm since last year. Offering extreme discounts is a tactic many will use to try to get customers in their doors. Here's what that means:

Let’s say you have a product that costs you $10. You normally sell it for $20, leaving you with a $10 profit. You decide to cut your price by 25% to $15.

So now you make $5 every time you sell a product. You have to sell twice as much of this item just to make the same amount of money!

In this example, we used a product sale to keep it simple. However, many small businesses sell a service. So think about it this way:

Carrying forward the numbers above – if you cut your hourly rate by 25% – you would have to work twice as much but you wouldn’t make anymore.

Is it worth it? Would you be better served pursuing another strategy?

Consumers are more price-sensitive, but value is still king
Now, let's look at those customers. Experts cited in the article say consumers will shop for good value on items they want and need. Note the term “value”, not price.

Consumers are more price sensitive than ever. However, because they have been bombarded with super-low prices, they are beginning to think that those products are worthless.

Furthermore, they will pass up an offer – even if the price seems too good to be true – if they think they just don’t need the item. If you cut prices too much, you may kill your business by killing your customer with kindness!

3 strategies for a tight-belt economy:

  • Divide your product or service offerings into three categories – must have, need and want. In this economy, focus on the must haves. Which customers must have your must have product? Focus most of your efforts here.
  • Is there a way to bundle a “need” with a “must have” or a “want” with a “need”? Offer a special deal on the bundle rather than the individual product or service. You may find that you can sell more without having to work a lot harder.
  • Think about your customer’s bottom line. How can you add value to your product or service and boost your customer’s bottom line at the same time?

For example, is there some essential knowledge that you could impart to help your customer use your product or service to save money? If so, they’ll be much more likely to buy – even now.

How are you compelling your customers to buy your products or services?

Share that with us by leaving a comment, e-mailing us at bigginfo@biggsuccess.com or leaving a voice message at 888.455.BIGG (2444).

We think you’re too kind for checking in with us today. Thanks so much!

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There’s a popular celebrity who says it took him 26 years to get one mile down the road. Please join us next time and we’ll fill you in on his story of bigg success. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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The Trick to Keeping Customers

success-and-failureUnder new management. You’ve seen the sign in the window of a store or in an ad. It is often thought of as a signal of better things ahead.

Under new management. A new owner bought an established firm. Like many small businesses, it wasn’t a perfect business. It was, however, a good business. Otherwise, why would he have bought it?

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Under new management. The new owner wanted to put his stamp on his newly purchased firm. He changed the logo of the business.

Under new management. The new owner changed the employees. The employees just didn’t do things the way the new owner wanted them done. He put his own people in place.

Under new management. The new owner threw out the systems and replaced them with his own. The old systems were out of date or unnecessary. He had his own ideas about how to structure the business.

Under new management. The new owner changed the name of the business because he noticed some complaints about the business. He wanted a fresh start.

Under new management. Employees left.

Under new management. Customers left.

Under new management. The business failed.

The new owner didn’t understand why. He blamed the economy. He blamed the old owner. He blamed circumstances. He blamed everybody but himself.

Change creates opportunity

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s what you may be thinking about our little story here. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to determine exactly what’s broke and what’s not.

Entrepreneuring has been described as the science of change. One thing that entrepreneurs recognize, explicitly or implicitly, is that change creates opportunity.

Fortunately for entrepreneurs, change these days happens frequently and quickly. Change is good but there’s another side to it.

The trick to keeping customers and employees

Because there is so much change constantly hitting us in the face, customers AND employees crave stability.

Create stability in their lives and they will be stick with you. If you change too much too quickly, you’ll lose customers and employees.

The two step

First meet their expectations by consistently delivering upon your promises. Then, and only then, can change enter the picture. Work to exceed their expectations by making changes incrementally.

Don’t just change for the sake of changing. Lead your customers and employees through productive changes for your bigg success!

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Here’s something that never changes … we’re grateful every time you read one of our posts. Thanks for doing so today!

Next time, we’ll discuss a bigg discovery. Please join us. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00499-101309.mp3

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If Elvis was an Entrepreneur

exitThe final chord was sung. The noise from the crowd became a roar. The lights came on. But there was still hope … still a chance that he might appear again. And then there was the voice, saying …

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Elvis has left the building.

You’re probably familiar with those famous words. It made us think:

Elvis always knew how he was leaving the building. If he was an entrepreneur, he would surely know how he was leaving the business.

Learning from the pros

Bankers and venture capitalists know at least two ways that they’re going to get their money back (plus the return they need) before they invest in our business. Shouldn’t we know at least one? It’s one of the lessons we can learn from these professionals.

Why you should know how you’ll exit

In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey taught us to begin with the end in mind. We should know how we’re getting out of our business before we get into it.

Know your exit. Elvis did. Professional investors do. Yet many entrepreneurs never think about it.

That may be a reason why studies show that a majority of entrepreneurs don’t expect their business to kick in any money for their retirement.

It’s crucial to consider your exit because small businesses are highly illiquid by nature. Unlike shares in a public company, there is no marketplace where you can go to sell it immediately.

Another reason to know your exit – perhaps a more important reason – is that it your exit should be one of the drivers of your business strategy. How you plan to get out affects everything from how you structure your business, where you get money from as well as a number of other things.

3 common exit strategies

  • Sell your business outright
    Just like selling a house or any other asset, you exit the business by giving up any claims to ownership in exchange for an agreed-upon price. On your way out, just say, “Thank you … thank you very much!”                   
  • Redirect cash flows
    Let’s say you invest $25,000 to start a business. Let’s also assume that you make $25,000 after-taxes in your first year in business (after fully compensating yourself for your time).

    Further, let’s stipulate that you don’t need that money for your existing business. Take that $25,000 out and invest it somewhere else.

    You invested $25,000 and you took out $25,000. Essentially, you have no money invested in the business. Yet you still own the business! Get your money out and say, “Thank you … thank you very much!”                     

  • Recapitalize
    You still own the business with this strategy as well. Let’s say that you invested $25,000 to start your business. You got your business started, built it up and are making money.

    You may be able to go to your banker and borrow against your business. Let’s say your banker agrees to a $25,000 loan which you can pay back from the cash flows of your business.

    It’s likely that you’ll need a good use for the money to get your banker’s okay. For example, maybe you have an opportunity to buy a piece of real estate that will house your company.

    In essence, you’ve cashed out of your business because you now have that original $25,000 invested somewhere else. Repeat this strategy over and over until you have enough money to fund the life of your dreams. That’s bigg success!

Thank you … thank you very much for reading our post today.

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Please join us next time when we ask some questions about work – life balance. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
http://media.libsyn.com/media/biggsuccess/00424-062509.mp3

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Critical Keys to Business Success – Part 2

success Today we continued our discussion with Deb Neuman, host of the Back to Business Radio Show. Last time, Deb shared four of her keys to business success, which all happen to start with the letter “P”. Today, she will share her final three. Let’s get back to the conversation …

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People

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marylynnSo far we’ve discussed Passion, Product, Persistence, and Planning. Now Deb, you say we have to think about People – surround yourself with people whose strengths are your weaknesses.

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debAnd look beyond your friends, family, and significant other. They are important people to have on your team, but you want to have other people who can be objective, who don’t have any emotional ties to you as well.

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marylynnOften, to get someone to take care of a weakness, you have to pay them to do that. If you don’t have any money, what is the answer then?

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debA lot of people barter. I have a friend who is a massage therapist who needed help building the web site for her business. So she and the web designer now trade services. The web designer gets massaged and doesn’t even have to pay for it … he’s happy! A side note to that – check with your accountant to make sure you’re accounting for it properly when tax time comes up. A lot of people I know really enjoy helping small businesses. They may be an accountant or an attorney. They’re looking for new businesses as future clients. Sometimes they’re willing to give you a few hours of service at no charge or give you a reduced rate. They recognize that, if they help you get your business started, you’re likely to become a future customer for them. Talk to other business owners and see who they’re using as providers.

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Promotion

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georgeNext up on the list is something that many business owners are cutting back on because of the tough economic climate – Promotion.

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debI just did some research into The Great Depression, what businesses survived, and how they did it. Some of the businesses that made it through the depression very successfully include Procter & Gamble, Camel cigarettes of all things, Kellogg, and Chevrolet. What they all had in common is that they scaled up their advertising during The Great Depression. They stayed visible in the minds of consumers and they were able to continue to do business throughout the depression even though people were spending less money. And when the economy did turn around, and it always does eventually, they had customers loyal to their brand. So now is not the time to stop promoting your business. Now is the time to kick it up a notch because people still have money to spend. They may spend less of it and they may be more choosy about where they spend it. But if they don’t know you’re out there, you’re not even going to be considered. Few of us have the resources to just advertise here, advertise there, and just throw money around that’s not going to pay back. So you really need to sit down and identify who your customers are. Be specific. Are they men or women? What age range? What kind of profession? Where are they? What are they reading? What are they listening to? What are they looking at online? Then think about how you can best reach them. Successful promotions, marketing, and advertising don’t mean you buy an ad in the newspaper and run it once. It has to be a long term plan and commitment.

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Positive Attitude

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george
So the last “P” on your list is Positive Attitude.

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debYou just have to maintain a positive attitude, through thick and thin. That reflects on your employees. Your customers know it. I just heard from a colleague of mine who went into a retail store. She said she’d never go there again because the owner of the store was in a really bad mood, griping about the economy. She said that she wasn’t there to hear all of that. She was there to have a nice experience. It really turned her off.

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marylynn
Because shopping is my escape. This is me trying to stimulate the economy, so relax!

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georgeRight now, not just for entrepreneurs, but any leader … it seems like we’re hearing such dismal news from so many of our leaders from the highest levels in the country to the biggest businesses. And I think, in many cases, small business owners are buying into it and people don’t want to follow someone who doesn’t have a better vision for the future.

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debExactly. I’m seeing businesses, some who’ve decided to close, but others who are planning and taking a different approach. They’re being very creative about it. They’ve said that this is forcing them to not be lazy. When things are good, they do whatever they want. They can’t do that now so they realize they have to be really proactive, but they’re making changes that they’re really excited about, even if they were forced into making them. They think they’re in a much better position going forward, now and when things do turn around for the better.

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Thanks Deb for sharing your wisdom with us! Check out Deb’s site, debneuman.com for more great tips for your small business.

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Get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success.
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And thank you for reading our post today. Join us next time when we’ll tell you how to find the deal of your lifetime. Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

Subscribe to The Bigg Success Show in iTunes. 

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Direct link to The Bigg Success Show audio file:
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Critical Keys to Business Success – Part 1

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