What to Consider Before You Price Your Products

 

Pricing your products as you launch your small business? It may be worth taking a second look at your pricing strategy.

Sure, you could count your material costs and base your price on that alone, leaving yourself a small profit margin. But have you included the cost of your time and labor? How about transportation, shipping, and taxes?

A holistic approach is necessary to ensure the long-term viability of your business. Failure to consider the full scope of your pricing needs could mean smaller profits, a customer base that dwindles, or even that you might not get a paycheck.

Before you start printing price tags, consider taking an hour to explore a few pricing lessons. The SBA’s Introduction to Pricing self-guided course takes about 30 minutes and illuminates the impact of your pricing strategy on your overall business. SCORE’s Pricing Products and Services webinar lasts about an hour and reviews a variety of pricing scenarios you may encounter.

Whatever your product or service, here are a few items to remember when you’re considering your pricing strategy:

Related: Improve Business Profits and Make My Business More Profitable

Research the market

Developing a pricing system that works for your business requires taking a critical look at both your competitors and your target market. What are customers willing to pay for what you have to offer? Checking out how much they’re paying at your competitors can help you figure out whether it’s best to compete on price, quality, or overall value.

Consider your sales method

Are you selling directly to customers, or wholesaling your products to retailers? Are you paying sales representatives, or closing deals on your own? Direct sales can ensure that more money stays in your business, but your product may have limited reach.

If you’re selling directly to customers, can they purchase online, or in-store only? If the former, you’ll want to consider the costs of shipping supplies in your pricing formula.

Related: Seven Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires

Consider value

If your product or service is unique, don’t feel pressured to lower your price. Instead, focus on the value of your unique product so potential buyers understand what they’ll get for their investment.

Avoid one-size-fits-all pricing

Think about how you like to purchase products or services. Can you offer packages and a la carte buying options for your customers? Having a variety of options ensures that customers find the right fit for them. In addition, offering a package at a slight discount can serve as a low-pressure opportunity to upsell.

Account for sales

If you plan to offer discounts during special promotions, anticipate those discount rates to make sure you won’t lose money during those periods. You may have to raise your prices slightly to account for any discounts offered.

Related: Behaviors of Successful People

Credit: Bridget Weston Pollack

Photo Credit: ThePartneringGroup.com

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

#cmg #cmgbusinessgroup #business #commerce #smallbusiness #startup #resource #program #management #resource #trade #sales #retail #economy #logistic #advocacy #ecommerce #federal  #municipal #contract #market #staffing #advertise #professional #sixsigma #iso #9000 #9001 #green #initiative #negotiate #consult #strategic #sourcing #strategy #presentation #career

Dream Big! And Make it Happen!

Did you know that January 13 is National Make Your Dreams Come True Day? While there seem to be days in honor of nearly every occasion (no matter how obscure or seemingly insignificant), I think this particular one has a lot of merit. Entrepreneurs are both doers and dreamers. When they start a business, they aspire to make their dreams of controlling their own professional destiny come true.

With almost the entire year ahead of you in 2016, what better time to take action and fulfill your own small business dreams?

In striving to become a more success entrepreneur, little changes can mean a lot. The following simple habits, for example, can help expand your network, boost your credibility, and improve your performance when made a part of your daily routine:

  • Make at least one new connection every day on LinkedIn – Don’t just send a generic invitation; send a personalized invitation to open the door to dialogue. But be careful about coming across as pushy and salesy. That can be a turnoff and drive potential customers away.
  • Read (and learn from) at least one reputable, highly regarded blog – Choose blogs that will keep you in the know about trends and developments in your industry. The more you know, the more credibility you’ll have and the more trust you’ll earn.
  • Be helpful to another professional – Share an article you believe they’ll find interesting; introduce them to someone they might have an opportunity to do business with; give their business a shout out on social media…the possibilities are endless! By helping others, you’ll make them more inclined to consider you when they’re looking for the types of products and services you provide. And they’ll be more likely to refer business to you.

Related: Make The Entrepreneurial Difference

  • Proofread (and double check tone) of your emails before you hit “send” – I can’t stress this enough! Fair or not, people will judge your professionalism by how well you communicate. While an occasional error will be forgiven, blatant sloppiness in spelling, grammar, and punctuation will make you appear careless and uneducated. Review everything you write carefully to make sure it’s clear and error free. Also read your emails out loud to pick up on any unintentional harsh vibes they might convey. If you find they come across abrupt or insensitive, give them an attitude adjustment before sending them to recipients.
  • Commit to giving your clients no less than your best – This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway! When you put your best effort into doing work for your customers, you stand a much better chance of delighting them than you will by simply going through the motions. Bring your “A game” to every client interaction.
  • Start the day with a “can do” frame of mind – A confident state of mind empowers you to work more productively and tackle challenges with greater ease. If you don’t naturally feel that way when you begin your day, consider engaging in some positive self-talk or write down your strengths to reinforce your status as a capable and competent professional.

None of these suggestions requires a great deal of time or energy, so what are you waiting for? In the spirit of National Make Your Dreams Come True Day, put them into practice and get closer to making all of your small business dreams a reality. Stop only dreaming and start doing.

Related: Behaviors of Successful People

Credit: Nellie Akalp via CorpNet.com

Photo Credit: Velocity93@BlogSpot.com

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

#cmg #cmgbusinessgroup #business #commerce #smallbusiness #startup #resource #program #management #resource #trade #sales #retail #economy #logistic #advocacy #ecommerce #federal #local #municipal #contract #market #staffing #advertise #professional #sixsigma #iso #entrepreneur #green #initiative #negotiate #consult #dream #sourcing #strategy #presentation

Themes for eCommerce Sites

From merchant accounts to product images, product descriptions, add-on apps and possible integration with your existing website and back-end systems, there are a lot of details to stay on top of when you build an eCommerce site for your small business.

Interestingly however, one of the most critical decisions you need to make is what your new eCommerce site will look and feel like (i.e. its theme). Why is selecting a theme so important? It’s all a matter of cost.

Related: 100 Great Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask

The Cost of Customization

The truth is, there are many eCommerce storefronts you can add in minutes. Each of these solutions offers a selection of themes for you to use, some free and some for an additional fee (i.e. premium)

Many of these solutions enable you to customize your theme to some degree (a few even give you full control) however, doing so will take expertise and expertise costs both time and money whether you figure it out for yourself or hire an outside resource to do it for you.

If you’re watching costs, as many small businesses are, then you need to factor in the cost of customization when selecting an eCommerce solution. How? By previewing the free and premium fees as one of your selection criteria:

  • If a solution offers a theme that comes close to your design, that’s a big plus because it will mean less customization efforts.
  • If a solution does not offer a theme that comes close to your design, you will need to explore the cost of customization:
    • How hard will it be for you to learn how to customize your site yourself?
    • How much will it cost to hire an external resource to customize your site?
      • Does the solution vendor provide a list of qualified resources so you don’t have to start from scratch (a cost in terms of time and effort)?

In the end, your ecommerce sites theme is but one of the selection criteria to use when choosing an eCommerce solution, however, it’s often overlooked. Leaving “Compatible Theme” off your checklist can lead to a higher cost, in terms of time, money and frustration, down the road.

Related: Behaviors of Successful People

List of Themes for eCommerce Sites

The more themes a solution offers, or that are offered for that solution by third-parties, the better the odds that you’ll find one that comes close to your design. Start your search for an eCommerce vendor with the following list of themes for eCommerce sites that offer not only great functionality, but also a large selection of both free and premium eCommerce themes.

Shopify

Shopify offers a solid selection of free and premium themes. Its theme store offers many ways to filter and sort their selection including price and industry:

themes for ecommerce sites0

You can also find third-party Shopify themes on sites like ThemeForestTemplateMonsterApolloTheme and RoarTheme.

In addition, Shopify enables you to customize your theme thoroughly and offers a list of experts to help you do so if you chose to go that route.

Related: 10 Small Businesses You Can Start Today With Little To No Money

Bigcommerce

A robust eCommerce platform, Bigcommerce offers a number of free and premium themes today and has big plans to add many more in 2016:

themes for ecommerce sites0

Can’t with for the new themes to be released? You can find third-party themes on sites like TemplateMela and ThemeVale.

Bigcommerce enables you to customize your site’s theme completely and they provide a list of experts to help you design the site you want.

Related: The Art of the Pitch

Volusion

Another robust eCommerce solution, Volusion is perfect for those who want complete control over their site. It has a large selection of free and premium themes and offer customization services as well.

WIX

Born as a simple website creator, WIX has been offering eCommerce functionality for some time. It offers a good set of templates (i.e. themes) for you to use, all of which are included in their pricing plans and many of which were designed for very specific businesses:

themes for ecommerce sites0

WIXs customization functionality is code-free so that’s nice if you want to make changes yourself and not so nice if you want a professional to customize your site.

Related: Words To Get Your Customer’s Attention NOW!

WooCommerce for WordPress

If you want to build your eCommerce site using WordPress, then WooCommerce is a good place to start. While it doesn’t offer a large number of themes on its own, there are hundreds of third-party themes available on sites such as ThemeForest and TemplateMonster.

PrestaShop

PrestaShop is a fully functional eCommerce website solution. It offers many templates, but really shines with the number of third-party themes available on sites like Presthemes, ApolloTheme, ThemeForest and TemplateMonster.

Conclusion

There are many factors to consider when selecting an eCommerce website solution. One of the most critical for small businesses is the number of themes available to use when designing your shop.

Bottom-line: the more themes a solution offers, either itself or via third parties, the better the chance that one will come close to your design. The closer you get, the less time and money you’ll spend on customization.

Related: Improve Business Profits and Make My Business More Profitable

Credit: Matt Mansfield via Small Business Trends

Photo Credit: Shutterstock & WPDailyThemes.com

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

#cmg #cmgbusinessgroup #business #commerce #smallbusiness #startup #resource #program #management #resource #trade #sales #retail #economy #logistic #advocacy #ecommerce #federal  #municipal #contract #market #staffing #advertise #professional #sixsigma #iso #9000 #9001 #green #initiative #negotiate #consult #strategic #sourcing #strategy #presentation #career

Develop a Content Marketing Strategy

While some of online marketing is trendy and will inevitably fade away, there’s no disputing that content marketing is here to stay. If you’ve heard this buzzword, but aren’t really clear on what it includes, that’s probably because its definition is expanding as marketers find new ways to provide content to their audience.

In general, content marketing includes:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Whitepapers/Ebooks

​Related: Improve Business Profits and Make My Business More Profitable

How to Get More Readers (and Thereby Customers)

The point of content marketing is to attract new potential customers to your site. You’re providing useful information to them (in whatever format you choose), and ultimately, you’re working to build trust. Once they feel they can trust you, that relationship moves into the sales funnel.

But first you want to get as many readers or viewers of your content as possible, since they won’t all buy from you. Here’s how.

Share Content on Social Media

Each blog post, video, infographic or ebook you create should be trumpeted through your social network. And not just once! Schedule several updates — across all channels — encouraging your followers to click to view the content you have created. Ask your followers to also share the update with their followers to reach a wider audience.

So what’s the ideal number of times to share? There is none. Just be mindful of your audience, and don’t alienate them by posting multiple updates every day begging them to read your content. A few times a week is a good place to start.

Related: Staying on Top of Your Social Media

Post Content to Bookmarking Sites

For many people, social bookmarking sites like Stumbleupon and BizSugar are where they get their content. The benefit of doing so is that the content has already been vetted, so to speak. The most popular content has the most votes, so a quick skim through the top links should net the best content.

For you, social bookmarking sites offer fabulous opportunity to connect to readers you wouldn’t otherwise have found. The more places you can pick up new readers, the more customers you’ll get.

Set Up an RSS Feed

It needs to be stupidly simple for visitors to your blog to easily get updates every time you post a new article. That’s where RSS feeds come into play. When a visitor signs up to get your blog updates, she can either read them in an RSS feeder with her other favorite blogs, or get your updates via email. That way, she doesn’t have to remember to check back on your blog for new content.

Related: How to Name Your Business

Set Up a Success Measurement Plan

All this hard work in developing and sharing your content will be for naught if you don’t measure results! Paying attention to how many visitors you’re attracting with your content can help you know if you’re doing a good enough job in marketing and sharing that content. And knowing which topics people are reading or viewing the most can help you generate future content ideas.

Google Analytics is the easiest tool to provide data on all of this. Plus, it’s free to use. With Analytics, you can also look at traffic over time and make sure it’s steadily rising the way you want it to. You can also look at conversions, if you sell products online. In other words: is the traffic that’s arriving on your blog converting into paying customers? If not, you should analyze your site to determine the disconnect.

These days, it’s not enough to throw blog content out into cyberspace. You need a plan for your content marketing strategy so you draw in the right people with your content and turn them into loyal customers.

Related: The Art of the Pitch

Credit: Anita Campbell via SBA

Photo Credit: Blogs.UBC.CA

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

#cmg #cmgbusinessgroup #business #commerce #smallbusiness #startup #resource #program #management #resource #trade #sales #retail #economy #logistic #advocacy #target #federal #local #municipal #contract #market #staffing #advertise #professional #sixsigma #iso #entrepreneur #green #initiative #negotiate #consult #strategic #sourcing #strategy #presentation #fund

How to Deal With Difficult People

Most of us encounter unreasonable people in our lives. We may be “stuck” with a difficult individual at work or at home. It’s easy to let a challenging person affect us and ruin our day. What are some of the keys to empowering yourself in such situations? Below are ten keys to handling unreasonable and difficult people. Keep in mind that these are general rules of thumb, and not all of the tips may apply to your particular situation. Simply utilize what works and leave the rest.

For more in-depth tools on how to effectively handle difficult individuals, download free excerpts of my publications (click on titles) “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People(link is external),” “Communication Success with Four Personality Types(link is external),” and “How to Successfully Handle Passive-Aggressive People(link is external).”

1.    Keep Your Cool 

Benefits: Maintain self-control. Avoid escalation of problem.

How: The first rule in the face of an unreasonable person is to maintain your composure; the less reactive you are, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation.

When you feel angry or upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of escalate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.

Related: Quick, Easy Ways to Improve Your Focus

2.    “Fly Like an Eagle”

Benefits: More peace of mind. Reduce risk of friction.

How: Some people in our lives are simply not worth tussling with. Your time is valuable, so unless there’s something important at stake, don’t waste it by trying to change or convince a person who’s negatively entrenched. As the saying goes: “You can’t fly like an eagle if you hang out with turkeys!” Whether you’re dealing with a difficult colleague or an annoying relative, be diplomatic and apply the tips from this article when you need to interact with them. The rest of the time, keep a healthy distance.

3.    Shift from Being Reactive to Proactive

Benefits: Minimize misinterpretation & misunderstanding. Concentrate energy on problem-solving.

How: When you feel offended by someone’s words or deeds, come up with multiple ways of viewing the situation before reacting. For example, I may be tempted to think that my co-worker is ignoring my messages, or I can consider the possibility that she’s been very busy. When we avoid personalizing other people’s behaviors, we can perceive their expressions more objectively. People do what they do because of them more than because of us. Widening our perspective on the situation can reduce the possibility of misunderstanding.

Another way to reduce personalization is to try to put ourselves in the difficult individual’s shoes, even for just a moment. For example, consider the person you’re dealing with, and complete the sentence: “It must not be easy….”

“My child is being so resistant. It must not be easy to deal with his school and social pressures…”

“My boss is really demanding. It must not be easy to have such high expectations placed on her performance by management…”

“My partner is so emotionally distant. It must not be easy to come from a family where people don’t express affection…”

To be sure, empathetic statements do not excuse unacceptable behavior. The point is to remind yourself that people do what they do because of their own issues. As long as we’re being reasonable and considerate, difficult behaviors from others say a lot more about them than they do about us. By de-personalizing, we can view the situation more objectively, and come up with better ways of solving the problem.

Related: Behaviors of Successful People

4.    Pick Your Battles

Benefits: Save time, energy and grief. Avoid unnecessary problems and complications.

How: Not all difficult individuals we face require direct confrontation about their behavior. There are two scenarios under which you might decide not to get involved. The first is when someone has temporary, situational power over you. For example, if you’re on the phone with an unfriendly customer service representative, as soon as you hang up and call another agent, this representative will no longer have power over you.

Another situation where you might want to think twice about confrontation is when, by putting up with the difficult behavior, you derive a certain benefit. An example of this would be an annoying co-worker, for although you dislike her, she’s really good at providing analysis for your team, so she’s worth the patience. It’s helpful to remember that most difficult people have positive qualities as well, especially if you know how to elicit them (see keys #5 and 6).

In both scenarios, you have the power to decide if a situation is serious enough to confront. Think twice, and fight the battles that are truly worth fighting.

Related: Negotiate Your Salary Without Playing Hardball

5.    Separate the Person From the Issue

Benefits: Establish yourself as a strong problem solver with excellent people skills. Win more rapport, cooperation and respect.

How: In every communication situation, there are two elements present: The relationship you have with this person, and the issue you are discussing. An effective communicator knows how to separate the person from the issue, and be soft on the person and firm on the issue. For example:

“I want to talk about what’s on your mind, but I can’t do it when you’re yelling. Let’s either sit down and talk more quietly, or take a time out and come back this afternoon.”

“I appreciate you putting a lot of time into this project. At the same time, I see that three of the ten requirements are still incomplete. Let’s talk about how to finish the job on schedule.”

“I really want you to come with us. Unfortunately, if you’re going to be late like the last few times, we’ll have to leave without you.”

When we’re soft on the person, people are more open to what we have to say. When we’re firm on the issue, we show ourselves as strong problem solvers.

Related: Improve Business Profits and Make My Business More Profitable

6.     Put the Spotlight on Them 

Benefits: Proactive. Equalize power in communication. Apply appropriate pressure to reduce difficult behavior.

How: A common pattern with difficult people (especially the aggressive types) is that they like to place attention on you to make you feel uncomfortable or inadequate. Typically, they’re quick to point out there’s something not right with you or the way you do things. The focus is consistently on “what’s wrong,” instead of “how to solve the problem.”

This type of communication is often intended to dominate and control, rather than to sincerely take care of issues. If you react by being on the defensive, you simply fall into the trap of being scrutinized, thereby giving the aggressor more power while she or he picks on you with impunity. A simple and powerful way to change this dynamic is to put the spotlight back on the difficult person, and the easiest way to do so is to ask questions. For example:

Aggressor: “Your proposal is not even close to what I need from you.”

Response: “Have you given clear thought to the implications of what you want to do?”

Aggressor: “You’re so stupid.”

Response: “If you treat me with disrespect I’m not going to talk with you anymore. Is that what you want? Let me know and I will decide if I want to stay or go.”

Keep your questions constructive and probing. By putting the difficult person in the spotlight, you can help neutralize her or his undue influence over you.

Related: The Art of the Pitch

7.    Use Appropriate Humor

Benefits: Disarm unreasonable and difficult behavior when correctly used. Show your detachment. Avoid being reactive. Problem rolls off your back.

How: Humor is a powerful communication tool. Years ago I knew a co-worker who was quite stuck up. One day a colleague of mine said “Hello, how are you?” to him. When the egotistical co-worker ignored her greeting completely, my colleague didn’t feel offended. Instead, she smiled good-naturedly and quipped: “That good, huh?” This broke the ice and the two of them started a friendly conversation. Brilliant.

When appropriately used, humor can shine light on the truth, disarm difficult behavior, and show that you have superior composure. In “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People(link is external),” I explain the psychology of humor in conflict resolution, and offer a variety of ways one can use humor to reduce or eliminate difficult behavior.

Related: Staying on Top of Your Social Media

8.    Change from Following to Leading 

Benefit: Leverage direction and flow of communication.

How: In general, whenever two people are communicating, one is usually doing more leading, while the other is doing more following. In healthy communication, two people would take turns leading and following. However, some difficult people like to take the lead, set a negative tone, and harp on “what’s wrong” over and over.

You can interrupt this behavior simply by changing the topic. As mentioned earlier, utilize questions to redirect the conversation. You can also say “By the way…” and initiate a new subject. When you do so, you’re taking the lead and setting a more constructive tone.

9.    Confront Bullies (Safely)

Benefits: Reduce or eliminate harmful behavior. Increase confidence and peace of mind.

How: The most important thing to keep in mind about bullies is that they pick on those whom they perceive as weaker, so as long as you remain passive and compliant, you make yourself a target. Many bullies are also cowards on the inside. When their victims begin to show backbone and stand up for their rights, the bully will often back down. This is true in schoolyards, as well as in domestic and office environments.

On an empathetic note, studies show that many bullies are victims of violence themselves. This in no way excuses bullying behavior, but may help you consider the bully in a more equanimous light.

“When people don’t like themselves very much, they have to make up for it. The classic bully was actually a victim first.” — Tom Hiddleston

“Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” — Paramhansa Yogananda

“I realized that bullying never has to do with you. It’s the bully who’s insecure.” — Shay Mitchell

When confronting bullies, be sure to place yourself in a position where you can safely protect yourself, whether it’s standing tall on your own, having other people present to witness and support, or keeping a paper trail of the bully’s inappropriate behavior. In cases of physical, verbal, or emotional abuse, consult with counseling, legal, law enforcement, or administrative professionals on the matter. It’s very important to stand up to bullies, and you don’t have to do it alone.

Related: Make The Entrepreneurial Difference

10.     Set Consequence 

Benefits: Proactive not reactive. Shift balance of power. Win respect and cooperation when appropriately applied.

How: The ability to identify and assert consequence(s) is one of the most important skills we can use to “stand down” a difficult person. Effectively articulated, consequence gives pause to the challenging individual, and compels her or him to shift from obstruction to cooperation. In “How to Communicate Effectively and Handle Difficult People(link is external),” consequence is presented as seven different types of power you can utilize to affect positive change.

In conclusion, to know how to handle unreasonable and difficult people is to truly master the art of communication. As you utilize these skills, you may experience less grief, greater confidence, better relationships, and higher communication prowess. You are on your way to leadership success!

 

Related: Get The Most Out of Your Startup Team

Credit: Preston Ni M.S.B.A. via PsychologyToday.com

Photo Credit: SmallBizTrends.com

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

#cmg #cmgbusinessgroup #business #commerce #smallbusiness #startup #resource #program #management #resource #trade #sales #retail #economy #logistic #advocacy #ecommerce #federal #local #municipal #contract #market #staffing #advertise #professional #sixsigma #iso #9000 #9001 #green #initiative #negotiate #consult #strategic #sourcing #strategy #presentation #career #negotiation #negotiate #salary #cohesion #project

How to Get a Business Loan

Money is the lifeline of any business, so whether you’re starting a business or running an existing one, securing financing is a major factor, especially for small businesses.  Many budding entrepreneurs find the task daunting and don’t even know where to begin.

Here’s a simple yet practical guide on how to go about preparing to apply for a small business loan.

1.    What criteria do banks look for in making small business loans?

Different banks or lending institutions may have different standards, but in general, in order to consider your application for a small business loan, banks will require:

  • The loan must be for a sound business purpose. For SBA-guaranteed loans, the business must be eligible based on size, use of loan proceeds and the nature of the business (no lending, speculating, passive investment, pyramid sales, gambling, etc.)
  • You and your partner(s) are of good character, have experience and good personal and/or business credit history
  • Ability to pay back the loan- reasonable to strong collateral (personal and business assets) is very important. SBA expects the loan to be fully secured, but we will not decline a request to guaranty a loan if the only unfavorable factor is insufficient collateral. And of course, owners must have personal equity investment in the business/skin in the game.

Related: Seven Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires

2.    What information will you need?

Different lenders may require more or fewer documents, but in general, you will need:

  • Personal and business credit history
  • Personal and business financial statements for existing and startup businesses and as well as a projected financial statements
  • Strong, detailed business plan (including personal information such as bios, education, etc.)
  • Cash flow projections for at least a year, and
  • Personal guaranties from all principal owners of the business

3.    How can you set yourself up from the beginning to make the process easier? (i.e. accounting systems, etc.)

Be prepared; be thorough; be truthful.

  • Choose your lending institution carefully. Larger banks tend to shy away from small loans as they are less profitable and take the same amount of underwriting and servicing. That doesn’t mean large banks do not make small loans; it is just more difficult.
  • Approach banks or lending institutions you have worked with or are a customer of
  • Explore community banks and Credit Unions
  • Talk to a lending officer and find out exactly what documentation they require
  • Be thorough, bring everything they ask. Many loan applications are denied or face unnecessary hurdles because of incomplete applications.

Related: Hobby or Startup? Important When Filing Your Taxes

Even before you start gathering and organizing the information required by lenders to consider your application, you should educate yourself regarding business loans so you can understand and discuss intelligently with the lending officers when the time comes.

4.    What is the typical size of a small business loan?

Small businesses come in many sizes, from a start-up of a one-person company to hundreds of employees, and their financial needs vary accordingly, so “typical” also varies. That said, in the banking industry the median small business loan is about $130,000 – $140,000 with highest around $250,000. SBA small business loans range from about $5,000 (microloans) to $5 million (largest guaranteed) with the average loan around $371,000.

5.    How can you get financing to start a business since many banks want to fund growth?

Start-ups are probably the most difficult ventures when it comes to securing financing. Many start-up businesses seek financing from family, friends and credit cards.  If the credit is sound, the business plan strong and you have enough personal resources to invest and collateral to guarantee, smaller, community banks and  other community financial institutions and Credit Unions may consider lending you money.

Related: How to Name Your Business

Your best bet by far is SBA assistance. Begin by visiting SBA’s website , where you will find a wealth of information not only on how to secure a small business loan but equally importantly, other services and training opportunities to help you succeed.

6.    Are there associations that can help?

SBA works closely with a large network of partners that leverage SBA resources and are just one phone call away and ready to provide extensive help.

  • SBA District/Branch Offices– at least one in every state
  • SCORE– (approximately 300 chapters nationwide)
  • SBDCs – Small Business Development Centers; (approximately 900 locations nationwide; associated with higher education institutions (colleges and universities)
  • WBCs– Women’s Business Centers (approximately 100 educational centers nationwide)

Related: Make the Entrepreneurial Difference

Credit: Natale Goriel via SBA

Photo Credit: TheRichestImages.com

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

#cmg #cmgbusinessgroup #business #commerce #smallbusiness #startup #resource #program #management #resource #trade #sales #retail #economy #logistic #advocacy #ecommerce #federal #local #municipal #contract #market #staffing #advertise #professional #sixsigma #iso #entrepreneur #green #initiative #negotiate #consult #strategic #sourcing #strategy #presentation

Developing Effective Work Relationships

You can submarine your career and work relationships by the actions you take and the behaviors you exhibit at work. No matter your education, your experience, or your title, if you can’t play well with others, you will never accomplish your work mission.

Effective work relationships form the cornerstone for success and satisfaction with your job and your career. How important are effective work relationships?

They form the basis for promotion, pay increases, goal accomplishment, and job satisfaction.

The Gallup organization studied indicators of work satisfaction. They found that whether you have a best friend at work was one of the twelve key questions that predicted job satisfaction.

Related: Improve Business Profits and Make My Business More Profitable

A supervisor in a several hundred person company quickly earned a reputation for not playing well with others. He collected data and used the data to find fault, place blame, and make other employees look bad. He enjoyed identifying problems but rarely suggested solutions.

He bugged his supervisor weekly for a bigger title and more money so he could tell other employees what to do.

When he announced he was job hunting, not a single employee suggested that the company take action to convince him to stay. He had burned his bridges.

These are the top seven ways you can play well with others at work. They form the basis for effective work relationships. These are the actions you want to take to create a positive, empowering, motivational work environment for people.

Related: Negotiate Your Salary Without Playing Hardball

  • Bring suggested solutions with the problems to the meeting table. Some employees spend an inordinate amount of time identifying problems. Honestly? That’s the easy part. Thoughtful solutions are the challenge that will earn respect and admiration from coworkers and bosses
  • Don’t ever play the blame game. You alienate coworkers, supervisors, and reporting staff. Yes, you may need to identify who was involved in a problem. You may even ask the Deming question: what about the work system caused the employee to fail?But, not my fault and publicly identifying and blaming others for failures will earn enemies. These enemies will, in turn, help you to fail. You do need allies at work.
  • Your verbal and nonverbal communication matters. If you talk down to another employee, use sarcasm, or sound nasty, the other employee hears you. We are all radar machines that constantly scope out our environment.

In one organization a high level manager said to me, “I know you don’t think I should scream at my employees. But, sometimes, they make me so mad. When is it appropriate for me to scream at the employees?” Answer? Never, of course, if respect for people is a hallmark of your organization.

Related: Behaviors of Successful People

  • Never blind side a coworker, boss, or reporting staff person. If the first time a coworker hears about a problem is in a staff meeting or from an email sent to his supervisor, you have blind sided the coworker. Always discuss problems, first, with the people directly involved who “own” the work system.Also called lynching or ambushing your coworkers, you will never build effective work alliances unless your coworkers trust you. And, without alliances, you never accomplish the most important goals.
  • Keep your commitments. In an organization, work is interconnected. If you fail to meet deadlines and commitments, you affect the work of other employees. Always keep commitments, and if you can’t, make sure all affected employees know what happened. Provide a new due date and make every possible effort to honor the new deadline.
  • Share credit for accomplishments, ideas, and contributions. How often do you accomplish a goal or complete a project with no help from others? If you are a manager, how many of the great ideas you promote were contributed by staff members?

Related: Quick, Easy Ways to Improve Your Focus

Take the time, and expend the energy, to thank, reward, recognize and specify contributions of the people who help you succeed. This is a no-fail approach to building effective work relationships.

  • Help other employees find their greatness. Every employee in your organization has talents, skills, and experience. If you can help fellow employees harness their best abilities, you benefit the organization immeasurably. The growth of individual employees benefits the whole.Compliment, recognize, praise, and notice contributions. You don’t have to be a manager to help create a positive, motivating environment for employees. In this environment, employees do find and contribute their greatness.

If you regularly carry out these seven actions, you will play well with others and develop effective work relationships. Coworkers will value you as a colleague. Bosses will believe you play on the right team.

You’ll accomplish your work goals, and you may even experience fun, recognition, and personal motivation Work can’t get any better than that.

Related: Get The Most Out of Your Startup Team

Credit: Susan M. Heathfield via About.com

Photo Credit: GraineMediationBlog

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

#cmg #cmgbusinessgroup #business #commerce #smallbusiness #startup #resource #program #management #resource #trade #sales #retail #economy #logistic #advocacy #ecommerce #federal #local #municipal #contract #market #staffing #advertise #professional #sixsigma #iso #9000 #9001 #green #initiative #negotiate #consult #strategic #sourcing #strategy #presentation #career #negotiation #negotiate #salary #cohesion #project

Study Now, Startup Later

In an environment of billion-dollar valuations for private companies and cloud-based software that makes start-up launches easier than ever, staying focused on academics can be challenging. Should you hit the books, or try to launch the next, great start-up when the idea and capital strike?

Over the last few years, as the economy has recovered, Garth Saloner,outgoing dean of Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, has watched the number of MBA graduates who launch ventures (in founding roles) rise to 16 percent for the class of 2015, slightly lower than the all-time high of 18 percent of graduates reached two years ago. “We’ve never seen that before. It’s a big number,” Saloner said. A decade ago that figure was in the single digits.

Of course, graduates launching start-ups is something to laud and a testament to Stanford’s competitive two-year MBA program that can open a lot of doors in Silicon Valley. U.S. News & World Report ranked Stanford University’s business school No. 1 for 2015, and edged out Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton.

On the other hand, more ventures founded out of business school also suggests students are spending a huge bulk of time creating ventures. Aspiring entrepreneurs may not be taking full advantage of lessons from professors and visiting professionals during the business school program.

“What gives me pause is when students get so engaged in the start-up itself in the second year that they devote their energy to it at the expense of their second year,” said Saloner in an interview earlier this month. “That’s a lost opportunity.”

Related: Building Emotional Fitness Needed to Succeed

By the way, it’s not like Stanford business school students are dropping out in droves for start-up dreams. Drop-out rates in the MBA program are nominal. The larger worry is MBA graduates who aren’t preparing for the long game that is a modern career. Navigating workplaces, from multinationals to small businesses, require a variety of skills and knowledge, from accounting and finance to managing growing teams and enterprises.

“What I often see is a student who has devoted a big chunk of time to an idea that doesn’t pan out,” Saloner said. “Realistically most fresh start-up ideas just don’t survive the rigorous tests of the marketplace,” said the departing dean. He announced his resignation in September amid a lawsuit related to a contentious divorce.

Billions in VC-backed companies

Silicon Valley

Panoramic Images | Getty Images

Of course, you can’t blame an MBA student for dreaming and building a start-up. There’s lots of capital available.

We’re in an age of tech “unicorns,” a term given to start-ups valued at $1 billion or more, though 2016 could be a year of reckoning. Tech experts forecast valuations edging lower and funding rounds becoming trickier to secure.

Related: 100 Great Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask

The first nine months of 2015 saw $98.4 billion invested into venture capital-backed companies, an 11 percent jump compared to all of 2014, which was a record year for VC-backed investment. That’s according to a quarterly global report on VC trends published jointly by KPMG International and CB Insights.

Beyond capital, there are plenty of start-up summer camps, incubators and accelerators. The Princeton Review now ranks both graduate and undergraduate entrepreneurship programs.

For four-year colleges and universities in the U.S., about 77 percent of public and private not-for-profit institutions offer at least entrepreneurship courses. That’s according to research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, on behalf of the Kauffman Foundation, which tracks entrepreneurship.

Programs for students who are not business majors are also growing in numbers, according to University of Illinois research. Roughly 21 percent of schools offer minors or certificates open to undergraduates students from multiple majors. These undergraduate programs often emphasize the entrepreneurial mindset as much as launching a start-up immediately.

Bottom line? This frothy environment can create an impression that instant riches might be just a few clicks away on a laptop, with a dorm buddy and some late-night code.

But academics and researchers argue the broader point of entrepreneurship and MBA programs is to learn to think like an innovator and business leader. The goal is to acquire the relevant skills to launch an idea or project — whether as a stand alone start-up, or inside a massive Fortune 100 organization.

“Everybody should be equipped to start an opportunity at some point in their career,” said Donna Kelley, entrepreneurship professor at Babson College. “If they lose a job or they see an opportunity, it should be in everyone’s tool set so they can enact a plan when the timing is right.”

Not surprisingly, workers launching businesses based on perceived opportunities and a broad optimistic outlook — a group sometimes called opportunity entrepreneurs — has grown as the U.S. economy has improved. On the flip side during the recession, launching ventures out of need — a category called necessity entrepreneurs — rose during the downturn.

Related: Quick, Easy Ways to Improve Your Focus

In fact in the U.S., entrepreneurs in some cases exercise their start-up ambition while still working within large companies, according to research by Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. This group is sometimes referred to as employee entrepreneurs, according to the latest Babson’s Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, a large annual survey of start-up activity.

“The point is entrepreneurship is not just about start-ups,” Kelley said. “It’s about being entrepreneurial wherever you are.”

Stay the course

Stanford Graduate School of Business student Kudzi Chikumbu is working on a career transition into the entertainment industry from management consulting. He has a show on YouTube called, “The Snatched.”

By just being in Silicon Valley, there are plenty of temptations to dive into start-up waters. So what keeps him in class? “Once you leave, you can’t come back to school. You don’t get a second chance at a Stanford MBA,” said Chikumbu, originally from South Africa.

Not to mention the expense. The full-time, two-year MBA program costs roughly $190,000 to $200,000 based on two years’ tuition.

“If you take too much time to get distracted, you won’t have time to brush up on your other skills,” he said. “You’ll have the network.”

As Saloner said of Stanford, careers travel a long trajectory. “This is the time for you to be investing in that.”

Credit: Heesun Wee via CNBC.com

Photo Credit: UniversityI.com

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

#cmg #cmgbusinessgroup #business #commerce #smallbusiness #startup #resource #program #management #resource #trade #sales #retail #economy #logistic #advocacy #ecommerce #federal #local #municipal #contract #market #staffing #advertise #professional #sixsigma #iso #9000 #9001 #green #initiative #negotiate #consult #strategic #sourcing #strategy #presentation #career #negotiation #negotiate #salary #education #mba

Compensating Your Employees’ Base Pay

Compensation begins with a base pay of some kind. But how best to structure it—by the hour or week?It depends on what type of business you’re in, as well as how established your company is. Salaries are more typical for managers and employees in white-collar positions, while hourly pay is more common for temporary or part-time employees as well as consultants and workers in certain blue-collar jobs. When your company is just starting up, you might be more inclined to hire part-time rather than full-time staff, until you’re confident enough to staff on a full-time, permanent basis.

It’s also important to consider that your core team of employees—the ones critical to your business’s basic operations and delivering on your company’s promise—should typically be full time.

Commissions
Commissions are most suitable for jobs that involve generating income — often selling positions. Commissions give employees an incentive by rewarding them for their success in achieving objectives. Some jobs might have a base pay plus commission. Think about what makes the most sense for each position and for the company.

Related: Negotiate Your Salary Without Playing Hardball

How much do you pay?
Another key question is how much to pay each employee or each position. Begin by establishing a minimum for your pay scale as well as a maximum. You could set the floor based on market rates. Also, be aware of state minimum wage rules, which you can find online via the U.S. Department of Labor website.

As for deciding on a maximum, think about how valuable a person is to your company. Also, consider the competition. If you pay less, the best talent may seek employment with your competition. And, your existing employees may be tempted to jump ship.

Finally, remember that you should hire for the long term, and provide a career path. Successful employees will want raises and promotions—and providing these will help to keep them satisfied and feeling appreciated. Pay fairly in the beginning, but realize you may have to offer more in the years to come.

Also, make sure it is clear whether someone is an employee or a contractor. Employee misclassification has become a major focus of the US Department of Labor.

Related: Improve Business Profits and Make My Business More Profitable

Learn more at the U.S. Department of Labor website.

GAME PLAN

  • To find out whether it’s appropriate or legal to compensate a particular position through hourly wage or salary, and to learn more about the rules covering wages and hourly pay, you could consult with an employment lawyer.
  • To learn more about labor laws, visit the Department of Labor website.
  • To get more information about salaries and market rates based on position and geography, visit www.salary.com.
  • To learn more about how other small business owners feel about raising the minimum wage, check out the findings from the 2014 Small Business Success Study.

Related: Get The Most Out of Your Startup Team

Credit: Allan Kunigis via The Hartford

Photo Credit: BusinessPlan Today.com

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

#cmg #cmgbusinessgroup #business #commerce #smallbusiness #startup #resource #program #management #resource #trade #sales #retail #economy #logistic #advocacy #ecommerce #federal #local #municipal #contract #market #staffing #advertise #professional #sixsigma #iso #9000 #9001 #green #initiative #negotiate #consult #strategic #sourcing #strategy #presentation #career #negotiation #negotiate #salary

Principles of Brand Strategy

In a situation where you’re selling to multiple personalities, it’s best to first connect everyone on a common ground then articulate clearly what’s in it for each of them.

The goal is to stimulate an engaging conversation that allows us to change perception, diagnose expectations and bring clarity to the dialogue.

That’s the essence of developing a brand strategy – the foundation of your communication that builds authentic relationships between you and your audience.

It is by defining your brand strategy that allows you to utilize marketing, advertising, public relations and social media to consistently and accurately reinforce your character.

Without defining the core strategy, all channels of communication can often become a hit and miss expense.

Here’s 12 brand strategy principles I believe to be the key to achieve business success.

Related: Improve Business Profits and Make My Business More Profitable

1. Define your brand

It starts with your authenticity, the core purpose, vision, mission, position, values and character.  Focus on what you do best and then communicated your inimitable strengths through consistency.

There are many examples of companies acquiring other brands but only to sell them off later because they don’t fit within the brand and its architecture.

Microsoft acquired Razorfish in 2007 when it bought aQuantive, a digital marketing services company, for about US $6 billion then sold it a few years later for $530 million.

Simply put, Razorfish isn’t a good fit with Microsoft’s brand strategy.

2.  Your brand is your business model

Supports and challenge your business model to maximize the potential within your brand. Think of personal brands like Oprah, Donald Trump, Martha Stewart and Richard Branson.

These individuals practically built their business right on top of their personal brand; everything they offer is an extension of their brand promise.

Related: Staying on Top of Your Social Media

3. Consistency, consistency, consistency

Consistency in your message is the key to differentiate.

Own your position on every reference point for everything that you do. President Obama focuses on one message only during his campaign, CHANGE. BMW has always been known as the “ultimate driving machine.

4. Start from the Inside out

Everyone in your company can tell you what they see, think and feel about your brand.  That’s the story you should bring to the customers as well, drive impact beyond just the walls of marketing.

That’s example how Zappos empowers employees to strengthen consumer perception on its brand.

5. Connect on the emotional level.

A brand is not a name, logo, website, ad campaigns or PR; those are only the tools not the brand.  A brand is a desirable idea manifested in products, services, people, places and experiences.

Starbucks created a third space experience that’s desirable and exclusive so people would want to stay and pay for the overpriced coffee.

Sell people something that satisfies not only their physical needs but their emotional needs and their need to identify themselves to your brand.

Related: How to Name Your Business

6. Empower brand champions

Award those that love your brand to help drive the message, facility activities so they can be part of the process.

If your brand advocate doesn’t tell you what you should or should not be doing, it’s time to evaluate your brand promise.

Go and talk to someone that works at the Apple retail store or an iPhone owner and you’ll see just how passionate they are about Apple.  It’s a lifestyle and a culture.

7. Stay relevant and flexible

A well managed brand is always making adjustments.  Branding is a process, not a race, not an event so expect to constantly tweak your message and refresh your image.

Successful brands don’t cling to the old ways just because they worked in the past; instead, they try to re-invent themselves by being flexible which frees them to be more savvy and creative.

Here is an example: when the economy tanked this year automaker Hyundai came out with an assurance program that lets you return your car if you lose your job with no further financial obligation and no damage to your credit.

The results?

As of end of February, only two buyers have taken advantage of this program but it has boosted their sales by 14% year-over-year in Q1, only one of the two companies increased revenue while companies such as Honda experienced a drop of more than 30%.

Follow by that campaign in July, as gas prices expected to push higher during peak summer travel months, Hyundai came out with another program that guarantees a year’s worth of gas at $1.49 per gallon on most models.

Related: The Art of the Pitch

8. Align tactics with strategy

Convey the brand message on the most appropriate media platform with specific campaign objectives.

Because consumers are bombarded by commercial messages everyday, they’re also actively blocking out the great majority of them.

Invest your branding efforts on the right platform that communicates to the right channels.

Television may be expensive but it has a broader reach, wider demographics and can produce instant impact.  On the other hand, social media may seem cheap but it takes time, resources and may not give you the desire outcome.

9. Measure the effectiveness

Focus on the ROI (return on investment) is the key to measure the effectiveness of your strategies.

Often times it is how well your organization can be inspired to execute the strategies. It could also be reflected in brand valuation or how your customers react to your product and price adjustments.

Ultimately it should resonate with sales and that means profitability.  But don’t just focus increasing sales when you could be getting a profit boost by reducing overheads and expenses as well.

Give yourself options to test different marketing tactics, make sure they fit your brand authenticity and aligns with your strategy.

Related: Seven Secrets of Self-Made Millionaires

10. Cultivate your community

Community is a powerful and effective platform on which to engage customers and create loyalty towards the brand.

In an active community, members feel a need to connect with each other in the context of the brand’s consumption.

We all want to be an insider of something, it excites us to tell people which community we’re part of and what knowledge we posses.

In many ways it’s our ego that prides us to be part of a sports team or a professional group.

Guess what car would members of the Porsche club consider first when it’s time to purchase their next vehicle?

Brand communities allow companies to collaborate with customers in all phases of value creation via crowdsourcing such as product design, pricing strategy, availability, and even how to sell.

Related: Productivity Tools You Need In Your Toolbox

11. Keep your enemies closer

Even if you have the most innovative, highly desirable product, you can expect new competitors with a superior value proposition to enter your market down the road.

The market is always big enough for new players to improve what you deliver better, faster, cheaper. Call it hypercompetition or innovation economics, competition could be good for you believe it or not.

It challenges you brand to elevate the strategy and deliver more value.

Just look at how the Big Three (automobile manufacturers General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler) got crushed in the past decade by competitions from Germany and Japanese.

Not only do their competitors make a better product, they’re more efficient doing it and command a higher brand loyalty.

In 2008, Toyota overtook GM while Honda passed Chrysler in US sales.

Related: Words To Get Your Customer’s Attention NOW!

12. Practice brand strategy thinking

IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown calls design thinking “a process for creating new choices.

Essentially it means to not just settle for the choices currently available but to think outside the box without being limited.

This concept actually applies to your brand strategy creation process that I called brand strategy thinking.

It’s always easier to execute tactics than coming up with a strategy because it implies the possibility of failure.

It’s much faster to emulate what worked for your competitor than to come up with something original and creative.

But the truth is, that’s not you and it violates the first principle of brand strategy.  Brand strategy thinking is about creating the right experience that involve all the stakeholders to foster a better strategy.

Leverage the ecosystem that includes your employees, partners and customers to help you articulate your brand strategy so they sync together.

The take away: Having a brand strategy will bring clarity and meaning to your brand so you can focus on making, creating, and selling things that people actually care about.

If you could do that, your brand would be unique and memorable on its way to become an esteemed brand.

Related: Behaviors of Successful People

Credit: Kanika Sharma

Photo Credit: Thumbnails.Visually.Netdna-cdn.com

CMG Business Group…. Propelling Industry to New Heights!

#cmg #cmgbusinessgroup #business #commerce #smallbusiness #startup #resource #program #management #resource #trade #sales #retail #economy #logistic #advocacy #ecommerce #federal  #municipal #contract #market #staffing #advertise #professional #sixsigma #iso #9000 #9001 #green #initiative #negotiate #consult #strategic #sourcing #strategy #presentation #career