June, 2010 Archive

Partnership Benefits

June 24th, 2010 by Liz in Financial Freedom

From Shakespeare’s “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers,” to John Donne’s “No man is an Island, entire of itself,” to the common saying, “Two heads are better than one….” — these ideas all come from a place of truth. We might want to think that we can handle anything and everything all the time, but there are moments when we’re proven quite wrong. Then, when things do go wrong, fear builds within us and we lose part of the confidence that helps us face whatever comes our way. We lose part of what gives us the inspiration to do what we do. It kind of hurts and makes us a feel a little stumped when that happens, doesn’t it? <g>

This is exactly when a good partnership comes in. It’s always reassuring to have a person or group that could support and complement our talents and skills, as well as fill in our weaknesses. That’s why in business, as in life, it’s amazing when you’re able to find the right partner. Your equal, supposedly and if you will, in the overall scheme of things. I’m lucky enough to have found that in my husband, Ric, and our numerous business partners and affiliates. Without them, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have reached the kind of success we have today.       

Exploring the Unknown

More often than not, as business owners, we are afraid to test the waters and try out new things. We become so comfortable in our shells, our time-tested tools and in doing things our own way. Why should we try something new, take a risk and put everything at stake, when you’re right where you think you want to be, safe and sound and earning just like you’re used to? Why bother when during this tough times, many are suffering more losses than you?

Like all business people, we know that the danger of running a business is when you’ve hit the plateau. It’s not really that rock bottom we’re afraid of, isn’t it, but the static, unmoving line we’re seemingly stuck in. <g> Nowadays, people are satisfied just to survive, especially when we see our businesses as tickets to our independence, freedom and happiness. But then again, our raw instinct tells us that for businesses to survive, it has to be profitable. To survive, it is not enough just to be safe. It is important to be risky too. The trick is to know how and up to where we’re willing to risk.

Source: GettyImages.com

Stepping Up When Needs Must

Part of growing up in business is accepting that there, indeed, comes a time when we need a little help, or boost if you will. If you have the talents and products but not the right means to advertise and promote them, then get a partner. If you have all the resources and money in the world but not the right product or product development team, then get a partner. Sometimes, we think and think and rack our brains some more about what we could do to survive in this competitive world of business. In reality though, the answer may just be that simple and staring us right in front of our faces. <g>

This is what we can pull from the Small Business CEO Magazine article, Tips to Be a Profitable Business in 2010 by Scott Letourneau –- joint ventures are the “in” thing that would help businesses more profitable this 2010. It has worked before and will continue to work beyond our time. It will eliminate the dread and fear that tend to overcome us whenever it’s time to pay the bills, give our staff their salaries or feed and provide for our families.   

One good business success secret, then, is knowing how to form ventures. Small companies should include this in their goal setting when they start their businesses. They would definitely thrive with strategic alliances, especially if they know how and with whom to partner. Partnerships are not just about building relationships. It’s about building and maintaining profitable ones.

Partnerships are a good way to start and strengthen a business – large or small. Another company can complement those that you need to improve on or those you lack. Even big industries tie up with smaller units to create faster and more personalized products and services. A creative production agency that needs technical specialists can partner with a product development company to refine their marketing strategy. A publishing giant can partner with a research consultancy group. It boils down to working smart and doing what you need to do to ensure your business success.  

Forming partnerships can help us avoid hitting the downward spiral that often follows the monotonous drone of a flailing business. Partnerships help our businesses to diversify and multiply, and to continue churning out brighter and fresher ideas.

Braving the Future

As marketing and business people, we should know that size is not solely dependent on manpower or resources. It can also be measured by different factors such as profits, investments and of course, market reach.

One of the dangers in being a big business is that it has a lot of areas to cover. Therefore, it will be faster to crash. The issue with a smaller business, on the other hand, is the need to compete with larger businesses and coming up short due to lack of resources, means or connections. Thus, it will be harder to fly. The key, then, is in knowing how to specialize and develop areas of specialization – making sure that all the little nuts and bolts work, in hope of hitting the right altitude needed to soar smoothly amidst all the money-making businesses. 

Instead of continuously trying to build empires, why not start with towns? Dividing your business into smaller fields, or taking things one at a time, then strengthening these areas can provide personal and smart approaches to product development and marketing. Segmented and specialized fields often become autonomous and empowered, which can streamline workflow and expedite processes and decisions. Eventually, when these smaller areas have proven their worth, they become profitable and competitive and can even be grown into their own full-blown businesses.  

Not many business people venture unto the far side, but this could just be the side that would enhance your strengths and help you discover new ones. We often feel cautious when it comes to change. But change is inevitable, especially since all businesses have cycles. Up and down, some die out and some survive. And sometimes, there are those that seem to have become lost in the vastness of it all when it fact, they are just there – only with a different look.

Don’t be afraid of change. Letting others in and partnering with them can make a huge difference. That difference may be a small or huge leap, but it could be the leap that transforms, not only your products and market, but how you drive others to change as well. The true measure of how strong a business is does not only rest in its existence, but in how it exists. How, in the scheme of it all, it stands out and become the model that influences others to change.

Are you in a profitable business partnership? How has this strategic alliance helped the performance of your business? Let us know through the comments section below.

Happy partnership!
Liz



Mistakes Worth Knowing

June 17th, 2010 by Liz in Financial Freedom

Mistakes are everywhere, and everyone makes them. Some get over them quickly and take all they can from the experience, while others wallow in failure and slowly fall into the abyss.

Don’t be afraid of mistakes and failures. Like it or not, they are, in fact, unavoidable. <g> We all need to accept that making mistakes is as normal part of living as breathing. When you learned to walk you didn’t do it perfectly the first time – you got up and fell down, then you got up again and again and again until you KNEW how to do it.  Then you moved on to running…

It just depends on how you look at things and how you deal with mistakes when you encounter them, as to whether the mistake will benefit or harm you in the long run.

Let me tell you, entrepreneurs aren’t spared from this experience – far from it – if anything we seem to make MORE than our fair share of mistakes. From the startup rookie to the most seasoned of experts, no one is exempted. The failures, though, tend to keep us on our toes and remind us to keep our eyes on the goals we’ve set for ourselves and our businesses.

But, just because having some failures is inevitable doesn’t mean that we need to make every rookie mistake in the book…  We CAN learn from the mistakes of others and get on with making some new and truly spectacular ones of our own …

 Below, are a few mistakes that small business owners should watch out for in protecting their money-making ventures. These were shared with us by a friend through one of our online magazines, Small Business CEO Magazine.

Source: GettyImages.com

 

Proceed With Caution From a small business owner who helps others start and manage their online businesses, Latoya Hackett, is an article that warns us about the 8 Detrimental Mistakes That Small Business Owners Make.  To protect your business, you should be aware of the following so you wouldn’t have to subject your livelihood to harm. They may seem trivial at first glance, but when left unchecked, they will certainly do more harm than initially thought.

Underestimating Your Project or Service Time

Murphy’s law – anything that could go wrong would go wrong – is a funny but non-amusing thing. Like it or not, it strikes at its fancy and spares no one. This is why you need to pad your deadlines and time. You can’t expect everything to go smoothly all the time. You must keep yourself from being burned out and leave room for unexpected issues that may arise. Observe how long you do a task or service and always consider that when committing whatever deliverable you have to give. It wouldn’t hurt to add a little extra time for good measure. 

Incorrect Pricing 

You shouldn’t sell yourself short. Instead, you should know exactly what costs come into your production and factor all aspects into your pricing. Include man hours, materials, miscellaneous and security fees if need be, etc. You don’t want to end up giving free service unknowingly, or discover that your production expense ended up costing more than what the client paid. Giving discounts and free service to loyal customers is a business perk you could give to maintain good relationships with your clients. But you can’t do it all the time, nor for everyone, or you’ll end up losing profit. For any business, that is definitely not good. <g>

Not Charging for All of Your Time and Cost
 

I know, sometimes you cut out some hours where you feel you did not really do what was asked. Or, you cut off some production time to make the client believe that you actually work faster than you really do. That’s all well and good sometimes, since you owe it to the client to give the task a 100 % and whatever slack you take goes into your own time as an added bonus. Again, doing this at times is okay, but in the end, you have to shape up and find out which tasks you should charge and which you could offer as a freebie. After all, you deserve to be compensated for the services you provide.

Not Receiving Timely Payments
 

In order for your business to keep operating smoothly, money should flow in and out at a steady pace. That wouldn’t happen if you lag in collecting payments or you let some of your clients get away with paying late. Always make sure to keep track of when you should deliver your invoices and be vigilant in monitoring the payments you receive. Opening a company credit card is also good for back up, just in case. 

No Business Systems or Procedures

Winging things and doing some tasks on the fly is good for honing your think-on-your-feet skills every once in a while. It doesn’t hurt to keep things interesting sometimes. <g> But if you don’t have procedures or systems to follow when doing tasks or producing deliverables, you could be wasting precious time in figuring out how to go about things every single time you have to do them. They can be simple or elaborate, as long as everyone is aware of and could follow them well. This would ensure a smoother operation within the company and could boost productivity in the process.

Buying Advertising  “Just Because”

Before spending money on anything, you should be aware of all the factors involved. You can’t just buy advertising without finding out how much it costs, how it could help your business, will they be shown to your intended market, the possible results it could bring and other information that would help you figure out if shelling out money is worthwhile. If you choose to go ahead with buying advertising, you should also have the capacity to check and assess its results to ensure that it was, indeed, a wise investment.

Spreading Yourself Too Thin 

The last thing you want to do is burn yourself out before you even get to enjoy your first paycheck. As a startup business owner, who may or may not be starting out with much, you might feel that you should cover everything to save up on costs. Or, you might feel the need to do all the tasks just to prove that you can. Well, stop it! <g> You must learn your limits and know where your strengths lie. Spend your time wisely and focus your attention on these strengths. Swallow your pride and accept your weaknesses, and find someone who is better at them than you are. This way, you’ll be saving time and effort and end up doing more for the business.

Not Getting Help Soon Enough

The thing with getting help is, you need to take action before it’s too late. After all, what use would the it be if the business has already gone up in flames. <g> As soon as you see the need for it, seek help. Do what you need to do, and don’t hesitate or second guess your decision. Finding help at the right time may just be the very thing that saves your business. 

Have you ever committed any of these common small business mistakes? How did you overcome them? Are there other mistakes that you want people to watch out for? Let us know through the comments section below. 

Keep your businesses safe everyone!
Liz



Listen Up

June 12th, 2010 by Liz in Financial Freedom

In this day and age, people come up with new products to sell every day. At the same time, many come up with various ways to promote existing ones. This means that competition gets tighter and tighter every day, vying for your customers’ attention. The question is, what can you do to get ahead of the competition? How can you show your existing and potential customers that your product is better than the rest of what’s out there? Sounds mind boggling doesn’t it? Well, really, it’s not. <g>

The good old ways 

It used to be that companies held focused group discussions, market research, surveys and comments/suggestions hotlines or paper slips to get reactions and feedback from their customers. These are all well and good and reliable, but could also cost a lot of money and resources. However expensive they may be, they are still widely used nowadays by many companies. 

But, and this is a big but, only dead fish swim with the water. In the tides of today’s business, it’s dreadful to just go with the flow and do what everybody else does. With the ever-increasing choices fuelled by the onset of information, it’s easy to get caught in the wave. 

You see, there are those who merely observe and watch what the market wants first before putting something out there. Then, there are the radicals who only want to change and change, until they get too caught up and lose their identities. In the middle of all these, there are the neutral ones who are undecided about what they want to do and are completely satisfied in just earning and letting others move the pieces around. Once in a while though, there come the brilliant ones who start trends and become the earth movers that the business world needs. You could be one or all of these people, but you don’t need to become a fish out of water in order to find out. 

The secret to experience change is to be the change you want to see. These changes need not be something sparkly and spectacular. They could simply be reinventions or a small tweaks in the way you’ve been doing things that can open up new opportunities. It’s just being at the right place and at the right time with the right solution. Some ideas are no longer new in themselves, but their implication to your business can be the exact change you need. 

Source: GettyImages.com

21st century improvements  

Often, we only listen to the things we’d like to hear: the good and the positive. However, there are times when positive feedback may come few and far between. As you may well know, that doesn’t bode well for business. It means that something has got to change. You need to turn a new leaf, or perhaps even a new ear, so to speak.

One money-making success secret from Dr. Jim Anderson in his Small Business CEO Magazine article , A New Way to Listen to What Your Customers Are Saying About You, is that you could, or better yet should, listen to what your existing customers have to say about your products. Their feedback can help you make improvements to your products, as well as how to present and market them. Since they’re looking at it from the outside, they bring a new perspective into the mix. How’s that for, “Oh, I should have thought of that!” scenarios?  <g>   

You have to listen to both sides of what your customers are saying. We are constantly bombarded with information — even to the point of receiving negative and critical comments — and they may make us feel down and out and criticized. Turning a new ear, like turning a new leaf, is shifting our attention on how we view this information. 

With the Internet’s continuous growth, plenty of new ways are available. Not only do you save up on money, manpower and resources, you could also save up on space. You could advertise, sell and distribute your product from your home. You could even get real-time feedback in your website, or search for what they’re saying about you in blogs, social media networks and forums. If you know about my husband Ric and I, and how we started and run our businesses, you’ll know that we are big fans of these new and improved marketing strategies. But that’s another story altogether. <g>

This approach focuses on knowing how to advertise and market your products. Your customers’ comments can provide a springboard for a theme you can campaign for. Most customers would notice the tiniest details like how the sun shines in their hotel room, the busyness of the street or the packaging of a product, and these details could be powerful imagery you can use for launching or promoting your product. You could build, rebuild and reformat marketing strategies and campaigns at nearly the drop of a hat with this information. 

The trick is in knowing what, how and to whom to advertise. Some people may already know the features of your product, but not all may know its other benefits. Thinking out of the box does not mean you have to go too much out of your way to boost your advertising campaign. It could be as simple and easy as pinpointing the other benefits that lie just beneath the surface. 

In with the old, in with the new 

Don’t let your fear overtake your passion for what you do. Listen to your customers’ feedback – positive and negative – and use that information to reinvent your product and boost your advertising and marketing strategies. Use the Internet and whatever technology is available to your advantage. Milk these 21st century inventions for what they’re worth. <g>

However, don’t let go of the good old ways too. There’s nothing wrong with holding focused group discussions, market research and personal, one-on-one surveys. They may be old, but if you’ve already got the resources, why not spend a little. At the end of the day, they, too, are still very reliable. Use the gifts that those before you have created. Mix the old with the new, and experience how this convergence could bring you more profits and business this 2010 and beyond.  

Do you listen to what your customers are saying about you? What other 21st century marketing strategies do you think could help improve your product and business? Share your thoughts with us through the comments section below. 

Happy fishing!
Liz



Go For Masterminding

June 3rd, 2010 by Adaire in Financial Freedom

If given the choice between 1) picking your own brain and racking it for answers to all of the greatest life and business questions you encounter and 2) having other brains to pick, which would you choose? I know what I would choose, the second one. I mean, having confidence in your own ability to decide on what you need to do and run your business properly is great, but admit it, it helps to have someone else corroborate whatever it is you’re thinking. It’s great to have someone support and agree with whatever ideas and plans you may have. What do you know, no man is indeed an island. :)

There’s something to be said about joining a mastermind group. Being able to bounce ideas off like-minded individuals who are as focused and passionate as you is very liberating, not only for the mind but for the soul as well. I know it’s not healthy to rely on affirmation all the time, but hey, it doesn’t hurt to get it every once in a while – but that may be getting beside the point. :)

Even the great masters, experts and leaders had them. Oh, some of them may want to be remembered as single-handedly coming up and creating all the greatness they contributed to society and culture, but ultimately, they had their own sounding boards – be they apprentices, board members or the others in their league of masters.

Source: GettyImages.com

Five Points for Masterminding

A mastermind group opens up plenty of opportunities for self improvement and business growth. It allows for new, possibly great ideas to surface. Ideas and even conclusions that we may be capable of brewing and reaching by ourselves, but having other people focusing on the same thing makes the process faster. This leaves more room for more ideas and further growth. There’s also the undeniable chance of building good business relationships and strengthening networks, since the members of the mastermind group are, or should be, people you believe in and trust.

One Small Business CEO Magazine article from Loren Fogelman entitled 5 Important Reasons a Mastermind Group Accelerates Business Growth gives us five more reasons why joining such a group could help your business grow.

Test ideas with the group before beginning a project

How many times have you gone gung-ho and started on a half-cooked project, only to find out that you miscalculated some elements? Well, all that time, energy and, not to mention, money you wasted could have been prevented if you had only presented your plans to a colleague before you launched.

You may think you know your market well and could provide what they need at the drop of a hat, but you’re not error proof. A good leader has to make fast and hard decisions, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave a little time and room for feedback and suggestions. This way, you could cover more bases and anticipate and address more issues that may come up in the process before making your project public. It won’t take anything from you to be a little cautious, since we’re talking about precious time and resources here. :)

Accountability

Accountability is one success secret that not everyone has, but being part of a mastermind group brings it out of people. No one wants to fall flat on their face in front of esteemed colleagues now, do they? ☺ Thus, being part of a group instils more responsibility in you. You are able to set and reach your goal successfully, since others depend on you to do so. If it were just you alone, it’s very easy to shrug details and caution out of the way. Not so when you know that other people have also invested their time, effort and energy into a project and are counting on you to give as much as they have, if not more.

Stepping out of the box

Having different points of view and approaches allows you to come up with more remarkable ideas. Since each member of the group deals with things in their own way, you could share with and take some amazing ideas from each other and make them your own. At the same time, having all these unique minds in one place could be fun, so enjoy the process and take as much as you can from every experience. Revel in the skills each member has and hone your own in the process.

Stretching yourself

When alone, you’re limited to what you see and what you know. You develop your own comfort zone. This is good for building self assurance at times, but it closes off your mind to other things and ideas too. It’s good to have a group that could take you out of that comfort zone and allow you to see other parts of the spectrum. Since some of them have been there themselves, they would encourage you and support your aim to try out other things. In stretching your views and opening up to new possibilities, you won’t have to fly blindly, since there will be others to guide you.

Dividing the sorrows and sharing the joys

Failure and setbacks are part of every experience. Being a member of a group means you don’t have to deal with them alone. Your colleagues could give you feedback on what you could have done to prevent the mishap and provide their own solutions. They could present fresh perspectives on the situation, so you won’t have to rack your brain and punish yourself hard. Since there are several of you in the group who give and receive advice, you would also realize that everyone goes through their own problems.

On the other hand, there will be plenty of people to join in the celebration if you achieve success. The more people are in the group, the more reason there will be to celebrate. Thus, giving each one the motivation to push forward and remain positive on their projects. Jealousy and in-fighting would almost always be thrown out the window, since you’re all practically in the same league.

Do you have your own mastermind group? How has being a member changed your outlook towards business and life? Share your experiences with us through the comments section below.

Happy masterminding!
Adaire