Thursday, February 24, 2011

Post-Recession Success: 7 Actions for Small Business Owners to Take Now

Feb 18, 2011 -

Have you heard? We're slowly moving out of the worst financial crisis many of us have ever experienced toward an optimistic time of recovery and eventual growth.

As a small business owner, this is the time you've been waiting for. Now it's time to position you and your business for post-recession success by doing these seven things:

1. Invest in education

Without spending too much, invest now in any education you need to make your post-recession business a success. Attend seminars online and in person, read books and trade magazines, and make sure you're reading what's on the cutting edge in your industry.

2. Pay off debt

If you can pay off any debt, now is the time to do it. Taking on debt during a recession is common; however, now that the recession is lifting, don't add to it. Pay cash for everything you need. Put your credit cards in the freezer.

3. Go "Zen" on extras

Now that money may be flowing a little more, resist the urge to splurge on extras you don't need. Think before you add all the bells and whistles to your business or cell phone. Think before you buy new technology. Do you really need that Starbucks' latte twice a day?

4. Follow the market

Read the papers or watch the news. Know what is happening and stay on top of it.

5. Renew contracts

Have your new clients sign a long-term contract and your current clients renew or extend their contracts with you.

6. Hang on to your property

While it may seem like a good time to sell your home or business property, don't. At this moment in time, you won't get top dollar and may still end up losing money. Instead, begin projects that will improve the quality (and eventual selling price) of your home or office
7. Don't cut prices

Right after a recession, it is common for small business owners to think that cutting prices will help them attract more clients and customers. Don't do it. Keep your prices steady, while offering your customers a coupon or a rewards program, to reward them for sticking with you during tough times.

These are exciting times we live in. Finally, we're seeing evidence that the U.S. economy is starting to recover. Now is the time for small business owners to jump to action. Don't wait.

Susan L. Reid

Small Business Expert and Business Catalyst
Susan Reid brings the gift of inner vision and insight to spiritually conscious businesswomen ready to run their business confidently, effectively, and fully aligned with their deepest inner principles.

Twice award-winning author of "Discovering Your Inner Samurai: The Entrepreneurial Woman's Journey to Business Success, Dr. Susan revolutionizes the way women do business in the world through the transformational process called discovering your Inner Samurai.


Friday, February 4, 2011

3 Small Businesses to Watch in 2011

There's no dearth of predictions, trends and watch lists this time of year. Here is my nomination of three small businesses that have been making the news recently, along with a few thoughts on what makes them noteworthy.

ICON Aircraft, Los Angeles

In 2004, the FAA introduced a dramatic change in regulations by creating the Light Sport Aircraft category, a pilot license requiring just half the 40 hours of flight time for a private pilot license. Niche created!

Shortly thereafter, in 2005, ICON Aircraft was launched by Kirk Hawkins, a graduate of Stanford Business School, accomplished engineer, former U.S. Air Force F-16 pilot, and long-time motorsport enthusiast.

ICON Aircraft’s sole purpose has been to bring the freedom, fun and adventure of flying to all who have dreamed of flight. One look at the stylishly elegant A5, and it becomes clear that ICON is fulfilling its purpose. The plane is amphibious, with foldable wings, and easily stored in your garage. The plane was designed, engineered and developed by famed Scaled Composites, which created such record setting projects as Voyager, Global Flyer, the X-Prize winning SpaceShipOne and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.

Want your own? Place a deposit by credit card online at the company's website.

Key success factors:

    * Great team: In addition to deep design talent, ICON counts IDEO's David Kelley, Mastercraft CEO John Dorton, and Boeing CEO Phil Condit among its advisory team.
    * Design simplicity: The A5 keeps gadgets and gizmos like dials and levers to a minimum, favoring intuitive and user-friendly design.

    * Quick reflexes: Recognizing the opportunity to fill a niche, the ICON founders moved quickly and gathered an incredible team.

Indie Energy, Chicago

Solar and wind power as renewable energy are all the rage. Except at Indie Energy, which has in four short years built a thriving business and leadership position around the neglected stepchild known as geothermal energy. Indie creates investment-grade geothermal systems with its innovative engineering, construction and metering technologies, and won the 2009 U.S. Department of Energy funding award for transformational technology.

To make a transformative impact for businesses and the environment, entrepreneur and CEO Daniel Cheifetz knew he needed to break old patterns and challenge conventional thinking. He recruited a diverse team of leaders that blend expertise from the worlds of technology, engineering, product development, construction, finance and business.

"Reducing the amount of energy used to heat and cool buildings is one of the most meaningful ways we can increase building energy efficiency, lower operating costs and reduce our carbon footprint," states the company's website. "While geothermal systems have been used in rural locations for decades, the technology did not exist to implement systems in larger commercial buildings and in urban areas, with proven return on investment."

Added bonus: Indie Energy's Smart Geothermal systems also make it possible to utilize American Recovery and Reinvestment Act incentives to make geothermal systems affordable for most buildings.

Key success factors:

    * Close collaboration: Indie systems designers and engineers work closely with other professional resources involved in each building project, from architects, engineers, general contractors, to owners themselves.

    * Leverage constraints: Indie pioneered the production-scale harvesting of geothermal energy in space-constrained, highly-structured and tightly-regulated environments. Their innovative drilling system allows drillers to effectively harvest clean, renewable geothermal energy in spaces as small as 100 square feet. Not only are Indie geothermal drills are much smaller than traditional drilling rigs (12 feet in length vs. a typical 40-foot drilling rig), but they are track-mounted and remote-controlled to navigate better in small spaces.
Omhu , New York City

Omhu is Danish for “with great care.” Omhu is three people: Susy Korb (President), Rie Norregaard (Creative Director) and Susan Towers (VP, Sales & Marketing), along with freelance support. Founded on the belief that life is imperfect and beautiful, Omhu offers groundbreaking designs to support people’s abilities as they change throughout life.

As Susy says, “We started Omhu after searching in vain for well-designed products for relatives and friends who needed help with simple tasks such as walking, bathing or reaching overhead. Pooling our collective experience in design and fashion, we’ve created a brand for people like us—caregivers who want more inspired and inspiring choices for the people they love.”

Omhu celebrates good design because it’s life-enhancing, and fun. By creating more exciting choices of things that help, Omhu hopes to help change the way people feel about aging and ability.

Key success factors:

    * Understand market dynamics: let's face it, everyone grows old, and more of us are living much longer.

    * Product availability: In addition to buying on their site, Omhu products will be widely available at retail.

    * Inspired design: Omhu taps the talents of folks like Allen Zadeh and Ted Muehling.

Add these eight success factors to your company's arsenal for 2011... if you haven't already!

Tags: the shibumi strategy, best practices, matthew may, 2011, success, small business

By Matthew E. May
January 21, 2011 -

Matthew E. May is the author of The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change (Jossey-Bass, 2010), In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing (Broadway Business, 2009) and The Elegant Solution: Toyota's Formula for Mastering Innovation (Free Press, 2006). Matt works with individuals, teams and companies to guide change through a focus on design thinking and problem solving. He spent nearly a decade as a fully retained advisor, master kaizen instructor and jishuken leader for Toyota, a company that implements over 1 million new ideas each year. Matt is a graduate of the Wharton School and The Johns Hopkins University, but considers winning The New Yorker Magazine Cartoon Caption Contest among his proudest achievements.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day: 10 Mistakes that Small Businesses Make Over and Over

Feb 02, 2011

By Barry Moltz
In the movie, Groundhog Day, Phil, played by actor Bill Murray, is forced to live the same day over and over again until he learns where he is making lifelong mistakes.

Many small business owners are also doomed to make the same mistakes over and over and over again. Here are the top 10 mistakes that are repeated by small businesses and how they can be solved.

1. They focus on profit not cash. 
We learned during the great recession that company financial statements can be pure fiction. Profit at the bottom of the income statement is meaningless if your business does not have the cash to pay its obligations. Your profit could be “stuck” in your accounts receivables, inventory, or work in process. Understand the cash flow statement to learn how "profitable” your business really is and how much cash it has to invest, save, or distribute.

2. They don’t diligently collect the money that is owed by customers.
Customers that do not pay aren’t really customers; they are collection problems. Have a strict process on how your business operates in this area. This includes setting mutually-agreed-to prices and payment terms, checking with the customer when your invoice arrives, and asking when it will be paid. If it is not paid on time, call to find out where it is. Remember, the squeaky wheel always gets paid first.

3. Lack of focus on what your business does. 
Many entrepreneurs early in starting their company want to be all things to all people. They believe they should not turn away any type of business from any customer. However, the successful company focuses on solving one pain first profitably for customers. They don’t expand too quickly to solving other related problems. To build a strong company, get boring and narrow real fast.

4. Expanding too quickly by increasing fixed and overhead costs. 
Many entrepreneurs hear that bigger is always better. After some initial success, they want to have more office space. This is only a way to “grow yourself broke." In order to grow profitably, keep as many expenses variable and available as possible. This will ensure that expenses only increase when sales grow at the same time.

5. Hiring the wrong people. 
Many small business owners have big egos. They routinely hire the wrong people for all the wrong reasons. This includes employees that are friends, relatives, or just not as good as themselves. This comes out of a basic fear that they will be overshadowed in their business. It is critical to hire people that are complementary to your skills. The only way to build a profitable sustainable business is to find leverage with people and processes.

6. Not firing employees quickly enough. 
Every business owner’s mantra needs to be “slow to hire and quick to fire." If a mistake was made in the hiring process, this will be evident in the first 30 days of employment. People have a hard time changing within a company. What is worse is that everyone knows who the non-performers are in the company and this holds the business back. Fire your non-performing employees today.

7. Knowing when to quit. 
The most successful entrepreneurs know “when to hold them and fold them." Will Rogers said that “if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do, is stop digging.” It is time to shut down your company if you run out of your passion and cash. In this case, there truly is not a way or a reason to turn the business around.

8. Not focusing on marketing and distribution. 
The biggest error in thinking for many entrepreneurs is that “if you build it, they will come." The reasoning goes that if “I build a better mousetrap," customers will automatically buy it. There could be nothing further from the truth. The most successful businesses execute a superior marketing and distribution strategy that finds the customers that have the money to buy the product that solves their pain. Unfortunately, the best products don't always sell the most.

9. Failure to systematically do marketing even while they have “too much work." 
We actually can’t sell anything to anyone; we just need to be there when people are ready to buy. This is why having a systematic and constant method to building relationships with customers, prospectors, influencers, and connectors is critical. Trust is built over a long period of time. Build relationships by consistently giving value freely. As a result, when a prospect or their friend has a problem your company can solve, they will call you.

10. Not consistently seeking help. 
Small business owners are a stubborn group. We want to do it alone and not ask for help, until it’s too late. Get one or more mentors for your business early on. This can come from hired professionals like bankers, lawyers, or accountants, or organizations such as SCORE or SBDCs. Better yet, join a mentor group and talk to other business people who have been where you are right now. You will be surprised how many will volunteer their help.

What other mistakes do you think small business owners make over and over again?

Barry Moltz

Small Business Speaker, Consultant, and Author Barry Moltz gets business owners growing again by unlocking their long forgotten potential. With decades of entrepreneurial experience in his own businesses ventures as well as consulting countless other entrepreneurs, Barry has discovered the formula to get stuck business owners out of their funk and marching forward. Barry applies simple, strategic steps to facilitate change for entrepreneurs, and get’s them growing their business once again.