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Tips to Improve Your Business Income

You see, the majority of people go into business to escape working for a boss, or the long commute to work or the 9 to 5 boredom. They want freedom, flexibility and a better income.

So, they take the incredibly gutsy move and go it on their own. They step right out of their comfort zone and they become the boss!

They are enthusiastic, because everything is new and exciting. Their mindset is in exactly the right place, and they attract the orders with their enthusiastic personalities. This could be as simple as attending a networking function, or dealing with the local printer, who knows someone that requires their services or product.

They are dedicated and everything gets done just right. The orders flow in, the business owners are happy, the suppliers are happy, now it’s time to fulfill the orders.

So the mindset changes from “let’s go and get some orders” to “let’s get these orders filled.” The conversation changes at the networking functions and the local printer, to “Wow we’ve got all these orders to fill” and they inadvertently stop attracting any potential orders, with what they are saying.

Eventually they get all the orders filled and realize they need new orders. So they change their mindset and off they go again. The problem is though, that every time they go back to the “let’s get some orders” mindset they get less and less enthusiastic.

Why? Why do they get less enthusiastic? Because when they are fulfilling the orders they are in their comfort zone. That’s what they know best and humans will always gravitate towards the comfort zone.

When they are marketing or selling, it is outside of their comfort zone. It becomes a lower priority and a task that is only completed when they have their back up against the wall.

When they first started the business their back was firmly up against the wall. There was no comfort zone. It was a case of “Get out there and get those orders” or we don’t eat, basically. But, when the orders are flowing the comfort zone is the fulfilling of the orders, so the selling gets neglected.

Small businesses have an extremely high attrition rate, especially in the first 12 months of operation. Going from being comfortable one week with lots of orders, to the next, where you have to go and make new sales becomes too hard.

Sales will have huge peaks and troughs when plotted on a chart over 12 months. Emotions will be just as wild trying to deal with this, but there is a very simple solution.

No matter how insanely busy you may become, always set aside one focused hour a week for new customer attraction. Block out that hour, on the same day every week, for the next 12 months.

Treat that one hour like a prized possession, because this will be the secret to leveling out those sales and emotional peaks and troughs. This will be the secret to the longevity and success of your business.

In this hour find a place that you will not be disturbed or distracted by absolutely anything and focus intensely on attracting new customers, that’s all!

This may be by producing a new ad, hiring a copywriter to produce a direct mail piece, calling 10 potential customers, writing an article for the newspaper or engaging a joint venture partner or anything else. Make it your goal to attract at least 5 new customers every week with whatever you do. Over 12 months you should have attracted at least 250 new customers which will compound because they will tell their friends.

Your total focus in that one hour should be generating new relationships and attracting customers that have never dealt with you before.

Now you are probably thinking, if I’m so busy fulfilling orders how am I going to deal with the extra orders? Well, that’s where your growth comes in, that’s when you hire people, sub-contract the work out or find creative ways to get the orders filled.

It puts you in a very powerful position because you get to call the shots. You decide which customers to deal with and which ones to send to your competitors. You can negotiate better discounts with your suppliers and generate more profit.

You gather momentum and it will be very hard to slow that momentum down.

It’s easier not to set aside the hour, especially when you have orders coming out your ears. But if you want to survive and be successful it is critical that you have a system in place to constantly attract new customers.

And the thing is… new customer attraction can be accomplished in as little as one focused hour per week. One hour per week is the difference between having a business that plods along and having a business with highly profitable orders that just keep coming in, month after month. A business where you get to decide which customers you want to deal with, a business that charges a premium price and a business with a far greater value.

Protecting Your Small Business

In business, with all the excitement of making money, it’s too easy to let it take over your life. This is really not a good thing nor is it a healthy thing. Even multi-millionaires take time out for themselves to do things not connected to their business. Don’t get me wrong, while business can be both enjoyable and a nightmare at the same time, there are other things out there in the big wide world – outside of your small business.

Do not neglect your sports and social activities or it will impact you in the long run and your small business will suffer. It is the peculiar nature of small business to make you obsessed with it if you are not careful. You need balance. These non-business activities will help you.

Also, you should not neglect your partner and family either. I am guessing but I am pretty sure that the divorce rates for small business owners are probably about eighty percent. Of those married couples that I personally know that have set up a small business in their 30s, most divorced within just eighteen months of the start of the business.

There are lots of reasons why this happens, but in a lot of the cases, the partner who has gone into business neglects their family and money gets tight. To be fair, the business owner is not really to blame. It is too easy to become obsessed with the business and forget about any life outside of the business.

If you have a partner or family, make sure you do at least one thing every week as a family unit. Whether it is having a family night at home such as a video night or games night, or even just going to the park to play once a week, make sure that you do it. Furthermore, you must be willing to set aside at least one night every week for just you and your partner to be together. Your relationship will suffer badly if you don’t.

One thing I tell people is that it’s ok if you want to go into business. But you must accept two things.

First off, you must accept the possible risk of having to begin all over again with absolutely nothing if your business fails. That means you may only have the shirt on your back and nothing else.

And secondly, you should definitely get the backing of your partner and family. If you cannot accept these two things I have mentioned, then please do not enter the business world. Too many people who ignore this advice end up becoming miserable. They usually end up being self-destructive, in ways such as taking up drinking, drugs or trying to commit suicide.

Do not forget that 70% of all small businesses go bust within a year. Would a gambler back something that only had a 30% chance of winning? I know it’s a sobering thought. But the fact is that many still go into small business despite this.

This is what it comes down. Small business can be the greatest adventure of your life. But it can be also the most difficult time of your life. You need to take your time and carefully plan exactly what you want to achieve.

 

Managing Small Business

Small business management pertains to the independent ownership, supervision and control of assets, resources, products, services, workforce and profits of an enterprise which is not prevalent in its area of operation.

In an economic atmosphere that breeds and sustains entrepreneurship, a lot of individuals are attracted to the prospect of possessing and directing his own business. They choose having a small enterprise to be close to costumers-enabling fast, flexible, and personalized service, to innovate less expensively, and to manage solely.

Managing both small and large businesses involves the five major functions of management-planning, organizing, directing, controlling, and coordinating.

The mistake that most small business owner-managers commit is giving less attention to planning and controlling functions. These two, when fulfilled effectively would result to excellent goal setting. And the success of every business relies heavily on its long-range goals.

The most popular approach applied to most small businesses is management by objectives or MBO. The reason for this is that it is result-oriented and jobs are perceived in terms of achievements rather than simply functions.

The first step in developing an effective MBO program is to define your business. A transparent and attainable vision of the business is critical for planning, marketing, product development, building and equipment, and financial and staff needs.

The next step is to set both short- and long-range business goals. Long-range goals would serve as the mold from which your company’s MBO program would take form. These goals would triumphantly be attained through management and employee communication. The staff should also take part in the formulation of goals, to increase their sense of commitment in fulfilling them.

The third step in developing the MBO is devising a work plan. The work plan should address the following areasĀ :

(1) goal-should be specific and concise;

(2) measurement-benchmarks to be used; major problems to be anticipated;

(3) work steps-most essential steps to be completed at a fixed time; and

(4) supervisor’s goals-employees should identify which of their manager’s goals relate to their own.

The fourth step would be to report progress. An MBO program must include a provision for regular progress reports. Goals and objectives can only be attained through conducting regular record and review of progress. Progress which is below expectation can enable problem identification.

The fifth and final step would be to evaluate performance. This is done by compiling and reviewing the past results of the steps done in the development of the MBO. Measure every element and know if each coordinated and supported each other.

Small businesses face an array of problems most commonly, bankruptcy and under- capitalization This is often a result of poor planning rather than economic conditions – it is a common rule of thumb that the entrepreneur should have access to a sum of money at least equal to the projected revenue for the first year of business in addition to his anticipated expenses.

Getting into small businesses is not as easy as it seems. To avoid the problems stated above, the owner-manager should first ensure that he has or would be able to raise enough funds. And no matter how small his enterprise is, he should not fail to apply the major functions of management.

 

How to Grow Cleaning Business

A business generating strategy may sound complicated, but it’s really quite simple. All you need to do is set up a system to track where referrals come from, and then reward the individuals (including your own employees) or companies that have sent new business your way.

Before you begin actively seeking referrals, take a look at your clients and make sure that they are happy with your services. If you’re not sure how they feel about your cleaning services, send out a customer survey to see what areas they are happy with and where you might need improvement. There are also a few simple, but often neglected rules of courtesy that you should adhere to:

* Make sure that you show up on time to clean buildings. If you are delayed for some reason, explain why you were late to your customer.

* Take care of any complaints quickly.

* Do what you say you are going to do – whether it is dropping off supplies or showing up for a meeting with a customer. And remember, whenever you are meeting with a customer, turn off your cell phone!

* Always remember to say please and thank you.

You may provide the best cleaning service in your part of the country, but what your customer will remember is that one time you had a meeting and your cell phone went off or the time a complaint went unanswered.

Once you are happy with the level of service you are providing your customers, it’s time to set up your “referral machine”. Begin by deciding what type of rewards you will give your customers (and employees) for sending referrals your way. Are you just going to send thank you notes, or will you send gifts? Gift certificates are an excellent way to reward customers who send referrals; and cash is a good incentive for employees.

How do you get referrals from your cleaning customers? Ask! Think of the different ways you communicate with your customers.

1. When sending out monthly invoices include a referral form that they can pass along to anyone looking for cleaning services. Make sure you have a tracking number on the form or a place where they can write their name so they get the credit for the referral.

2. Do you send out a newsletter? That’s the perfect place to let your customers know you appreciate your business and that you are accepting new cleaning customers.

3. Call or schedule an appointment with your current customers to discuss how things are going. Ask if you can send them a referral form that they can keep on hand.

4. Ask for testimonials from your current customers. Then print part of their testimonial on a referral form that they can give to people who are looking for a cleaning service.

5. Put together a list of the individuals and business that could send referrals to you. This includes not only current customers, but employees, networking groups, suppliers and professional service providers (your accountant, lawyer, tax preparer, etc.) Send information to all the individuals on your list letting them know you are building your business and are looking for referrals.

6. People are busy with their own lives and their own businesses. So it is important that you thank them when they take the time to send a new customer your way. Taking the time to send a thank you shows that you appreciate the referral.

As any successful business owner will tell you, referrals from current customers are the best way to grow your business. Indeed, it is more cost-effective to give cash and gifts to individuals that send referrals your way than to it is to run an ads in your local media. Provide good service to your cleaning customers and remind them you are growing your business and the referrals you get will pay off much better than any money you spend on an advertising campaign.

 

Common Mistakes in Label Artwork

1. Missing Fonts

This has been a common problem with artwork since we moved to digital file preparation over a decade ago. You might have this wonderful fancy font in your artwork, but if your printer doesn’t have it, when they open your file they will get an error message. The best way around this is to always outline your fonts before sending in your file.

2. Missing Bleed

If you want your color to print all the way to the edge of your label you need to include a bleed. For example, if you want to print a 3″ x 5″ label, the size of the artwork you would create would be 3.125″ x 5.125″. Also, you need to leave some space around the very edge of your label that is free of text. The reason this is needed is because during die-cutting the label material can drift ever so slightly (up to 1/32″), so you need to make allowances for this in your artwork.

3. RGB vs CMYK

Most digital color printers today (including your little desktop inkjet) print in CMYK, also known as four color process. However, all computer monitors display color as RGB (Red-Green-Blue). Now if you create your file for the RGB color space, the color is going to look different when printed on a CMYK printer, so it is always a good idea to create your artwork as CMYK. You should request a press proof if color is very important to you.

4. Improper File Resolution

Many times people send a file of a picture or graphic that was on their web site and expect their printer to create a nice looking label from it. Unfortunately, in most cases the file on the web site is very low resolution, often as low as 72 dpi. If a file is printed at that resolution it is going to look terrible, a resolution of 300 dpi is recommended for best results.

5. Tight Borders

If you want a thin border on your labels that prints right near the edge, or bleeds off the edge you are just asking for trouble. While label printing technology has advanced a great deal, there is still some very slight movement when printing and die-cutting your labels. While this movement is only a very small fraction of an inch, if your border is near the edge of the label it will be noticeable. Our advice, if you really want a border, is to make it a thick one (more than 4 point). That way the slight movement will be much less noticeable.

6. Spelling and Typing Mistakes

This one should really go without saying, but because it is so common it has been included here. While your printer will sometimes catch mistakes, it is up to you to check your label artwork carefully. You can never proofread enough – even when you are sure it is correct, check it one more time. Sometimes we print beautiful labels only to discover a spelling mistake after the fact. You can save yourself disappointment and expense by spending extra time making sure all your text is correct.

7. Missing Graphics/Links

If you are using a newer version of Photoshop or Illustrator (CS or CS2) this is less of a problem, but for people using older versions it is still a major issue. All your graphic elements should be embedded into your document before sending them for production, otherwise when your file is opened there may be missing graphics or links.

8. Unsupported Software Format

There are dozens of different software programs you can use to design your labels. A trip to your local CompUSA will give you plenty of inexpensive choices, but these packages typically use proprietary formats that are designed to be used only on your desktop printer. Most of them cannot be used on a professional label printing press. Most printers have artwork specs on their web site, but you will always be better off if you use the graphic industry standard programs: Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. These packages create high quality art that will produce the best quality custom label. If you don’t have this software, then make sure you can export into a standard graphics format such as EPS, TIF or a hi-res JPEG.

9. Color Expectations

Many people create their label artwork and then print it out on their inkjet or laser printer, thinking this is how their labels will look. But anyone who owns more than one different printer knows that color can look vastly different between printers. If color is important to you we recommend you request a press proof – this way you will see exactly what your labels will look like when printed on our press. Some digital label printers, including our shop, will include a press proof free of charge.

10. Incorrectly Sized Artwork

Sometimes artwork is received where the size of the art does not match the size of the requested label. This may be intentional but if so, make sure you send complete instructions. Is extra white space needed? Is the label supposed to be centered, or should we be cropping the label to make it fit the desired size? If your artwork is a different size than the requested label please include detailed instructions with your order.

 

Step by Step to Get You Implementing All Your Hard Work

What’s in your way?

Determine what resistance there might be before you get started. Are you a procrastinator? Do you need a new web guy? Did you just set up a schedule where your best work needs happen when you’re taking your kids to school? Set yourself up for success by dealing with barriers and issues before you get started.

Commit to Implement

It takes 21 days to form a habit. So commit to following your new process or plan for 21 days. Come on, that’s only 3 weeks. You can do anything for 3 weeks, right?

The Proper Training

Give yourself or anyone working with you the proper training they need to in order to follow your process. Everyone (including you) should have all the tools they need and fully understand what needs to be done.

Find a Place

Decide where you are going to keep your new process or plan. Do you have a book that you can keep next to you? I am a visual person so I physically tape a new process to the wall in front of me so I always see it. I had one client that saved her new process as her screen saver.

Follow the Bouncing Boxes

Actually follow your plan or process. How do you know if it’s working if you don’t actually do it? Remember you committed to implement.

Keep Track of What’s Working – And What’s Not

As you go along, make notes and keep records of things that you could streamline, delegate out or are not running as smoothly as you would like. You’ll use these notes later.

Version 2

At the end of 21 days, go through those notes you’ve been making. Put your consultant’s hat on and see if there is anything that will make your process even better. Incorporate those changes into your process and voila, version 2.

Count down to Launch

Pick a date when version 2 goes into action. On that date, start the implementation process over again and keep that ball rolling.

 

Small Business that Can Compete with The Big One

When a large corporation like Wal-Mart comes to town you will feel a shudder go through the whole business community. It is like a proverbial giant striding into a small village. The first reaction is to run away. Unfortunately this is exactly what many of the local businesses do. They feel that they cannot compete with a giant corporation and just close their doors.

This may be true in part because there is no way that a small business can fight a large business on equal terms. However, small businesses offer some advantages that these corporations can never even think about. These things are what make a small business survive and thrive under the very noses of large corporations like Wal-Mart.

There are many benefits of small businesses for consumers:

Atmosphere: There is nothing like the warm friendly atmosphere of a small “Mom an Pop” style business. The customer is greeted in a genuinely friendly way and is not only made to feel like a VIP but almost like a friend. This personal approach is very appealing to customers and clients, and makes them not only buy more but return and stay loyal to the business.

Over deliver: Small businesses will always have time to help you and will even go out of their way to assist. You know that you will get help when you cannot find something or have a query about an item and you will not be treated like a dollar bill. You know that you can expect warm friendly personal service, which you will never get at big corporate chains like Wal-Mart.

Product and service quality: The product and service quality is often far superior to the big companies. You can get unique items and services at these small businesses that you cannot get elsewhere. It may cost a little more but it is worth it. The quality of the product is also better as it is not just made to sell as a discount item but built to last.

So when you’re faced with the possible competition of a big business, take a long hard look at the uniqueness of your business, how clients benefit from choosing your business and then sell these benefits. If you know the advantages of doing business with you, its much easier to communicate this through your marketing and selling. Big companies can’t easily duplicate the quality products and services that smaller businesses are easily equipped to offer.

 

Benefits Of Partnering

1. Ideally, you’ll gain access to centralized web-based processing systems that handle day-to-day activities such as order taking, order fulfillment, billing, collections, payments and service calls. This results in more available time to focus on revenue producing activities like selling, marketing and business planning.

2. You’ll gain access to a wider range of products, increased marketing capabilities, larger territories and improved buying power that lead to better margins.

3. You’ll have an opportunity to equip an existing operation with best practices. Every small to mid size toner supplier has a certain flare or niche they’ve developed to succeed. As individual suppliers join forces and share what they’ve learned in the industry, a new industry standard will be established.

 

Business Challenges that Small Business Must Overcome

1. Working capital -The lack of working capital is the leading threat to most small businesses. Toner suppliers are no exception. Many small to mid-range toner suppliers are already undercapitalized with no access to the type of working capital needed to break into the next level of business. Working capital is a must for financing new receivables and purchasing additional inventory associated with a growing customer base.

2. Time Allocation and Focus -Your focused time and attention consumed by the ongoing daily activities of operating a toner supply business such as inventory management, vendor relationships, order fulfillment, accounting and information technology leave little time for the one revenue producing activity: SALES. Outsourcing non-core functions and placing the focus back on sales and marketing is a workable solution for many suppliers having the capital needed to initiate the outsourcing process.

3. Products and Services – Today’s office customers expect more from their toner suppliers than cartridges on demand. In addition to the base-line services of cartridge delivery and empty cartridge pick-up, customers want value-added services such as printer maintenance, operator training, technical support and possibly complete print management services. As more customers streamline their own operations to focus on core business functions, they become increasingly persuaded by the advantages of complete print management solutions. Offering this service allows toner suppliers to develop and strengthen customer relationships while improving profitability.

4. Geography – Increasing sales is a good indication of a business’s strength. One way to achieve this goal is to gain access to the broadest geographical territory possible. However, as more office customers demand printer service along with their toner supply, more toner suppliers are finding themselves limited by the reach of their service provider network. Expanding an existing service provider network or developing one for the first time is an option that must be considered for continued growth.

Start Thriving Business

The first step to creating a thriving business is preparing an operational manual that will ensure that your business can survive any hurdle including business growth, owner absenteeism and even owner death. Most business owners never stop to consider what might happen if they were injured, sick or worse. By taking a precautionary role in your business and considering things such as: “What if it happened to me?”; “What if my spouse, child or parent was sick tomorrow – could I dedicate the time to their recovery?”

These are all things we think we won’t have to worry about, but what if? Step back for a minute and think about how your business would change if you needed to take the time to dedicate to a personal problem. Perhaps in the short term it wouldn’t change much, but what about if you needed to step back for an extended period of time? What would happen then?

The success of many of today’s small businesses hinges on the expertise and skills of the owner. What happens to the business though should the owner become ill or die? In many cases a family member steps in out of a feeling of obligation, but often they lack the skills necessary to allow the business to truly thrive. They don’t have the same dedication, determination or passion to see the business succeed as you did. In many cases, a promise to maintain a family business is made with the thought of “I won’t ever have to worry about that” in the back of the family member’s mind. After all, no one thinks it will ever happen to them.

By creating an operational manual that outlines every faucet of your business operations including pertinent company information and a full description of how daily tasks are carried out, your business could easily continue uninterrupted without fear things were not being handled in the same manner you, as business owner, would expect. Family members could easily hire someone to handle the business operations with your Operations Manual with the confidence of knowing things were being handled as you would handle them.

Step back for a minute and think about what it means for you to truly create a thriving business. Just like plants need essential tools to survive, so does your business. The ingredients may be different but providing them is no less important. Plants need water, sun and dirt in order to grow vigorously and healthily. Your business needs a successful team leader, a needed product or service and a plan in order to be successful and profitable. Most businesses only have two of those important ingredients and are missing the most important ingredient. If you leave instructions for watering your plants, shouldn’t you leave instructions for running your business?