Tag Archives: Small Business

Make Sure You Don’t Get Locked Out of Your Own Business

I see this all the time, it is not uncommon at all. A business person buys an existing business, several months or years down the road they want to solve problems with organic placement and find out that they have no access to the important tools that control their online presence.

For any business owner considering buying an existing business, these are the things you should demand before the final payment for your new business changes hands. Then verify that they have been done before you sign over the last check.

  1. Domain name registration should be transferred to you.
  2. You should have the admin URL, login, and password for your domain control panel. Verify this! Make sure that if you needed to change your domain name servers you have access to do so. This allows you to change web hosts when you want without hassle.
  3. Your web hosting should be in your name and you should have administrative rights to the account and know how to login so you can set up new email accounts, and change passwords to lock old owners out.
  4. You should be an administrator on your business’ Google AdWords account. If the old business owner used his email address to set up the account, he or she needs to relinquish this email account to you or have Google AdWords change it to yours before you make your last payment to them. Don’t be satisfied with anything less than administrative rights.
  5. You should be an administrator on your Google Analytics account. Once you are an administrator, you can remove all old business owners and account managers from accessing your Google Analytics account. Don’t be satisfied with anything but administrative privileges. If the original business owner cannot do this for some reason, ask to be made a standard user so you can see the traffic, but demand that before you exchange final payment that a new Google Analytics account be set up with you as administrator and the new Google Analytics tracking code be installed on the website at their expense. This will allow you access to the old stats but full control moving forward. Demand that the old account remain in place for a minimum of two years.

You will never have more leverage to get what you want than before you make your final payment or before you pen your final signature to a contract. I have seen a number of instances when new owners simply did not know to make these changes and we have had to re-mediate them at expense to the new business owner. Be smart, be careful, and make sure you are not locked out of some of the most important tools to grow your new business. You should be in control not the old owner or an old account manager.

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Are You Choosing Your Customers Wisely?

I have to say my title sounds funny doesn’t it, don’t customers chose you and not the other way around? Well, the reality is that as part of the selling process you should be evaluating if a customer is right for you too. It’s a “dance”, they check you out, but you should also be checking out your prospect as well.

As an Christian business woman I look for opportunities where I am the best match for a client based on their needs and based on the services and products they sell. I simply will not take on a project where goods or services that are sold do not square with my values and I will even pass a client who has a questionable online reputation. If online reviews trash a potential customer and their business practices most likely a rocky business relationship with you will be created as well.

Recently, I’ve had an even more unusual situation of a high profile felon pursuinge my firm for services. Yes, we are niche providers and we are specialists in several important areas, but we will never trade our integrity or lower our standards of what we promote and who we select to promote for money.

My business model has always been to provide the best service possible at a fair price, but passing on certain business sectors as not being consistant with a Christian lifestyle. I had one situation where a man wanted us to promote his “player” dating site where he gave tips to men on how to “play” multiple women at the same time – pass. I had another who wanted us to promote a dating website and when I looked at the site it was soft core pornography featuring women from Peru – pass. Another prospect wanted us to promote male organ enlargement vitamin pills – pass.

One thing that I have learned over the years is that my firm is not a good match for every customer and for every need. Some things that prospects sell or want to promote simply do not square with my values. So, as part of my initial conversation with all clients I check to see if they are a good choice for us. If they are not there is no amount of money that will change my mind. (The male organ enlargement pill seller offered $25,000 and I still said no!)

I have found that once you compromise your integrity once it will be easier to compromise yourself again and again. So, as part of the selling “dance” I am reviewing a prospect too. Clearly, the end decision rests with the prospect on whether they employ us for a project or not, but we still work to chose our customers wisely in the initial conversation.

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Concrete Marketing Recommendations for Business Startups

I get asked a lot for help in regards to what a new business startup should do to develop a web presence and what provides the biggest return for investment. To help answer this question as concisely as possible, without you having to pay me a consulting fee, I have tried to share my insights in this blog post.

1. Purchase a great content-rich professionally designed website

I have to say if you do not have a great website, and I am not talking about one your kid sister made, or one created using a GoDaddy template, then you will not be able to convey the professionalism that you need to convey to create confidence in yourself or your products to potential customers. Many startups come to me asking why they do not generate sales and when I look at their website it appears that they are operating on a shoe string. The Web is a great equalizer. Your business startup website can make your business appear to be large, established, and successful if it reflects true professionalism in content and in design. This is one of the most critical expenses that any new business startup should invest in. You may choose to work with our firm for a custom website or a Quick Launch website or select another web design firm, but you must have a good-looking professional appearing web presence.

2. Get involved immediately with Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter

You’ve got to get the word out about yourself once you have a website. By updating your status and posting information, sharing and interacting online at a minimum of three times a day on these various sites you start to build an online presence, get authority links to point to your new website and inside content, and start to establish yourself as a contender in your industry. I have reviewed many social networking sites and these are the ones where I invest my own time (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn). I recommend in some cases setting up accounts under your own name as the business owner. I do not have one profile for business and one for pleasure. Small businesses need to just get involved with social networking and typically some of your very first customers will be friends, family, and social contacts.

If you take the attitude that social networking is a time pit and worthless, you will be woefully wrong and out of the loop. In fact the more you involve yourself in these endeavors with the attitude that you are sharing and providing information and not looking particularly to sell, the more fun you will have and the more fruitful the connections will become.

I have closed sales from social networking contacts. It does happen, really. But if you watch any of the networking I do myself you will see that I am open, sharing, providing information on a wide variety of topics and soft selling my own services only occasionally. I do not use social networking as a brochure or lead generation opportunity, but yet it has worked to bring me business over time.

3. Get started on Google AdWords

If you have the budget you really want your very next step to be advertising your products and services on Google AdWords. Don’t waste money at this point on Yahoo, MSN adCenter, Yoddle or other pay per click enterprises. Concentrate on AdWords. If you cannot afford a professional account manager such as myself, then get started using the simple to use Google AdWords Starter version. If you are advertising your services to a national audience be prepared to spend anywhere from about $1.25 to $3.50 or so per click (some businesses will pay much more). Don’t go into this expecting to pay $.05 per click and set $150 per 30 days as your monthly budget. Allocate $500 to $800 for the first 30 days of clicks and set your maximum click cost to a “market reasonable” setting. Make sure you set up special landing pages for your ad group themes and have conversion tracking installed. Review your program often to make sure that your money is working for you and is an investment in the future not an expense.

4. Build great content on your website under your domain name using a blog

Now we’re moving into maintenance mode on your website. You must be adding to and growing your web presence over time to attract search engine robots, improve your placement organically, and to provide opportunities for readers to connect with you. There is no better way to do this than using a blog. Blogs build website traffic, allow for keyword dense topics to be discussed and housed under your domain name, and build “web authority” for your site over time. It is not necessary for you to have a professional blogger write for you. Although we offer this service, there is no replacement for your insights as the business owner, but you must be a consistent writer however and provide interesting on-topic information and resources in your blog posts.

5. Focus on customer service in all you do

I have found when I first started out that it was easy to do the work, but hard to find someone to pay for it. Here is where top notch customer focused customer service is key for a new business startup. You must provide free information and help initially to prospects, then move them to a paying customer status, and then finally  make sure that you do everything possible to satisfy them. My own business started out solely as a word of mouth referral service and now earns a six figure income. When you build your base on happy customers, rewarding referrals, and provide real advise and value to customers, your business will grow.

If you have other recommendations for a business startup, just leave your comments to this post below. I’d love to see what you think is important.

If you feel that you need a more personalized plan and review of your own business’ current statistical information we do provide consulting services for $90 per hour.  Much of the information on what you can do and how to do it however is provided as free content on our website and blog, so we invite you to dig deeper and browse our content. You’re sure to find a wealth of information in both locations.

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Does Arrogance Come With Success

This is a question that I have been pondering. Does arrogance come with success? Possibly arrogance will lead to your downfall. My husband and I have a private joke… we call business arrogance the “Waldorf Mentality”.

We’ve lived in several different states over the years – Ohio, Florida, Texas, and now Maryland. When we moved to Maryland just outside the DC area we were amazed at how unfriendly the people in the area were in comparison to the other places that we have lived. We’ve lived here now over 10 years and our perception has not changed. In fact, as we have chatted with other transplants, we’ve found that they share our viewpoint.

I am not sure whether it is a “clannish” kind of Southern Maryland thing, where natives have never lived anywhere else and feel that the unfriendliness and outright rudeness sometimes is the norm, but it can be shocking to say the least. For the two of us, we call it the “Waldorf Mentality”. That means, “we are so busy and so000 very important that we do not have time for you or for your little need”. Man, I have to say for businesses who embrace this arrogance, this is a real growth crusher.

It is easy to slip into the “Waldorf Mentality” – hey I live here and I see that sometimes I even get that attitude too. When business is great and clients are really rolling in, you can forget your best business model which by the way my husband and I used to call the “Southern Suck Up”. (This one is the opposite extreme where the customer is always right and you do anything to keep a customer.)

Now, I strive to stay humble and focused on what the customer needs. I may not be the best match sometimes for a customer and am not afraid to say so, but when I am a match, I roll out the red carpet and work my best to be the best “partner” for success ever. So what mentality have you embraced? Is success and the arrogance that comes with it becoming your downfall?

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Controlling Your Cash Flow Helps Keep You Profitable in Tough Times

I have been in business since 2001 and have seen it all when it comes to handling a small business from operating with a hand shake to contractual agreements. One thing that I have found is that if you operate loosely with clients you are more likely to end up writing off bad debts and wasting time performing collections tasks.

With the economy drawing down and many businesses stretching themselves too thin financially, it is easy for a small business to not get paid for work performed. I did several things this last year that has significantly improved my cash flow and I thought I would share them with you to see if they might help you too.

1. I only operate from a contract. No more smile and handshake deals. I don’t move until I have a signed contract and money up front, no matter what pressure is put on me. You will never have more leverage to get the details completed if you do not make a move until the client has those out of the way. If you have ever started a job and then had to chase down a deposit or had to really work to get a contract signature, you know what I mean.

2. I changed how I bill. Now for blogging services and AdWords services, clients will pay in advance of the month’s services instead of after services have been rendered. This has significantly solved many problems I had with slow pays or no pays. In fact on blogging where we have had issues of bad debts not being cleared, if you don’t pay us by the 10th we just stop until you pay. No more writing until the end of the month adding to a bill that we have to turn over for collections.

3. I hired a collections firm to collect for my firm. For me personally, I hate to call about money. There is no faster way to stress me out than to have to chase my money down from a customer. I had several bad debts last year and although the collections agency couldn’t collect on them either, at least I was out of the loop and could focus on other business needs instead of stressing about having to call or write to try to get my money. I do take it personally when someone does not pay me and I never welch on paying my contractors even if I have not been paid.

4. I integrated a credit card processing system in with my accounting software. Now I can charge a credit card from my desktop software easily and quickly. My credit card processor debits my checking account once a month for all bank charges which has also cleaned up my accounting process.

5. I encourage clients to pay me by credit card and use my auto billing services. Here we regular mail a statement with invoices and then on the 10th we auto bill their credit card for the statement amount. This has significantly improved my cash flow. Slow payers now pay by credit card and I process their card from within my accounting software so I am always paid on time. Additionally I now have more time for work as I have less time corresponding with clients trying to get paid.

6. Tightened my credit policy. I send reminders to slow payers. If I don’t get paid by the 20th, I assess a $5 late fee and if I do not get paid that month, I send out a credit card authorization fee for future billing to move them to our auto billing program and consider stopping services for the client all together. There is no point in providing service for a customer if you cannot be paid for the services rendered within your contracted terms. I am simply not a good match for businesses who want to pay on 60 or 90 days terms. Our terms are net 10 days.

These new policies have really helped my business to stay profitable in tough times. Additionally I have more time to service my clients, have a better attitude and less stress, and always have money to pay my seven contractors on time without fail. Yes there may be an issue occasionally in regards to getting my money still, but now that is down to one or two customers not ten or more, that I have to chase around to collect my payment. You may want to consider changing some of your own business credit policies with today’s times.

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How Has The Economy Affected Your Business?

Has the blow-back from the US economic crisis affected your business yet?

If so what pull-back approach are you taking?

Are you cutting advertising as a result of efforts to trim costs?

Have your client account payments been affected?

These are just a few of the questions that small business owner such as myself and my clients are discussing. I had one client tell me that his own client base had just simply stopped paying on time. We have experienced several client situations where we have had to turn client accounts over for collection for the first time in eight years.

In a tough economy, such as ours, it is important to keep a cool head and focus on your business longevity. Many of us will be able to weather this storm and come out stronger, unlike some industries such as the real estate and the mortgage industry, where the crisis is so deep that some firms are being driven out of business.

So what do you do when times are tough for your business? One quick comment, it is not the US alone, but a global issue. I have chatted with several contemporaries in Spain and the United Kingdom who are experiencing many of the same issues that we are in the US in regards to draw-down and pull-back.

This is what my firm is doing:

1. Getting very proactive with slow payers to bring them into line with our payment terms.

2. Working with a collection agency for the first time in eight years to collect accounts over 90 days old.

3. Reviewing carefully our spending history. This is not necessarily a time to just routinely upgrade software. I have purchased some upgrades but made very careful selections, but others, I will defer to later or indefinitely.

4. Carefully reviewed my business profitability. If I cannot offer a service profitably, I have dropped it or realigned it to be profitable; factoring in the cost of credit card processing and overhead has been extremely important in some of my most recent decisions in regards to pricing models.

5. Stopped doing business with clients that simply will not pay on time and sap my available time with collection efforts.

What have you done to keep you business afloat in these trying times? Click add your comment below and leave me a note. I would be most interested in hearing what you are doing to move your business forward.

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