I spend a lot of my day deleting emails, voicemails, LinkedIn messages and Twitter DMs from hungry salespeople looking to sell me a B2B service. I do understand we all need to earn a paycheck and feed our families but does it have to be at the expense of bothering others?
And if you are still reading this thinking that sending an email or a direct message with some clever subject line starting with RE: to make it look like we have corresponded before, this post is for you!
I would first like to out you all with some of the “strategies” you think you are using that are actually turning us all off instead of capturing our attention.
Maybe you get me to read on. But the interest is short lived when I see these:
I won’t end this post by simply telling all salespeople what they do wrong; instead here are some less invasive ways you can get my attention.
Although you may not be able to capture my attention by sending me a cold email or message, your services are needed. All business owners and managers are constantly seeking the best advice, resources and better ways to do things. We just ask that you respect our time and let us easily find you. Be in the places we are looking and give us an easy way to learn more and contact you. And with that, I look forward to speaking with you… on my terms!
Allison Greenberg, owner of Absolute Start-Up Advisors. Promoting small business growth.
I have spoken to many people who leave the corporate world to go out on their own and become an entrepreneur. I have asked many of these people why they chose to do so; the most common response I get is “I was sick of the corporate bull s***!” Then they go on and on about some traumatic instance they had with their boss or coworker. Listen closer and you will see that this typically boils down to 5 major themes. Master these and you will rock the corporate world. If not… maybe it is time to be your own boss! Read more to find out where you stand.
Ask yourself these 5 questions:
1. Can you take criticism?
In the corporate world you will always have a boss. Your boss is paid to tell you what to do. Your boss is paid to be the expert in that field, and because of that, they will feel obligated to instruct you. Right or wrong in their suggestions, they are still your boss. What is needed to overcome criticism even when you didn't ask for it? Patience. If you have the patience and the know-how to take criticism and action off it, you will be a star student in the classroom of the corporate world.
2. Have you mastered the art of challenging someone without being rude?
There is a fine line between a friendly disagreement and argumentative rudeness. If you can walk that line while still being respectful to superiors, you are made for the corporate world. Think your boss is wrong? You better have something well-thought out to say before you confront them. If they still disagree, back off and do what they want, but make sure to CYA (cover your ass). A friendly email recapping the pros and cons of the discussion will do. Unfair? Maybe. But out of your control, yes!
3. Can you handle a total shut down of your genius idea?
You have this genius idea. You did it. You finally figured out how to solve the problem. You spend hours putting the pitch together. It is brilliant. You stay up all night practicing what you are going to say to your superiors the next morning. You walk into the boardroom like a boss, you practiced and it’s perfect, it is the best idea you have ever had. You pitch it for 15 minutes straight… but it only takes 15 seconds for it to get smashed, stepped on, spit on and then thrown in the trash, never to be seen again. Sound traumatic? It is! But if you can handle it, and better yet, come back with an even better idea a few months later, you are made for corporate life.
4. Can you be happy working with unhappy people?
According to a CBS Money Watch report, “Of the country’s approximately 100 million full-time employees, 51 percent aren’t engaged at work -- meaning they feel no real connection to their jobs, and thus they tend to do the bare minimum. Another 16 percent are “actively disengaged” -- they resent their jobs, tend to gripe to co-workers and drag down office morale as a result.” This means that for every 2 people you pass on the way to the water cooler everyday, one of them is unhappy at work. This environment creates a serious crowd mentality. Who wants to preach rainbows and butterflies when your peers are acting like they just left a funeral? If you have the personality to turn negative energy into a positive environment, you will kick ass in a corporate world.
5. Understanding that no matter how many hours you work, your paycheck will still be the same.
This is not always the case, as some corporate positions are hourly, include commission or an incentive program. But for the majority of salaried employees, your 40 hours or 80 hours a week is the same in the corporate book of life. If you are solely driven by money, this may be a hard pill to swallow. This phenomenon can also have a negative effect where employees realize they do not need to put in the required hours but they will still receive their paycheck. Eventually this mentality catches up to people, but if you are one who believes that the more you work the more you should get paid, the corporate world model may not be best for you!
How did you score? If you answered yes to most of these questions, you should keep rocking that corporate life. If you were rolling your eyes and saying 'amen' too many times, you may be ready to take the next step to being your own boss.
DISCLAIMER: the contents of this article are the sole opinions of the author and do not reflect a particular company or industry. Different companies may have policies that are not reflected here. The author is aware that every company is different and many of the information may not apply to all corporations.
My company’s slogan, From Paper to Profit, is one I have been using since inception in 2011. I was thinking about this slogan during one of my deep thought hours on how I can better my own business. See… my professional goal is to tell other businesses how to be better, but I rarely get to sit down and tell myself, and my business the same thing. So I sat down to think about it. The slogan is only 4 words, not very complex words, but if you dissect the words it would be something like this:
From = indicating the point in time at which a particular process, event, or activity starts
Paper = a document
To = expressing motion in the direction of
Profit = a financial gain
To sum it up, the services I offer (business plans, marketing plans, web content, small business consulting) are starting a particular process, event or activity, with some sort of document and motioning it in the direction of profit. There you have it ladies and gentleman; the meaning of my slogan could not more accurately define my business than it already does.
I concluded my personal thinking time with this take away… keep your slogan simple. Say what you want to say, and mean what you say. If you think your café sells the best bagel in New Jersey, than your slogan should be “The best bagel in New Jersey”. Maybe not that literal, but you get the point!
Here are some other helpful tips for writing a slogan:
OnDeck Capital is a financing company that has revolutionized the future of small business loans. OnDeck has developed a way to evaluate businesses based on their actual performance and not personal credit. Recently cited in a Bloomberg Businessweek article, CEO of OnDeck Capital claims that his company is “going to make bank loan officers as obsolete as travel agents.” In the same presentation, CEO Noah Breslow explains how OnDeck Capital is the Amazon, Priceline and Zillow’s of the small business loan industry; a way to do what has always been done, but to do it more efficiently.
OnDeck Capital makes their service possible through a special software that gives potential borrowers an “OnDeck Score”. In other words, OnDeck uses a tested formula to determine proprietary assessment of creditworthiness, pulling in data from many sources. Unlike the current process at the bank, OnDeck capital’s algorithm replaces a loan officers “opinion” on how credit worthy someone really is. On their website, OnDeck Capital claims that they have severed over 700 industries and delivered over $1.5 billion in loans. They also claim on their website that because the algorithm technology is so solid, they can provide approval of loan within minutes.
So we ask, what’s the catch? Something that all entrepreneurs need to be conscious of are the loopholes that always come with the package when someone wants to GIVE you money. What’s in it for them? The answer here is an interest rate of up to 100 times higher than the banks. As the Bloomberg Businessweek article quotes, “OnDeck’s rates average 54 percent” as mentioned in a document sent to investors this spring. The average bank loan interest rate is approximately 7-8%.
Although it may be difficult to get a loan from a bank if your personal credit score is weighing you down, be aware of all the fine print before signing on to a company with an interest rate of 54%. If you cannot pay this loan off quickly, don’t do it! OnDeck Capital is surely going to change the way small businesses think about loan approvals, but in a high-risk market like small business loans, consider all your options.
What is your company’s brand? If you hesitated, you may be headed down the same path as many companies who tend to lose value their brand. Branding is something that holds significance like no other asset does. Value that cannot be taken from you, that is unless you allow your branding to take a backseat.
Bloomberg Businessweek writer Steve McKee writes in his article “Why So Many Companies Get Branding Wrong” (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-07/why-so-many-companies-get-branding-wrong), that “a brand is the only corporate asset that, managed properly, will never depreciate… a well-managed brand can increase in value year after year.”
A brand is not so much about the colors, logo design or slogan as it is how your brand presents itself to the public. For example, you can hire the best graphic designer to create a colorful fun logo that stands out, but if a customer has a bad experience in your store and tells their friends, your logo no longer matters.
McKee gives some examples in his article about brands that have done it right and brands that have done it wrong. One example about branding gone right was centered on a sporting goods store. The customer in the example bought a pair of sneakers and a few days later got a call from a friendly sales-rep to confirm she was happy with her purchase. A week or so after that, the customer received a gym bag in the mail to thank her for her purchase. This particular customer was so impressed with the brand that she raves about the store to all her friends and family. This store did it right, they branded themselves as a customer centric company that takes care of their clients during and after the purchase.
As the example shows, branding is not always about the colors or designs of your company’s website, but more about what the company’s personality emanates to its customers. Is your branding focused on a quality product? Is it focused on customer service? Or maybe your branding is more based around the customer experience while in the store? Whatever you choose as your branding scheme, always make sure to keep it priority one. Regardless of the newest marketing hype, continuously stick to the fundamentals of your brand. When the marketing strategy of the week is outdated, you will always have your brand.
Although it is not always relevant for small businesses, there is something to be said for user-generated marketing and its long term value in any business marketing mix. User-generated content is a term used to describe videos, pictures, blogs, discussions, posts, audio files, or any other forms of media that was created by the consumer towards a company.
This year will be big for user-generated marketing in the large companies, but small businesses should still pay attention and even incorporate some strategies into their daily social marketing tool box.
Companies with large marketing budgets have already started to saturate the user-generate content platform, as Jayson DeMers describes how Disney did it with the mobile app Vine, in his Huffington Post blog http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jayson-demers/how-user-generated-content_b_4533000.html?utm_hp_ref=small-business&ir=Small+Business, but how can businesses with smaller marketing budgets capitalize on the strategy as well?
The first step in enabling user-generated marketing in any business is determining the specific users. One technique that DeMers references in his blog posting is about “targeted social media marketing.” This is something any business can accomplish with little budget needed. Instead of trying to occupy space on all social media available, focus on the social media that fits the product’s demographic. If the product or service you are selling is catering to a mature adult audience of 45-60 years of age, Facebook may be a better social media than Instagram which has an audience of teenagers and early 20’s.
Once a company can correctly situate their social media and their primary target market, they can begin to launch user-generated content campaigns. To be realistic, small businesses like a Hair Salon or Restaurant will never run a campaign as large as Disney, but these businesses still have large enough audiences to create a buzz in the community. To help with user-generated content campaigns, DeMers recommends using some newly developed apps to organize and manage social networks, schedule message blasts, and analyze media traffic.
A new year means a new clean slate. Small businesses should be paying attention to user-generated content marketing this year to gain that extra leverage on the competition. Consumers want their 15 minutes of fame, why can’t your company give that to them?
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the Small Business Administration has revealed that starting January 1st 2014; the SBA will eliminate loan fees for veteran-owned businesses. The fees will be waived for loans up to $350,000 from January 1st to September 30 of 2014.
This is great news for business owners, especially start-ups as the waived fees will save veterans around $4,000. The SBA is hoping that this program will increase the number of veteran-owned businesses which in return helps other veterans obtain jobs.
According to the SBA office of advocacy, veteran-owned businesses have decreased to 1.7 million in 2012 from 1.9 million in 2008. With the decrease, the pilot program of the Patriot Express loan has been criticized as not helping the cause; even though the SBA backed approximately $700 million under the program this year. Because of the assumed failure of the program, it is expected to expire at the end of the year.
In any case, all veteran-business owners or aspiring business owners should get their paperwork in order and apply for the new fee waive. Any little bit can help the cause!
Read the full article by Patrick Clark here at Bloomberg Businessweek http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-11-08/a-new-attempt-to-goose-lending-for-veteran-owned-businesses
I have heard it time and time again, “I can’t afford to hire employees!” my start-up clients say. These business owners are between a rock and a hard place; they have more tasks on their plate than they can handle, but not enough working capital to pay market value for talented employees. What’s an entrepreneur to do? This is where a business owner needs to get creative, think out of the box and adopt this tactic; offering attractive perks can lure talent to come work for your start-up!
Most would assume that the top talent would only be interested in the big paycheck, but surprisingly, many employees value perks just as much. So, now you’re asking, “okay, what perks can I offer that won’t jeopardize my budget but will secure and keep my employees happy?” Here are some ideas…
1. For Sales positions, higher than market commission: If the employee can expect a high commission rate, they will be motivated by the potential income. In turn, the sales professional will work harder to see the payout. This is a win-win, you will get the sale, and the employee will receive a higher commission which will balance out the lower salary.
2. Flexible Work Schedules: this is an important perk for most people, especially employees with many other out of work responsibilities (children, pets, volunteer work, etc). A working mother may find it more attractive to be able to work from 7am – 3pm while their children are in school than from 9am- 5pm, and would be willing to take a lower salary for those hours.
3. Paid Vacation/Sick Days: Adding 2-3 more paid vacation or sick days could persuade an employee to choose your company over another to work for. You would be surprised how valued paid time off can be.
4. Work Sponsored Meals: Who doesn’t love a free meal? Employees will appreciate work sponsored meals such as Bagel Breakfast or Pizza Lunch 2 or 3 times a month. This is also a great bonding experience for your staff.
5. Training Opportunities: The promise of training opportunities is not only a perk, but a benefit to your company. Sending employees to Business Xpos, conferences, or speakers is a great way to build their skills; employees will find these opportunities of value for the future.
6. Gym Membership: supporting employee full or partial gym memberships is a popular perk among corporate offices. It is a great way to keep your staff healthy and happy.
When you find yourself thinking you cannot afford talent, think again! Creative perks can be the answer to your employee hiring and retention success.
It is common for a business owner to get defensive when asked “who is your biggest competitor?” They tend to believe that if they never mention their competitors then it is like they don’t exist… REALITY CHECK, knowing your competition is the best knowledge any Marketer can have!
Business owners do not always understand how critically important it is to know the ins and outs of their three biggest competitors. I am always asking my clients the following about their competition:
1. Name your top 3 competitors locally, and your top 3 competitors on a regional or national scale.
2. Why each is considered competition to your company?
3. What are these companies doing that your business is not doing?
4. What are you doing that is similar to these companies?
5. What are you doing that is different from these companies?
Understanding the five points above will show holes in the market place, provide a picture of opportunity/lack of, or prove that the market is saturated resulting in the business owner making some changes to their model.
Unfortunately, I have seen companies that spend years working toward building their business and dipping into savings to finance the project, only to then find out that their business model is extremely similar to many other operating businesses in their desired area. Researching your competition and determining if you are correctly positioning your company is one of the first steps one should take before investing any money. In the long run, this could make or break your business!
Can you relate to the common mistake of ignoring competition? Or maybe you have seen companies who do not think competitive analysis is important and it backfires on their business. LET’S TALK ABOUT IT!
Have you figured it out yet? Watchdog reports surfacing today argue that $2.1 billion of the Obama Administration’s Small Business Lending Fund was used by banks to repay bailouts.
Are you as angry as I am? You should be. According to an article by Jose Pagliery on CNN Money website (FULL ARTICLE), Obama’s not so favored $4 billion fund was established in 2011 and was dispersed to 332 banks and community lending groups. The purpose of the fund was to increase small business lending. Unfortunately 137 banks had a different idea for the fund; using it to pay back bailout money or as the government labels it TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program).
Many analysts and bankers believe it was inevitable that 80% of the banks would use the fund to pay back TARP. But what does the government have to say about it? According to Pagliery’s article, “The Treasury Department said there’s nothing wrong with the way the banks used the funds.” The Treasury Department also claims that even though these banks used the money to repay TARP they also increased small business lending. Let’s look at the numbers; “TARP banks received $2.7 billion in funds, and they increased small business lending by $3 billion…the non-TARP banks received $1.2 billion in funds and increased small business lending by $4.2 billion” (Pagliery).
Does anyone else see something wrong with this? As the Obama Administration promised, they gave banks a fund to lend to small businesses, and what did the banks do? They spent it to better their own pockets! The government seems to be accepting of the mistreated money, how accepting are you?