Mastermind Your Small Business Success

Mastermind Your Small Business Success

Although it had been a dream of my husband’s for decades, the thought of starting a business on my own was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. After some careful thought and discussion, my husband Gerard and I cashed in our NY chips and moved to Maine in 2003 to birth Gerard’s “baby”, his jewelry store, Porte4.

For all of you self-employed, small business owners reading this, you know what I mean about the exhilarating / terrifying contrasting emotions that occur in the course of running your own business don’t you? In fact, the exhilaration can turn to terror in the blink of an eye, feeling like the two emotions are inseparable.

But get here, we did and I found the resources available to small business owners and entrepreneurs overwhelming. If you are thinking about starting a business, want to buy a business or want to grow the business you already have, there’s no shortage of information here: SCORE, SBA, ASBDC [http://www.asbdc-us.com], http://www.Business.Gov, Small Business Assistance Center at http://www.sbacnetwork.org. These are just a few; the list goes on & on. Two other great sources of information are Entrepreneur.com and the small business section on About.com ( http://www.about.com/business). Happy researching!!

Gathering the information wasn’t the problem. What I found the most difficult was converting all the information I found into usable and practical ‘how-to’ data. It was data overload and I needed to talk to someone about the real-world of starting the business, not the academics of it. Things like:

  • How do you balance the needs of everyone: customers, employees, family, self?
  • When and how do you make the decision to hire your first employee?
  • …and then how do you recruit and keep great people?
  • What is the right mix for marketing your small business? – Multi-media advertising, PR, speaking, event sponsorship, direct and e-mailing; networking; community involvement …Argh!
  • Growth Strategies – How do you balance the need for growth & innovation yet keep the core of your business steady and strong?
  • Well? Who can you turn to for help in making critical decisions? Wouldn’t it be nice to talk to someone on a regular basis who 1) you could trust and 2) could give you feedback based on their experience?

    Consider joining a small business mastermind forum. Mastermind forums or peer advisory groups provide small business owners and entrepreneurs a confidential environment to share with each other, helping each other by leveraging each other’s experience and knowledge, and so much more.

    The benefits of a good group will FAR exceed the investment.
    Among them are:

  • Reduce Costs: Small business owners often don’t have the budget to “re-invent the wheel”. By learning what other businesses have successfully done, you can save time and money.
  • Avoid Mistakes: Solving business problems on your own can result in costly delays and errors. Learning what others have done can help keep you moving forward.
  • Find New Ideas: Get outside your own paradigm and see through the eyes of other business owners. They may give you a perspective that leads you to a far greater outcome than you could have achieved on your own.
  • Improve Performance: When you look for best practices outside your own business, a wonderful thing happens. You raise the bar of performance and set new standards of excellence to propel your company forward.
  • There are a number of executive / CEO forum groups you can consider. Most are franchised and target the executives of larger companies (those with $10 million in sales or more). From personal experience I know the challenges small business owners and solo-preneurs have are every bit as plentiful and just as frustrating and complex as those of larger organizations. However, the smaller the business the more the professional can benefit from participating in a small business mastermind forum.

    Larger organizations have their boards of directors and big budgets. Small business owners and entrepreneurs should have their own advisory support. Grow your small business success through a small business mastermind group.

    Until next time, BE BOLD, Do Bold Business. Remember, it all starts with a Vision.

    Business Alliances – Strategy For Small Business Growth

    Business alliances are often overlooked or not given much consideration by small businesses, yet they can be vital in helping a company grow and prosper. All too often, small businesses think alliances are just for big businesses; as a result, they neither explore nor pursue them. However, they can be just as beneficial for small businesses as they are for large corporations. If a small business is serious about gaining access to new markets, capitalizing on technology, growing profits using shared resources, they should consider a business alliance.

    It’s no secret, businesses that share resources can create greater efficiencies and become more profitable. Business alliances can increase synergies and mitigate potential risk, while allowing companies to work together toward common goals as they maintain their individuality. There are several types of business alliances, each with its unique attributes.

    Now is the time to assess what your business brings to the table. What assets, either tangible or intangible, does your business possess that when leveraged with another company can unlock greater potential for each business?

    Alliance opportunities can be developed with suppliers, customers, investors, complementary businesses and friendly competitors. Some alliances are natural matches, while others require some creative thinking. I’ve listed the different types of alliances below, along with a description and example of each. When reading through them, think about how your business can create the benefits of a win-win proposition with another company.

    JOINT VENTURE

    A joint venture is a contractual arrangement whereby a separate entity is created to carry on a trade or business on its own, separate from the core business of the participating companies. Businesses often come together to share knowledge, markets, funds and profits. In some cases, a large company can decide to form a joint venture with a smaller business in order to quickly acquire critical intellectual property, technology, or resources otherwise hard to obtain. Companies with identical products and services can also join forces to penetrate markets they wouldn’t or couldn’t consider without investing a tremendous amount of resources. Separation is often inevitable because JVs generally have a limited life and purpose.

    Example: You’ve developed a product but have a limited distribution base. Another company has the distribution system in place with a sizable market and wants to expand its company’s product offerings. You form a joint venture with the other company to jointly promote the product. It’s a win-win because you don’t have to fund the costs of reaching the potential customers and the other company expands its value and product offering to its current distribution base without having to fund the research and development costs of a new product. A contract would be signed detailing the aspects of the agreement.

    STRATEGIC ALLIANCE

    A strategic alliance is generally an arrangement whereby a separate entity is not created. Participants engage in joint activities but do not create an entity that would carry on trade or business on its own. The strategic alliance partners may provide resources such as products, distribution channels, manufacturing capabilities, capital equipment, knowledge, expertise, or intellectual property. Each party in the alliance maintains autonomy.

    Example: A business management consultant wants to expand his services. He currently offers coaching, marketing, financial and operational consulting. He has noticed an increase demand for HR and diversity consulting from his clientele. He currently has no desire to hire additional personnel with the degrees and certifications required to offer these services. He seeks a strategic alliance with a HR and diversity consulting firm. The new firm agrees to work with his firm when opportunities arise for their services and a percentage of the revenue generated from the services provided will be returned to his firm.

    PARTNERSHIP

    A partnership is a legal agreement between two parties wherein both the parties agree to share profits and losses of a common business with no anticipated end date.

    Example: A company whose primary function is to sell ads and produce unique coupon circulars to promote a variety of small businesses to the residential community had a substantial printing bill monthly. The company sought a partnership with a small printing company. The printing company had the expertise but limited printing volume. It required purchasing equipment that the printer didn’t have but saw a need for. A contract was signed establishing the new company; cost of the equipment was split between the two entities. The coupon circular producer sent all its business to the new venture at a substantial discount. The profits from the new venture were divided among the coupon circular company and the printing company. Each kept their original businesses separate from the new business.

    MARKETING ALLIANCE

    A marketing alliance is an agreement involving two or more companies to share cost and resources to promote each of the companies within the group. The target markets of the companies within the alliance usually share similar characteristics. The alliance can be a formal or an informal agreement.

    Example: A group of locally owned and operated restaurants band together to form a marketing alliance. The alliance, similar to groups throughout the nation, promotes the uniqueness of their cuisines in an effort to stand out against the national chains. The group pools their resources to run ads and produce a direct mail guide to promote their menus, while offering discounts. They pay an upfront fee and then contribute several hundred dollars in gift certificates every quarter. Those certificates are sold online at a discount to help fund their marketing efforts. Donating gift certificates help keep the cost down for the participating restaurateurs.

    COLLABORATION

    A collaboration is when two or more businesses come together to share resources to create greater efficiencies such as the sharing of employees, equipment, shipping cost, rent, products and etc. Collaborations are generally for specific time periods and resources.

    Example: As a small business you may have a difficult time throwing a first class holiday party for your employees. You want to show them just how much they are appreciated but the economy is tight and company funds are even tighter. Pooling your resources to have a party with a complementary company, saves money for both companies and could potentially pay off in new business opportunities and networking.

    Managing the Alliances

    Each company should bring a balance set of strengths to the alliance but there are other considerations as well. You must manage the alliance to ensure it contributes to the success of each company. Listed below are few of the things you should consider to produce a successful alliance:

    1. Alliances should be made with the decision maker. You must have the support and commitment from the business owner and not just a manager.

    2. Communication is a key ingredient. Clearly communicate the goals and objectives of the alliance in the beginning.

    3. Develop the metrics the alliance will be measured against. Determine how the performance of each of the companies will be measured.

    4. Allocate proper resources to the alliance. Don’t get half way through the project before you determine the proper resources were not allocated to the venture.

    5. Ensure that all participating employees are committed to the success of the alliance. You need buy-in from everyone involved, not just a few select people.

    6. Detail the responsibilities of each of the participating companies. Be explicit in what the expectations are for each of the companies in the alliance.

    7. Just like all things, nothing is perfect. Be prepared to make changes if something is not working.

    8. Stay committed and focused on the benefits of the alliance rather than the inconveniences the alliance may cause.

    Each party must benefit from the alliance for it to be successful. Otherwise, like a marriage, the relationship will go from honeymoon to divorce court quickly and all parties will suffer.

    The Importance of Having a Website For a Small Business

    Well, let us start by knowing what a website is. A website is a virtual space allocated to an individual, a corporate entity, an organisation and even a country on the worldwide web or internet whereby the views – be it social, religious or political – of that person or body are propagated and disseminated to the world at large. Now, the importance or significance of an internet presence through a website to the rapid financial growth and success of an individual or a body cannot be over-emphasized. An advantage that readily comes to mind is the greater market that the internet affords to everyone who is wise enough to exploit it to one’s advantage – especially now that the world has become a global village, whereby anyone can get access to the internet even at the remotest of all villages with GPS-enabled phones and proper web settings.

    The benefits of having a website are numerous indeed. Apart from the one that l mentioned in the last paragraph above, the internet gives you a 24/7 (24hrs a day / 7days a week), 365/6 (365 or 366days a year) access to everyone anywhere around the globe. And that means that even while a website owner may be sleeping, eating, playing or attending to the needs of his or her family, the website is always open for business and automatically attending to the demands of the site’s visitors without fail every single second, every single minute, every single hour, every single day of every single year. With all these benefits, you would expect someone to incur a huge monthly bill as running cost and overheads, wouldn’t you? But, what do you actually incur as your “office” overheads or running costs? Nothing! All you spend in many instances is the time and cost of building the website and hosting it on the internet.

    My practical experience over the years as a small time business person has brought to the fore some reasons why many small-scale business persons, probably just like myself, do not have websites. Many of them may not yet be fully exposed to the internet. Additionally, they may know virtually nothing about the internet as well – and, as humans, we tend to fear what we do not understand and hate what we cannot conquer. Similarly, many small business owners are skeptical about the internet because, not only do they not understand how it works, but they equally see some site owners perhaps in their neighborhood who appear not to have made any remarkable progress with their sites.

    Anyway, now that we have substantiated the need for a small time business to have a website, the next matter which needs to be given thorough and adequate consideration in order to arrive at a meaningful and result-oriented action plan is: given the many service providers rendering website building and hosting services that are available on the internet, which would be the right choice to employ as a practical and success-driven tool? My research on the web revealed that only a handful of the numerous website building and hosting service providers possess the requisite tools that would ensure the ultimate success of any small business on the web. Hence, a small business owner need to be particularly discerning in order to make a wise choice that would guarantee and precipitate a massive traffic-building process unmatched anywhere else on the net.

    This is so because it is not sufficient to have a website that nobody visits. In other words, traffic or visitors to a website has a direct bearing on the income a business makes from having a website. Hence, more visitors to a site means more income, and no traffic invariably means no income for a business.

    In the same vein, a consideration of the experiences of other small business owners would indeed be helpful in this regard. I stumbled on the following documented internet dossier of some selected small business owners in some parts of the world which l feel would particularly be of help too – http://case-studies.sitesell.com/Kitoje_netpro.html.

    Conclusively, having analyzed the underlying causes of business stagnation and apparent lack of growth for many small businesses, we have highlighted the dire need of having a website as a huge boost for rapid growth and financial success for small businesses. In order for any small-scale business to embark on the road to sustainable growth and financial success and be well-equipped with the requisite “road map” blue-print for business success, it is imperative for such business to have a website. On the other hand, there is nothing anywhere which says that a small business person who has already taken some wrong decisions cannot make a detour from a dead-end road leading nowhere and with all the signs of failure clearly written in BOLD print.

    BOTTOM LINE?

    Every small business owner who decides to have a website with an expert website building and hosting firm is destined for success even during these times of global economic recession.