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Monthly Archives: October 2015

Family Succession Tips

dc9X5RgdiInvestopedia reports that between 80-90% of businesses in the U.S. are owned or controlled by families. About a third of them are Fortune 500 companies. But this doesn’t mean they are all big corporations. In fact many are small- to mid-sized businesses. Family-owned businesses also account for approximately 78% of jobs created in the United States.

With these statistics it is of paramount importance to create a business plan for family succession. Only a bit over half (53%) of family businesses have a succession plan which could explain why only 30% of all family-owned businesses make it to the second generation, 12% into the third generation and 3% to the fourth and beyond, according to the Family Business Alliance.

Eventually every family business needs to deal with leadership retiring, getting ill or moving on to other things.  When a business is a family business, any of these events bring on a list of questions.  Who’s going to manage the business? How will ownership be transferred? Accountants and lawyers who specialize in business succession planning can provide invaluable advice about dealing with ownership, taxes, budgeting and the myriad of legal issues that occur when leadership of a family business changes hands.

Here are some quick tips and suggestions to consider when you are dealing with family succession planning:

  1. Start planning early.  If you know a family member will retire in 5-10 years start the process now.
  2. Involve key members. When the idea of succession first comes up there is bound to be some discord about who should be in charge and how a transition should take place.  Invite key members to openly discuss what the best way to approach the transition time will be.
  3. Groom the future leader.  If given the appropriate amount of time, groom the future leader through mentoring and shadowing.  Obviously if there was a sudden illness or death this will be a crash course for whomever is in charge.
  4. Get outside help.  With so many businesses run by families, financial advisors and business advisors can be a great asset when transferring the business to a new leader.
  5. Be aware of potential hurtles. Every change causes problems, none more complex than a family relationship.  Plan in advance for sticky family relations that may make a transition more difficult.
  6. Use the best resources.  Along with tax consultants, lawyers and accountants, talk to people who have dealt with succession issues like the Small Business Association.   They can help you consider issues that may come up during each step of the process.

Productive Business Networking

Business networking can be a valuable strategy to: get referrals, connect with prospective partners/clients, gather insights on innovation in your field or merely expose your name or brand.  Unfortunately networking can be overwhelming meeting new people, keeping up with conversations and making those connections convert into customers.  Here are some tips to make the most of your networking events.

Before the Event –

  • Gather your supplies including business cards, pens, paper and any marketing brochures you could refer to if the conversation leans in that direction.
  • Know your goals prior to heading into the networking event.  Do you hope to gather names of prospective clients?  Do you want to nurture an existing relationship?
  • Know the audience – Find out who will be attending the event through the online RSVP list so you know what to expect.
  • Remember the dress code.  Professional business attire is usually expected to give a positive impression unless there is a specific theme or location that lends itself to a different dress code.  (golf, harbor cruise)

At the Event

  • Check out the registration table for names that you may want to connect with.  If you are nervous, look for familiar names to start off with to break the ice.
  • Smile!
  • Keep your hands free for shaking hands.  If there is food available you may want to keep eating brief so you can talk freely and have your hands available to shake hands or distribute business  cards.
  • Have a list of topics to refer to if conversations fade.  Be interested and use active listening when part of a conversation.
  • Hand out and gather those cards!  The back of the cards can be used to keep notes on each person. (That may have to happen in the car after the event.)
  • Be confident.  Speak clearly and rely on your confidence to guide you through conversations.
  • Be genuine.  People can tell when you are putting on an act.  So be yourself and speak from the heart.

After the Event

  • Debrief after the event. This may mean writing up notes on items of interest or questions you may have promised to get answered.
  • Follow up – Use those business cards you carefully gathered and follow through with an email or phone call. If you live locally an in-person meeting over coffee may be in order.
  • Connect through social media. Find people that you connected with on LinkedIn or other social media to stay in touch.
  • Enter contacts. Put all new contacts in your list at the office.

Getting Your Business Idea off the Ground

BeanManIdeaLightSteve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Fred Smith.  Just a few of the  business leaders who started their careers with merely an idea and a dream.  Do you have an amazing idea for business that you would like to see grow into fruition?   Great!  Unfortunately, having a brilliant business idea is only the first step on a long road to getting your thoughts turned into profits.  The sobering truth is that it takes, capital, business know-how, organization, and a ton of hard work.  How did the great business entrepreneurs do it?  What was their secret to getting their business idea off the ground?  Let’s look at some tips and suggestions from Forbes, Inc Online, and other business leaders as to how they managed to take their idea and turn it into reality.

  • Research – Just like you did before you started a big project in grade school, research should always be the first step in any business proposition.  Before you start developing your core business idea do some market research.  What other companies have a similar product or service?  What do they do that works/doesn’t work?  What type of audience do you think your idea would appeal to?  Research if there would be a need or niche market for your product/service.  During this process you will find out about pricing, potential partnerships, capital needed and the never-ending minutia of the business.
  • A Plan – Once you have done some very thorough background research, you will want to solidify the idea you have into a business plan.  This formal or informal plan can be used to gather investors or grow support for your idea.
  • A Prototype – Whether your idea includes something tangible (like a product)  or intangible (like a service) you will want to have something to show supporters, partners or investors.  This may mean you have to build the object or possibly create a website for the service.
  • FUNDS!  – Finding the right investors or bank to support your business idea may seem daunting but now that you have the research and plan under your belt this is not be as hard as you imagine.  There are a large number of options to consider when dealing with needed capital for your idea.  The Small Business Association in your area may be a big help in pointing you toward an institution that can help you.  There are also other ideas such as bank loans (especially local), crowdfunding(like kickstarter) , Bootstrapped businesses or possibly by finding investors willing to be partners or supporters of your idea.
  • Legalities – Yes, there are always legalities involved in setting up a new business or launching a business idea.  As early in the process as you can, seek counsel who can guide you through the process of the legalities associated with your idea such as insurance, a tax id, a business license and so on.
  • Marketing – Once you have your ducks all in a row you will want to come up with a marketing strategy and plan how you will spend your marketing budget.  Some people prefer to outsource this at the beginning to a consultant who can get you going and fast!  You will need a PR campaign and someone who knows how to use traditional and digital media to attract attention to your business.

Taking your amazing idea and making it a reality doesn’t have to be scary or daunting but rather a step-by-step process that can be exciting an thrilling.

 

Goal Setting Strategies and Apps

di7oyzy4TEvery business, whether small or large, has goals that they hope to attain.  The hallmark of successful  businesses are goals or objectives that have been carefully crafted in a way that can guide a company to reach their full potential.  What are some strategies to creating goals that can bind a workplace together working toward a common goal? Let’s look at some strategies for devising goals and some excellent tools that may help in this mission.

  • Don’t be too busy!  The inherent idea behind setting a business goal is that it can steer a company in the right direction.  Unfortunately many companies fail to follow up on goal setting because they are simply too busy doing business to deal with it.  The 4th Annual Staples National Small Business survey reported that more than 80% of small business owners of the 300 surveyed reported that they don’t keep track of their business goals.   So for many companies the first step in being successful with goal setting would be to put in some sort of regular meeting to review what steps are being taken to achieve the objectives set up yearly.
  • Create SMART Goals – Many business leaders find that having a specific strategy when generating goals can help them stay on track.  The SMART method includes creating objectives that are:  specific, measurable, attainable, involve a responsible person and  are time specific.  What this technique involves therefore, is a very specific goal such as an increase in percentage of items sold not merely a vague goal of increasing sales.  A measurable goal means that it can be quantified instead of merely a good intention.  An attainable goal is meant to stretch the skills and abilities of the company without setting the up for utter failure.  A responsible person is an indicator that this goal will be checked up on at regular intervals.  This doesn’t mean that the person is the only one responsible for meeting the goal but rather a person who will report on the progress.  And finally the timing indicates that the goal should have a beginning and an end point when goals should be completed.
  • Invest in Goal Strategy Tools – We live in a busy world and don’t have a lot of time to spend on our short and long term goals daily.  That’s why “there is an app for that.”  There are some great business apps that can help you stay organized and pointed in the direction of your goals.  These apps can help keep you accountable and motivated.  Check out some of the following apps that you may find helpful in achieving your goals!

Goals on Track

LifeTick

Evernote

 

Make the Most of your Google AdWords Campaign

google-adwordsGoogle Adwords, Google’s powerhouse advertising service can be cost-effective and highly successful for businesses who wish to target specific audiences and make the most of every marketing dollar.  Carefully planning and executing your AdWord campaign with the search engine behemoth is the key to getting the most bang for your buck in the advertising world.  What are the top tips and tricks to managing a successful Google AdWords campaign?  Let’s look at suggestions from leaders in business and examine how these ideas can keep you on track.

Research – As with any marketing strategy, do your homework in advance.

  • Find out the most relevant keywords that are being typed in to search engines for your service/product/brand.
  • Research the background of companies that are using these keywords and are consistently ranking at the top of searches.  Visit their websites to find out what the strategy is behind their campaign.  How are they like your company?  How are they different?  How can you learn from what they are doing? How can you stand out from them?
  • Lastly, in the research department, find out as much as you can about your audience.  What are they saying in online reviews? How do they feel about your competition?  What is missing that you might be able to offer?

Know your Goal – As you commence an AdWord campaign know exactly what you hope to get out of the strategy.  The only way to measure your success is to have measurable goals from the outset.  Keeping things too vague like “increase traffic to our site” will not allow you to analyze whether it is working or not.  Be more specific such as: “increase traffic by a certain percent”  or “a percent of clicks that convert to buyers”.

Keywords that Match – Marketing leaders suggest using a very small list of keywords that are extremely focused  as you begin your AdWords campaign.  Using Exact Match, Phrase Match and Broad Match to ensure that your ad will show up for the most relevant searches.  Utilizing long-tail keywords (keywords made up of 3+ words) that describe your exact services are much more likely to convert compared with broader, single word keywords. Use Google Tools to help you come up with the best keywords for your business.

Be Aware of Mobile, Desktop and Tablet Traffic Differences – Search networks are different depending upon the device you are using.  Since a large portion of the public uses mobile devices be sure you are using mobile -preferred ads.  A customized message and call-to-action for mobile uses will hopefully result in higher conversion rates.

Analyzing – While this may seem time consuming, tracking the results of your efforts is the one true way to find out if you are using the right keywords, targeting the audience appropriately and spending your precious marketing dollars in the proper channels.