Whether you own a small business, medium-sized business or a large corporation, business networking is an integral part of growing your company and seeing that it is successful. Building a lucrative business takes a lot of time and drive, so it’s good to have a network of friends and associates to draw energy from and keep you going. What is even better, is to have connections within your industry when things go wrong and you need advice from someone who has been there before. Networking can provide these things and more. Let’s take a look at the benefits of business networking and what potential opportunities abound in a networking event.
- Referrals – When attending a networking meeting or event, there are always opportunities for referrals. Through word-of-mouth, leads can be filtered in your direction and eventually, those leads can turn into clients.
- Connections – If the business leader is motivated, this form of marketing can mean you gain a great source of connections in your industry and in industries that work with yours. This can come in handy when you need simple advice or when you need help building and growing your company.
- Raising Your Profile – With regular attendance at social gatherings and networking events, other business people will begin to recognize you and your brand. Sharing your information and talking about your company is a great way of building a name for yourself as well as increasing your reputation.
- Sharing Knowledge – Many small and medium sized businesses need “a village” to get off the ground. These meetings are a perfect place to ask questions and share knowledge of the struggles and successes related to your specific industry or company.
Success! Your small or medium-sized business has made it through the first few “lean” years and has managed to thrive. You know it is time to take steps to grow your business but you are not sure what direction to take. We suggest first meeting with your financial advisor to find out just where you can stretch yourself and where you should play it safe. Here are a few ideas from the Small Business Administration and other entrepreneurs on areas where you can begin to grow your business.
- Trade Shows – For the first couple of years, you may have been too busy to attend trade shows so start making a name for yourself now. Trade shows are a great way to expand your market. This is also a great time to increase your community activities.
- Expand your Product or Services – Now that you have successfully gotten your business off the ground, you may want to consider expanding your product line or services. Consider services or products that align with your current offerings.
- Open Another Location – If your current location is running smoothly and your employee numbers are growing, you may want to consider expanding to another location.
- Merge or Partner – Many growing companies that have proven that they can be successful find that growing their company may be more successful with a partner or merger with another company potentially in a similar industry.
- Expand Area – Local businesses often think about expanding the area that they service. This may mean opening a franchise opportunity or seeking funding to open a regional office.
- Expand on the Web – Your website may need to be updated or expanded if you plan to grow your business.
Just a few years ago, businesses were ahead if they had their own website and were finding leads online. In 2017, most companies are online and if your company is not hard at work at improving SEO for your modern and easy-to-navigate website, then it may be floundering or worse, failing. Search Engine Optimization – SEO – is the best way to help people find your company and become loyal customers.
Google, Yahoo and Bing, the top search engines, have specific algorithms to calculate where your company ranks when search parameters are entered. Unfortunately, these parameters change and evolve, so staying on top of your SEO plan is critical. Here are a few tips to help keep your business SEO plan on track!
- Content – For years we have heard that content is king. When it comes to SEO, relevant content is key to increasing your ranking. When you provide useful content, visitors tend to stay longer on your website to consume the information and therefore increase the “on site” time. Regularly updated content whether it is a blog, newsletter or How-To videos are viewed as one of the best indicators of a site’s relevancy.
- Keywords – Placement of relevant and useful keywords throughout the website is perhaps one of the most important SEO tactics. Use online and Google tools to determine what words someone would use to conduct a search to find your specific service or product.
- Page Load Speed – We have all been there waiting for a page to load and decide to move on to another page because it was taking too long. Even just a few seconds can mean losing a visitor. There are many ways to increase page load speed, some of which include using a caching plug-ins, making sure the code is clean and streamlined, optimizing image sizes, reducing the number of plug-ins, and minimizing redirects.
- Links – To make your content more useful and relevant, you can link out to authority sites for more in-depth information your readers can use. Don’t forget to continue to maintain a list of links to directories associated with your industry.
- Tags – Use header tags and others ways to organize the information on your website so that it is easy to navigate.
Whether it is called an annual review, performance review, or a salary adjustment meeting, these workplace events can be stressful for both the employee and the manager. These meetings may seem like a blip on the radar as they usually only happen annually or bi-annually, but they can set the tone for your company and the expectations that you have for your employees across the entire spectrum of leadership. Here are a few tips to help make performance reviews positive and motivational.
- Prepare in Advance – Never go into a performance review without preparation. Both the manager and the employee should plan in advance with a worksheet that they can fill out prior to the review that lists major accomplishments, strengths, weaknesses and future goals going forward. This will give both the employee and the reviewer a good way to organize their thoughts.
- Keep Things Positive – Avoid heading right into the areas where you would like to see improvement. Instead spend the vast amount of time during the review talking about what went right during the year, accomplishments, and improvements that you have seen since the last review. Everyone wants to know that their hard work has been noticed and find that it is rewarding when a leader in the company has taken note.
- Talk About Struggles – Every employee, including yourself has some area of the job that they struggle with. Talk about what those are for this particular employee and how the company can be of assistance to guide, mentor or support so that these things are less of a struggle. This may include assisting with a class on a topic that impacts your company or potentially arranging for a training session.
- Create Goals – During the review, be sure to talk about future goals that the employee has as well as what you see on the horizon. This is a great way to set your agenda out and let your employee know that you see things moving forward for them. They may have ideas that can build up your business as well.
- Be Ready to Do a Balancing Act – Be prepared to be constructive in your discussions but also be ready to hold your ground. The more prepared you are the easier the conversation will go. If you have questions talk to your HR department or representative.
Being an entrepreneur of a small or medium sized business means that you need to have a broad range of skills and the right people on your team to make a successful run at starting your own company. Part of the success in the first few years of any new business can be tied back to the details and pre-planning of the main elements of a business plan. Here are the critical main elements that every business plan should have as well as some tips to get you started on the right foot.
According to Entrepreneur Online, there are seven key parts to any business plan. Each part is fairly complex and needs to be planned and executed carefully.
- Executive Summary – In the words of the entrepreneur, what is this business all about and what is the main product/service that will be offered? Where does this business fit in to the industry? This should be short and to the point in very professional language. Within this summary should be: a description of the business concept and an overview of the financials that relate to the company. Include an outlook of major achievements and goals for the first year(s).
- Company Description – Start by describing the industry that you are joining and how your company will fit into or make its mark on that industry. Be sure to include in the description the structure of the company as well as the legal form that it will take. Give specifics of how your company will have the edge over its competitors.
- Products/Services– In this section, describe in detail your service or product. Emphasize how your product or service is unique. Show how your company will do or sell things in its own way and differentiate from competitors.
- Market Analysis-This section should illustrate your knowledge about the particular industry your business is in. Explain your target audience and how pricing, distribution and marketing strategies will make your company profitable within a competitive environment.
- Strategy and Implementation – Explain your marketing strategy from traditional print and store front strategies to the complex strategies that come with your website, social media and paid advertising.
- Organization and Management Team – Describe in detail how your company will be structured. Who are the key members of the team and who will be responsible for what? Allow for evolution of this section as things may change throughout the growth and success of the company.
- Financial Plan and Projections – Develop financial projections that look one year, three years and five years into the future. This section will probably need the most revision as the industry and market fluctuates.