Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Affordable Business Travel For Small Business

What is the primary purpose of business travel? Doing business, of course!

Let Horizons Aloft consultants show you how a private aircraft can make your business more competitive.

Every major corporation has access to private aircraft. They understand that all the problems associated with airline travel costs the company productivity and therefore, money. It's time for small and medium businesses to leverage aviation like the biggest companies. And just like small companies are more agile with lower overhead than their larger competitors, smaller aircraft are likewise more agile and less expensive than their jet-powered cousins.

Horizons Aloft is an aviation consultancy that specifically shows small businesses all the ways that aviation can help realize savings in time and cost, while offering the highest quality in safety. Commercial airlines are in the business of moving a lot of people efficiently, which is not necessarily the most effective and/or efficient for your company. Aircraft brokers, dealers and self-appointed experts often have hidden agendas, however at Horizons Aloft your business and its unique needs are our only concern.

They understand the challenges and opportunities that are unique to the small business community. There are cost effective ways to get into aviation without having to spend millions on a private jet and professional pilot. Their mission is to find the perfect fit between the travel needs of your business and its travel budget. With a multitude of ownership, rental, and charter opportunities, there is no need to continue using a travel system that is not designed specifically for your needs and the needs of your customers.

For more information go to: Horizons Aloft

Monday, December 28, 2009

Small Business Sales …. How To Improve Your Numbers

Here's a question I've been asking lately:

If Sales Meetings Were Optional Would Your Sales Team Attend?

If You Only Charged $1.00 Admission Would Anyone Pay?

Sales managers are busy. I know. I’ve been there too; scrambling around at the last minute for something to talk about that’s positive, motivational, relevant and most importantly, valuable.

Sales meetings should be a place for mentoring, sharing, teaching, discussing and learning.

But far too often, sales meetings become mere housekeeping sessions - a platform for marketing, accounting, manufacturing, shipping and other
department heads to complain.

That's why any business with a sales team needs to read the latest industry insiders' report: “Get ‘em Good or Get ‘em Gone! - Instant Sales Strategies for Time-Starved Managers.”

The report is a no-nonsense, real world, industry insiders’ perspective for sales managers who want to dramatically improve their sales teams today!

How To Improve Your Sales Numbers

Friday, December 25, 2009

Weekly "Open House" Presentations For Training On How To Build A Custom Small Business Website

SBI's eLearning is made for the large and growing market of people who want to learn how to start a business online in live course format -- those who get the most out of learning when they are in a classroom setting, with all the advantages of a weekly SCHEDULE, one-on-one instruction and help, the social interaction of a group (they tend to keep in touch), and so forth.

Now, to help you see what eLearning is all about, SBI is offering a free, short, 30-minute, live webinar at .......

Learn To Build A Custom Business Website

..You can now be part of a live, group presentation.

These live "open house" webinars are offered twice a week and at times that suit a large number of time zones. The focus is to help you understand how you can build a successful online business.

You can ......

1) read, learn enough, and decide if eLearning is for you

2) ask some 1-on-1 questions at ..... Website Questions

- and now -

3) attend a 30 minute Webinar

Different people acquire information in different ways. By giving you access to a live Instructor and classmates on a regular basis, SBI! eLearning opens up the rewards of online business success to literally EVERYONE! The SBI eLearning value is insane compared to other online ebiz "courses" which provide no tools, only information and cost thousands.

The free, short, 30-minute, live presentation will help you get familiar with the SBI! eLearning classroom setting and curriculum .... while ultimately helping YOU open up a whole new world of income opportunities from owning your own business website.

the SBI online business-building course is based on a SiteSell Education program that is taught in over 30 colleges and universities all over the world (now approaching 40) ....... Universities

This is the perfect example of "Show And Tell".

Not only will you review what will be covered in each lesson ... but the SiteSell Education Team is on hand to answer your questions live!

You'll be motivated to learn by...

* Interaction with classmates and an Instructor who gives suggestions on Site Concepts for YOUR specific business website .

* Watching your business Web site and those of classmates evolve in just 12 weeks.

* Meeting deadlines for assignments and lessons that help your progress

* Asking questions and getting immediate feedback

* Learning bit by bit over a few months and not feeling like everything needs to be done all at once

The fact is...

There are as many reasons to enroll in SBI! eLearning as there are people who are interested in attending!

We're all a little different...but we all want SUCCESS!

Ask yourself what success looks like to YOUR business ..... and how eLearning can help you build a business to help you be successful...

Bottom line?...

You'll LEARN how to EARN .... and put that learning directly into practice!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Musings On Health Care Reform And The Affect On Small Business

I could go on much information to consider and opine upon. Who says the system is broken? The US has the quality AND level of care that nearly everyone in the world looks to with envy.

The problem is not CARE ... it is COST. So why is the proposed "solution" labeled Health CARE Reform.

Because it is care that will be affected ... not cost. Unless you consider higher costs as the outcome of the "reform" you were looking for.

HALF the reason our costs are so high is because of the quality AND level of care that (nearly) everyone gets. No other country pays for such aggressive cancer-fighting treatments, heart transplants, quadruple-bypass etc in the "average Joe" -- even if you're 80 years old or 100 pounds over-weight. In the US, it's joint-replacement surgury for everyone!

The other HALF of the reason our costs are so high is because someone will pay the price. The health companies would not charge such high rates if someone would not pay them (with government collected taxes, or by forcing businesses to pay). The critics say that already no one can afford health care. Well that is not true or the companies providing the services would not provide them, or they will lower their costs.

Is it just me, or is the plan to have the government throw more money at the problem the wrong way to go? Stop subsidizing health care with so much tax money and prices will come down. Stop increasing the burden on businesses and the prices will come down. Stop encouraging everyone to have an MRI every time they have a headache and the prices will come down.

Only problem: Perhaps the health-care industry will not be able to employ 11% of the entire work-force. But then, is it really necessary for one in every fifteen people (6.8% of the total US population) to be working full time to care for the rest of us? Then again...maybe we wouldn't need 10% of the entire population (15% of the work-force) employed in government either. That's right! Fully 25% of everyone working in the US is employed in either health care or government. What are the chances of "right-sizing" that mess without a full-blown default?

there are many people (perhaps a majority?) that feel entitled to get more of a share of the national wealth than the fair market value of the work they do, or capital they can invest, in return. They feel that the well off should be obligated to pay for the not-so well off. Government as "Robin Hood" -- take from the rich and give to the poor. Whether it's health care, unemployment insurance, social security, or food stamps -- the majority want more than they can afford. It amounts to welfare. And most have no concept of what it takes to pay for it, or the social costs.

Of course Dear Leader (sic Obama) and his cronies will push forward an agenda that will give some people subsidized health insurance with what appears to be lower premiums .... as a big portion of the premiums are paid not by the policy holders themselves, but by the rest of us. Private health care does not have that option of taxpayer subsidized premiums, so of course the playing field is not level. In doing this, more people will be lured to government programs and when private insurance cannot stay in business any longer ..... we will all either have no insurance or government insurance with few actual benefits, not because medical care isn't covered in theory, but because there is no incentive anymore to provide quality health care since doctors and nurses will become government employees.

Here a few simple solutions I think should be part of any reform plan .....

First, shut off access to taxpayer subsidized health care to illegal aliens.

Second, limit the payout on malpractice lawsuits.

Third, everyone has only a major medical policy, meaning everyone pays out of pocket all basic doctors and prescription costs, causing a market shift in doctor visit prices and cost of prescription drugs based on what the market will bear.

Fourth, elect small government members of congress in 2010 and elect a President in 2012 who believes in capitalism.

We just can't fiscally sustain this huge ramp-up in government programs and expanded control from the Democrats; it'll bring the country to where we are now in the state of CA, on the brink of financial ruin. And once these Federal programs are passed, they never go away. They only grow and inefficiently spend more & more money as time goes on as Congress approves additional programs requiring higher taxes.

This administration is not about fixing the economy; it's about expanding government control of our everyday lives and raising taxes to redistribute to the general populace to increase dependency on the gov't. They know how to grow the economy, and they're intent on doing just the opposite.

I agree that something needs to be done to fix healthcare (err costs) .... and I'm hopeful that 2010 will be an election year when it becomes clearly understood that the kind of change we've gotten in Washington D.C. ..... is not the change that we wanted.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Best Way To Build Your Own Small Business Website

Times are tough all over. Unemployment is sky-high. People are either losing jobs or afraid of losing them. So many are forced to work harder for the same paycheck. Or in the case of potential retirees, LONGER than they ever wanted to.

For those wanting to start a small business ... either from home or a commercial property ... you already know (or should) that a quality website must be part of your overall marketing strategy.

It's a fact that maybe the most cost effective "bang for the buck" in your marketing arsenal is a website. I won't get into all the specifics here (peruse the archives for more detailed articles) .... just know that your branding, market reach, and communication to/with customers and prospective customers will all benefit immensely.

To that end here's a suggestion ... take advantage of the business website development tools from SBI. Their "do-it yourself" package walks you through step by step (with live support available anytime you need it) to constructing a high quality website specificly designed to bring you interested ready to buy customers ... and keep them coming back. Your website won't just look good .... it will be a favorite of the search engines AND improve your sales conversion rate (sales ... that's why you're in business right?!).

To make it even easier .... if you've long wanted SBI! but just didn't have $299, your wait is over. During these tough times, they are introducing a time-limited monthly payment option... only $29.99 per month. Even more cost effective with the same "over deliver" approach to getting you up and running on the internet.

Here's a news flash too ... SBI has a Holiday Season Buy-1-Get-1-FREE special running. You can set up 2 business sites for the price of one. Target a specific niche market, special product line, unique service, whatever you wish. Get twice as much business .... at no extra cost.

For more information and to get started check this out ..... Build a Small Business Website

You can even ask questions here ..... Website Questions

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Ultimate Guide to Creating or Updating Your Small Business Website

Many small business owners and sole proprietors struggle to create a website. It’s simply not something they know a lot about and it’s usually far outside their own area of expertise.

Often they waste thousands of dollars on design and development to build a website that shows lots of creativity, uses the latest technological bells and whistles but doesn’t serve their business well, because they (or their web designer) did not know enough about marketing so they end up focusing on appearance rather than effectiveness.

Copying what others are doing is not the solution. Building a site that pleases your friends and family is not the solution. What if they are wrong too? And to make it worse, there's a lot of misleading information out there.

Fortunately “The Ultimate Guide to Creating or Updating Your Small Business Website” was created to help those people get off on the right track.

This is a guided program that takes you step by step through the foundational information you need to create a website that works for your business. Then you can go to a designer with all the relevant information - including your content - already defined. It increases your chances of creating a website that really makes sense for you . It saves you time and money along the way as well, and reduces frustration.

Here’s the link to find out more:

The Ultimate Guide to Creating or Updating Your Small Business Website

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

MS&E 472 - Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar Series

The winter lineup for MS&E 472 - Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar Series is up!

JAX Vineyards

JAX Vineyards

Met the founders at Jennifer Walske's holiday party this year. Good wine.

Effective Google Advertising For A Small Business

You have many options for marketing your small business using Google .... search engine marketing is just one. That is .... optimizing your website to show up high in searches on specific key words in your website content that target your niche market. You want to get on to the first page when people search for your product/service using Google.

Keep in mind that if you optimize your website for searches on Google .... it will also likely do well in searches on other web directories like Bing and Yahoo.

You can also use Google Adsense or Adwords and choose between an image advert or text. The Image advert is more effective especially if in a prominent position on a web page; it is however more expensive. Your advertisement will be displayed on pages with keywords associated with your product or service. So say you sell wine. Then if the word wine is on the page, your advertisement will be displayed there.

The choices are quite complicated but Google has lots of information and videos on the use of Adsense and Adwords. Choose your words carefully. Keeping with the wine theme ....some advertisers will be advertising wine making equipment and supplies. They will go on pages that mention wine making. . Wine is obviously a key word that matches your product and also other words that wine drinkers are familiar with obviously.

Here are a few more suggestions ....

Only start using AdWords if:

1. You know exactly who you are trying to target. What do they like? What can't they stand to live without? What is compelling to them?

2. You have a very compelling proposition for those people. If you do, then you might be able to have success using AdWords.

--Make sure before you start the campaign, you know exactly what your goal is. (E.g: make a sale, get people to opt in to your newsletter, get somebody to call you, etc.)

--Research the words that match up exactly with the product/service you are trying to sell/promote. (Google keyword tool and traffic estimator can help you with your research. Sign up for an AdWords account so you can access them both.)

For instance you wouldn't want to use 'wine' as your keyword. That's way too general and you'd pay for irrelevant clicks. And it's all about relevance at Google. Perhaps 'chardonnay' is a good search term? That part you'll have to figure out with your knowledge and the Google tools.

--Make sure you use your keyword in the ad's title, in the first line of copy, and also that your landing page contains that keyword. Having these three (search term, ad, and landing page) match up is very important and affects your pricing and placement.

Use the AdWords Learning Center as much as possible. They have extremely good tools to help you become successful. Here's the link .....

Google Learning Center

Monday, December 14, 2009

Live Sales Support For Any Small Business

At they provide a live sales support service for small to mid sized businesses.

Here is a brief description of their service .....

Live WebGreeter present on your website will provide immediate personal attention for your customers.

* Visitors no longer have to wait for email responses.

* Compare this with your competitor’s website who responds to emails generated on their website in 24
to 48 hours. Webgreeter on the other hand does it instantaneously. A dedicated team of Trained and Qualified Greeters who can handle multiple chats at a time; proactively greeting your visitors and offering assistance of any kind.

* Compare this to a phone support person, who can only take one call at a time. Their Automated Notification System will alert you of a problem or lead as soon as one is received or generated which means you can react instantly.

* No forwarding is required.

* The right person receives relevant information at the right time.

* Fully customizable chat integration: Personalized chat window and push buttons especially customized to integrate with your website and your brand Scheme. They become an integral part of your website and are viewed
as your own business unit.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Will Small Business Lead The United States Out Of This Recession?

Non-profit visionaries and small business know the course that must be taken and they are taking it.

These "Action People" are not in our government. They are more practical than that. They are the communicators, the true venture capitalists setting up worldwide non-profit foundations (Gates and Buffet for example). They are like the Bill Moyers, perpetually exposing waste fraud and abuse and then going one step further to fix it from the inside. They are the young inspirational members of the small business base in this country that will be tasked with picking up the pieces and re-inventing the future so our government can follow along.

We'll see every form of unique small business inventiveness imaginable - efficiently created, using technology to the max, and not seeking financing to the hilt - only the opportunity to succeed.

Small business has been the historical driver in recovery from recessions. This recession should be no different ..... except the support normally afforded these small business endeavors by the financial industry is lacking.

Existing small businesses with opportunities to expand are hampered in their efforts to grow .... and business startups, while still there are starting with little or no cash dramatically increasing their chances of failing.

I am not an economic expert, but it seems that while lip service is given to support small business by the government and financial sector .... the available credit is going to finance the government itself and those industries chosen by elected officials.

I do worry that these efforts by our Federal government (sic Obama Administration) will slow down if not totally negate any growth we could realize from the small business sector.

In order to return us to economic stability, the US will have to create 250k jobs PER MONTH for the next FIVE YEARS. There is no way that large corporations are willing to create that many American jobs. We're going to need small business.

The strength of the American economy has always been thriving small businesses - not mammoth multinational corporations or "too big to fail" banks. I think the choice is obvious...

Small business and entrepreneurial spirit is the true reflection of authentic American ideals. Those who think all business and capitalism is bad should live accordingly. Go live alone somewhere in the wilderness and attempt to survive strictly off the land for just a week...

Small businesses and entrepreneurs are key...and to do that government needs to get out of the way.

For government to get out of the way we need the conservative revolution to kick the Dem's out of control ..... and kick the Republican party bosses out so we can get back to the values of small government and personal responsibility.

The problem, folks, is job loss. The solution is "real" private sector job creation; not more government service jobs -- which are at best a short-term fix and a long-term liability.

Small business will lead us out of this recession. Small businesses have the speed and flexibility to react and adapt to changing markets and economic conditions ..... and will find a way to succeed.

The little guy with everything to lose does not have government lobbyists, or get bailout money. Instead they survive or fail in the market as it is this month, this quarter, this year. This makes small business much more motiviated to find a way to succeed.

In contrast, big business lumbers through a recession and hopes to weather the storm because they cannot react or change quickly enough. Instead, they complain in the media and get their bailout money to finance "business as usual." This lack of adaptability also killed the dinosaurs.

So our best hope for a sustained recovery ..... comes from small business and entrepreneurs.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How Small Business Can Benefit By Going Bilingual

Because of the increasing cultural diversity in America today, learning Spanish will give you the edge to successfully reach the Hispanic Market.

Currently 11.5 % of the US population speak Spanish at home. By 2050 the number of Spanish speakers is expected to increase to 530 million with the Spanish speaking population of the US alone currently increasing at more than 1 million per year.

Companies should realize the importance or reaching this fast growing Hispanic market. If your business has bilingual employees, the Spanish speaking community won't hesitate to do business with you. You will be able to service their needs without making them feel out of place.

In the private sector, Spanish speakers in an organization have a distinct competitive advantage in the work place. Our Hispanic population continues to grow with no intention to abandon their beloved language. A need for Spanish speakers in the private workplace is a fact.

In the public sector (government and education, for example), Spanish-speaking employees are especially valued. Spanish speakers who handle customer service with a large Hispanic client population can be the difference between a good first impression of the organization and a negative experience.

Having employees learn Spanish can be a great benefit to your business. If you own a business, consider going bilingual and you won't be sorry you did.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why Is Smaller Government Better For Small Business?

In a nutshell smaller government means less regulation and hopefully lower taxes.

This allows small businesses to spend less of their potential profits on compliance and taxes .... and use more of that to grow and avoid the pitfalls that come with living on the edge.

That is why businesses tend to go where government regulations support them and get out of high tax, high regulation states and municipalities (or countries).

Small business is leading the way to smaller government in the US.

It is becoming apparent that the 81-agency US federal government ..... combined with spending at the level the Pentagon consumes ..... simply cannot be afforded any more. It is also becoming apparent that big business, Wall Street, and the existing US federal government have been .... and still are .... in tremendous collusion.

World economics, the current recession, and events such as those in Dubai will restructure the mammoth government industrial complexes that have been growing since World War II. And small business will be there to fill in the gaps, pick up the pieces, and lead the way to more efficient and affordable approaches.

It is a hard way to go but it will happen by default. It's called going broke - printing money until its value is shot - taking credit from others until the risk is so high they take their assets and walk away - becoming a third rate player because the necessary foresight is lacking.

The future is bright for small business. . They are the inspirational members of the greater/industrial business base that will be tasked with picking up the pieces and re-inventing the future. So our government can follow along, using every form of unique inventiveness imaginable - efficiently created, using technology to the max and not seeking financing to the hilt - only the opportunity to succeed.

Put simply ....... small government is better because:

* It means that the government has less power to interfere.

* It means that it has less power to tax or commandeer your income.

* It means that the government has to be more responsive to the citizens and their needs.

* It means that you can keep more of the profits that the company generated.

* It means that you have more freedom to decide what is the best policy for your company rather than the government make those choices for you.

* It means that you have greater freedom on deciding who to hire for your company.

Bottom line .... with less government involvement, you have the power to decide how best to run your business.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Much Better Than Business Blogging .... SBI 2.0

Lets get into how you can use C2's (Content 2.0 or SBI 2.0) unique benefits to create an online business presence that will simply conquer your competition .... with cold facts and the warmth of possibility.

You'll see that NONE of these points can even remotely be considered "blog-like"...

1) SBI! 2.0 is MANY-TO-MANY.

Your visitors do 99% of the work. All you do is review, edit, even optimize. Blogging is ONE-TO-MANY, where you still do all the content-writing.

Blogging is hard work, oft-described as a "monkey on your back." It's fine for a small percentage of users. The rest use it because "everyone else does."

Now, with SBI 2.0, the SBI edge is greater than ever... assuming your goal is to build a profitable e-business.

2) Content 2.0 (C2) Synergizes RSS/Blog It

(Content 2.0 is the new module that converts SBI into SBI 2.0. We tend to use the two terms interchangeably.)

As C2 pages are contributed to the content base, Blog It automatically adds these new pages to the site's RSS feed, pinging every major feed directory.

Subscribers visit. They read and comment. They don't just come to a blog and read YOUR most recent blurb and leave. They explore a full site, not a journal.

Others will then spread this content across sites like Twitter and Facebook, bringing new traffic back to the original SBI site.

Think of C2 as a super content syndicator!

3) SBI 2.0 Lengthens Your Long Tail

50% of any site's search engine traffic is made up of unique keywords. Meaning, only one visitor reached the site by one unique (often obscure) keyword phrase. This is the EXTREME end of Long Tail Traffic. If you include searches that find you a few more times, the majority of traffic is long tail. But it's work to create that much content.

Because C2 explodes the content base, the amount of Long Tail traffic keeps increasing. Diversity of content comes from MANY contributors, not one (you). And diversity means long tail traffic.

For a full explanation of the Long Tail, check out this ....

Long Tail

4) SBI 2.0 Builds Up Under-Utilized Areas Of Your Site

Because SBIers can choose which pages to include C2, they can decide to build traffic and interest only in certain areas of their site. In those areas where they don't want or need visitor contributions, or for those articles where it does not make sense, don't use it.

5) SBI 2.0 Keeps Your Site Active And Vital With REAL Content

Because your visitors churn out lots of free content, your site is frequently updated, even when you're too busy. So each SBI site remains active. The best part is, it does so without any involvement from SBIers.

And with that kind of inertia, visitors can't help but come back again and again. Ditto for the engines.

Ditto for your income.

SBI 2.0 is like an automatic traffic machine!

6) SBI 2.0 Is So Much Cheaper Than Blogging.

So why DO so many people choose to blog?

Because blogging software is free.

But hosting costs $100. And that means you get everything else in SBI, all of which is about building a BUSINESS, not a site or blog, for only $199. And that includes Content 2.0, which enables your visitors to build REAL content, not just comment on what you've written.

Review everything that is in SBI 2.0 .....

SBI Tools

You just can't get all that for $199. Not anywhere.

Blogging marketers tell you that all you need is cheap hosting and free blogging software. But over the following months and years, they'll sell you tools "to make it easier or more effective" that cost you thousands of dollars more.

Meanwhile, for $199 more, SBI provides the invaluable...

A brainstormer that helps you find a niche that is right for YOU, a SMART brainstormer like Brainstorm It, is worth hundreds of dollars. The Google Keyword tool is useful, but it's not made for PUBLISHERS. It's not made to help you make YOUR decisions. You can't buy SBI's features anywhere.

SBI's automated site-blogging combines all the power of a theme-based content site with RSS distribution. You get the best of both worlds, the worst of neither.

The constant updating of information. We delete out-of-date info, update only with what's important. YOU save time and energy, which you can put into your BUSINESS.

Form Build It, E-zines, Sequential Autoresponders, Socialize It... the list goes on and on.

From small things like Link Fix It that makes sure you never have a broken link to big things like the very best small business forums in the world, where you can get all the help you need...

There is simply nothing like SBI 2.0, not at any price.

And that is why...

If you're serious about an online presence .... you need to get started before your competition does:

SBI 2.0

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Picasa Web Albums - Chuck - 2009

I was in DC for a conference at the World Bank and took this photo.

From 2009

Picasa Web Albums - Chuck - 2009

From 2009

I was in Santa Barbara, CA over Thanksgiving, beautiful place.

Morgenthaler's view on leadership and management

I am currently the David Morgenthaler Faculty Fellow at Stanford. He sent me a speech he gave at MIT a few years ago and I just read it tonight. It is quite good. Here is a sample:

"Leadership. The word is mentioned and into many people’s minds, an image of a strong personality instantly appears. Certainly a strong personality is often a major factor in leadership.

But leadership is more than a personality. Much more. It is a function – an activity that every group of two or more people experiences. It may be weak, scattered, aimless, drifting, tossed by external events, capricious, tyrannical or even destructive to the health of the group.

Equally it may be strong, clear, far seeing, decisive, effective, and productive of high group morale and attained objectives.

Usually, it is somewhere along a spectrum within the two – with some parts of the function performed well, and other parts needing improvement.

It is highly situational (and shared) – one or more individuals may try to give strong leadership to a group in one situation and do nothing in the next, and the group (including the titular leader), may willingly follow this guidance in one situation, and, as far as possible ignore it in the next.

And different situations call for widely different major contributions from the recognized leaders. For Gandhi or Mandela principal contributions had to be image, establishing values, and keeping visions and motivations alive. For Roosevelt before World War II, a concealed strategic plan implemented while converting the thinking of a reluctant populace was a prime need of the situation. Eisenhower had to combine strategic thinking and personal political skill to lead and manage the combined forces. Patton had to inspire an unquestioning obedience to demanding orders to accomplish things that were nearly physically impossible and get the effort supported by brilliant staff work. Many entrepreneurial managers have to inspire their teams through technical and market failures that would take the heart out of most people, while convincing doubting backers to keep financing them. And turnaround managers often have to ruthlessly cut personnel to the bone if the organization is to survive.

A realistic appraisal of the leadership function is that many different individuals may contribute the leadership to any particular situation, though perhaps having nothing to do with the next. The CEO’s job is to SEE that leadership happens, not necessarily to perform the task himself/herself. Whatever can be appropriately delegated should be, but the necessary amount of inspection to assure quality must be performed."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SIM Card For International Business Travel

If you do any international travel for your business .... reliable communication is often crucial to a successful business trip. The prefered method of staying in touch is usually a cell phone .... meaning you'll need a SIM card for each location you travel too.

Or maybe not ....

OneSIMcard is a prepaid international SIM card that allows you to take your GSM mobile phone overseas, without incurring high roaming charges from your current wireless service provider.

It is VERY SIMPLE - all you need to do is replace your phone's existing SIM card with international SIM card when you travel. Save up to 85% compared with your regular mobile phone service and even receive calls for FREE in more than 54 countries. OneSimCard international mobile service works in over 150 countries.

If you are using a T-Mobile or AT&T cell phone, chances are that your handset is equipped with a SIM card. A SIM card is a small smart chip that acts as an identification card for your GSM handset.

Your SIM card is smart because it can store phone numbers and even text messages. All SIM cards have unique serial numbers that contain your account information for your wireless service provider. You can take the SIM card out of your GSM phone, and insert it into any other compatible GSM phone, and bingo - your number along with your subscriber information will register with your wireless service provider.

You may already own an original or aftermarket cell phone that you purchased while traveling overseas. If your phone is tri-band or quad-band, it is capable of international mobile roaming. All you need is prepaid GSM service and you're good to go to any of the 150 countries they cover.

To find out more about easy this can be for you go to:

International Cell Phone

Monday, November 30, 2009

SBI 2.0 ...... How To Get More Money (Sales) From Your Business Website

What would you say if you could grab hold of some very lucrative long tail traffic to your business website ..... while building your content base to levels you could never achieve by yourself .... thanks to thousands of interested visitors DAILY?

What if you made a few simple adjustments to your online business presence which achieved the following ....

- 500,000 MORE visitors per month = 17,000 MORE pairs of eyes EVERY single day.

- 1.5 MILLION visitors per month = 50,000 people visiting every DAY

That's right! An extra 50,000 people per day, every day, 24/7

That's exactly what resulted for this example business .... read about it all here:

Increased Website Traffic

Yep, C2 (Content 2.0) has kicked Elad's already hyper-active Web business into overdrive. When he talks about 500 new C2 submissions, what he's really saying is an additional 500 PAGES of free, user-generated, original content.

All Elad had to do was set it loose... and C2 just HAPPENS!

THAT's the true power of the all-new SBI 2.0.

What is C2? Read and be amazed ....

SBI 2.0

It's explosive. Visitors love it. Search engines love it.

And .... you'll love it. Rather .... your business and your bank account will love it.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Can Video / Podcasting Help Market Your Small Business?

This is an easy one … the short answer is yes.

Video is great for marketing and driving traffic to your business website.

Video, only if done right, can help with:

1 - Raising awareness about your business/product
2 - Getting your website on the first page of Google (based on keywords selected)
3 - Increasing customer retention

Video offers a more personal strategy for prospective clients to feel familiar with you. It also helps your website get a better search engine ranking.

Video Podcasting is an underused and powerful tool that can pay for itself and market products at the same time. The revenue from podcasting is doubling every year while the costs are staying the same. 100 million people are d27nloading podcasts from iTunes every year.

Perhaps most interestingly, advertisers are starting to fall over themselves to sponsor podcasts. Although they realize podcasts’ audiences are small, they also realize they are niche and very loyal.

If someone has bothered to go to iTunes, download the podcast, transferred it to their iPhone, and then watch it …. they are pretty likely to be interested in whatever the podcast is about, and therefore also interested in related products.

In one very successful podcaster’s words …. why spend a fortune on advertising on a TV show with an audience of 5million when you really only want to reach the 100,000 people interested in your product? With podcasting you are spending a fraction of the money on a show that reaches your targeted 100,000 people in a much more measurable way.

If businesses create a regular show around their brand that isn’t the traditional business podcast (i.e. what has our company been doing this year) ….. but is a piece of entertainment based around their brand …. they will get a wider audience riveted. Once you get them drawn in … you can strengthen the relationship via a mailing list (have a way for them to opt-in). You can also link directly to some specific product or service related to the podcast. They’re interested in the “subject” after watching your “show” … and are now primed to take the action you want. Buy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Basic SEO Tips For Small Business Websites

The three most basic SEO tips are: (a) write to and for your customer because (b) if you write interesting content people will voluntarily link to you--Google loves that--and (c) if you don't write to and for your customer, you may be first on Google but you'll be last on closed business. Reciprocal links that are established with any and all comers, regardless of their business relationship to you, are discouraged by Google.

Keep these 3 tenets as the basic focus of your SEO efforts ….

1. Keyword Research is Critical - choose keyword phrases for each page of the site, each page should focus on different content, so therefore have different keywords.

2. Develop Ongoing Content Strategy (blog is easy) - create content around the keywords you are trying to rank for, and be consistent with publishing content, tag this content, and write it using the keywords (naturally though, don't try to hard with this).

3. Focus on Relevance in Your Content - you can optimize your site all you want, but in the end it's a matter of how relevant you are to the searchers queries. Blogging will contribute to your site being indexed more frequently, so if you stay relevant, you have a greater opportunity to rank higher.

At a very high level, SEO is comprised of linking, on page/meta data content, and other website mechanics (e.g. redirects, trusted URL, etc.). IMHO the page content aspect of SEO is the most crucial.

Start by examining your keywords. Most companies underestimate the importance of this exercise. From a marketing standpoint, nailing your keywords and phrases is the foundation for your online marketing communications and content strategy.

Here’s a link to a newsletter on keyword selection where you can download a worksheet to help you decide on the right keywords …..

Keyword Selection

Then make sure your website pages are optimized for the keywords and phrases—and not all on one page. Group your keywords and phrases so that any given page is optimized for 3-5 keywords. Make sure that your meta title tags and description especially included the 3-5 keywords/phrases for which you’re optimizing a given page.

For more about page content, see this article on boosting natural page rank ….

Boosting Page Rank

Finally, connect with the SEO experts. Follow them on Twitter and subscribe to their blog posts. There’s a Twitter list of SEO folks already set up at @copywriter4u/B2B-SEO-pros …. go follow the list.

Below are a few links with information on good SEO content.

High Rankings



Search Engine Land

SEO Traffic Spider

Monday, November 23, 2009

Is Twitter Part Of Your Small Business Marketing Strategy

The interesting thing (to me) is even though there are so many Twitter users, less than 10% are active on a regular basis. In fact, I read most users have less than 10 posts and same for followers.

Even if Twitter is included in your marketing strategy, without commitment and regular contribution to build a following it isn't really a strategy. Twitter should be included in your marketing mix, but not how I see many people using it.

So many times, I see people using Twitter to send automatic direct messages (DMs) when someone follows them promoting their product, or they have automatic tweets set up to go out at the same time, everyday, that say the same thing.

This is not how Twitter is used effectively and to most, these methods are seen as spam.

While tweets can be set up to automatically post, there is a way to set them up so that they aren't seen at the same time day after day. You can stagger your messages throughout the day and at different times on different days.

But you can't just use automatic tweets and believe that Twitter will be a successful medium for you. Twitter is a part of social networking. The key word is networking. Twitter is a means to connect and build relationships from all walks of life and from around the county. For a business owner, or company, it's a way to branch out from Chamber Mixers or BNI meetings on a local level. Don't just tweet or read. Reply. Retweet. Talk.

In my opinion, and based on the experiences that I've had with Twitter, the strategy that you come up with and implement includes finding followers and following people who you can connect with ….. and then after striking up a relationship on Twitter, moving the conversation to email, phone, or in person.

Social media is all the buzz. I encounter many small businesses who are allured by the fact it is 'free'. They think they can ditch all other marketing and focus exclusively on Twitter and Facebook. (Most will be very disappointed.)

I think Twitter can work to support a sound marketing plan. (That means actually having a well-planned, diverse marketing plan.) However, too many just tweet silly things without thinking about relevant keywords that may lure new followers.

It's important to think about your customer/prospect base. It's not what YOU think is important, but what your customer/prospects do.

The bottom line is to figure out what will build loyalty and increase sales.

Friday, November 20, 2009

How To Find A Reliable Supplier For Your Small Business is a web-based, business-to-business community of buying professionals dedicated to collecting and disseminating supplier performance evaluations based on the peer input from their community members. They mainly focus on the overseas suppliers in Asian, Eastern European, and Latin American countries ..... and their small and medium size business customers in the countries such as the US, Canada, countries of the European Union, and other developed countries.

In today’s competitive global economic environment, the pressures of lowering costs throughout the supply chain are enormous. But access to supplier performance information about overseas suppliers remains limited. At, they want to close this performance information gap by collecting the supplier performance information from the businesses with actual experience.

By doing so, they believe that promotes excellence in suppliers ..... and enables better visibility for the members in their supplier selection, sourcing, and buying processes, as well as in partnering with potential suppliers.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How Do You Start A New Small Business ....

This is not meant to be all inclusive advice for how to start a new small business .... but it will definitely get you pointed in the right direction with a practical roadmap to follow.

To illustrate the actions you need to commit to I'm going to use opening a new restaurant as an example. It's easier to relate to a real life tangible example than just a bunch of esoteric thoughts and "tips". You can glean the basic ideas from this real life example and adjust as necessary to fit your chosen specific business .......

First, understand how much money you have to invest .... and assume you are going to need twice as much or more--so aim lower in your initial investment expectations.

As you probably know, the restaurant business is in severe recession right now. Restaurants are closing their doors all over because dining out is considered a luxury and we are in a back-to-basics economy.

That said, how do you get started? Here's what I recommend.

1. With restaurants withering all over, there are many for sale right now. You can get a already running operation with all the equipment on the cheap right now. You might even get landlords to renegotiate rent rather than losing a tenant for 6 months to a year or more. Buying an existing operation gives the advantage of being able to get revenue right away and not spending 3-6+ months on build out, getting permits and licenses, etc. Also, there is existing staff. The downside? If they're failing, you need to fix stuff and grow. If you are buying an existing operation, it's a buyer's market--you are in the drivers seat; don't overpay.

2. Talk to a business broker about what's available in your area. Check or for listings. Commercial realtors may also have some listings. You might want to check the local classified section too.

3. Spend time with a commercial realtor checking out real estate locations to understand traffic, rent tiers, physical locations, structural design issues, etc.

4. Talk to your local city about licensing and permitting requirements. You may get quite an adventure if you intend to serve alcohol. I have seen restaurants take 6+ months to get occupational or health licenses before opening. That's a lot of rent to pay while waiting for the government.

5. Talk to your bankers and local restaurant supply store management. They can probably tell you who has restaurants with good potential/track record of success but are experiencing difficulty in the current economy.

6. As with any small business, controlling costs is vital to survival. Avoid fixed expenses as much as possible. Negotiate for deals on everything. There is plenty of used restaurant equipment and supplies out there--no need to buy new when you can get stuff for 10/20 cents on the dollar.

7. Read everything you can about marketing and promotion. When you are ready to open, you need to drag people in and let everyone know you're open. Read the articles "How to Advertise Your Small Business on the Internet," "How to Build a Really Good Website for Under $100," and "How to Write and Issue Press Releases for FREE" on

You will also need to establish a compelling brand for your restaurant. Great Name, Logo, signage, business cards, menues, promotional flyers/ ads, website and markeking plan.

The most crucial part of starting a new business is creating an appropriate brand Identity that represents the desired attributes of your company's services .... and puts in play creative initiatives that will attract your target market.

Unfortunately, too many new business owners try to save money and make the mistake of trying to create their own brand ..... which in the end doesn't pay off.

Brand Identity is the foundation of any business or product, and it should always project a highly professional image. I strongly suggest you hire a professional to do it. This will ensure that your business is started the right way with a strong foundation.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Free Marketing Ideas For Small Business

Startups and small businesses face the ultimate chicken and egg situation, they need to grow their businesses but don't have any cash to spend on marketing. The solution is mastering free marketing such as search engine optimisation (SEO), public relations (PR), email marketing, affiliate marketing, guerilla marketing and partnership marketing.

Marketing doesn't need to cost thousands when you can do it yourself .... and provides a wealth of resources in how to wield the power of free marketing.

Written by marketing experts who have worked for leading brands such as Sainsburys, Halifax, The Sun and Thomson Holidays, you can learn everything you need to drive sales for your new business and even have telephone access to your very own marketing director if you need further advice.

If you want to get your business off to the right start without spending any money on marketing, start with these 10 free marketing ideas that won't cost you a penny...

Free Marketing Ideas For Small Business

Friday, November 13, 2009

Time and Expense Management Solutions For Small Business

Replicon is a market leading provider of SaaS based time and expense management solutions. Currently, Replicon has more than 6700 companies (totaling over 1.2 million users), and the client list ranges from <5 user companies to 30,000+ user companies.

Replicon’s solution would fall under your Business Software and/or Project Management categories as our flagship program, "Web TimeSheet" comes in both a time tracking oriented version (Time & Attendance edition) and a project-oriented version (Project & Billing edition).


Web TimeSheet Project & Billing edition is designed to track hours against projects and tasks for the purpose of managing project timelines, and monitoring project costs and billing:

* Track time against clients, projects, tasks
* Compare actual vs. estimated hours/costs
* Remind users when timesheets are due
* Set up multi-level approvals
* Get real-time reports on project hours/costs/billing

The Web TimeSheet Time & Attendance edition allows you to track your employees' work and time off hours, monitor employee attendance, and collect the data you need for payroll:

* Log time with the easy-to-use timesheet
* Book/approve time off in a calendar view
* Remind users when timesheets are due
* Set up multi-level approvals
* Get real-time reports on time/attendance


As previously mentioned, companies using Web TimeSheet range in size from < 5 users and up. It is a very scalable solution and does not require an "enterprise" or "professional" package. It has proven ideal for start-ups as it's a solution that can grow as the company grows.

It also doesn't require a company to purchase a "packaged deal" and pay for features they will not use. Each software product from Replicon can be used separately as a standalone solution, or can be seamlessly integrated into a full software suite.

For more information go to ..... Time Tracking Software

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lunch with the President of Stanford University

Biography: Office of the President: Stanford University

I had the opportunity (along with 10 other faculty) to have lunch today with Stanford President John Hennessy. It was my second chance to meet him as he had the new faculty over to his house a few weeks back for a reception. I have been impressed with him when I have heard him speak so far. The discussion today ranged from Stanford's response to the economic crisis and handling of the endowment, distance/online education, entrepreneurship and the OTL/medical school and whether the university should remain in a single location or whether a significant research arm could be developed on the East Coast or overseas. It was a fun lunch and I am thrilled to be in a community with such interesting and entrepreneurial fellow faculty members.

Small Business Development Resource

The Association of Small Business Development Centers (ASBDC) represents America's Small Business Development Center Network -- the most comprehensive small business assistance network in the United States and its territories.

The mission of the network is to help new entrepreneurs realize their dream of business ownership, and to assist existing businesses to remain competitive in the complex marketplace of an ever-changing global economy.

Hosted by leading universities, colleges, and state economic development agencies, and funded in part through a partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, approximately 1,000 service centers are available to provide no-cost consulting and low-cost training.

To find your local SBDC visit Small Business Development Resource

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Newest paper

This is actually a revision of an old paper but here is the introduction.

The question of why some firms develop more valuable resources and capabilities than others has been a central one for strategy researchers. The resource-based view (RBV) of the firm has been a central theoretical framework for explaining heterogeneity in firm performance (Barney, 1991; Peteraf, 1993; Wernerfelt, 1984). There is a growing consensus that differences in firm performance are driven by higher order capabilities to develop or reconfigure bundles of resources that will generate value over time (Teece et al., 1997; Winter, 2003).

However, we still do not understand the source of dynamic capabilities and why some managers are able to develop more valuable resources than others. A growing stream of literature examines how managers may play an active, cognitive role in making bets and predicting which resources and capabilities will be more valuable than others. Managers face numerous biases as they attempt to understand the competitive environment and its trends in enough detail to search for a cluster of resources that will provide competitive advantage (Gavetti and Rivkin, 2007). Cognitive representations have been identified by prior research as important in shaping decision-making as well as focus and interpretation (Huff and Jenkins, 2002, Fiol and Huff, 1992, Walsh, 1995, Simon, 1991, Weick, 1995, Narduzzo, Rocco and Warglien, 2000). Yet, existing work has focused on the content of mental models rather than on the use of mental models for certain capabilities, such as predicting what resources will be more valuable in the near future.

The purpose of this paper is to address the gap in our understanding of the sources of dynamic capabilities. We show that one initial source of firm-level dynamic capabilities is the cognitive representations of its founder(s) that result from their careers. Conceptually linking the individual and firm levels, we extend the line of work that recognizes that strategy arises from managers’ cognitive theories about the world (Gavetti and Rivkin, 2007, Huff and Jenkins, 2002, Porac, Thomas and Baden-Fuller, 1989). We demonstrate that improved cognitive maps of industry trends and causal relationships come from specific types of industry experience and guide the successful recombination of resources, routines and capabilities.


We extend the microfoundations of strategy (Gavetti, 2005) and seek to answer the question: When organizations are putting together new bundles of routines and capabilities, what determines who puts together the more valuable and difficult to imitate bundles? Specifically this paper is interested in whether firms gain a competitive advantage through dynamic capabilities in the form of improved cognitive representations that the founders acquired via prior work experience? The results support the main thesis of the paper that the answer is yes. We suggest a novel mechanism through which dynamic capability arises from improved cognitive maps of the competitive landscape. We examine the micro-foundations of resource and capability development by theorizing how cross-functional experience results in variation in cognition due to the well-known psychological phenomenon of partition dependence. We extend and build on prior research that has suggested that differences in managerial cognition lead to variation in strategic decisions (Tripsas and Gavetti, 2000, Adner and Helfat, 2003, Porac et al., 1989). Our primary proposition, Hypothesis 1, that individuals with cross-functional experience will build more accurate cognitive representations, resulting in assembling more valuable combinations of resources/capabilities was supported. Our analysis shows both environmental and individual-level contingencies when improved cognitive representations are expected to be of greater importance for making predictions on trends and the future value of resource positions. Hypothesis 2a was also supported in that those remaining in the same industry context experienced higher performance. Hypothesis 2b was that after a significant industry disruption, cognitive representations built up through prior cross-functional experience would become a liability. The results show that post-1997 the impact of cross-functional experience became negative and significant as individuals who had built up mental models before the internet boom mistakenly attempted to apply them after the disruption to the industry. Similarly, when we separately ran the analysis on the pre-1997 time period and post-1997 time period, the coefficients on cross-functional experience are positive and significant for the pre- time period and are significantly lower (indistinguishable from zero) for the post-1997 time period. The data tended to support hypothesis 3, that cross-functional experience leads those who experienced success to higher performance. After initial results in Table 3 showed that more highly educated individuals appeared to benefit more, once additional controls were introduced, we failed to continue to find support for hypothesis 4. The results appear to support the idea that a more recent cross-functional experience is more useful and that the benefit fades with time, supporting hypothesis 5. This result supports the notion that for predicting trends, a more recent cross-functional experience is quite important. The overall pattern of results, under a number of different specifications, appears to provide robust evidence consistent with an account where experience with a broader set of responsibilities and functional decision rights leads to more balanced cognitive representations to guide strategic decisions.

This study extends and challenges existing work on the resource-based view and particularly on the ability to restructuring and identify more valuable assets and capability bundles. Prior work on the sources of performance-enhancing resources and capabilities has focused on the inheritance of search routines or superior information. While this moves our understanding forward, we still lack a psychological foundation for identifying where differences arise in cognition or beliefs about the future value of routines, resources or capabilities. Rather than asking what forces constrain the strategic options under consideration or factors that lead to greater homogeneity and mimicry in strategic choices, we examine how certain managers and firms uniquely make predictions leading to differentiation and higher performance. We build on work showing the strategic importance of framing and individual level cognition (Kaplan and Tripsas, 2008; Tripsas and Gavetti, 2000). We examine a different cognitive spillover mechanism: where individuals appear to transfer to a subsequent firm more accurate representations as a result of the prior founding experience. We build on the theoretical framework for the psychological foundations of capabilities’ development laid out around cognition and the integration of knowledge (Grant, 1996; Gavetti and Rivkin, 2007; Gavetti, 2005) by extending the theory to propose mechanisms by which differences in cognition emerge around variation in work experiences. Similarly, we provide previously missing theoretical account for when the managers of firms notice trends and change the bundles of routines and capabilities they hold and for how they know in what directions to change them.

Extending earlier efforts to disaggregate the influence on business-unit profits of industry, corporate-parent and market share effects, scholars have examined the influence of firm-level effects (Schmalensee, 1985). Examining lower levels of analysis shows that industry-level effects are approximately half as important as business effects in determining business-unit profits (Rumelt, 1991, McGahan and Porter, 1997). Yet, with the exception of work on top management teams and entrepreneurship, much less work has looked at the influence of even lower levels of analysis (including individuals) on performance (Higgins and Gulati, 2006, Johnson, 2007, Mollick, 2008). Why do some firms outperform others even when in the same industry? Prior work has shown that individuals with firm-specific human capital can be a source of competitive advantage (Hatch and Dyer, 2004). Our contribution is to use psychological foundations to show how cognitive representations specific to the competitive landscape embedded in individuals can function as a difficult to imitate dynamic capability, guiding firms to build competitive advantages.

Much prior work has focused on the content of cognitive representations, but significantly less is known about their origins and the usefulness of certain types of representations (Walsh, 1995). We provide evidence that certain types of work experience can lead to representations that have a higher likelihood of breaking out of the strategic status quo and predicting the development of resources leading to greater performance. However, we also show the downside of relying on these models when a very significant industry change occurs. In a very fluid phase in the industry, cognitive flexibility appears to be more important (Furr, 2009). As noted in Walsh’s (1995) review, we still have unanswered questions for future research about the relationship between the content of a cognitive representation and the information environment it represents. Others have shown that there are differences between accuracy and the usefulness of cognitive representations when simplifying and screening out unnecessary information may be of greater importance (Starbuck and Milliken, 1988), especially as the amount of information available multiplies.
The findings also have implications for the entrepreneurship literature. Our account provides a complementary theory of why managers and entrepreneurs may leave and go outside of their firms to work for others or to start their own ventures. Most organizations tend to become more rigid over time. If individuals within the same firm can develop substantially different cognitive representations of the competitive landscape due to differences in types of work experience and the accumulation of psychological biases, then individuals can begin to have fundamental disagreements with the organization. Furthermore, due to the inertia and rigidity of the existing bundles of capabilities, it becomes increasingly difficult to move the organization to a new set of resources and capabilities that individuals perceive will provide competitive advantage according to their representations of the competitive landscape. Some individuals leave for new organizations due to increased rigidity in bundles combined with cognitive maps drifting away from the increasingly small set of recombinations possible within the firm or from an inability to convince others to select their bundles of capabilities. Differences in the accuracy of cognitive representations, particularly concerning trends and shifts in the competitive landscape may also be a reason why individuals voluntarily leave firms. Individuals may choose to move to other firms or start their own new ventures when disagreements arise, when they see opportunities others do not, or when the existing firm seems incapable of exploiting quickly due to inertia or loss of plasticity (Klepper and Sleeper, 2005; Klepper, 2007).

In conclusion, we have developed and tested a model that links psychological theory to dynamic capabilities and heterogeneity in firm performance. Variation in career experiences leads to variation in the extent of known psychological biases such as partitioning dependence, and then variation in the extent of these biases results in differences in cognitive representations that function as a dynamic capability providing a map to future bundles of resources that will provide a performance advantage.

Monday, November 9, 2009

David Morgenthaler

I got to meet David Morgenthaler for a breakfast meeting this morning. His son was a Stanford MBA and he set up a fund in his son's name. So I am the current David Morgenthaler II Faculty Fellow at Stanford.

Mr. Morgenthaler was extremely nice and humble despite his tremendous success as a serial entrepreneur and one of the early venture capitalists. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet him and his wife. We had a lot to talk about since he is an MIT alum and lives in Cleveland, Ohio. He invited me to come and meet his other son and the partners at his firm as well.

Small Business Tools For Basic Project Management and Accounting

SME business owners should have access to basic project management and accounting tools that allow them to easily manage their projects and automate their team's data entry for things like time on activities, expenses, distance traveled, and products sold on the road or at the job site.

BillZone is a product that allows small business owners to automate all these activities so that more time can be spent on their business. Employees and contractors simply enter their information using computers or PDA devices, and the employer or the bookkeeper can run all the customer invoices in a single day instead of managing hundreds of timesheets.
One of its strengths is that it is designed to work with Windows, Mac, and Linux, and with most browsers available on those platforms. All financial reports are in PDF format, delivered right to the desktop. Since it is Software as a Service (SaaS), there is no setup or expertise required by the business owner.

The software was also designed to deliver simple project management tools, so that owners can set up projects and then run reports to see project statuses in real-time (how much has been burned vs estimated as of today) and see how well they have done over time.

For more information look over these sites .....

* Bill Zone

* Why Basic Project Management Tools Are Good

Friday, November 6, 2009

Functional Visibility Branding .... Real Life Example

In one pet grooming and boarding business, they use large soft plastic key tags (advertising specialties) imprinted with their business name and their telephone number. The tags are large and bright yellow, and they use them as dog tags.

Customers are told that, while they are away, if the dog gets out (although they haven't had an escape in 20 years!), the regular dog tag with owner's phone number is useless (because the owner is away from home). And even when the owner is home and *they* lose the dog, their phone number is still uselss because they will be out trying to find the dog. In either case, they need to keep the businesses number (sic dog tag) on the dog at all times.

Also, these tags are large and bright and the grooming and boarding business tells the owner that people may not stop to pick up a stray dog without a tag. But will stop for a dog wth a tag - and their tag is easy to see.

They give these keytag/dogtags away free and leave them on the dog's collar when it goes home. At the dog park or on walks, other owners see the tags, enquire and they get a constant stream of new business, both for grooming and for boarding.

It's easy to see why this works. This business gives something away that is useful for dog owners to ensure they use it .... and while it helps them it also helps promote the dog grooming and boarding bsuiness at the same time.

This is a perfect example of how creativity is an important marketing skill.

So ... what creative ideas can you come up with for YOUR business?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Small Business Advice .... Add That Personal Touch

Every small business should heed this advice .... add that 'personal touch' and a sense of genuine caring from you so that your customers feel important.

This type of 'personal caring' hasn't changed in centuries, and I doubt it ever will. People will always want to feel listened to and expect top quality for their dollar. Your customers/clients are no different.

Keeping them on the radar...and making them FEEL as if they are still on your radar is of utmost importance.

With regard to your business, you could ......

* Send out postcard reminders. A great site for this is They actually send out some really cool cards in direct mail based on what you've written. I really like their service after testing them a few times.

* Make a quick phone call or send an email shortly after your engagement .... just to confirm that you are interested in this client and that you care about their needs.

* Start getting involved in social media marketing. Since you want to promote your goods/services, I recommend that you start tweeting on Twitter and have a profile on LinkedIn and/or a 'page' or 'group' on Facebook. In these venues, you could have special coupons or giveaways solely for your followers that would give them a heads-up preview and make them feel special.

You also have the opportunity to answer specific questions and establish the concept that you are the go-to person for your specific goods/services.

These social media sites will also help you develop a more personal relationship with your prospects and/or clients.

I know I have mentioned this before, but I am still a big fan of the thank you card , with a few business cards in the envelope and a discount offer, or free "something" with a referral.

Actually I like (1) business card refridgerator magnet, and (10) business cards.

I just think that, especially in an age when many people may have clients that you will never meet, or are in another city, that people will carry your card to pass along if they are happy with your service.

I know it sounds "old school", but how else do you get people in another city to remember you at a moments notice when their peers say, "Hey, you wouldn't know anyone that does_____, would you ?"

Monday, November 2, 2009

Tip For A New Small Business .... Free (or Low Cost) Marketing Ideas

I don't believe it is impossible to succeed in business without an advertising and marketing budget. How much you need to spend will depend on your business and your industry. If you are a retail shop then a certain amount of advertising will be necessary, perhaps. If you are a service business, you may need to spend some money on marketing.

In the construction industry, for example, you are likely to know people in the industry before you start your own business, and a few telephone calls to a few acquaintances may be all that is necessary to get the ball rolling. After that maintaining contact with as many industry people as possible could get you all you the business you want.

In fact, I would encourage a small business, regardless of the amount of money they have available, to leverage their friends, family and acquaintances. Make a list of everyone you know (or, more importantly, who knows you), call these people and ask for their help - tell them briefly about your business (in no more than 20 seconds) and ask them who they know who could help you get started or expand. Ask your friend to speak to their friend and tell them something about you, then call your friend's friend and ask *them* if they know someone who could help you.

As long as you are asking for help, you are likely to get help. Start selling and trying to get an order and people clam up. That sort of thing makes it a cold call and people don't like cold calls these days. But ask for their help and people are less likely to blow you off. If they can help you, they wll pass you on. If they want what you have to offerf, they will tell you, "Hey! I need some of that. Come and see me!"

I guess you could call it networking - I call it leveraging.

Here's some other simple ideas ..........

* Good Base Materials (business cards, brochures, flyers, website) are the first thing I would invest in.

* Then Public Relations (Press Releases & Other Media Marketing, local Chamber of Commerce, community events/activities)

* Establishing great lead generation (special reports, listbuilding, customer referral programs)

For most small businesses these activities can be done for relatively low cost .... and can create enough of a return to start costlier marketing efforts.

For example ......

1. Business Cards - To get 250 or 500 business cards, even if they are just black and white with your name and address and business details, should cost less then $50. Give them to everyone you meet. If you think that someone you meet may know someone who needs your services .... then give them two and ask that they pass it on to someone else who they think may need your services.

2. Flyers - If this seems like a suitable means of advertising for your business it can be done for very little. Copies can be had for about 6cents a page or less, in black and white. So for 500 A4 flyers this is $30. Or do A5 and get twice as many for half the price. Getting them into mailboxes or hung on doors is another thing. But sometimes you need to invest a little time to get some return. Later on it may be smarter to pay someone else to drop them off. But if you are really scrapping for dollars .... doing it yourself is low cost.

3. Public Notice boards - Many shopping center's have public notice boards. Some require that you use provided cards to write your message on. Others allow whatever to be put up. While sometimes they start to look messy, it can be a way to get your name out a little more.

4. Classifieds - Often it can be quite expensive to buy display ad space in newspapers. However placing a classified add can be relatively cheap. Most papers have a section that has business categories, and you can advertise in the most relevant category. It is lower cost, and you may be advertising alongside other people in the same type of business, but I think the response to a lot of classifieds are pot luck mostly anyway.

5. Adwords - While many people do send hundreds or thousands of dollars per day on adwords marketing, It is by far the lowest cost way to get into search results (admittedly to the side and not always at the top) and take advnatage of online markets. But if you have a fairly low competition market, spending $1 per day at 9cents a click is hardly going to kill you. That is just $30 per month, assuming that you use the full $1 budget each day.

6. Joint Ventures (partnering) - A small business could also partner with other small businesses. For example, a retail store could partner with two of their business neighbors. They could promote a special event together in the local newspaper. Say a 1/4 page ad costs $300 and they want to run the ad for three days prior to the big event. If one business were to do this it would cost them $900 but by partnering with the other two businesses it only costs each business $300. This would get them three days worth of ads at the cost of just one day .... and their event becomes even bigger by being part of a multi-store event potentially drawing in the other stores customers as well as their own.

7. Creative Marketing - Take full advantage of YouTube and start your own very free and very noticeable viral marketing campaign. All you need is the default Windows Movie Maker, perhaps a few sound clips of yourself (or video clips) talking about your business and images that give the viewer a proper and clear visual as to what you are trying to sell, promote, etc. Having a few of your blogging friends add your logo or banner to their website wouldn't hurt, either, that way two or three keywords pertaining to your business could be added to their site header making their blog show up in more results, meaning your ad would be given a wider audience. Everyone wins. Search the web for radio stations that only broadcast online, and check out how much they charge for advertising plugs on-air.

8. Give-Aways - T-shirts, buttons, magnets, mugs, bumper stickers, car door magnets and anything that the average person uses daily is another great way to promote. Spend a small part of your budget on any of the above and hand them out for free. You'll be remembered for it, and gain profits.

What's the best free or low cost marketing approach (OK ... in my opinion)?

The best and cheapest way to market a business is to use ones existing customers fully .... simply give them a “How’s things?” call every other month or two and you’ll be surprised at how much extra business this generates.

You should also ask all customers .... once you have fulfilled your promises to them .... for a couple of referrals. Ensure that they are good referrals and you’re closing average will be above average.

Here is a real world example of one small businnesses experience ......

My wife needed some work done on her car but didn't want to pay the high price quoted at the local dealer or garage. She was out running some errands and happened to pick up one of those "Thrifty Nickle" weeklys at the mall. You know those publications that advertise local businesses.

She found an ad in there for "JB's Auto Services". She called him up and "JB" came right to the house and fixed her car ... at a price she did somersaults over. JB has even found me broken down on the freeway and got me back on "my wheels". He's come to our house many times, found me on the freeway, gone to my daughter's college campus, caught up with my son's car in the parking lot at his work, and lots of other "going out of his way to take care of us". I could tell you a ton of stories where JB saved the day. Service, service, service ... caring about us and the situation. Doing whatever it takes to get things right ... at a cost much less than what it was really worth (in both quality and customer service).

JB now has his own garage and still will come to wherever we are with his "mechanic on wheels van". If he can't fix it onsite ... he now takes it to his very own garage. He gets the parts at best price, arranges for state inspections, works with insurance companies (if necessary ... do you have kids? LOL), and basically does everything soup to nuts ... at all hours of the day and night. Plus ... with a smile, a chuckle, a hug, and a "God Bless".

Needless to say we've referred probably 15-20 "new customers" to JB ourselves. Plus each of our friends has probably referred 5-10 apiece. That's just us and our experience too.

So from that one little ad in the Thrifty Nickle (which we found out later JB ran for only 1 day) ... we found our own personal "mechanic with a heart". Now JB has his own shop and a ton of referal clients just from us and our friends. We also have a good friend who is more than just "our car guy". He's become very popular in our community and his business is booming. More than enough work to keep him VERY busy..

Moral of the story ... from little acorns grow big trees. You can start small ... and no telling what you'll grow into.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bringing Entrepreneurial Ideas to Life

Bringing Entrepreneurial Ideas to Life

We just submitted a brand new paper.

Organizational design in the context of new venture development is particularly challenging due to initially severe resource constraints. Deepening our understanding of differential productivity in the startup resource assembly process is therefore important. We address the twin questions of what assets are important to venture performance, and under what conditions are those assets especially important? We do so by considering initial venture idea assets and founder contracting experience. The resource-based view of the firm stresses developing the right assets, which accords with idea assets. Firm boundary theories of the firm emphasize structuring relationships in the right way given a set of organizational assets, which accords with founder contracting experience. Using unique survey data, we find that neither view by itself is as important as both theories taken together. We therefore advance an integrated perspective by showing that new ventures perform better when they both identify valuable resources and also assemble human assets with expertise in structuring organizational arrangements to commercialize those ideas. An important implication is that organizational resources have a range of potential values, and that realizing the upper range of value capture involves the additional ability to structure organizational relationships.

Why Do Start-Up Small Businesses Fail?

Below will give you an idea of why Start-ups fail a lot of times.

However, the first few points will also give you an idea of what VCs look for in a start-up venture before they consider investing. Apart from the below pointers, VCs also look out for the amount of skin the "owners" have in the start-up.

1. The Idea .... The foremost thing is the idea behind starting the venture (business). The foundation of this idea is of primary importance. If it's not given a comprehensive thought and planning .... then it will only see DOOM's DAY.

2. Execution of this plan .... Execution is critical. If done well then one can sail through with a little less money as well. However, this is where most start-ups are blown off.

3. Management .... Amateurs with lack of experience on planning both actions and money, lose out in the race. Most of the time they are at the losing end simply because they are too early in the business ... often because of ROSY pictures painted in their minds (unrealistic and unsupported expectations). This is still better than another worse condition. That being that too often some management of start-up companies have double standards. The idea shown is different from what they actually want to gain. It could be a short term loss making venture that is planned only for quick personal gains. This is the worst scenario.

4. Run-out of Money ..... It depends where the funding is coming from obviously. Venture capitalists today are known to take more than a year to go through the analysis of profitability of an idea. At the same time they are looking at an investment period of a max of 4-5 years and expect aggressive profits. This is a situation that puts pressures on the very vision and forces of the core management team to look for short term gains.

The consequence is, they lose long term vision and slip into "money drains". If the money is coming from conventional HNI investors, then they start looking for early results since there is no understanding of life cycle and the business both. The situation boils down to .... "You said, this would happen. So why has this not happened?" It generally comes within 3-4 months. Lack of patience and fading trust, stops the committed funds that were needed to survive.

5. Run-out of Commitment .... Usually, markets don't perceive new players as genuine long term players because there is so much generalization. This can be thoroughly demotivating. Pressures mount up and investors ratchet up more pressures. This makes the Management Team lose focus completely. So it also looks like they have lost commitment. However, this is not the case many times. It is just that the conducive environment for SUCCESS is snatched away.

6. Investors are those people who invest money for medium/long term gains. These gains have to be spread over time. The better the support system for any business, the better it performs. But, it is strange that no one understands this when it comes to investing in new ventures.

WHY do people not look at long term investment, when it comes to start-ups? All Fortune companies were also start-ups when they began. It is only over a long period of time that they have become so BIG. People will easily play safe by investing money for 25 years in a Govt. company / Fortune company but not start-ups.

There is lack of a belief system. This is one of the big reasons for dooming start-ups. A full fledged support system should be created to ensure success and over a longer time, not just 3-4 years. If the idea is right, SUCCESS is certain. Usually most ideas are good, if implemented properly and are need based. No doubt the risk is high, but gains are even higher.

7. Due to all these factors and a few others, start-up companies have a huge problem in attracting talent. So a big compromise needs to be made on this account. Also, technology may be a cause of concern since it costs a lot of money and returns are not as quick as one would demand.

So start-ups are constrained by these and several other factors, to ensure FAILURE. That may sound like a pessemisstic view .... but not really. I wanted to hit you between the eyes with some reality so you'll wake-up .... and put in the effort necessary to avoid the above pitfalls. Do that ... and you won't be a failure. You'll be one of the success we celebarte and point to.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oprah's 2008 address at Stanford

Oprah talks to graduates about feelings, failure and finding happiness

Not a small topic this is, finding happiness. But in some ways I think it's the simplest of all. Gwendolyn Brooks wrote a poem for her children. It's called "Speech to the Young : Speech to the Progress-Toward." And she says at the end, "Live not for battles won. / Live not for the-end-of-the-song. / Live in the along." She's saying, like Eckhart Tolle, that you have to live for the present. You have to be in the moment. Whatever has happened to you in your past has no power over this present moment, because life is now.

But I think she's also saying, be a part of something. Don't live for yourself alone. This is what I know for sure: In order to be truly happy, you must live along with and you have to stand for something larger than yourself. Because life is a reciprocal exchange. To move forward you have to give back. And to me, that is the greatest lesson of life. To be happy, you have to give something back.

I know you know that, because that's a lesson that's woven into the very fabric of this university. It's a lesson that Jane and Leland Stanford got and one they've bequeathed to you. Because all of you know the story of how this great school came to be, how the Stanfords lost their only child to typhoid at the age of 15. They had every right and they had every reason to turn their backs against the world at that time, but instead, they channeled their grief and their pain into an act of grace. Within a year of their son's death, they had made the founding grant for this great school, pledging to do for other people's children what they were not able to do for their own boy.

The lesson here is clear, and that is, if you're hurting, you need to help somebody ease their hurt. If you're in pain, help somebody else's pain. And when you're in a mess, you get yourself out of the mess helping somebody out of theirs. And in the process, you get to become a member of what I call the greatest fellowship of all, the sorority of compassion and the fraternity of service.

The Stanfords had suffered the worst thing any mom and dad can ever endure, yet they understood that helping others is the way we help ourselves. And this wisdom is increasingly supported by scientific and sociological research. It's no longer just woo-woo soft-skills talk. There's actually a helper's high, a spiritual surge you gain from serving others. So, if you want to feel good, you have to go out and do some good.

But when you do good, I hope you strive for more than just the good feeling that service provides, because I know this for sure, that doing good actually makes you better. So, whatever field you choose, if you operate from the paradigm of service, I know your life will have more value and you will be happy.

I was always happy doing my talk show, but that happiness reached a depth of fulfillment, of joy, that I really can't describe to you or measure when I stopped just being on TV and looking at TV as a job and decided to use television, to use it and not have it use me, to use it as a platform to serve my viewers. That alone changed the trajectory of my success.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

What Do Venture Capitalists Look For In A Start-Up Small Business .... Before Seriously Considering Offering Funding?

First, make sure you talk to venture capitalists who are focused on the area that you are in:. Understand their investment criteria including geographic and industry specialization, stage of company development, and size of investment preferences, return horizon, etc.

It is also important whether a fund will act as a lead investor .... and whether it has complementary or competing companies in its portfolio.

Then deliver on what they all typically require (you can ask them for any specific format they would like to see) ....

1. An innovative, differentiated business proposal, well spelt out in a brief and clear summary document and include .....

- what stage of development you are in, e.g. from 'no revenues/initial product development' to 'no revenues/product ready for launch' to 'product launched/some revenues.

- how you intend to protect and build your intellectual property from competitors .

- what is the specific purpose of raising funds, e.g. marketing, research, manufacturing, distribution, etc.

2. A clearly defined client group or market (and possibly hot client leads or research showing demand).

3. A first class, experienced and committed management team to make it happen (provide as much details as possible about past successes - having a great team is THE key requirement).

4. Financial commitment by the team members (skin in the game is very important).

5. A financial plan that shows exceptional growth potential and is based on realistic, justifiable assumptions (as this is your input into the valuation process).

A lot depends on the type of business and the situation however the first step is to ensure that you have a good proposition for any prospective financier.

OK… So what is a “good” application..?

1) You absolutely need to have a business plan. Without one of these you pretty much have no chance and as first impressions count, I wouldn’t suggest trying your hand without a business plan .... expecting that you’ll get a second shot by producing one and making another appointment!

2) You need to be able to demonstrate a knowledge of the business (or proposed business), your target market and the industry that you will be operating in.

3) The cash…. How much you need, why, how long will you need it for, and what you’ll be spending it on. It is important to state quite clearly how much you actually need.

For example if you ask for 100k when you actually need 150k .... but expect that the bank won’t go that high – the chances are that a savvy commercial lending manager will see through this. You’ll look as if you don’t have a true understanding of the finance requirements of your own business – and the answer won’t be the one you’re wanting to hear!

If you’re wanting the cash for use as working capital – ask yourself “Do I need all the money in one lump sum”? If the answer is no, then you can negotiate with the lender to release it in stages .... provided that you meet certain pre-defined milestones. This can be a more compelling business case for the lender as their risk is reduced in this instance.

In addition ....

Do you have anything that you can offer as security? This reduces the risk and makes the proposition appear more appealing.

Are you contributing any of your own funds to the venture? If so – again, this makes the proposition appear more appealing because it demonstrates your own belief in your venture. In short you are prepared to put your own assets on the line.

* Venture Capital – With VC’s they will want to acquire some equity in the venture in return for their cash (and may want to place someone on the board). However on the upside often they come with significant experience and contacts which can help to propel your business forward. They generally are less risk averse than the banks .... however their costs are higher. VC’s tend to want to keep the investment in the business for a relatively short time before harvest so they will want to have a clear exit strategy agreed at the outset.

Another option is Business Angels. They are similar to VC’s however they tend to want to assist new business ventures for more philanthropic reasons.

Finally, I’d suggest locating one of the government run business support agencies in your area. They are likely to have the latest information regarding grants and other funding that may be available ..... and may also be able to assist with developing a business plan and marketing strategy if you do not already have these in place.