Small Business News
Thanks to a $10 billion boost, Bill Gates surpassed Carlos Slim.inc_clean_text
Is the costly--and long--patent approval process worth it? Small businesses don't seem to think so.inc_clean_text
What you do matters more than what's on a piece of paper, says the marketing guru.inc_clean_text
If you want to reward your people, time off will work better than more money. But you can't stop there.inc_clean_text
Satisfied customers are a sincere--and inexpensive--way to promote your business. Here's how to turn them into your brand's biggest fans.inc_clean_text
Serial entrepreneur and author Steve Blank gave the commencement speech at the University of Minnesota. His advice is relevant for anyone starting up.inc_clean_text
Failure to comply with a clause in its contracts left many small business owners out in the cold, say lawmakers.inc_clean_text
It's not about politics. It's about a fundamental breach of trust.inc_clean_text
Spoiling your dog has never been so easy. These small companies are making the best of America's love for dogs.inc_clean_text
What's the deal with Bitcoin? Inc. talked to Charlie Schrem--Bitcoin millionaire and "evangelist"--for the low down.inc_clean_text
As a leader, you need to articulate your clear-cut implementation plan. The second in a seven-part series on the power of communication.inc_clean_text
Make sure you see your workplace through your staff's eyes.inc_clean_text
Sure, perks are great--and my company offers plenty of them. But true happiness in the workplace starts with passion.
This week marks the 12th anniversary of my entertainment marketing and interactive advertising agency, Situation Interactive. I founded the company, which has offices in New York City and Los Angeles, based on my personal passion and curiosity for the intersection of technology and live experiences: the sporting event that makes us cheer, the Broadway show that makes us sing, or the vacation that leaves you in awe. As a consumer, I believe having such experiences--and sharing them with others--makes me a better, happier person. Therefore, as a business owner that helps market these experiences, I believe wholeheartedly in what I do every day.
My company has been fortunate enough to be named a best place to work by Crain's New York Business three years in a row. We work hard to provide great perks, including free tickets to cultural and sporting events, free breakfast, and an outdoor roof deck. But what I'd like to believe makes it a truly great place to work is the fact that each of my 60 employees shares my belief in the value of the live experience and my passion for what we do. Over the years, I've identified four key traits common to happy employees. Now, I keep them in mind when I'm recruiting new hires to ensure they'll be a good fit.
They believe in the greater purpose of our company.
There's nothing more powerful in a career than realizing what you do has a greater purpose beyond financial gain-;for me, it’s the fact that I believe my company makes the world a better place. Whether it’s the company’s greater purpose or the impact of each person's work day-to-day, all that matters is that our employees believe in it.
They have a personal passion for their role at the company.
For me, it's not a question of whether an employee will dread going to work each day, but if they will love going to work each day. Without a personal passion for their job, employees will have a hard time growing within the company.
Their values align with company values.
Every company has a core set of values expressed either through words or action. While it wasn't until this past year that we (literally) published on our walls our founding principle that "We believe the world is a better place when people are doing rather than having," this spirit has been central to what makes us tick since the very beginning. We continually reinforce this core principle by taking part in rewarding experiences together as a team.
Their family members (or other loved ones) are proud of what they do.
People want to be proud of what they do. One of the best ways to illustrate that is to have the acknowledgment and respect of those that love them the most. Happy employees are excited to share their work life with loved ones. They speak proudly of what they do to their mother, son, daughter, and friends. If their loved ones are proud of them, it's icing on the cake.
At an annual meeting of venture capitalists, a Morgan Stanley managing director gave five tips on how to pitch him. They're helpful for anyone making a big ask.inc_clean_text
Most successful businesses are built from a proprietary asset, not just an idea.Until that spark is in place, outside investment is a risky proposition.inc_clean_text
Your future competitors will likely supply what you do--but from cheaper, off-the-radar sources.inc_clean_text
You're not in an infomercial, so stop acting that way on sales calls. Here's a better approach.
When was the last time someone shouted "buy, buy, buy!" at you and you went ahead and bought whatever it was the lunatic was trying to sell you?
That's what I thought. Force is not an effective sales tactic.
I know I won't buy anything from someone unless I trust the person. Whether you're pitching your personal brand, your vision, or a product or service, no one's going to buy without first developing a trusting relationship.
So stop selling and start helping. Here's how to start:
1. It's about them, not you.
Do you have a meeting with a potential customer tomorrow? Start then. Ditch the "what's in it for me?" mindset--like getting commission for a sale or affirmation from a key stakeholder--and meet this person with a new angle. Provide them with genuine interactions and guidance to build rapport. Who cares if he doesn't buy in right after the meeting--you've set yourself up as a potential option when he's ready.
2. Don't bullsh*t.
If your helpful attitude isn't genuine, people will see right through it. Drop your run-of-the-mill sales personality and provide your customer with the facts.
3. Do your research.
Consider yourself a solution-provider. How can you help someone if you don't truly understand her business? Take the time to familiarize yourself with what she does, and look for ideas on how you can help.
4. Ask questions.
Toss out your fears of being too inquisitive. Questioning potential customers is essential part of doing your job. Ask questions that clearly show you want to learn more about their needs and goals. For example, you may want to ask them about the specific type of audience they're attempting to reach with their service or product. "That's a great question" is the reply you should want to hear.
5. Focus on the outcome.
Broken-record salespeople tend to focus solely on what they're selling. This doesn't develop any emotional connection for the customer or client. Instead, go over end results and goals. Generating an interest in the big-picture achievement is far more enticing and also shows your interests are aligned.
6. Be direct.
Nothing is sure to throw off your potential customers more than complicated slideshows and PowerPoints. Treat whomever you're speaking with as a confidant. Toss out your fancy presentations and remove jargon and big words from the conversation. Instead, meet them with direct and informative conversation, and when necessary, concise materials highlighting the basic facts about your solutions.
7. Sell your team.
Stop selling your product and start selling the people behind it. Your potential customers are more likely to latch onto and connect with a person. Even if you're selling a house, focus your conversation on expressing how great the builder is--not just the exceptional craftsmanship.
8. Don't follow up too much.
Pressing calls and emails are certain to turn potential customers running in the opposite direction. Did you have a helpful idea for their vision or an introduction to someone useful to their success? Following up with your audience is important, but keep it casual and friendly with occasional reminders.
Drop the forceful marketing and simply start helping. You're certain to see better results.
Have you found success by providing guidance rather than selling your customers?
What will the future look like? Everything--including your own body--will be even more connected than it already is.
These concepts are still in their infancy--you might not see mass consumer versions of them for years, maybe even a decade. But that doesn't mean you should ignore them. By the time these tech developments become as commonplace as Facebook or electric cars, it might be too late.
1. Embeddable Electronics
Self-monitoring is nothing new. Gadgets like the Fitbit Flex, part of the growing so-called "quantified self" trend, show you exactly how many calories you're burning during the day. In the future, these sensors and electronics will go deeper--literally. Instead of wearing a chip around the wrist, people will embed directly in their bodies. "This will allow people to have better insight, hour to hour, and day to day, on the state of their bodies, and thus monitor their health and wellness in ways that just haven't been possible before," says Intel futurist Steve Brown. The chip could report when a heart attack could be imminent and alert emergency personnel.
2. Programmable Materials
Imagine the ability to program a plant to form into a specific shape when it grows larger. Many futurists say this kind of programmable biology--where materials can self-assemble over time according to specific triggers--is a key trend for the future, and businesses should take note.
According to Carlos Olguin, a materials analyst at Autodesk Research, this could lead to a "have" and "have not" scenario when normal biology and digital biology start to overlap, similar to how the analog and digital worlds intersect. "This will not only be about the separation between those who are able to understand and exploit information technology and those who cannot, but also between those who are able to be enhanced biologically and those who cannot or decide not to do so," he says.
3. Quantified Society
The Quantified Self is about to go macro. A few examples: Recently, a professor at Texas A&M's school of business revealed how he knew a student had not opened an e-book during a course. Research at West Point and Samford University in Alabama has shown how law enforcement in the future will track how often you speed and then issue a robotic ticket for frequent offenders.
"Big brother will know about everything you do, your habits, which Internet sites you attend, where you shop, your medical records, what you download to read or watch," says Dr. Tom Furness, a University of Washington engineering professor. "This will feed into custom algorithms to create advertising and inducements for the way you spend your money and just-in-time intervention for the things you need to know for upcoming events in your life."
4. Smart Cars
Cars will become much smarter, which will create new opportunities for start-ups. Today, Ford is already working on an initiative called MyEnergi Lifestyle where your car connects into a smart grid and knows when the charge rates are lowest. Brown says cars will be even more connected, safer, and efficient to drive. "Expect to see impacts to the insurance industry, the taxi industry, and people running body shops," he says.
5. Wearable Computers
And you thought that new Samsung smartphone was slim and tiny, eh? Computers are going to get much smaller, last even longer, and even become part of everyday items. "As we move to the year 2025 and beyond, computing power will get so small and so inexpensive, we'll approach an era where computing can go into everything around us," says Brian David Johnson, an Intel futurist. "A table, our clothing, and even our bodies can become computers."
6. Predictive Analytics
Tools like Geckoboard are invaluable. They help you understand the current state of your small business and help you react accordingly. And many IT companies like Applied Predictive Technologies are already helpings companies understand massive data sets. In the future, the field will become much more advanced. One key business opportunity for the future: Predicting people's health.
"Imagine a future version of a system that would scan the face or body of a person, then in the presence of a mole or facial asymmetry, the system could correlate this data against a number of other data sets, including 3-D scans of other people, the person's own genome, or the genome of other people," says Olguin. "Based on all this analysis the system may recommend the person talk to her healthcare professional."
Minimal founder Scott Wilson talks about Ooba Baby Furniture, which he launched when expecting his first child.
Partnering with a huge company can bring visibility and growth to your start-up. Here are five tips to help it go smoothly.
For a start-up, a name-brand client can be a game-changer. Big brands can mean big opportunities, but it’s important to enter any partnership with clear goals and an understanding of potential pitfalls.
In CrowdTwist’s earlier stages, we were able to grow through partnerships with organizations such as Pepsi, Sony, The Miami Dolphins and Nestle. Here are a few things worth keeping in mind if you find yourself with an opportunity to work with a big brand:
Sell to the stakeholders
Any large organization hosts multiple influential decision-makers, each with different priorities. The folks on the marketing team are going to want to see how your product or service will help them better understand, reach, and activate the public. Someone from technology will want to know what’s needed to integrate and support your system.
When you’re selling to a larger company, it’s critical to understand the different motivations of the various people involved. Take the time to listen and appreciate each group’s problems and then explain how your product can help. A one-size fits all approach is rarely effective in a complex sale.
Understand the implications of “big” versus “small”
Large companies have both advantages and disadvantages. The big ones have the capital and exposure to move the market, but size means bulk, and bulk means that things move slowly. As a small company, you don’t have as many resources, but you can adapt and move easily. Your flexibility is your best asset.
As our team grows, we recognize that fast decision-making and immediate action are invaluable assets. If a client makes a request that can move the needle substantially and makes sense for our business, we want to be able to execute quickly. Eliminating the need for extensive documentation and long approval processes allows us to be responsive and to stay innovative.
Ask for commitments
A big partnership can bring you major attention - if you ask for it and if the other party agrees to provide support. From sales references to press and marketing efforts, it is easier and more effective to define and outline those aspects of your professional relationship before a contract is signed and work begins. No matter what, large companies are powerful from a validation standpoint and can help your company grow substantially. That’s so much more powerful when they’re willing to speak publicly.
Big companies typically have a complicated bureaucracy and formal approval process for even relatively minor decisions. Something that is of the utmost importance to you may be just one of many mundane tasks for the person on the other side of the table. Your client contact has to navigate a complicated web of legal, business and creative obligations, all of which takes time. Be aware of your place in the grand scheme of things and act accordingly.
Stay true to your own brand and business practices
Don’t compromise your business goals in order to satisfy one client, no matter how big. One major partnership will not automatically make your business successful, and sacrificing your core beliefs, or devoting too much effort and time to one company, can hurt your ability to move forward with other clients and prospects.
We were once trying to work with a company that had a clear idea of how they wanted our platform to function, but their desires weren’t aligned with our roadmap and beliefs. While the client was large and the business alluring, we took the longer-term view and declined the work, based on what we felt was best both for our business as well as the success of our partnership. This meant we couldn’t expand the contract as much as we’d hoped to, but it allowed our team to remain focused on our core platform and mission. Ultimately, that led to greater success with more customers.
It is okay to turn business away or push back. Ultimately your responsibility is to make sure you’re running a business that’s delivering results you can stand behind.