Category Archives: Business Development

Want to grow your business? Be different.

by Kelly Deis of SoundPoint Consulting

The odds are that there are a lot of other businesses in your market providing similar products or services. So what is compelling about your firm that sets you apart from your competition and entices potential customers to buy from you?

Many business owners will answer with the “soft” differentiators, such as reputation, good service and high quality. These are all great characteristics (and absolutely necessary!), but do they really set you apart? I’ll bet that if you ask your competition what sets them apart, you will get similar answers.

The fact is that highly differentiated firms are generally more profitable than their counterparts. Their overall market may be smaller than a less differentiated firm, but they have more of it (the proverbial big fish in little pond). And, they most likely charge more and spend less on advertising and marketing. Continue reading

What makes or breaks a successful small business?

business colleagues high fiving

What makes or breaks a successful small business? There are several key commonalities among businesses that succeed, according to several studies polling entrepreneurs.

Here’s a closer look at four things successful business owners do right—and one thing they need to do better.

What successful entrepreneurs do right

  1. They start strong. In a poll of 500 successful entrepreneurs, a whopping 84% of respondents say their companies achieved profitability within their first four years in business. In fact, 68% became profitable within the first year. Only 8% became profitable after their fifth year in business, suggesting that the first years in business are make-or-break ones for most entrepreneurs.
  2. They focus on finding new customers. Small business owners in the survey say finding new customers is their top business challenge—far ahead of cash flow issues or dealing with the competition. Smart entrepreneurs stay focused on continually generating new leads and closing new business.
  3. They put cash back into the business. Forty percent of business owners say whenever they have surplus cash, they put it back into the business rather than paying themselves, a separate study found. What’s more, 47% tap into personal savings to finance their businesses at one point or another.
  4. They work hard. Never let it be said small business owners are slackers. Some 86% work on the weekends; 23% take fewer than two vacation days total all year long; and of those who do take vacations, 75% work during their time “off.” Continue reading

How much cash should a small business keep in reserve?

piggy bank cashCash is the fuel that makes a business run. It is needed to pay salaries including your own, fund marketing programs to acquire and retain new customers, invest in equipment and facilities, pay rent, supplies and many more day-to-day activities. Most financial experts recommend three to six months of operating expenses, but using this for every business in every situation is misleading.

To determine how much cash you need, you must look at the following key areas.

How Much Cash Have You Been Using?

If you’re an established business owner, look at your monthly cash flow report (or go to the next paragraph if you’re a start-up). This report will provide an historical and seasonal perspective. Note the cash received from sales and the cash spent. The net of these two is often referred to as the “net burn rate.” For example, if you have $50,000 in sales and $30,000 in expenses, then your net burn is +$20,000

Your “gross burn rate” only takes cash expenditures into account; in our example, that’s $30,000 and is the more conservative amount, since it does not assume any sales are made. Historical spending patterns are a good starting point in considering future spending plans.  Continue reading

Success in scaling your business.

by Kelly Deis of SoundPoint Consulting

First, what does it mean to scale your business, and how does it differ from growing your business?

Consider scaling a business:

“growing sales at an exponential rate while only adding costs incrementally by developing a replicable system for delivering goods and services.”

with simply growing a business:

“increasing sales coupled with increasing costs with little improvement on profit margins.”

The difference is clear. There is nothing easy about scaling your business, particularly for small businesses. It takes intention, strategy and investment.

Often business owners are caught in a Catch-22. They know they can sell more if they hire a Vice-President of Business Development. But, they can’t afford to pay for this this new position until they have increased sales.Yikes.

The larger your business, the easier it is to scale. Larger businesses may have multiple revenue streams, fungible staff and banked capital which can help see them through the ramp-up phase of accelerating growth. Smaller businesses often do not have this luxury.  Continue reading

Get your products ready for e-commerce success.

ecommerceBefore the Internet age, small business startups had little opportunity to showcase their products right alongside major national brands. Online marketplaces have leveled the playing field for small businesses, effectively helping them leap geographic boundaries and sell their products in markets that would never have been possible.

Whether you are selling your products on Amazon, eBay or directly from your website, it is critical for you to efficiently manage your product setup and ensure you can be easily discovered by consumers. Many of the same best practices that lead to in-store success can be applied to e-commerce, with a special focus on providing consumers with a well-rounded view of your product prior to purchase.   Continue reading

10 reasons to keep your business blog active.

Publishing a business blog is an important part of any marketing strategy, but many businesses launch one, not realizing that maintaining it is just as critical. Quality content is key, and if you’re a business professional you have lots to offer based on expertise in your field.

Here are 10 reasons why you might want to use that expertise to keep your business blog active.

1. Drive Traffic to Your Business Website

Customers who read your blog are 97% more likely to click on your website. That improves your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) making your website more likely to rise to the top of organic searches. In addition, the more you blog, the more traffic you get. Here are five steps to build a website if you haven’t got one yet.

In addition, blog sites that post daily get almost double the traffic than sites that post monthly or less.  Continue reading

If you are a business owner, this is for you.

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE Branch Manager

I was a business owner myself for many years. Now, I’m a volunteer business mentor with the Kitsap branch of SCORE.

SCORE is a non-profit organization that’s been around for many years. We have more than 10,000 volunteers nationwide, and we’re committed to helping people start, grow, and successfully exit their businesses.

In Kitsap County, we have 7 volunteers who meet with people from Kingston to Port Orchard, Bainbridge Island to Silverdale.

In the last 4 years, we’ve focused on face-to-face mentoring. Most of the people we’ve met with have been thinking about starting a new business.

Since meeting with us, many of them have. And their businesses range from food trucks to restaurants. Healthcare providers to general contractors. Retail shops online or right here in your town.

In 2018, our start-up mentoring services will continue, but we are starting a new program designed to help people who own businesses that are up-and-running.  Continue reading

Ask SCORE: How can I improve my selling skills?

As the owner of a small business, you may be struggling with a frustrating reality. You are confident that you have excellent products and services, but people aren’t just lining up to buy them.

You know that you can solve problems for your customers and deliver significant value for a reasonable price. All you have to do is convince them to place an order.

Unfortunately, sales skills don’t come naturally to everyone, but they are essential if you want to build relationships with potential customers and generate orders for your products and services.  Continue reading

In search of the minimum viable audience.

by Seth Godin

Of course everyone wants to reach the maximum audience. To be seen by millions, to maximize return on investment, to have a huge impact.

And so we fall all over ourselves to dumb it down, average it out, pleasing everyone and anyone.

You can see the problem.

When you seek to engage with everyone, you rarely delight anyone. And if you’re not the irreplaceable, essential, one-of-a-kind changemaker, you never get a chance to engage with the market.

The solution is simple but counterintuitive: Stake out the smallest market you can imagine. The smallest market that can sustain you, the smallest market you can adequately serve. This goes against everything you learned in capitalism school, but in fact, it’s the simplest way to matter.

Continue reading on Seth’s Blog