Kitsap SCORE and local Chambers of Commerce are working to develop a series of roundtable discussions for people who want to solve problems, find opportunities, and grow their businesses. Please share your answers to four simple questions and help us pick the best time to meet and choose topics for conversations.
There is a Facebook group that you might find interesting. It’s called West Sound eCommerce Talk and you can find it here. It’s a closed group, but pretty welcoming.
You might also want to check out Kitsap County E-Commerce Business Strategists. Sounds a bit formal, but it’s a Meetup Group and you can find it here.
If can think of any other eCommerce groups SCORE volunteers and clients should know about, please tall us about them by posting a comment below. Thanks!
One good piece of advice for any business owner is to put together a team of advisers.
The best team is a group of experienced business and professional people that you can rely on for honest advice.
The exact makeup of your team will depend on your type of business and your experience as a business owner. Generally, you will need a group of professionals: an attorney, accountant, insurance broker, business lender and financial planner.
Other key players will include friends and family members with solid business backgrounds. People you can trust to tell it like it is, especially if they think you’re heading in the wrong direction.
You may also want a professional coach or volunteer business mentor.
Make sure to interview your potential advisers. If something doesn’t feel right on a gut level, thank the person for his or her time and find another adviser.
Your advisers will be the brain trust that helps you start and grow your business. They will be the people you turn to when you run into a question you can’t quite answer. Is this legal? What are the financial ramifications? Do I really need more insurance?
In a perfect world, business owners would have their team of advisers in place from the beginning. They would avoid mistakes like signing a commercial lease without having it reviewed, or forming a partnership with a handshake instead of an agreement.
It is never too late to put these key advisers in place. Your team of advisers can help educate and protect you from things you never would have considered.
For example, we frequently see people who decide to form single-member limited liability companies (LLC) on their own. They go online, submit some forms and pay a fee to the state.
When we ask if they have an operating agreement, we get blank stares and looks of confusion. They don’t understand the valuable protection an operating agreement provides a single-member LLC from creditors and from attacks or attempts to pierce the corporate veil, assuming the operating agreement is followed.
Organizations like Vistage International suggest that business owners take one day each month to work on their business, not in it. They form groups of 12-16 members who get to know each other, teach each other, and learn important lessons from each other.
You have options. You can start with a mentor who can help you find answers to difficult business questions. He or she can help you build your own team of business advisers. Each adviser you select will have a wealth of knowledge that they will be more than willing to share.
I was invited to speak to a group of Vistage members a while back. They told me that they had been meeting together one day each month for 25 years, and then they shared the return on their investments. When they first met, they all owned midsize companies. Twenty-five years later, their companies all had more than $1 billion in sales each year and they credited each other for their success.
• For help with starting or growing your business, request a mentor from Kitsap SCORE.
The Kitsap Aerospace and Defense Alliance (KADA) invites members of the public to attend its 2015 Annual Meeting at Bremerton National Airport, Avian Flight Center Second Floor 8900 State Highway 3 SW Bremerton, WA on October 8 from 3PM to 6PM. Refreshments will be served. This is a free event but pre-registration is required. Visit http://kada2015.bpt.me/ prior to October 5th to secure your attendance. Continue reading
by Gabrielle Boko, EVP of Marketing, Sage North America
Like most of you, I use an ever-broadening collection of devices and applications that make communicating and collaborating with colleagues, business associates, friends and family easy and instantaneous. So it may surprise you when I tell you that putting email, video conferencing, social media platforms and your phones aside in favor of scheduling face-to-face meetings is one of the best business decisions you can make all year. That includes attending conferences, events, and training meetings. In fact, organizers for these events now place more emphasis on facilitating in-person meetings.
As you get out of your office to meet with peers, customers, and others face-to-face, here are some tips for how to build relationships that will be much more meaningful and rewarding than simply growing your LinkedIn network.
Tip #1: Attend conferences and trade shows
When the Great Recession hit in 2008, companies understandably slashed budgets for exhibiting and attending trade shows and conferences. It was impossible to justify the high travel costs and time out of the office.
But conferences and trade shows are making a comeback, and your current and prospective partners and customers (along with your competitors) are increasingly returning to these events.
Even if your business is not exhibiting, the networking opportunities alone can make the trip and expense worthwhile. Actively participating in the conversations about the news and trends affecting your industry will help you build stronger relationships and make more meaningful connections with your peers, thought leaders, and potential clients. Face-to-face interaction is critical to achieving this level of exposure, and is definitely not something you can accomplish by staying at the office.
While you may feel you can’t afford time away from the office, think about the more than 200 million people who do so every year. That many people can’t be wrong.
Sage Summit 2015 is a great opportunity to discuss new ideas, gain insights for decision making and improve your problem solving through powerful conversations with peers and leaders.
Tip #2: Don’t ignore current customers at the expense of selling to prospects
Acquiring new customers is not the only way to grow your business. You should also be constantly working to up-sell your existing ones because the sales cycle is (or should be) much shorter.
However, do not just show up to an event or meeting and expect to walk away with a PO in hand. Do your research ahead of time so you know the successes a customer has achieved thanks to your product or service, and so you can also anticipate what problems or issues may come up during the meeting. That way you will be able to confidently explain how you can help solve them too.
Tip #3: Invest in “weak” relationships
Sometimes “weak” relationships — those with people we know but not that well — hold a lot of power, and revisiting them can prove extremely beneficial. Take time to reconnect or get to know people you have crossed paths with in the past. You can increase your knowledge, discuss new concepts, and consider different viewpoints. Who knows? You may discover how to optimize your business management processes or build your company’s value.
Tip # 4: Immediate follow-up
Make sure to follow-up within a few business days after a meeting, event, or conference. If you met someone for the first time, connect on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, email or whatever networking platforms are most relevant to you and your business. Continue to invest in those relationships by taking time to engage and exchange ideas through various methods, until you can meet again in person.
Believe me, your customers, partners and even colleagues in remote offices will appreciate the time and effort you demonstrate by setting and attending in-person meetings. Face-to-face meetings are crucial in building stronger relationships and making more meaningful connections with peers and thought leaders in your industry.
One final networking tip: Be real; don’t try to sell yourself or your product. Don’t be the person that goes from person to person, passing out business cards – that’s like the in-person version of adding seemingly random contacts to your LinkedIn network.
Gabie is excited to attend Sage Summit 2015 this July in New Orleans. Sage Summit brings together subject matter experts and top business leaders to inspire small and medium-sized businesses with the energy, insights and guidance to achieve their own visions of success. Register with the code SCORE.
Gabrielle Boko is Executive Vice President of marketing for Sage North America. Born and raised in Alaska, Gabie has innovation in her blood, and has built her career in marketing, sales, and channel development with leading technology innovators. She brings that passion for growth companies to her role at Sage, a company focused on helping small and medium sized companies realize their ambitions and achieve success.
by Stephanie Speisman
Want to make your business networking more effective?
Here are ten tips to keep in mind.
Effective business networking is the linking together of individuals who, through trust and relationship building, become walking, talking advertisements for one another.
Keep in mind that networking is about being genuine and authentic, building trust and relationships, and seeing how you can help others.
Ask yourself what your goals are in participating in networking meetings so that you will pick groups that will help you get what you are looking for. Some meetings are based more on learning, making contacts, and/or volunteering rather than on strictly making business connections.
Visit as many groups as possible that spark your interest. Notice the tone and attitude of the group. Do the people sound supportive of one another? Does the leadership appear competent? Many groups will allow you to visit two times before joining. Continue reading
By Scott Ginsberg
When you’re at a networking function or social event, are people naturally drawn to you or do you unknowingly push them away? In this excerpt from The Power of Approachability, Scott Ginsberg outlines ten different ways you can maximize your approachability.
After reading and researching thousands of books, articles and other resources on communication, first impressions, networking and conversation, I’ve learned one thing: none of them address what approachability means. Or maybe they just don’t take the time to define it, stress its importance and offer suggestions on how to maximize it.
That research was my impetus for writing The Power of Approachability. I wanted to give people a clear picture of what the idea meant, along with many small tips and suggestions to put that idea to use – one conversation at a time.
So, straight from the pages of the book, here are my Top Ten Ways to Maximize Your Networking Approachability. Continue reading