Archive for the 'Helpful Ideas' Category

The Art of Cold Calling

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Startups, Strategies| 2 Comments »

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In the web development business, and many other small businesses it’s tough to stand out from the crowd. Designers are a dime a dozen these days, especially with the advent of outsourcing services such as ELance.

Personally, I’ve relied on top notch service and client referrals to maintain a steady income. Things are going quite well, in fact I’ve reached the point where I must turn down work on a regular basis.

Yet recently I have been looking to grow. Hiring another developer does’nt quite yet make sense, because the number of jobs I’ve turned down doesn’t quite justify the expansion. However, I just finished reading a fantastic book on cold calling entitled “Cold Calling Techniques That Really Work”- and by following the techniques I feel I’ll be able to sustain enough business to justify hiring additional developers.

There are five basic elements to the successful cold call:

  1. Get the person’s attention. But not using a cheesy introduction.
  2. Identify yourself and your company
  3. Give the reason for you call
  4. Make a qualifying/questioning statement
  5. Set the appointment

Below, I have included some time tested scripts that can be used when making your calls:

  • Initial Contact
    • Good Morning Mr. Adams, this is Brett from Brett Adams Design LLC. The reason I’m calling you today specifically is so I can stop by and tell you about our latest web site implementation (or service, or product, or program) that increases traffic and click-thru sales (or whatever applies to your business). I’m sure that you, like (name of previous client) are interested in increasing site traffic.
    • Generally, you are given a positive response by the prospect at this point.
    • That’s great Mr. Adams, let’s get together. How’s this Thursday at 2:00?

As I mentioned, lots of my business comes from referrals or third-party endorsements. But the great thing is that there is a script for those scenarios as well.

  • Referral Script
    • Good morning Mr. Adams, this is (insert brief commercial about your business). The reason I’m calling you to today is that Mr. Smith just suggested I give you a call to set up an appointment. I wanted to if Thursday at 2:00 would be okay.

What tends to make these scripts successful is the fact that they generally require a positive response. You aren’t giving them the option to dance around or avoid your request. I’ll be implementing these strategies heavily in the coming weeks and I will keep you updated on the success.

Here are some tips, in no particular order, when cold calling:

  • The object (for me at least) is to set an appointment. I’m not looking to close a sale over the phone, I’d rather sit down face to face and explain the value of choosing my services over those of the competition.
  • No matter how good you are, sales is still a numbers game. 1/3 of your clients will fall into your lap, 1/3 won’t say yes no matter what, and the other 1/3 can potentially be convinced – and that is the portion that matters when it comes to being a successful cold caller.
  • Practice your script, you don’t want to sound as though you are reading off of one, but it’s vital that you do in fact have one.
  • People respond in kind. Think, feel, act, and sound positive and you will elicit positive responses.

Somewhat long post today but I hope you enjoyed the lesson and can utilize these techniques to grow your student startup! Class dismissed.

Mold It, And They Will Come

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Startups, Strategies| Comments Off on Mold It, And They Will Come

 When Virgin Records founder Richard Branson dropped our of school, his headmaster offered these parting words, “Congratulations, Branson.  I predict you will either go to prison or become a millionaire.” So what does that have to do with?  Nothing really, but I thought it was fairly interesting.

At any rate, as an entrepreneur, you will soon find that you simply cannot do it all yourself.  You’ve got to surround youself with the right people – but still maintain to stick to your guns.  Here are some sure-fire keys to success:

  • Hire highly motivated individuals.  But be sure they’re motivated for the right reasons.  Those who are self motivated make the best candidates.
  • As you surround yourself with great people, be sure to help them become even greater.  A little karma goes a long way.
  • Create, maintain, and update as needed your vision and mission.  This creates a sense of clarity outlining your future direction.
  • Create, maintain, and update your company values.  A strong corporate culture from the get-go (and then sticking with it) is often overlooked.
  • Now that you have the right people on the bus, don’t let them get off!  Be sure to offer appropriate merit based rewards.
  • As you grow and expand your business (and your personal knowledge), it would be a great idea to share the wealth.  Offer unique opportunities that allow your employees to garner more experience, but remember to keep your culture strong.  Now that you have highly experienced employees, you surely will want to hang onto them.
  • Offering financial rewards is key, but did you know that offering praise is actually a much better motivator?  Make a point to always celebrate success, even if it’s relatively minor.

Class dismissed.

35 Quick Tips

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Strategies, Top 10| 3 Comments »
  1. Reducing expenses is the quickest way to increase cash flow.
  2. Effective networking requires planning and targeting the right contacts.
  3. Good recordkeeping will save you time and money at tax time!
  4. Use your business contacts and business counselors for perspective and advice.
  5. Always be prospecting for new clients!
  6. Qualify a client before you do a sales presentation.
  7. Can you clearly convey why a client would WANT to do business with you.
  8. Objections are an opportunity to educate your client on your product or service.
  9. People are led, things are managed.
  10. Business education needs to be an ongoing process! Attend a seminar this week!
  11. Ask for referrals from everyone! Even those who don’t buy…yet.
  12. Tradeshow expenses are wasted if you do not follow up on the leads.
  13. Take the time to do it right the first time!
  14. Customer service is not an expense, it is a competitive advantage.
  15. Build your team of advisors and use them!
  16. It is cheaper to keep a good customer than to find a new one!
  17. Don’t make a rule that you do not intend to enforce!
  18. Think globally and creatively…at least once a week.
  19. A goal without a time frame is a wish.
  20. Hold yourself and your employees accountable.
  21. You must take time for yourself.
  22. You can only burn a candle at both ends, half as long!
  23. Share your knowledge with your employees!
  24. It will build a stronger team.
  25. Reward great performance.
  26. Sometimes you need to count to 50 before you respond to people.
  27. Share your vision.
  28. Developing a system allows you to repeat your success.
  29. Writing a business plan proves it wasn’t an accident!
  30. Investment in education is investment in your future.
  31. Be an expert at what you do, and then hire the rest.
  32. Write down answers to the top 5 objections you receive… and then practice the answers.
  33. If starting a business was easy, everyone would be an owner.
  34. Lack of start-up capital is the leading cause of new businesses failure.
  35. Ask yourself once and hour, “Is what I’m doing right now making me money?”

As mentioned, I’m interning at the Disney Entrepreneur Center in Orlando, FL. The E-Center is a public/private partnership dedicated to the development, growth, and success of small businesses. At the center, we have a big flat screen in our entryway that shows news, videos, etc. of things going on in the center. At any rate, one of the things displayed on the screen are the quick one liner business tips written by our Director Jerry Ross. – some of which you just read.  Class dismissed.

Family, Friends, and Fools

Topic: Financials, Helpful Ideas, Startups, Strategies| 4 Comments »

It’s been a while. Here is why:

  • Internship (30 hours per week)
  • Brett Adams Design LLC – my company (50 hours last week)
  • Two classes
  • College football season tickets
  • Pro football season tickets
  • My ice hockey league
  • 192,837,490,823,749 other things

It’s been really tough juggling everything, but I will have you know I’m working on a killer post for late this week. It’ll be so big it might not even be navigable.

Today, however, I’m going to take a few minutes and talk to you about the first branch young entrepreneurs generally shake on the money tree. That is, friends and family along with any other fools willing to get on board. An example of a “fool” would be someone not in tune with the market or industry such as your dentist, mechanic, or mailman.

Don’t get me wrong, these individuals are a great way to go and often times make much more sense than aplying for commercial lending or an SBA guranteed loan. However, obtaining money in this manner often leads to strained relationships and in some cases can rip families apart. Personally, I’d like to avoid that and I’m sure you would too. Below are some tips to consider when approaching these individuals for startup cash:

  • Put it in writing. Every last detail about repayment and usage of funds should be included.
  • You are running a business, so make it a business loa – not a personal loan.
  • Things happen – natural disasters, emergencies, etc. Be sure to add provisions that cover these types of things.
  • Have a business plan? Make it required reading for your lenders. If you don’t have a plan then either:
    • Go write one
    • Or B, thouroughly discuss your company’s goals, ambitions, and forecasts.
  • Create a continuous dialog and discuss potential problems, fears, and issues that are taking place on both sides of the field.

Again, sorry for not being around. Don’t hold it against me. Remember, just like you I’m a student entrepreneur, with the keyword there being student. Class dismissed.

Top 10: Penny Pinching For Your Business

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Strategies, Top 10| 1 Comment »

Note: Welcome to Startup Students. If you enjoy this post, don’t forget to Stumble, comment, and subscribe to the RSS feed!

Today I have a list for you of some great ways to save money as a small business. This is especially useful for those of us trying to bootstrap the next great startup. Without further adieu:

  1. Consider having your customers pay up front or require a deposit. This works especially well for larger ticket items or service providers.
  2. Pay for your purchases on credit and don’t pay them off immediately. Of course you don’t want to get into serious debt right off the bat, but cash is very important to have on hand in the beginning.
  3. Consider leasing your equipment. Laptops, furniture, transportation all come to mind.
  4. Be frugal. Easier said than done but by keeping an eye on your spending you are more likely to survive.
  5. Don’t splurge on an office right away, there is nothing wrong with working at home. I do it, so should you.
  6. One man’s trash is another mans treasure. This goes both ways – sell off your old dilapidated equipment and buy others’ gently used byproducts.
  7. Shop around. This goes hand in hand with being frugal I suppose, but next time you need something dont just hop in the car and buy it. Instead, do a little research on the internet to locate the best price first.
  8. Make sure your liquid cash is not sitting idle. Put it to work for you and earn some interest.
  9. Consider trading your goods or services with other small businesses to save money and benefit both of you.
  10. I could write a whole post on this one and I just might some day. Get ready, it’s good. Never Buy what you can Lease, never Lease what you can Borrow, and never Borrow what you can Steal.

Class dismissed.

A Pricing Strategy for Everyone

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Startups, Strategies| 4 Comments »

When pricing your product or service, you should put some thought into the strategy you utilize. Are you going to undercut your competitors? Would you rather target the upper echelon? Maybe you just want to price with the market. It really depends on what you are offering, but here are some different strategies you could employ.

  • Penetration Pricing
    • This is when you want to quickly get some traction in your market by offering a lower (and sometime insanely lower) price. Benefits would obviously be the quick market penetration. But be careful, you dont want to undercut yourself out of business!
  • Skimming Strategy
    • This is somewhat opposite of penetration pricing. Do you have a relatively new technology that nobody else is offering? Why not “skim” off the customers who are willing to pay more in the beginning. Once demand from the early adopters falls, you can then lower your prices.
  • Follow The Leader
    • Sometimes it makes since to just follow the crowd and price your product competitively. Obvious products here would include commodities.
  • Variable Pricing
    • Do you sell cars or real estate? Do you own an eBay business? If so, you are already using this strategy. Variable pricing involves negotiation and bargaining between your sales staff and the customer
  • Flexible Pricing
    • This works well for service based companies. Do you have government clientel? Then add a couple zeros to the price tag. Have a scaled down solution for commercial use? Drop the price and gaing some market traction.
  • Price Lining
    • If you’ve ever been to the Dollar General you are familiar with this strategy. All the products are offered at the same price. Obviously, this method is easy to manage, but you might get stuck due to its lack of flexibility. Times might get tough in times of inflation or an unstable market.

Hopefully this will help you grasp the basic ideas and maybe even assist you in finding the right strategy for your small business. Class dismissed.

Disasters Are Not Fun

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Security, Strategies| Comments Off on Disasters Are Not Fun

I live in Orlando, FL and am a native Floridian.  Suffice it to say I’ve been through my fair share of hurricanes.  We lucked out with Dean thus far, but it serves as fair warning of what could happen to any of us.  For that reason, it’s a good idea to have a disaster preparedness plan for not only yourself but for your business as well.  Below are a few pointers for making sure you and your business survive whatever comes your way:

  1. Backup your files.  I’ve made this point a dozen times.  For more information, check out this article.
  2. Print out hardcopies of important documents – invoices, articles of incorporation, financials, contact information, etc.  Take it a step further and put these and other important documents such as insurance and personal information in a fire/water proof safe.
  3. Pick up a battery powered surge protector, this will give you a few extra minutes to save and shutdown when the power goes out.
  4. This tip is more or less for your safety.  Be sure to keep extra batteries, water, canned goods, blankets, clothing, and a weather radio in a safe place.
  5. Keep abreast of the latest happenings before its too late.  Watch a few minutes of evening news or the weather channel each night.
  6. Consider geting disaster recovery insurance.  This holds true especially for those of you with offices and warehouses outside of your home.  But remember, your home owners insurance might not cover the business happenings occuring inside your place of residence.
  7. Make sure others outside of the “danger zone” know where you will be and have the appropriate contact information if you are displaced during a disaster.
  8. Hang on to old reciepts and take photos of important equipment and other valuables inside your home, home office, or place of work.
  9. 9.  Stay sober and aware during the storm or natural disaster.  We like to have hurricane parties for the smaller storms (tropical storms and category 1 hurricanes), but anything bigger than that and you need to be in a proper state of mind to handle any situations that may arise.
  10. 10.  Inform your clients and customers ahead of time (if possible) of the impending situation and make plans to assure their orders are delivered accordingly.

Overall, just use your common sense and stay alert.  It’s not a question of if, but rather of when this will happen to your small business so it’s best to be prepared early rather than late.  If you have any other tips, let me know!  Class dismissed.

Back to School, Back to Business

Topic: Helpful Ideas| 1 Comment »

It’s been a short and hectic summer vacation, especially with the loss of my laptop a couple weeks ago.  But, I’ve moved on and am ready for the semester to get underway.  I’m taking it easy this time around, just three classes plus an internship (and all my business happenings as well).  As you finish up your back to school preparations, I figured I’d toss in a few time management and productivity tips to help you get through this busy time of year.  In mo particular order:

  1. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, employ a calendar.  I use one on my computer, but a day planner or even a notebook works well.  Not only will writing things down help you maximize your time, you’ll find it relieves stress as well – mainly because everything is mapped out for you and you don’t need to worry about procrastinating since you’ve already scheduled time for your planned activity.
  2. Balance work/school with fun.  For those of you caught up in the entrepreneurial lifestyle, it can be tough to decide between going out on a Friday night or catching up on work.  For me, it’s often times an easy decision because I’ve been so slammed recently.  But if you take advantage of the calendar tip above, penciling in some fun time is quite possible.
  3. Outsource.  Whether it means giving your roommate a few beers to knock out your laundry or shipping that next project over to India, outsourcing will really free you up.  I’m beginning to use this strategy more and more, not only in my business but also in my daily life.  I haven’t read the book yet, but some would recommend the 4 hour work week for tips on this.
  4. Prioritize.  We all know school comes first.  But I’m talking a little bit more prioritization.  I like to list my days activities and then prioritize based on a few personal criteria.  This is not an excuse to put off less important activities, but does help you get things done efficiently if used correctly.
  5. Don’t be lazy.  And by this I dont mean skp watching football all weekend, because we all need to do that.  I’m basically saying that you need to keep your plate full.  When you have downtime it affects all aspects of your life and you get even less done.  When my day is chock full of activities, it feels like I get even more done than I had planned.

Feel free to jump in with your tips and I’ll add them to the post.  Everyone have a great first day of school (or another day of summer depending on where you are at).  Class dismissed.

Traditional Advertising Isn’t Dead

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Market Intelligence, Startups, Strategies| 1 Comment »

I’ve made the assumption that most of my readers are internet entrepreneurs – that is they conduct the majority of their business on the web as opposed to in “real life”.  That’s fine and great, in fact I’m in the same boat (obviously).  But that doesn’t mean you and I should stick to internet based advertising.  I agree 100% that if you work online you need to participate in SEO, PPC, Insert Abbreviation Here, but I feel you are really missing out on a large market segment by ignoring what I would call the more traditional advertising channels.

Below I have put together a list of the traditional media outlets along with some advantages- I hope it helps!

  •  Newspapers
    • These are pretty old school.  You will benefit, however, from the ability to target specific geographic regions.  It’s also nice because you have very short-term commitments and can easily gauge the responses you receive.  And, unlike other print media, you can submit your ad on Monday and have it appear in the paper by Tuesday and Wednesday.
  • Magazines
    • You’ll benefit from full color, professional looking advertisements – but remember that it comes with a hefty price.  What’s really great about magazines is the long shelf life and high chance that it will fall into the hands of many (think doctors office).  My recommendation is to target trade magazines as opposed to general interest publications, that way you minimize the so-called shotgun effect.
  • Radio
    • Radio is accompanied generally by a low cost, immediate result.  It also adds a touch of professionalism in my opinion.  Problem here is your market is not well targeted, but the cool thing is you might start attracting customers you never thought would be interested!
  • Television
    • Diverse audiences like radio, except at a hgher cost.  You’ll benefit from the ability to get creative and leave a lasting impression however.  I found this site called Spot Runner a while back that has prebuilt, entertaining comercials for your use.
  • Outdoor Media
    Again, you’re going to run into some costs here.   I had a buddy who used this method to some success and that’s why it’s on the list.  You’ll benefit from repetive views without any additional costs and you can also place it where you want.

That’s all for today, if you have and questions or comments, please feel free to post.  Class dismissed.

Don’t Take Security for Granted or “Getting Robbed Sucks”

Topic: Helpful Ideas, Security| 5 Comments »

Let me apologize for the severe lack of postings.  The dry spell is well warranted however.  Last Monday, I headed out for a weeklong vacation in the mountains of North Carolina.  We have a house up there and it’s really a great getaway.  It feels awesome (although a bit frustrating at times) to not be tied to your laptop, television, and hustle and bustle of the “real world”.  I got to sit by the stream, have a few beers, and just relax.

But it sucked, and here’s why.  The first leg of my vacation involved staying at a friends house in Charlotte.  We went out for a few beers and talked business – an all around good time.  But that night my truck was broken into.  Included in the heist was my cd player,  a chain saw, and my laptop (at least they were kind enough to leave my golf clubs).  For those of you who have been the victim of such a situation, you know it’s not the equipment that matters, it’s the data stored on it.

Invoices, passwords, bank information, personal data, financials, accounting ledgers, etc.  The list goes on and on for me and I’m sure it would for you as well.  One bright spot I suppose is that luckily I employed one of my previous posts and I had sufficient backups of all my data.  All I really must do is keep an eye out for identity theft, but other than that I’m okay.

I guess the moral of this hardship as well as this post is to not take your security for granted.  It CAN happen to you and at some point in your life it WILL happen to you.  All you can do is take the neccessary precautions.  Here are a few pointers to keep you safe and secure:

  • Backups
  • Backups
  • More backups.  The point here is to always back your data up.  A slight inconvenience now will save you a million headaches later
  • Don’t save passwords – especially to online banking or other personal information sites.  It’s really convenient but also pretty stupid.  I’ll make an exception for your desktop but not your notebook.
  • Encrypt sensitive data.  Again, a bit of a hassle now goes a long way later.
  • Utilize strong passwords and some form of screen lock software.  Assuming your less fortunate intruder is not a computer whiz but merely a drug fiend or common criminal, this should suffice for turning your laptop into a paperweight if it falls into the wrong hands.
  • Employ some form of loss prevention software such as LoJack for Laptops.  Maybe overkill for personal computing, but $49 bucks a year is a small price to pay for some added security.
  • Write down serial numbers and other identifying information.  Less than 1/3 of 1% of items are recovered (in Charlotte, NC) but this can be useful for the authorities when attempting to recover stolen equipment.
  • You would think this goes without saying, but not for me apparently.  Keep your laptop with you and not unattended.  Although, I’d have nothing to post about if I did that….

That’s all for now, I hope you take this one to heart and learn from my mistakes.  Condolences accepted but not required…

Class dismissed.