Archive for

Outsourcing For Your Small Business on a Shoestring Budget

We put our heart and soul into our small businesses. They give us freedom, autonomy alongside challenges, heartache and obligation. They allow us to develop skills we want and force us to develop skills we have no interest in. Essentially we become “a jack of all trades” and potentially a “master of none” in our own business, if we don’t seek external help through outsourcing at some point of the business growth.

Whether the assistance you need is in marketing, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), finance & accounting, warehousing or call centre work there is almost always an outsourcing solution to your business needs. Outsourcing certain functions within your business is often the most cost effective way of achieving certain business goals and tasks. Realising the need for a 3rd party to take on the work is half the battle for a business owner. Not taking this step may very well strangle your business at the level of your capabilities denying the business the growth you want to achieve.

1. Don’t sign long term outsourcing agreements at the outset.

There are plenty of excellent sales people out there who are trained to tell you what they can do for you and how great your business will be, if only you sign a 24 month agreement. Hiring an expert that asks you for a long term agreement is fraught with potential problems regardless of the quality of their references and sample work.

Ask your potential provider if they will work on a trial basis at an agreeable rate, if the answer is no this may be the first indicator that this person or company won’t deliver.

A typical example of this is illustrated in the world of Search Engine Optimisation providers, who as a general rule lock businesses into 12 month contracts with no exit. When you ask why, the standard response is that they don’t control Google so they need the 12 months to get results. Whilst they may not control Google they should be able to deliver good short term results – but SEO is a whole other subject.

So as a small business owner what do you do about long term contracts like this?

Ask the expert to back themselves and agree to a month by month contract with a no fault exit for an agreed period. Set clear and agreed expectations of the measurable outcomes and stick to them. If they can’t meet your expectations in a trial they won’t make you happy and your business grow in the long term.

If you are happy with their performance and confident they will help you grow your business after an initial trial period, you can then negotiate a long term agreement.

2. Don’t be afraid of using overseas or online freelancers.

For tasks such as website development, programming, data entry, copy writing and in fact any task that can be easily defined freelancers are a brilliant and highly cost effective solution.

Access to overseas freelancers is usually through a website dedicated to presenting freelancers who are available for work, some of the better known sites include elance.com, freelancer.com.au and odesk.com. Whichever site you choose ensure that the site has a valid security certificate for payments and an easy to use dispute resolution service, even with the best of intentions, things can, and do, go wrong.

These sites provide a secure marketplace for freelancers to pitch for your work. Many freelancers have full time jobs and freelance as a second income, some spend all of their time freelancing. Regardless of who you choose there can be quite a few advantages to using a freelancer, for example:

· They are generally cheaper.

· You can source experts from around the world.

· They work fast as they don’t get paid until the work is completed to your satisfaction.

· The skills sets they possess are often unavailable to smaller organisation or in some cases in your country.

3. Communicate with your Experts

Amongst the most common ways that an outsourced expert can become a liability to your business rather than a benefit is when the lines of communication aren’t open.

As the client, you need to instigate conversations with your freelancer as soon as you are unhappy, concerned or just have a feeling things aren’t going the way they should be. A good freelancer will not be concerned by a client checking up on them, it is a part of the job. Don’t put off difficult conversations. The longer it takes for you to communicate a problem the longer the problem has to grow.

Communicate clearly, many outsourcers will have English as a second language and you should ensure you take that into account, likewise bear this in mind when you receive a response, have a cup of tea and consider the way forward before you fire off a rude email in response. Remember the old saying, “Act in haste and repent at leisure”

Not all communications should be negative either, don’t forget to communicate the positives. When an outsourced expert is really doing a great job and you are happy, let them know. Outsourced experts are just people and they love to hear when things are going well and will go that extra mile when you communicate the positives.

4. You can (and should) outsource anything

You know your business like the back of your hand and your passion and drive is what will make your business succeed. If you are finding yourself doing tasks that have to be done but don’t contribute to the growth of your business then you are working “in the business” rather than “on the business”.

Sit down and make a list of the tasks that are essential for your business but don’t have to be done by you and investigate outsourcing them, you may be pleasantly surprised. These tasks may be data entry, updating your website, packing and sending of products or bookkeeping or literally any other task you need done, a potential solution exists out there somewhere. Choose the tasks that can be affordably outsourced and in turn free up your time to do the tasks that only you can do.

I believe that outsourcing is a hugely effective way of growing a small business whilst still allowing you the freedom to run your own (now much bigger) show. Outsourcing taps into a huge knowledge base of experience that may not be available in your location and allows your business to benefit from that experience for a fraction of the price of hiring full time staff.

Our online toy store started as a small enterprise in a shipping container in regional Australia, using the tips above and implementing outsouring strategies our business has grown by 400%, our entire supply chain is run from a major metropolitan city and we have the ability to work on the business instead of in the business.

In conclusion, whether you choose to outsource to an international expert or a local company the benefits to your business should be measurable and significant, smart outsourcing should help you to remove the “challenges, heartache and obligation” and allow you to enjoy “the freedom and autonomy” that comes from running a business with outsourced support. Good luck and enjoy your new found freedom and autonomy.

A Mobile Business App for Your Spa or Salon Is the Quickest Way to Keep Your Appointment Book Full

Mobile Business Apps are breaking all records in being the fastest growing technology to date. Day after day Spa and Salon owners are beginning to recognize the value of mobile app technology as a viable marketing tool to grow their business with their current clients!

Making your Spa or Salon ‘stand out’ among the rest, will give your business the competitive edge and keep you professionally ahead of your competition.

There is no comparison to any other low-cost and effective marketing solution available to you for your Spa or Salon than your own Mobile Business App.

Do you know it costs 10 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep a current client? Your Customized Spa or Salon Mobile Business App’s greatest and most beneficial feature is keeping your current clients coming back more often!

Here are some of the features your mobile business app is capable of and perfectly designed for your business and your clients. Your mobile business app is custom designed specifically for you to represent your business professionally and most importantly to enhance client loyalty and client retention.

This easy, affordable and effective “marketing tool,” raises your weekly appointment totals, raises the lifetime value of your client by bringing them back into your business more often; and the best part, by command! It is also designed to make your life easier with the many features you can choose from.

As more… and more… and more (the numbers are mind-boggling) people are definitely pushing away from their laptops and desktop computers and turning to their smartphones for their internet needs, the face of how we act and react is changing daily.

People look for and buy things they need and want via their smart phones in record numbers. If you are a Spa or Salon business and you need customers (well, don’t ya!), then now is the time to get your Customized Mobile Business App for your Spa or Salon!

Did You Know

  • 47% of the U.S. is now using smartphones.
  • The #1 reason a client will no longer do business with you is lack of attention.
  • 58% of people say they can’t be away from their mobile phone for more than an hour.
  • 28% of more people frequent a business which offers a loyalty card. (Your Mobile Business App provides a loyalty card!)
  • One out of 10 people will use a coupon from an app on their phone as opposed to 1 out of 100 people use traditional coupons. (Your app can offer coupons!)

If you are hemming and hawing about the competitive edge, which a Mobile Business App for your Spa or Salon will give you to grow your business, you really need to consider these eight reasons why a Mobile Business App is just plain smart business.

1. Your Clients Want It

There is no question that smartphone users prefer using apps over a website or even their web browser. You can bet that your clients with smartphones are expecting an app for the places they love to go; to your Spa or Salon. Don’t let your clients down!

Smartphone users are discriminatory and prefer the robust experience of a mobile app over a typical website. Your mobile business app allows your client to view detailed information about your products and services, and they can even make a purchase easily, without requiring them to go to your website; with one touch of a finger!

2. Like Your Mother Calling out the Back Door to Come In for Dinner (ahhh the olden days!)

This REALLY should be #1! Calling your clients to action is the goal to “making” your business thriving with your appointment book full week after week. Your app makes it so easy to interact and engage your clients and have them jumping to action and booking an appointment immediately.

Your Customized Mobile App for your Spa or Salon can “PUSH” (deliver) specialized messages to your clients with a push of a button, immediately will have your phone ringing booking appointments. This “Push Notification” feature provides the BIGGEST and most effective benefit to your business’ bottom line. Filling empty appointments, by command!

“How?” You ask. Well, you simply “Push” out a special that day; maybe to fill up empty appointments immediately or even a very special event for only them, and as soon as the client reads it on their smartphone, your phone begins to ring!

Got empty appointment times? HA, NOT anymore with your Spa or Salon’s Mobile Business App!

Smart business owners, until now, have only dreamed of a way as immediate and reliable as a mobile business app to communicate with their valued clients.

3. Your Clients and Prospects May Not Expect it From You

Large companies with big marketing departments and even bigger budgets have only been using mobile apps; until now! Providing your clients to easily keep your business right in hand and a finger tip away, will make you stand out from your competitors. After all, you are obviously MORE professional than your competitors, whom don’t have their very own mobile app!

Do something unexpected. Grab their attention. Surprise your clients with special deals just for them because they have downloaded your Spa or Salon’s Business App.

4. Keep Your Information Up-to-Date and Accurate

Keeping your product information and pricing up-to-date can be quite a challenge. Sure, it’s on your website, but does that really provide exceptional customer service for your clients whom prefer their smartphone over their laptop?

Your Mobile Business app can be kept continuously updated with your latest information and is far quicker and easier than updating that every same information and then having to spend a tone of money for printing the new updates to your brochures or your service menu; and can even be easier and quicker than updating your website!

5. A Sticky Business Grows Faster

Having your customized mobile business app displayed on the screen of their smartphone like a “Badge of Honor” for a place they love to go, YOUR Spa or Salon! Every time they look at their phone, which is about every 6.3 minutes, is a constant reminder YOU!

Providing detailed information, photos, products, events and specials ONLY for the clients that have downloaded your Spa or Salon’s Mobile Business App, which is literally at their fingertips 24/7, makes smart business sense!

6. Keep Up and Even Ahead of the Times… and Your Competition

Major corporations already offer one (sometimes more) mobile apps for their current clients and potential customers. Forward-thinking businesses of all sizes realized the opportunity during the 90′s, when the WWW exploded and seized it early. Playing catch-up was not a good idea for the companies, like Borders, that waited. It’s happening all over again!

7. Build Client Loyalty and Retention with Convenience

Having a Loyalty Program using “Punch Cards” raises retention and loyalty bringing your clients back again and again. Statistic show that 28% of people would prefer to do a business with a Loyalty Program than with one that doesn’t. Your customized mobile business app makes the Loyalty Program easy and very effective.

Your spa or salon technicians and staff can build client loyalty and retention because they will be able to better effectively service the clients by having instant access and pertinent data; such as product information and pricing, at their fingertips.

8. Easy and Affordable

With the many advantages and features of your customized mobile business app and the benefits of immediately filling empty appointments, keeping client loyalty, client retention and building your client data base with new customers within reach of most any business, NOT having one is just bad business!

It’s easy to get started, it’s surprisingly affordable and it just makes sense. So are you going to be the Spa or Salon that is playing ‘catch up?’ Or are you going to be the smart, savvy and forward thinking business owner that you know you are and amp your business with your very own Customized Mobile App for your Spa or Salon?

Copyright © 2013 Andrea Pekarik Welch, All Rights Reserved.

Small Business Coaching Advice: Scalable Solutions – Removing Barriers to Grow Your Business!

Have you ever watched the television show This Old House? Imagine you’re on it, working on a 75-year-old house with its original electrical wiring and plumbing. What would happen if you plugged in a full complement of modern electrical appliances? You’d blow your fuses, not to mention create the potential for an electrical fire to break out. And what would happen to your plumbing if you went from a well-water system to tapping into the higher pressure of city water? (Can you say rain gear?!)

Likewise, too much growth that makes increasing demands on old, outdated systems is what causes most growing businesses to fail. The systems that worked for a $500,000-a-year business are no longer sufficient to cope with a $5 million business, and not even close to being adequate for a $50 million business. At first, the additional sales will cause a few “leaks,” but before long, your business will have burst pipes and water everywhere! That’s why one of the key building blocks of a truly successful business is scalable solutions. (We call this type of business a Level Three Business. A Level One business is a start-up; a Level Two business is an owner reliant business that works only because the owner is there each day to make it work; a Level Three business is a systems driven business with a winning management team in place.)

Case Study: Morgan
Morgan was a young man in his late 20s when he started his mortgage brokerage company, Morgan Financial. He built a successful Level Two business for himself in Portland, Oregon. After a few years operating in one office, Morgan took the scary step of opening a second office. It turned out to be profitable, and for a time, he settled back enjoying the results of his two offices. If that were the end of Morgan’s ambitions, the story would have ended like it does for most small-business owners… with Morgan settling back into his 30- to 40-year role of running his two-office mortgage business as a self-employed business owner.

And for years, that’s the business he was satisfied with-two offices helping home buyers get mortgages. That was until he met a key mentor named Doug. About 10 years older than Morgan, Doug had built up several successful businesses. He provided the capital, confidence, and counsel that Morgan needed to scale his business to Level Three.

Over the next eight years, Morgan went from two offices with a handful of staff to more than 200 offices and 1,000 team members in 23 states doing $1 billion of loans annually. Morgan made the first leap from one to two offices by himself in four years. With the help of his mentor, he went from two to 200 offices-a one hundredfold increase-over the next eight years! How did Morgan explode his business from two to 200 offices in such a short time? He followed the Level Three Road Map and built a systems-reliant business with sound controls and a clear way of doing things that he and his team scaled rapidly.

Morgan and Doug ended up selling their company to a private equity firm and made millions because they actively understood and followed the Level Three Road Map (our name for the step-by-step, level-by-level progression through the lifecycle of your company from launch to exit.)

Now back to you and your business!

Scaling your business requires building it in such a way that your model and systems can be rolled out and replicated on a much bigger playing field. This also means when you’re solving a business challenge, you look for solutions that can be scaled. For example, imagine you’re an online retailer who sells physical products online. One choice for shipping customer orders is for you to hire your cousin Vinny to come over each day to your garage and box and ship out your orders.

Vinny is an extreme example of an “unscalable” solution. You could improve the situation by hiring a full-time person to set up and run a formal in-house shipping department. This solution would be slowed by your need to hire more people and secure more space as you grow. Plus, you’d have to invest in the technology and develop the systems to cost-effectively monitor your inventory and do your shipping.

A third-and scalable-solution would be to outsource your shipping to a professional fulfillment company that already has thousands of times the capacity and proven systems to reliably ship your orders.

Take another example. Imagine you’re building a web platform to process orders from your traveling sales force. When evaluating which platform to purchase, a Level Three thinker would choose one that could handle the high transaction volume you eventually want to have, provided the cost for this greater capacity isn’t too high. If the cost doesn’t make financial sense, consider a smart alternative. Choose a platform that can be easily upgraded later as your sales volume increases and you have the excess cash flow to warrant the upgrade. You’d say “no” to any platform that couldn’t handle your expected sales volume or be easily upgraded and expanded later.

7 Examples of Scalable Solutions
Scalable solutions are flexible. They remove barriers to growth and eradicate unnecessary constraints. Here are seven examples of scalable solutions that business owners we’ve worked with have used to profitably scale their companies:

1. Outsource inbound orders to a call center. You not only benefit from the flexible staffing of the call center, but you get instant access to the systems and technology that the call center has developed to handle hundreds or thousands of times the call volume you may initially have.

2. Create a new client “Quick Start” DVD or kit that introduces new clients to the steps they need to know working with your business. Then a live staff person isn’t required to constantly repeat the information. This could be something you hand to a new client or post on your website and email the link to a new customer.

3. Build an online inventory control database that automatically ties your sales data into your inventory control, accounting, and purchasing systems.

4. Move from working with one client at a time to working with a group of clients. For example, you could offer webinars and teach online classes to hundreds of clients at the same time with no added time and few additional costs. (Bonus: Make recordings of those classes available for later download by thousands of additional clients.)

5. License a key piece of intellectual property to another company for a royalty.

6. Joint venture with a complementary company to provide your customers with a new product or service to purchase and enjoy. No fulfillment or customer service would be necessary on your part.

7. Create a hiring and new-team-member orientation system that allows you to staff up quickly as your business grows.

Take a moment and write down two concrete ideas that came to you as you read this article on scalable solutions and how you can apply them to grow your business.

Now get to work applying them!