A Presentation That Pays Off with Future Sales

The success of a presentation begins with its very first sentence. Ask yourself what will be most interesting to your attendees. Is there new research or data within their industry that can help their businesses run more efficiently? Maybe there’s a recent success story that may impact their mindset about a new technology in the marketplace?

Not every presentation needs to be exactly like Steve Jobs would have done it, or in the style of a famous TED Talk, but there are some key points that will captivate your audience and keep their attention — helping you close deals. Follow the tips below to prep for your next presentation and stand out in front of the crowd.

What makes an amazing presentation?

Experts at CustomShow, a sales presentation platform, stress that capturing your audience’s attention with a strong opening will engage their minds, enabling the presenter to effectively convey his entire message. Their advice: “In general it is not a good idea to memorize your entire speech. It is, however, a good idea to memorize the beginning four to 10 sentences. This is critical because it allows you to feel confident and ride the wave of confidence as you continue your presentation.” For additional ideas, view How To Start A Presentation Tips And Tricks – 22 Powerful Strategies on their website.

The mechanics of speaking will in itself make a difference in the effectiveness of your presentation, too. Your voice speaks volumes about your confidence and will reflect, rightly or wrongly, on how you feel about the topic. Therefore, speaking clearly and confidently is important.

4 ways your speaking voice matters

You’ll find many useful tips for prepping your voice at SkillsYouNeed.com. Its primer on Aspects of Effective Speaking provides useful exercises on increasing your comfort in developing a speaking voice, using breath to improve your voice and the four important aspects of voice when making a presentation:

  1. Accents
  2. Finding your voice
  3. The effect of breath on voice and speech
  4. Vocal production

One example of how your voice matters is inflection. For example, when a person asks a question, the last word of the sentence typically goes up in tone at the end. Sometimes when speakers are uncomfortable with a subject or nervous about their situation they fall into a rhythm that ends every sentence on a high note, whether it’s a question or a statement. This leaves an impression of uncertainty. Practice your presentation, record it and listen for proper inflection. Strong statements should finish with a steady or lower tone. Make sure your voice varies appropriately.

Make the content memorable

Equally important, of course, is the content. You have earned a precious opportunity to stand in front of an audience that includes prospective clients. Show them how much you value their time and how you intend to make it pay off. Talk with knowledge about the audience’s industry or needs. Share important trends or information relevant to their needs.

While your talk may include a scripted explanation about your company’s services, make certain the bulk of your presentation offers in-depth information that makes for useful takeaways. When you do so you’ll build trust and that is the first step toward opening the door to business after the presentation.

new school marketing tricks

7 New-School Digital Marketing Tricks For Your SMB

new school marketing tricks

We’ve shown you how you can leverage seven old-school marketing tricks for your small and medium-sized business. Of course, old-school isn’t the only way, and you can always teach a dog new tricks.

Our business is all about helping other businesses get access to funding and grow. But aside from finances, part of business growth is understanding how to take advantage of trends—in this case, digital marketing tactics that help you connect with your customers.

Here are seven new-school and actionable ways to take advantage of digital marketing tactics for your SMB.

1. Help people take action on your website

Your website should be the center of your online strategy to build trust and describe your products, services and business values. So make sure your customers keep reading. How do you do that?

Put calls-to-action, known as CTAs, on every page. Make them clear, concise and obvious. What action do you want your readers to take? If you want them to subscribe to your newsletter, then include a sign-up form directly on that page. If you want them to call a rep, then make that number front and center (and clickable on mobile devices). And if you want them to read more content, then include widgets with catchy headlines to the next pages and blog articles.

Review your site and list the pages that are missing a CTA and ones that can be improved. Then make a plan to fix that.

2. Blog once a week

There are so many advantages to building a thought-leadership section to your website. And it doesn’t have to be hard.

Use this list of blog headline starters from Co-Schedule to come up with some initial ideas. Then create a quick and easy publishing calendar on Excel that shows the topics you’ll publish each week. Voila! You’re blogging. Start with articles around 500 words long, and always answer the question, “How will my customer benefit from this?”

Blogs keep your website up to date with new content, which will improve your Google ranking. By updating your blog at least once a week, Google will have new material to scan and your customers will have a reason to return. Not sure where to start? For starters, check out How to Start a Blog from First Site Guide, which details exactly what it takes to turn your blog from concept to reality.

how to start a blog

The team at First Site Guide walks you through their “five easy steps to starting a blog” including:

  1. Choose a blogging platform
  2. Pick a domain name
  3. Get a web hosting account
  4. Install blogging software and set up a blog
  5. Select a blog design and layout

Once you’ve got a blog up and running, it’s important to share every article—not once or twice, but multiple times on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and more. If you have evergreen content (it doesn’t go out of date), then you can continue to share it over the next quarter and year.

3. Find the right keywords to improve your SEO

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is extremely important for the growth of your digital marketing. By adding the right keywords on your website, customers will be able to find you when they search for certain topics on Google. For example, if you make incredible birthday cakes you should be found when someone searches “best cake for kid’s birthday party” and similar terms.

It’s all about making sure that people can find your business website. Make this a priority – whether you learn more out about it yourself or hire an SEO expert to help out. Start with these steps:

  • Use your blog to add even more of the right keywords, which allows you to stay up-to-date with current trends in your market.
  • Check what your competition is talking about on their website, blog and social media sites, then include those topics in your blog so you can be found by prospects.
  • If there’s a new innovation in your industry, blog about it and make use of those strategic keywords so people will find you when they’re searching for info about that hot topic.

How do you find the right search keywords? One of the most trusted resources is the Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool, but it can get complicated. If you’re just starting out, try Wordtracker to get a sense of the type of keywords searched around specific topics.

For a crash course in SEO, check out this page from Moz.

4. Find the right followers on Twitter

We all know the potential value in Twitter as a business-friendly social media platform. But how do you grow your following and find the right demographics that meet your target market. Enter a host of free tools (yes, free!) that can help you do that in a somewhat automated way.

  • ManageFlitter: A great tool to find active Twitter users who are in your target geography and industry. Make use of the “refine search” function to find the right Twitter users. Then follow people using the automated feature (some paid options) to set it and forget it. Come back a couple days later and see who followed you, then unfollow the ones that didn’t. You’ll maintain a symbiotic Twitter relationship that way.
  • Tweepi: Another similar tool, but check out their “Follow List” feature that allows you to easily follow Twitter users from someone’s list – an often overlooked tactic.
  • Followcheck: Although the search options aren’t as robust as ManageFlitter, this tool gives you two great features. One is their “Sleepers” list that shows your inactive followers (ditch them!) and the other is their F/F ratio in the Search function. Follow users with 70 – 100% F/F ration for a better chance of them following you back.

5. Update your website with a “responsive design”

Over 50% of web traffic is now reported to come from smartphones and tablets these days. So your website better look great and perform even better on mobile devices.

Many sites have what is called a “responsive design,” meaning the layout of the site will adjust to fit any screen or device. Companies like Womp Mobile can help turn your existing site into a responsive design.

If you’re not sure how your site looks on mobile devices, it’s time you find out. Go to MobileTest.me, select a mobile test, enter your website URL and presto – you’ll see what it looks like. Take a test drive and see if it’s a positive experience. If you’re having problems with your own site, you know your customers won’t be too happy either.

6. Narrow in on your target marketing with Facebook Advertising

Your online advertising should also target mobile users. Facebook claims that two-thirds of its customers access their sites via mobile devices, so advertising there can be a potential boon for your business.

Facebook allows you to easily set up your own ads and adjust your campaigns at the click of a mouse. Select demographics like the age, gender, region and even relationship status of the people you want to reach. Its analytics let you measure and evaluate your investment, so you’ve got a lot of control.

The best advice here is to test, test, test. Because you have so much control of your ads, you can A/B test your ad copy and images, but you can go further and test your actual market. Find out if millennials like your brand more than Gen X. Discover if Texas outperforms California. Or see if people who make $50K a year click more than those who make $100K.

When using Facebook, remember that it’s more consumer focused than Twitter and LinkedIn, so make sure your posts are friendly and provide a real benefit to the market to keep your fans hooked.

7. Show off your work on LinkedIn

If you’re in a visual business like web design, graphic design or photography, there’s obvious reason to show off your work. But it’s also important for industries like manufacturing, transportation, oil and gas, or even for staffing companies.

How do you do this? On your personal LinkedIn profile, click on the “Add Media” icons within your work experience sections. You’ll have the ability to add documents you’re proud of, presentations you have created or given at conferences and events, websites you may have launched or blog articles you’ve penned. This is very important for your current work experience, as your customers and prospects will find you online. You need a well-rounded profile that shows off your talents and expertise in your current position. That builds trust.

If you run your Company Page on LinkedIn, start to do the same thing. But use your updates as a way of showing off your company assets like websites, blog posts, whitepapers, eBooks, events and other social media profiles. Pepper all of these amazing assets into your social publishing calendar to show your followers a better view of your business.

One last tip—make sure you include your contact info so you can be easily reached. You may not want to publicly display a direct phone number or email address, but including your general company phone number, a general inbox address for inquiries or even your Twitter handle is a great way to stay connected.

Do you have a new-school digital marketing tip that your business has used effectively? Tell us in the comments section.

mobile app growth

Amplify Your Business With Mobile Apps

mobile app growth

Are you up-to-date on the best apps for business?

Important hallmarks of successful entrepreneurs include the ability to maximize personal productivity and to find streamlined ways to manage both your tasks and employees. Fortunately, technology aptly zeros in on these qualities, offering an ever-changing array of mobile app solutions.

Top rated marketing apps

Aaron Strout, president of global integrated marketing and communication agency WCG, blogs monthly for Marketing Land, a daily online publication that covers all aspects of the digital marketing industry. His focus is to highlight the best apps for marketers.

Strout’s Top 20 Most Useful Business Apps feature both newer and tried-and-true recommendations covering everything from self-management to travel, social media, enterprise productivity and collaboration apps. Three examples:

  1. Expensify – scan and categorize receipts to manage expenses on the go
  2. Confluence – create documents, organize plans and collaborate with others digitally
  3. LinkedIn – still a leader in business network apps, recently upgraded to be faster and more useful

Cloudwards 30 apps for business efficiency

Cloudwards has prepared their own list of trend setting apps for business, which focuses on ways to take your office efficiency to whole new level. “Small businesses usually have limited budgets as well as only a handful of staff. The idea behind using the apps below is that of maximizing productivity and so save you time and money.”

Cloudwords 30 app ideas for business

The list includes favorites for accounting, scheduling, cloud storage, data backup and productivity, but our three highlights include:

  1. Quickbooks Online – a cloud-based accounting app that helps you keep on top of your accounting and invoicing
  2. Doodle – a brilliant solution for scheduling meetings based on team member availability. Do yourself a favor and check it out asap.
  3. Google Drive – part of the Google family of products, Drive is touted as the “holy grail of cloud storage” and a must-have app for any business

Security and mobility top the list of app concerns

The website tech.co, featuring startup news, events and mobile resources, shares even further app advice in their article, Prepare For These Mobile App Predictions. The list counsels businesses to use apps to create “more personal engagement with consumers.”

It also hails enterprise mobility (basically handling business infrastructure and connection to staff, consumers, etc. via apps) as a key trend for this year. As you might guess, app security is also a hot topic.

Develop your own app like a pro

There are apps for building apps as well. One handy tool is BuildFire, a leading global mobile application development platform choice for businesses, organizations, professionals, and resellers. The intuitive system and US-based customer support helps thousands of users build mobile apps every week. In fact, more than 50,000 businesses have already used the “click and edit” platform to create custom mobile apps for smartphones, tablets and mobile websites – no technical skills are necessary. It’s free to build your app, followed by reasonable monthly fees once published. 

Getting on board with mobile technology is definitely worthwhile. Recently Gartner Inc., a world leader in IT research and advisory, announced by 2018, 50 percent of consumers in mature markets will use smartphones or wearables for mobile payments. “Innovation in apps, mobile devices and mobile services are impacting traditional business models, particularly in the way people use personal technology for productivity and pleasure,” said Amanda Sabia, principal research analyst at Gartner. “Product managers must understand who their customers are for these new devices and services, and how the products are being used. Knowing your customer is imperative in order to capture a fair share of spending opportunities in this dynamic marketplace.”

This article originally appeared on Liquid Capital on February 5, 2016, with new updates added in April, 2017.

10 times thinking

Think bigger & grow your business by 10 times

10 times thinking

What would you do differently if you had to grow your business revenue by 10 times?

Would you keep doing the same thing you’re doing now? Would you maintain the same strategy? Do you think 10 times growth could be possible?

Startups thrive on 10 times growth

That’s exactly what was requested of Jason Silver, Growth Lead for Airbnb Canada, when he began his career with the famous startup – as he explained at a recent conference to a packed audience.

Silver was asked to fly to San Francisco to present his growth plans for the coming year to leadership. Being an enthusiastic new team lead, he set a bold vision for the year ahead and laid the strategic groundwork for 10% growth – what would be considered a remarkable achievement for most organizations.

In the boardroom that day, he explained how he and his team would achieve that growth, heads nodding around the room, and he was proud of what they had planned. But at the conclusion of his presentation, one of Airbnb’s most senior leaders questioned Silver.

‘What would you do differently if we asked you to achieve 10 times that growth?’

Silver was stumped. He stopped dead in his tracks and knew that this wasn’t just a question; it was a request.

Reimagining your entire business strategy

On the flight back home, Silver knew 10 times growth could never be achieved through a simple retooling of the existing strategy. He thought to himself, “If this seemingly impossible task was actually possible, what would my plan be?”

He had to scrap everything and start from the ground up.

Back home, he and his team began developing an entirely new plan in short order – this time focusing on an incredible growth trajectory over the same period of time.

His mantra during the ensuing year became one about the very idea of failure. “Failure is the tool I use to figure out if we’re being ambitious enough in the work we’re doing.”

The company’s vision for an aggressive approach to strategy and growth would teach him one of the biggest lessons of his career.

Can 10 times be achieved?

Skeptics would argue this would be an improbable achievement under most circumstances. And they might be right.

In Silver’s case, the team put their strategy into action and worked diligently throughout that year to achieve 10 times growth. And the result? They failed.

But failure was far from a bad thing. Although they didn’t achieve the ultimate goal, they did achieve nine times growth – and that amount to a near 800% improvement over where Silver’s original strategic plan would have put the division in the same timeframe.

By any account, that is a massive victory.

     Related: Using failure as a guidepost: Why growing companies should embrace failure.

Thinking bigger in your organization

The lesson is clear. Any individual, team or entire company can achieve exceptional results well beyond their original goals, but it may require a fresh approach to their strategy. Step outside the comfort zone of your original plans and ask yourself what it would take to achieve 10 times your results.

Silver recommends thinking about the ‘what if’ questions in your own company. What if our market was bigger? What if we developed a completely new product? What if we attracted a sought-after demographic of customers?

By reimagining the possibilities of your company boundaries, you can put down the preconceived roadblocks and find alternate avenues to your strategy. The possibilities are infinite, and brainstorming ideas is one route to uncovering a potentially lucrative new direction.

Can your company achieve 10 times revenue? That is to be determined – the starting point is challenging yourself to come up with a new way of approaching your business that breaks out of the mold.

Are you capable of 10 times thinking? Absolutely.

factoring approval

Does my business qualify for accounts receivable factoring?

factoring approval

When the bank denies your loan, you have options. Accounts receivable factoring could give you the funds you need in a very short time – sometimes as quick as within one day. But first, make sure this option is right for your business.

If you fit into this list of criteria, you could be approved for accounts receivable factoring.

Your Company

You’re a B2B company, whether you are a small business or startup, a growing operation or an established enterprise.

Your company provides a service or sells a product to other businesses rather than private individuals

You don’t meet the standard list of requirements for a bank loan

Your company’s credit rating may not be very high, but your customers’ credit is.

You operate in an industry that has reliable customers that pay on invoicing. See a list of common industries below.

factoring industries

Your Sales

You have sales on the books with dependable customers who are credit-worthy

You invoice your clients on credit terms.

You have strong sales opportunities in the pipeline.

You have credit-worthy accounts receivable that are very likely to be paid on their due date.

Your Invoices

Your customer invoices tend to have longer terms such as 30 or 60 days from the invoice date.

Your invoices are free of liens and encumbrances.

Your invoices are within credit terms and credit limits.

 

There are plenty of advantages to using accounts receivable factoring, aside from the obvious need for working capital.

Your factoring company can provide back-office support and take care of collections for those accounts receivable, freeing up time to focus on your company. You’ll also obtain more working capital that can be used to purchase additional supplies and fulfill new orders, helping grow your business at a faster pace. And by working with the right company, you’ll gain an invaluable business partner that can provide broader financial analysis and support – so the process can continue at a scalable pace to meet your business needs.

Learn more about factoring in the below video — and get in touch with us to discuss financing options for your business.

Why Airbnb recommends you should fail often

And how to use failure as a guidepost.

Airbnb business lessons

At a recent business conference, a young professional walked on stage to deliver the final keynote. With confidence, he stated:

“Failure is the tool I use to figure out if we are really being ambitious enough.”

Jason Silver was speaking about his experience working with Airbnb as the Growth Lead for their newly expanding Canadian market. To launch his Airbnb career three years prior, he was flown out to the San Francisco headquarters to present his strategy in front of senior leadership (all of whom were also young professionals).

Jason Silver AirbnbSilver was sure he had blown them away with his incredible plan to increase revenue by 10% in the next year. But those brash young execs turned him back and said he needed to think bigger, bolder and reimagine his strategy. His presentation had failed, but Silver was just getting started.

“If you fail and it’s not crippling to your business, then you’ll be improving and getting better at what your do. You’re trying something new and progressing.”

Airbnb wanted Silver to fail. They wanted him to feel the sting of defeat so that he could completely change his approach.

On his flight back home that same day, Silver scrapped everything he had been working on. He reinvented a completely new strategy from the ground up, and in that first year as Growth Lead their team proudly accomplished 9 times the growth they originally forecast. It was an unbelievable accomplishment. Silver had quickly learned that failing at Airbnb wasn’t the end – it was a tool to get to a better strategy.

Now, Silver advocates three steps to change the framework for failure – and it all revolves around being innovative.

1. Ask new questions.

“The right questions will lead you down a path that can change your business, industry or even the world.”

So what are the right questions?

These are not the conventional ones that everyone else is asking. Ask a question that reframes the problem, so you attack it from a completely different angle.

Twitter lit up with Jason’s quotes and advice, including user @ColleenMCole who tweeted the above.

When creating smartphones, Silver suggests that the questions may have taken a successful company like Apple down roads less traveled. A conventional question would ask, “How can we make a better mobile phone?” This would constrain the company to the status quo and make an incremental improvement. They would likely end up with a version 2.0 of the same phone.

But with innovative questioning, another company could ask, “How can I carry around the power of a computer in my pocket?” This forces the company into new territory, raising new and innovative questions, and ending up with a brand new product like the iPhone when no other devices on the market compare.

2. Imagine a vision, realize it with data. 

Imagine the world or your business as you want it to be, and then use data to realize that vision.

This can be seen as a form of goal setting – forcing you to dream and think beyond your standard goals. Be bold and envision what you’ve always wanted to achieve with your business. Don’t let real or imaginary roadblocks get in your way. Remember that your strategic creativity is capable of getting around any roadblock as long as you truly want to realize your vision.

Silver recommends using supporting data that can help you answer the innovative questions and realize the vision. Starting with a clear path that you believe in and using real world data points to find a solution will create a more successful reality. The reverse – starting with data points at hand and then developing your vision around those – will restrict your growth and put limits on what you can achieve.

3. Fail often.

“Business grows by learning from what doesn’t work,” Silver stated. “Embracing failure is incredibly difficult. The key is making mistakes and then always learning from that.”

Airbnb operates in over 34,000 cities and 19 countries, constantly adding more locations and dealing with incredibly challenging rental environments. With 100 million total travelers in Airbnb’s system, Silver explained that the company needed to fail to grow to that level. If the company was afraid to fail, they would absolutely fail.

“Don’t turn a blind eye to negative results,” Silver cautioned, going on to explain that the entire team from top to bottom needs to be on board with the culture to learn from failure. “Shareholders don’t like failure because they want to see ROI. Everyone has to be bought into this because the worst thing you can do is start down the path and then want to go back.

If you fail, and you should, go back to step one.

Ask more new questions. Use data and analytics to prove and disprove your theories, and to support your strong vision. Then never forget to fail again.

Outsource your admin for success

Helpful ways to save time and outsource admin

Outsource your admin for success

Many business owners feel handcuffed to their desks when it comes to dealing with back office admin duties.

Companies thrive by growing – not by scaling back or downsizing. But few businesses demonstrate a capacity to grow – often tied up in constant admin and back office work.

In fact, only 4% of U.S. companies have annual sales that exceed $1 million.

The struggle is even greater for small and medium-sized businesses who don’t have dedicated back office support. Of the 27 million businesses operating in the United States, 21 million of those are sole proprietorships without any employees. And less than 700,000 have 20 or more employees.

Without staff on hand to help you with the back office admin, how will you dedicate enough time to the strategies and tactics that matter? The personnel, money and time you invest in administrative operations can be redistributed toward scaling up your business.

Outsourcing follows the core principles from Scaling Up, which recommends hiring superstars to lead your teams. Choosing experts to do back office tasks, such as accounts receivable and payroll, ensures that you have the best people for the task, which will reduce your costs and free up cash.

Outsource your accounts receivable by finding the right partner

Billing and collections are incredibly important, but the paperwork, filing, call management and follow-ups are a heavy stress on a company’s schedule. Outsourcing your accounts receivable to a reliable company can ensure you collect your payments on time (or early) and eliminate the costly time your staff is putting into processing and collections.

Ron Finlayson, Chief Executive Officer & Chairman of E-Systems, an electronic contract manufacturer in Massachusetts, knows a thing or two about getting the right support for his company’s back office.

“You work really hard to get customers,” he explains. “If you collect a payable from them in a mean or insensitive way, you can lose in five minutes what might have taken you five months to win.”

Finlayson explains how it’s crucial to understand who will be talking to your customers and how they’ll handle those conversations. The tone and manner must match your business. “If you don’t want a hard push, check out what their message is and ask how they handle it if someone can’t pay on time. This was really important to us, and I’m pleased to say that the people handling Liquid Capital’s collections are genuinely nice.”

Read more about E-Systems business operations

Outsource your admin work in combination with other services

A Minnesota company, Ridgeline Manufacturing, sells custom aluminum recreational products such as boat lifts, docks, custom trailers and stairways – perfect for the State of “10,000 lakes.” The company has also been outsourcing their back office receivables through Liquid Capital as part of their accounts receivable financing.

Owners Nick and Julie Newman have been in business since 2008, and use accounts receivable financing, otherwise known as “factoring,” to pay for associated operating costs. Ridgeline uses around 50 vendors to complete one product line — and not all of those vendors offer payment terms, so factoring is used to fill in the gaps.

Because Liquid Capital purchases the receivables outright on behalf of Ridgeline, it also takes care of collections, and that is a huge benefit to their business.

“When manufacturers advance funds to their customers, there is often push-back on us charging interest,” says Nick Newman. “But with Liquid Capital doing that, it’s different. As a third party, it’s more palatable to our dealers and helps the collections process too.”

The company now has increased flexibility, which has helped them land three new dealers.

Read the entire Ridgeline story

Outsource your payroll with a dedicated team

Payroll is a big expense in every business, but consider what payroll operations are costing you each week. The time you and your staff spend on processing that payroll could be put to better use in developing, implementing and financing the expansion of your business. Instead of managing every aspect of payroll, you can find a qualified company to work with you to complete all the paperwork and government filings needed.

The decision about which company should handle your payroll should focus on the following:

  • Be specific about your needs. Let the company know if you will only require payroll services, or if you will also want them to handle retirement and other employee compensation services.
  • Get a dedicated team. Go with a company that will dedicate a team of experts to your business, so you will know who to contact with questions or concerns.
  • Go with a company with transparent pricing. You want to understand how much outsourcing your company’s payroll services will cost, so go with a company that does complicate its pricing structure.

Before making a decision about outsourcing any services to a provider, check their references and ask other business owners about their experience. By doing your due diligence you’ll find a partner that works with you and your team, and that will save you time and money in the long run.

 

increase profit

Get Creative For More Profit

increase profit

At some stage the product or service that launched a company will need to be enhanced or supplemented with other solutions to keep customers engaged. This is where creativity can help entrepreneurs go above and beyond their initial vision.

“Creative thinking is a huge part of good business acumen, without which your business could just go into the stagnation mode,” say experts from eonetwork.org in their blog post, “Reasons Why it is Important for Entrepreneurs to be Creative.”

Fresh Eyes

Look at your business and products or services with fresh eyes. For example, creativity may be about doing more with less. Can you streamline processes? What additional markets would welcome your product or service?

How can the product evolve? Do your employees have additional talents that haven’t yet been tapped? Get staff involved in new activities. Perhaps cross-train them to handle other responsibilities. Give employees time to brainstorm together, free of any structured meeting time.

In its September 2015 post, “Why Creativity is so Crucial for Entrepreneurs,”  cleverest.com says there’s always room for improvement in the deliverables of an enterprise, and creativity is how you can access it. The author urges you to find similar patterns in different areas:

“Creativity enables people to connect dissimilar and unrelated subjects and make successful entrepreneurial ideas. Merging different fields creates interesting intersections that creates new niches. Most people are afraid of bringing different disciplines together, but most interesting ideas come from colliding different fields.”

Cheryl Conner, a contributor to Forbes, outlines in her post, “4 Ways to Increase Creativity As An Entrepreneur,” a method for breakthrough thinking:

1. Ditch your comfort zone.

2. Discover your thinking profile.

3. Remember that great minds don’t actually think alike.

4. Play to your creative strength.

What are those strengths?

Conner describes a clarifier digging into facts for insights; an ideatorthinking big to open up possibilities; a developer crafting complex solutions; or an implementor who loves to get things done and willingly takes risks. The commonality is that these creative types are each doers and they each lead to new pathways.

Try This Creative Exercise

Business leaders need to schedule time in their daily or weekly agenda for creative thinking.

Start by writing the name of your most successful product or service in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. Then freestyle every word that comes to mind, either written or drawn around the center of the paper. It can be numbers, letters, sketches – whatever.

After you fill the paper put it away. Look at it fresh tomorrow. Have a colleague look at it, too. You might just find the next successful evolution of your company.

 

4 Core Business Principles You Might be Overlooking

Growing your business is possible for every industry, but if your company has hit a plateau you could benefit from a refresh in your corporate strategy.

In Scaling Up, Verne Harnish gives guidance on the four simple principles that can help you become part of the four percent of top earners in the business world. These are patterned after the habits that the famous John D. Rockefeller, widely considered the richest man in modern history, used to successfully execute his growth strategies.

  1. People
  2. Strategy
  3. Execution
  4. Cash

1. People: Creating the right team to execute your growth strategy

The people you hire to lead your company must be capable of doing so. Scaling up your business begins with putting the best leaders in positions so they can do what is needed to move your growth strategy forward while staying true to the core principles of your company.

When you add people to your leadership team, the complexity of your company can increase dramatically, according to Harnish. That is why picking great leaders to fill key positions and providing them with team members with similar abilities will save time and energy. Your leadership will be set up to work with teams who are up to performing the tasks assigned to them.

Harnish also emphasizes paying people what they are worth instead of adhering to an industry pay scale or some other artificial method of compensation. Putting the best people in leadership roles and delegating responsibilities to them means paying them what they deserve – based on the value they provide to the business.

2. Strategy: Stick with what you know

Understand your company’s core values and stay true to them when creating a strategy to scale up your business.

For example, if you’ve had success with one location or franchise unit, you can grow that business by opening additional locations or territories. Since you’ve already invested in learning what it takes to be successful, you can apply those same principles in new growth. And once you open additional locations, it doesn’t require that you personally take on the management responsibilities. If you’ve set up the business efficiently, your management team from the first location can be given more responsibility for the second location.

By staying true to your company’s core values that made it a success in the first place, and by training your leadership team to implement and adhere to those values, multiple locations can be established with the same opportunities for success. Reward managers with generous bonuses and other incentives for meeting performance goals at the new locations, which will help ensure your growth strategies are implemented according to plan.

3. Execution: Keeping your leadership team on track

Every member of your leadership team who is involved in executing the strategy to scale up your company must have a quantitatively defined goal.

Quantifying your company’s objectives provides you with a means of measuring performance, and it makes your entire team accountable for performance. Harnish stresses that it’s impossible to determine if you’re on the right track unless there is some way to measure your results.

Next, these measurable goals must be clearly communicated to the teams responsible to meeting them. Scale Up emphasizes the importance of giving your team members a standard they must achieve, and a sense of accountability that can be instilled and maintained by your managers.

4. Cash: Success may depend upon how quickly your money returns to you

The final core principle in Scale Up deals with something Harnish refers to as the “cash acceleration strategies.” Making improvements in your operations to shorten the time between when you dispense money until the cash returns to you after delivery of the product and payment by the customer is critical.

The “cash conversion cycle” or CCC is an invaluable metric to calculate as part of this process. Since you don’t make money waiting to get paid, streamlining the process by which goods or services are created and delivered to the customer will help improve your cash flow more quickly.

Learn more about the cash cycle and how you can calculate this powerful business metric – your CCC.

 

financial forecast

Looking To Forecast Better In 2017? Handle The Process Differently

financial forecast

Leaders of growing companies know that planning is key for continued success. Now that we’re in the fourth quarter, it’s time to evaluate where your business is and where you want to take it in the year ahead.

Forecasting and budgeting tools simplify the process of planning for growth. Capterra is a free service that helps businesses find the right software solution for a variety of services – from barcoding to performance appraisal. Its list of Top 10 Budgeting and Forecasting Software will reduce the time searching for the best tool for your needs.

Also consider a different approach to how you’ve handled forecasting and budgeting in the past. On the hostanalytics.comblog, a recent post “A Call for Change: 6 Indicators You Need A New Approach to Budgeting” explains, “The first step in any budgeting process overhaul is to identify the need for a change.” Here are the red flags:

1.    The budgeting process is taking too long.

2.    You aren’t satisfied with your planning capabilities.

3.    You’re spending too much money on budgeting.

4.    Your forecasting performance is struggling.

5.    Your budgets and plans lack long-term visibility.

6.    Your budget isn’t providing the flexibility you need.

If you’re looking to develop a more aggressive budget you may need to forecast sales and expenses over a multi-year span. Along with reviewing sales and revenues from previous years, pay close attention to the comparison of sales to expenses such as rent, materials, and salaries. Are economic conditions in your industry and/or locale (if applicable) such that you can expect to achieve the same profit in the next year or more? Will there be a burgeoning demand for your product? Should you invest in equipment that enables your staff to work more efficiently? Is it time to add new products/services? Be realistic and weigh the negatives (e.g., new competition or unexpected loss/damage). Also consider whether an alternative financing solution could play an important role in your growth plans.