Editor's note: In celebration of the 50th annual National Small Business Week, TransWorld Business is running articles all week featuring tips and tools for different areas of your business each day.

Thursday's Tips: Growing Your Small Business

By: Will McKenna

You’ve got your business off the ground and your making steady income. What’s the next step? Continue down the small business road, or take a new route and begin expanding? A good business owner knows when it’s time to take a big step forward, and it may not be when the idea of growth is formulated. Taking things too far can lead to the death of your business, but hesitating to act can be an unfortunate missed opportunity. Expanding takes careful preparation so we’ve provided you with some tips that may make growth easier.

1. Satisfy current customers

A business needs customers to operate, and you’ve already got some. Making sure that their every need is met not only ensures their return, but could lead to new customers through word-of-mouth referrals. Get personal with your customers, learn their names, and show that you truly care about their expectations. Your company may not interact personally with your clients, so set up some social media pages to communicate with the people that make your business possible. Their happiness is your happiness.

2. Work with current customers for growth ideas

Ask your customers what they want to see happen within the company, whether it be more services, new products, or changes in operations. They like what you’re selling now and have a view of the company that you don’t- the consumer side. Whether your customers are store browsers or other businesses they like to know that their opinion matters. Allowing current customers to try your products before they are sold in store is a good way to express your trust in your customers and learn from their feedback. Their suggestions could help kick start new ideas for the company, or give you assurance that you’re on the right track.

3. Strike at the right time and place

Maybe you’re thinking of opening a new location, or putting a new product on the market. Slow down. It’s all about perfect timing. You wouldn’t want to make the mistake of opening your second sushi restaurant in a town filled with seafood restaurants, and you wouldn’t want to throw a new product on the market as soon as it’s been made. Watch your surroundings and look to other businesses’ actions in the market. Sometimes it’s good to jump the gun on the market, but other times it’s best to learn from the mistakes of your competitors.

4. Create a brand

Customers want a memorable experience. You need to find something unique about the business and flaunt it. Maybe your food is organic, or maybe your product is made with recycled materials, or maybe your skate shop is in an old church. Use these attributes to brand your business as something different than the rest. Branding is a good way to find your niche market, because marketing to everyone just won’t work. From here, you can locate the consumers you plan to market to, and work on a plan to draw them in.

5. Delegate

As the owner you are constantly thinking about every aspect of the business. You need to appoint employees to keep certain things in check, so you can always have an eye on the bigger picture of success and expansion. Without proper delegation, your business could go belly up before you know what hit you.  “As organizations grow increasingly complex, duties and responsibilities across the workforce can become less well defined,” says Robert Heller author of How to Delegate. “Delegation is the manager's key to efficiency, and benefits all.”

6. Automate

Technology is here to help, so let it. Learning to automate certain aspects of your business operation means more man-power where you need it-on business growth. Learn what your business can automate and invest in a means to get it done. There are ample amounts of technology to help businesses move smoother so take full advantage.

 

Follow the jump for:

Thursday’s Tips on keeping your finances in order.

Wednesday’s Tips on how to hire and who to fire.

Tuesday’s Tips on getting a better grasp on social media

Monday’s Tips on growing your business…

Editor's note: In celebration of the 50th annual National Small Business Week, TransWorld Business is running articles all week featuring tips and tools for different areas of your business each day.

Thursday's Tips: Keeping Your Finances in Order

By: Haley Buchner

Whether you are just starting your own business or have been in the game a long time, there’s no question that keeping your finances in order is a continuous task. Finances can easily make or break any business. Below we have some tips on how to not only better manage your finances, but also how to generate new finance as well.

1. Crowdfunding.

If you are a new startup and lacking venture capital, but have a killer idea you may benefit from outsourcing through a crowdsourcing website. Matthew Toren from Young Entrepreneur shares his take on crowdsourcing:

Raising money from individual investors through crowdfunding networks like Kickstarter and Indiegogo will likely get overhauled soon, after the JOBS Act goes into effect. But it's still a worthy option for cash-strapped startups.

2. Bet on your leader.

When pitching to investors, it is important to not only rely on your idea as the main seller. Your leader carries just as much weight as the idea itself, if not more. Aaron Aders from Inc.com caught up with MaryAnn Bekkedahl, co-founder and president of New York-based start-up theSwizzle, to get her opinion on startup ventures:

History shows that original ideas change time and again (pivot) at start-ups; it’s most important to know that the leader(s) can manage that change well and build value for the investors. It’s just as important to showcase the leadership team’s strengths and experiences in investor presentations as it is to detail the product vision and its eventual grand success.

3. Create Investor Relationships.

Venture capitalists are taking a risk on you, so you might as well take a risk on them. Get to know the members of the board behind your business. The more time that you spend developing a relationship with your investors the more they will care about your business, be willing to give back, and go to bat for you.Keep your investors in the loop by sending them frequent emails and keeping them up-to-date on company activity. In a recent interview with Mark Suster from Inc.com, Rob Bailey, CEO of DataSift shared his take on investor relationships:

Investors and board members who know your strategic objectives can advocate on your behalf when they have chance encounters with your partners, customers or potential future investors. The more they know your strategic objectives the more laterally they can act on your behalf in key situations.

4. Keep your ideas big.

Creating a startup takes takes time and may seem tedious at points. But, you should have long term goals that make you excited and may even scare you a little bit. Keep your sights set high and map out big goals for your business. MassChallenge founder and CEO John Harthorne from the Young Entrepreneur Council believes that in order to maintain commitment it is best to seek measurable impact:

As the joke goes: “Generous people give others fish. Wise people teach others to fish. Entrepreneurs do not rest until they’ve shaken up the entire fishing industry.”

5. Hire an accountant.

When it comes to numbers it always better to hire a pro rather than trying to cut corners. It may seem more cost-efficient to do it yourself, but in the end a trained accountant will most likely end up saving you money.

Forbes's Young Entrepreneur Council put their trust in the professionals as well adding that,  

“An accountant will almost always find more deductions and keep you penalty-free. Their intimate knowledge of the profession as well as tax laws in their jurisdiction will save you money almost every time.”

Follow the jump for:

Wednesday’s Tips on how to hire and who to fire.

Tuesday’s Tips on getting a better grasp on social media

Monday’s Tips on growing your business…

Editor's note: In celebration of the 50th annual National Small Business Week, TransWorld Business is running articles all week featuring tips and tools for different areas of your business each day.

Wednesday's Tips: How To Hire and Who To Fire.

By: Will McKenna

Human resources are a key factor in building and maintaining your small business. But operating a small business means having a smaller team, so choose wisely. When building your team it’s easy to fall into the trend of hiring people with the same skills, or trying to run a business with friends or relatives. Though the latter can be done you want to make sure your employees know who is in charge. Remember this is a business and businesses need to make money, so don’t be afraid to take risks when hiring and firing in order to maintain the cash flow.

Here are some tips to help you get your dream team assembled:

1. Don’t be afraid to pass on applicants

Hiring is one of the first steps to building a business. Without a team to work out issues and form new ideas the business is nothing more than a one-man-venture. Hiring is a very crucial step; you need to seek out people who fill specific needs for specific positions. You’re the one paying their salary, so they should be equally repaying with solid work. Make sure they offer everything you want. If they don’t, move on to the next applicant.

“The cost of hiring someone bad is so much greater than missing out on someone good.” — Joe Kraus, partner, Google Ventures

2. Don’t hire the silent type

In a small business you want outspoken, opinionated employees. If your employees agree with every shot you call, they aren’t of much help to the business. You need solid constructive criticism on everything. You may only have a handful of employees at your disposal; make sure they all tune in on the decisions that determine the company’s future.

3. Ask how they found their previous jobs

When conducing interviews you want to learn about the person by asking strategic questions. Asking the applicant how they found each previous job is an easy way to find out about their previous positions, and whether they are truly interested in working for you.

Inc‘s Jeff Haden says that applicants who have found consecutive jobs through postings probably don’t know what they want to do. They need a job, any job, and saw your posting and thought “I can do that.” These applicants also haven’t had any solid connections through previous jobs. If past coworkers don’t want to hire them, why would you.

4. Get rid of overpromisers

So you’ve got your team together and business is underway. But one employee is constantly saying he can do this and this and this, and at the end of the week you get half of what he promised. Get rid of him. Having a big ego in the work place is only acceptable when you can actually live up to it. When an employee makes big promises they could be trying to win your approval, show-up coworkers or feel more important internally. This isn’t the person you want to work with.

5. If you’re cringing you’ve got to fire

Barry Moltz, a small businesses consultant and winner of the Small Business Book Awards 2013, says “It's time to fire someone when every time you write that person a check, you cringe.” Whether it be simply not believing they deserved the pay, or doing something that makes you think twice about their employment, you should seriously consider cutting ties. Don’t lie to yourself. They’re doing something wrong if they were the reason behind that grimacing look on your face.

6. Hire interns

Interns are great. They are eager to work, want to make connections and want to impress you with new skills they learned last year. Oh, and most work for free. Interns are a great way to get some extra help around the office and gives your newly hired employees the ability to focus on the very important work. Maybe after a couple hardworking weeks you can replace that overpromiser with your energetic graduate.

Follow the jump for:

Tuesday’s Tips on getting a better grasp on social media

Monday’s Tips on growing your business…


Editor’s note: In celebration of the 50th annual National Small Business Week, TransWorld Business is running articles all week featuring tips and tools for different areas of your business each day.

Tuesday’s Tips: Getting a Better Grasp on Social Media

By: Haley Buchner

Social media is obviously one of the best ways to talk to your customers and in return give them something to say about you. Social media is also the fastest way to get your message out and create a strong customer base. Better yet, with social media you can easily create and build your brand’s identity. Below we have some tips on how to better market your small business through social media.

1. Before you start posting.

First of all, it is important to understand the value of social media in marketing your small business. Lisa Barone, Vice President of Strategy at Overit, a full service digital media agency, recently shared her take on social media with Katie Ingram, from the CMS Wire.

No matter how small a business is they need social media. Social media is one of the best ways to get in front of customers, share views and opinions and to help them understand not only what we did, but why we did it," she said. "It increases visibility, gives people something to find and it gives the search engines something to identify with.”

2. A picture is worth 1,000 words

Many social media platforms, such as Instagram and Pinterest, are designed for pictures. Not to mention, the fact that images are much easier for customers to browse through and it’s a great way to get creative and stand out from the masses.

Katie Ingram, from the CMS Wire, adds that, "there are also tools, such as infographics that allow marketers to tell customers about a product through a series of images and minimal text".

3. Develop a social media personality that people like

Barbara Schenck from Entrepreneur caught up with Viveka von Rosen to hear her ideas on creating a social media voice:

Viveka von Rosen, one of Forbes’ top 50 social media power influencers, says, “I like to see individuals posting for the brand instead of the brand itself posting, both because it seems more authentic and because you can love a brand that you wouldn’t want to hang out with.”

4. Find your niche

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the social media choices available. Try mastering one outlet before you move on to the next one.

Meghan Casserly, from Forbes, recently interviewed Steve Strauss, author of the bestselling book, Small Business Bible, to better understand his view on social media:

You don't want to spread yourself too thin across many, he says, and you also run the risk of overwhelming yourself or your team members with tasks and new technologies to master. "Choose one," he says. "But keep in mind that [the best one for your business] might not be your favorite or the one you're the most comfortable with personally."

5. Strauss's Rule

According to Steve Strauss the 80-20 rule is the most important usage rule for social media, and also the easiest to break.

“80% of the content you distribute via social should be about your customers," he says. What they're interested in, what their needs are and new solutions to their problems. "Only 20% should be about you and your business."

Follow the jump for:

Monday’s Tips on growing your business…

National Small Business Week

TransWorld Business Celebrates 50th National Small Business Week

By: Haley Buchner

Small businesses play a vital role not only in the economy, but also as a key part of American society. This year marks the 50th Anniversary of National Small Business Week and TransWorld Business will be recognizing this milestone by featuring daily small business-focused columns with tips and tools for your company.

The U.S. Small Business Association (SBA) will be hosting events across the country hosted in a different city each day. This is part of an effort by the SBA to provide America’s 28 million small businesses with more resources. According to SBA, more than half of all Americans either own or work for a small business, and an astounding two out of every three new jobs in the US is created by small businesses.

Today’s Tips

The SBA provides a wealth of online resources, including articles, video tutorials, and rules and regulation  for small business owners that are easy to use and relevant for businesses at any stage in their growth.

Thinking of starting your own small business? You can find a range of articles from SBA guiding new businesses owners through the steps of making an idea into a working business.

Next, SBA offers information to help grow your small business. Online you can find articles explaining how to better prepare your business for getting loans all the way to finding grants specially designed for small businesses.

SBA will work with you to make sure that your small business meets industry regulations and is headed towards success.

Their online learning center highlights a range of topics including business technology, business development training, and encore entrepreneurship for women among a long list of other items.