Archive for the Business start up Category

10 tips for Better Team Work

Posted in Business start up, Human Resources, Management / Leadership with tags , , , on December 21, 2010 by virtualcitypa
Have you ever wondered how some groups work and some don’t? Effective team work is both profoundly simple and difficult at the same time.  Susan Heathfield of About.com published this article regarding team building that we thought is relevant for all small businesses..
Keys to Successful Team Work
  • The team understands the goals and is committed to attaining them. This clear direction and agreement on mission and purpose is essential for effective team work.
  • The team creates an environment in which people are comfortable taking reasonable risks in communicating, advocating positions, and taking action. Team members trust each other. Team members are not punished for disagreeing.
  • Communication is open, honest, and respectful. People feel free to express their thoughts, opinions, and potential solutions to problems. People feel as if they are heard out and listened to by team members who are attempting to understand.
  • Team members have a strong sense of belonging to the group. They experience a deep commitment to the group’s decisions and actions.
  • Team members are viewed as unique people with irreplaceable experiences, points of view, knowledge, and opinions to contribute.
  • Creativity, innovation, and different viewpoints are expected and encouraged.
  • The team is able to constantly examine itself and continuously improve its processes, practices, and the interaction of team members. The team openly discusses team norms and what may be hindering its ability to move forward and progress in areas of effort, talent, and strategy.
  • The team has agreed upon procedures for diagnosing, analysing, and resolving team work problems and conflicts. The team does not support member personality conflicts and clashes nor do team members pick sides in a disagreement. Rather, members work towards mutual resolution.
  • Participative leadership is practiced in leading meetings, assigning tasks, recording decisions and commitments, assessing progress, holding team members accountable, and providing direction for the team.
  • Members of the team make high quality decisions together and have the support and commitment of the group to carry out the decisions made.

If a team can get these ten factors right, success and a rewarding sense of team work will follow.

Susan Heathfield is a Human Resources expert. She is a management and organisation development consultant who specialises in human resources issues and in management development to create forward thinking workplaces. Susan is also a professional facilitator, speaker, trainer, and writer.

http://humanresources.about.com/od/teambuilding/f/team_work.htm

31 Tips For Successful Outsourcing

Posted in Business start up, Outsourcing, Virtual Assistance with tags , , , , on December 18, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Here are 31 tips to make your outsourcing experiences as smooth as possible.

Come to an Agreement

One of the most important elements of subcontracting is making sure you and the subcontractor are on the same page and that there are no surprises. Keep these things on your list to help facilitate a smooth working relationship:

1.  Use a contract
2.  Make sure you agree on payment terms up front
3.  Don’t pay in full until the job is complete
4.  Be clear on how and when you plan to pay the subcontractor
5.  Agree on a timeline for the work
6.  Include a non-disclosure/non-competition provision in your contract
7.  Determine how you will receive project updates
8.  Clarify confidentiality expectations
9.  Build in a “de-bugging” provision that identifies a specific period of time the subcontractor will be on call to fix potential problems that arise
10.  Clarify the ownership of the project in writing

Protect Your Business

When you outsource, you are giving up some of your control over the project. Consider these tips to help you protect your business, interests and reputation:

11.  Check references
12.  Review the subcontractor’s portfolio
13.  Verify skills
14.  Consider a small test project first
15.  Be prepared to review all work before turning it over to the client
16.  Be very clear about expectations
17.  Don’t leave any details out when relaying the project request to the subcontractor
18.  Send all work requests in writing
19.  Schedule an initial call and regular check-ins, if necessary
20.  Be available throughout the duration of the project
21.  Track all payments for your books

Client Relations

The goal of the project should be to meet and exceed the client’s needs. In order to do that, follow these tips to manage your relationship with your client:

22.  Be the middleman
23.  Tell your client you are using a subcontractor, if appropriate
24.  Pad the time estimate provided by the subcontractor in your estimate for the client
25.  Don’t forget to add in time for your management role
26.  Be accountable for your work AND your subcontractor’s work

Aside from the Work

Remember the importance of the personal side of your subcontractor relationship. Here are some ways to do that:

27.  Don’t overlook the importance of complementary personalities
28.  Respect the subcontractor’s time
29.  Make sure there are no communication gaps
30.  Give praise and appreciation for a job well done
31.  Ask the subcontractor how it went at the end of the project and provide feedback

What other tips would you add to this list?

Successful outsourcing will not only allow you to focus on what you do best, but also find other ways to satisfy clients and expand your business. By building relationships with your subcontractors that are based on trust and respect, you will be able to create a team that can accomplish just about anything…and give you a day or two off in the process.

http://www.sitepoint.com/blogs/2009/04/09/31-tips-for-successful-outsourcing/

Alyssa Gregory is the owner of avertua, LLC, a full-service virtual assistant firm. She has been designing websites since 1995, and has a passion for supporting small businesses. Alyssa provides business tips, advice and news through her Small Business Idea Generator blog.

PR for small companies too?

Posted in Business start up, Marketing with tags , , , on September 4, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Size really doesn’t matter when it comes to PR. Any size company can benefit from publicity, but the practice is commonly misunderstood in the business arena. Most entrepreneurs think of it as something that only large corporations have a budget for and don’t realise the power of publicity and what it can do for a business to blow it through the roof.

Marsha Friedman of Event Management Services, says that when a story is written in a newspaper or magazine, it lends credibility to you and your company’s products and services beyond anything you could attain with advertising. And, it provides immediate positioning of you as a recognised expert in your field.

Give away information that people normally would pay you for and submit it to daily and weekly newspapers as well as other newsletters in your area.

You may think that giving away valuable advice will hurt you by tipping off your competition, but it is quite the contrary. It will establish you as someone who is a specialist on the subject and you will find that people will start to seek you out for business. People will be more likely to hire you if the media is writing about you or quoting you as an authority.

“Anything written is perceived to be true,” she advises, “therefore articles you’ve written that get published or articles with quotes from you, give you immediate positioning as the “go-to guy” in your field.”

A few different ways to approach the print medium are:

1) Write a “tips” or “how to” article – this is one of the best ways to get free publicity in newspapers and magazines. Offer lots of valuable advice and make sure it’s written well enough for a publication to run it without having to make any edits. Be sure to include your credentials and other boastful information to support your position as an expert – but be careful not to make the article a promotional piece. Editors are looking for content that will be informative to their readers, not a brag piece about you or your company.

2) Write an “opinion letter” – take a stand on a controversial issue or comment on an issue in the news and sent it to the Editor of your local paper – or to the Opinion Editor at other newspapers around the country. Don’t forget to put your credentials at the bottom of the letter so you get the recognition of being a published expert.

3) Create photo opportunities – local newspapers are always looking for interesting photos and images. Create a local event – a fundraiser, an art show, a local or national contest, etc. Then make sure to invite the local press to attend. But even if they don’t show up, get them a photo and press release right away while it’s still news!

4) Recycle your print coverage – turn one media hit into multiple hits by sending a reprint of a weekly newspaper story about you or your company to an editor at a daily newspaper, along with a pitch letter offering an angle different from the angle the weekly pursued. Send articles in trade publications to editors anywhere. Post articles on your website.

Marsha Friedman is the CEO of Event Management Services, Inc., (www.event-management.com) a leading US publicity firm.

Karla Jo Helms is the Vice President Public Relations for PostcardMania, (http://www.PostcardMania.com) named one of the fastest growing privately-owned companies by Inc Magazine

Planning

Posted in Business start up, Management / Leadership, Time Management with tags , , on August 21, 2010 by virtualcitypa

A good plan will:

  • State the current situation
  • Have a clear aim
  • Use the resources available
  • Detail the tasks to be carried out, whose responsibility they are, and their priorities and deadlines.
  • Detail control mechanisms that will alert you to difficulties in achieving the plan.
  • Identify risks, and plan for contingencies. This allows you to make a rapid and effective response to crises, perhaps at a time when you are at low ebb or are confused following a setback.
  • Consider transitional arrangements – how will you keep things going while you implement the plan?

The six phases of planning are as follows:

  • Analysis of Opportunities
  • Identifying the Aim of Your Plan
  • Exploring Options
  • Selecting the Best Option
  • Detailed Planning
  • Evaluation of the Plan and its Impact

MindTools.com was the source of this valuable reference article

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newPPM_05.htm

Price setting

Posted in Business start up, Finance with tags , , , on August 21, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Finding the right balance of offering a service at a price that is right for you and the customer is not always easy to find when you are just getting started. However, over time, an equilibrium will be reached where you realise your niche where clients are either happy to pay a nominal premium for a quality service or otherwise.

smallbusiness.co.uk has some useful hints to review whilst you are setting your strategy:

1. Analyse the position your product holds in the market.

Are your target customers those who are looking for reliability? Has your product already achieved an established image in the eyes of the market? Do buyers view it as good quality, prompt service, stylish, say?

2. Analyse your product.

Are you planning modifications or alterations which could alter its reputation or relative position in the marketplace?

3. Analyse the competition.

How do their products rate against yours? What is the relative price structure in the market?

4. Decide your pricing strategy.

Where in the price range are you going to pitch your price? Is it going to be average for the market, 5% less than the average, 5% above the average or a premium price, 25% above the average?

5. Choose some specific prices.

Estimate volume of sales, profit margin and costs to forecast the level of profits for each price.

6. Choose your price.

7. Are you be able to test market the price in a small area of your market?

This would allow you to gauge customer reactions.

http://www.smallbusiness.co.uk/channels/sales-and-marketing/finding-customers/guides-and-tips/20707/guide-to-setting-prices.thtml

Differentiate or Die in a Downturn

Posted in Business start up, Marketing with tags , , , , on August 13, 2010 by virtualcitypa

Differentiate your businessWhen money gets tighter, people get pickier. Which means, if want to continue to not only survive, but thrive, you’re going to need to dig a bit more deeply into the differentiation well and publicly showcase why you are the woman, man or business that people should be handing their money over to.

Perfect example. Walking down the block looking for a place to grab lunch with my wife on a weekday, we passed 7 or 8 restaurants and every single one was close to being empty. Then we poked our heads into the local pub. We’d never been there before. And, it was packed.

Not because people were drinking their troubles away. They were all sitting and eating. And, 75% were moms in their 30s and 40s. Whaaa?

It wasn’t long until we figured out what was going on. This little pub had figured out a way to shine, while all the restaurants around them stumbled. Along with their standard menu, we were each given a long, 6 inch wide piece of paper and a red pen.

On the paper were about 50 different options for chopped salad mix-ins. We each sat choosing our salad items and, a few minutes later, two giant finely-chopped salads arrived at our table. We dove in, couldn’t finish either and reveled about how we never about this hidden salad gem before. But, clearly others had.

Since then, this little grill has become our go-to place for taking out, ordering in and the occasional dinner with friends, family style.

Because … they get it.

People are looking for value more than at any other time in decades. And, if you can’t strongly differentiate yourself, you and your business become fungible … replaceable … interchangeable.

And, that’s an awful place to be in a down economy.

So, how will you differentiate and showcase your unique value in 2009?

* * * * *

Jonathan Fields, hedge-fund lawyer turned lifestyle entrepreneurAbout the Author: Jonathan Fields is a former hedge-fund lawyer turned serial lifestyle entrepreneur, copywriter, Internet and direct marketer, speaker and writer. You can find him blogging on entrepreneurship and lifestyles at Awake At The Wheel, crafting high-impact copy for clients at Vibe Creative or training people to become entrepreneurs and career renegades at Career Renegade. His next book, also called Career Renegade, is due out from Random House/Broadway Books In January 2009.

Franchising – 5 reasons why its worth considering

Posted in Business start up with tags , , , on August 12, 2010 by virtualcitypa

1. Proven Model

When you purchase a franchise, the thing that you are really purchasing is a business model. You are purchasing the rights to use someone else’s idea. This someone (the franchisor) has put their idea into an organised, easy to follow operations manual. In other words, you are replicating the franchisor’s business. The obvious advantage is that you don’t have to “invent” anything of your own to start a business. It’s already been invented.

2.  Formal Training

Once you have written a check for the Franchise Fee, and signed the franchise agreement, you are officially a franchisee. It is now on the franchisor to teach you their system, in a formal fashion. Training can last from three days all the way up to two weeks. It depends on how complex the franchise concept is.

You’ll be trained on the use of their computers and software, their operational procedures, marketing and advertising, human resources, and sales. Some franchisors even have online training modules set up, so that you actually can start training from home, a few weeks before you head to their corporate headquarters.

3.  Marketing systems

Marketing techniques employed by franchisors, are usually top notch. That is because part of the franchise development process includes testing. Some franchise offerings end up using direct mail marketing to get customers, while some may find that radio advertising proves to be the most effective way to find and retain customers.

The point is this: You are not the one who has to try out nine or ten different marketing ideas in order to find the one that works the best.  It has been done for you already. In most cases, the franchisor knows what works. They just have to show you how to implement it.

4.  Technology

The franchisor needs to have great technology. Twice. First of all, the franchisor must make things as efficient as possible for it’s franchisees, so they can concentrate on business growth and development, not payroll, and scheduling. Most franchisors have software programs of their own for their franchisees, who pay for them as part of their initial investment.

The franchisor must also have top notch software for their own internal operations. Things like franchisee sales figures, royalty payments, email marketing metrics and website statistics are all measured, so that management can stay on top of things, and keep the system growing.

5. The Franchisee Network

This may be the best part of the franchise business model. As you learn more and more about the franchise offering that you are interested in, you will find that the franchise director or salesperson can only go so far in dispensing pertinent information about the franchise opportunity. It will be time for you to reach out and talk to the network of franchise owners who are in the business that you may want to get into yourself.

You should call 10-15 franchisees of the franchise concept you are interested in. You will be able to get a lot of your questions answered, but it gets better. Undoubtedly, you will find some commonality with a couple of them. These are the franchisees that have given you permission to call them back if you happen to have more questions before you make your decision. Hold on to these names and numbers. These will be the folks you call after you become a franchisee. You could be calling them to get some much needed advice during those challenging start-up months.

These people will usually go out of their way to help you. They probably had similar help during their own start-up phase, and are more than willing to give it back. Sometimes, close friendships even emerge. After all, they probably went into a business of their own for some of the same reasons that you are thinking of doing so. Talk about a natural bond.

Joel Libava on 2008 franchise trends About the Author: Joel Libava is President and Life Changer of Franchise Selection Specialists. He blogs at The Franchise King Blog.