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// by Julie Brander / Jun. 18, 2009 4 comments

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Your Employees.

florist_red_flowers1. Employees can drive and build the company, always empower them and pay them well.  Hire leaders that can create synergy in the company.  People that are creative, innovative and have skills that you do not have. 2. Employees with prior experience and expertise will always be more productive and add value to the business.  Productivity is essential to the success of any business. 3. When an employee is no longer productive and stops performing at peak level, never hesitate to replace them.  The next hire will be much better and you will learn how essential training is. 4. Motivate employees with incentives as much as possible. 5. Praise, Praise and give more praise…it costs nothing to do and makes people feel good.
Julie Brander
Business Mentor
SCORE New Haven
Julie has been a SCORE volunteer since 1997. She has 20 years of experience in business, starting a manufacturing, wholesale and retail jewelry company. After selling her business, she dedicated herself to helping other entrepreneurs start and expand their business.
// by SCORE Association / Jun. 17, 2009 2 comments

Knowledge is Power. What Do You Know About the Power of Small Business?

Economists are saying we are turning the corner on the recession. That's good news. Now, how can you learn from the reactions of other entrepreneurs over the past six months? See what entrepreneurs think about the economy in NFIB polls. Try the Small Business Research Board. These can help you gauge small biz sentiment. Think about how it fits with what you see locally. Small Business trends affect you. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce covers a wide range of issues and may offer some current info and insights helpful to your business. Yes, census data is dry information. But, it you are trying to see the concentration of business by industry to decide where you should locate this may help. A SCORE mentor can talk with you about how to apply census data to your own market planning. Meet a mentor in person. Find SCORE near you. Small Business Fact Sheet Accelerate Your Success with SCORE Christine Banning, SCORE View more posts by Christine
SCORE Association

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because our work is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to our network of 11,000+ volunteers, we are able to deliver our mentoring at no charge and our workshops at no or low cost.
@SCOREMentors | Facebook | Google+ | More from SCORE

// by SCORE Association / Jun. 16, 2009 1 comments

Support Women Entrepreneurship Research

woman_line_graph_redThe Center for Women's Business Research, the National Women's Business Council and Walmart are sponsoring a research study and your participation is crucial to its success. Just five minutes of your time will help support the growth of businesses like yours. This study will measure the economic impact of women-owned firms in the United States. This is the first time that this type of analysis has been undertaken for women-owned businesses nationwide. The results are anticipated to have a profound effect on women business owners as well as policy makers, corporate executives and organizations which support women-owned businesses. The more responses the Center receives, the greater impact the research will have!  The deadline for participation is Friday, June 19.  Help shape the future! Participate in the study. SCORE Association View more posts by SCORE
SCORE Association

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because our work is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to our network of 11,000+ volunteers, we are able to deliver our mentoring at no charge and our workshops at no or low cost.
@SCOREMentors | Facebook | Google+ | More from SCORE

// by SCORE Association / Jun. 2, 2009 0 comments
discussion group

Who's On Your Team? Do You Have a Guide?

Last night, I attended Keith Ferrazzi's full house, book tour event talking about the power of lifeline relationships that help you achieve success in business and life. Keith says, "It's important to build your dream team."

Lifeline Relationships Guide the Way

It's all about forming mentoring relationships and peer-to-peer connections with people you can trust to have your best interests at heart. The idea is "Whose Got Your Back?" Get business advice you can trust.

Can You Accept Assistance?

At the event, my car was parked in what I thought was an impossible space. The goal to exit that space and arrive at my next destination was clear. But, how to get out of that jam was not.

Q: A valet asked, "May I move that for you? Or, can I guide you?"

A: "Yes, thank you. You can be my guide."

Success! The car was moved easily. I learned through this simple guidance how to replicate that task next time. Thanks Duane.

This little story about guidance demonstrates how a little help made it so much easier to get from a to b. That's what SCORE is all about being a guide to make it easier for you to achieve your goal.

It's amazing what happens when you add to your network, knowledge base and simply accept a guide. Start now, ask a SCORE mentor for advice online.

SCORE Association

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Because our work is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to our network of 11,000+ volunteers, we are able to deliver our mentoring at no charge and our workshops at no or low cost.
@SCOREMentors | Facebook | Google+ | More from SCORE

// by Julie Brander / May. 28, 2009 12 comments
3-seated-counseling-small

How to deal with challenges and problems in business Know that there are many solutions to all problems.  Think about all the possible options and identify many solutions to determine which would give you the best result. -  Noticing a problem and finding a way to solve it is an opportunity for the business to grow in other areas and to increase productivity and sales. -  New ideas are always hidden in the problems which we solve each day and as the problems are solved the business will be stronger and makes the business model better. -  Listen to the problems that people complain about and realize that every problem is a brilliantly disguised opportunity. -  When one problem is solved others always appear and the biggest challenge is how you deal with them. Please share other ideas on how you have dealt with challenges in business.

Julie Brander
Business Mentor
SCORE New Haven
Julie has been a SCORE volunteer since 1997. She has 20 years of experience in business, starting a manufacturing, wholesale and retail jewelry company. After selling her business, she dedicated herself to helping other entrepreneurs start and expand their business.
// by Sabrina Parsons / May. 22, 2009 6 comments

All women who have kids and work outside of the home have guilt. Period. This is not an opinion or an assumption. It is a reality. Something happens to you when you give birth and you forever feel that responsibility and that tie to your child. So when you go to work, and leave that child behind, there is an incredible amount of guilt that goes with it. Even if you have no choice and must work, and maybe more so if you have a choice. I think the hardest thing to reconcile is the personal need and personal self-worth that that women get at work vs. the need to provide for your children every moment of everyday. At this point in our society, not only is it ok to be a dad and a working man, but it is the expected path. Somehow though, many people still feel that women should be home with the children and that going to work is somehow putting kids second. So how do you reconcile it? How do you get beyond the “Mommy Guilt” and feel good & proud of your choices? I wish that I had all the answers, but I don’t. At the very least, I can share what has worked for me:

1. I am proud of who I am. Being a business person and being successful makes me a better person and mother.

2. I love my life. I do not wish I was in a different place. I do not see my life passing by wondering whether I will regret my choices, but instead embrace my choices and rejoice that I am in a position to be a mom & a working woman.

3. I want my sons to see and KNOW that women have as much of a place in the work world as men. I want them to grow up with a successful working mom and eventually marry strong women. I want them to never think that women shouldn’t be involved in anything that they want to be involved in.

4. I try to keep extracurricular work activates down to a minimum. I would love to volunteer more, be a part of more advisory boards and help more people in entrepreneurship. But, I realize that there is only so much time in the day. Between my duties as a CEO and a mother, and my partnership as a wife, I just don’t have extra time. Give me another 15 years or so and then I should have lots more time to participate in extracurricular activities.

5. I don’t judge other women’s choices, but in return I expect to be respected for mine. Often times I hear working moms beat up on stay-at-home moms and vice versa. Women have a right to choose. And yes I know, some women don’t have a choice – they are single mothers or in a family that requires 2 incomes. But if you have chosen one way or another – then be happy with your choice and respect the choices of others.

6. I understand the compromises. My husband and I have been lucky enough to find good careers in a small town where I have family support. I would love to live in a bigger city, but I would give up the family support that helps make my life possible. Figure out the compromises that you can afford to make working and being a mom easier. Sabrina Parsons, Guest Blogger View more posts by SCORE’s Guest Bloggers

Sabrina Parsons
// by Peg Corwin / May. 19, 2009 4 comments

google-analytics

In a recent post, I talked about how a marketer can use basic Google Analytics data. Now I'm going to focus on some advanced slicing and dicing to help you better understand the behavior of your site's viewers and customers using advanced features of Google Analytics.

Marketers can learn how many users take what steps towards goals (conversion tracking); what documents they download and links they use (event tracking); and what groups of users visit certain pages or take specific actions (segmentation analysis.)

GOALS AND CONVERSIONS Marketers can set a goal by specifying the various pages a visitor has to click through to reach that goal. For example, a workshop signup goal might have these steps: workshop page, workshop description page, signup page, credit card page, and "thank you" landing page. This series of pages is called the funnel.

To set up a goal, go to your Aanalytics settings page, the page that lists the websites on which you have Analytics running. The column on the far right of the Website Profiles table is called Actions. Click Edit there to set up a new goal. Scroll down under Profile Settings, below Main Website Profile, to the section on Conversion Goals and Funnel. Add up to 4 goals there. To get the most use out of goals, use them in conjunction with Google Adwords campaigns.

Stats to focus on: goal abandonment and goal conversion rate Questions to ask yourself: On what pages are customers abandoning the funnel, and what changes can you make in those pages to encourage them to take the next step? How many potential customers who click over from a Google ad actually complete the purchase? Is this number increasing or decreasing from earlier periods, and why? What can you change to increase it?

Links:

Google site: Goals and Funnels 7 minute video on How To Create Google Analytics Conversion Goals Google Analytics Demystified: Goal Tracking and Funnels example of funnel and goal setup for an online store EVENT TRACKING

By pasting a tiny snippet of code into your page, you can track events like email signups , PDF downloads, and the time viewers spend with your Flash content. For example, learn how many people click which outbound links. Or how many viewers download your brochure. Instructions for copying and pasting this code to track specific events is provided in the links below. You create a label that is part of that code. After you install the code and click to test, you should see that label within 24-48 hours under Top Content.

Certain website templates limit your ability to add event tracking code. For example, I am unable to install it on my website, www.scorechicago.org.

Stats to focus on: Under the Top Content section, see the custom labels you have created in the code. Questions to ask yourself: If you move the location of the link, can you increase the number of signups, downloads, etc? Which links are people clicking on, and how can you add more content or related links to increase interest in your site? How long, on average, are viewers engaged with Flash content? How do these metrics change over time, and why?

Links:

How to Track File Downloads in Google Analytics How Do I Manually Track Clicks on Outbound Links in Google Analytics? Google site Flash events and _TrackPageview Google tutorial video: Google Analytics for Flash SEGMENTATION

Segmentation is just that -- the ability to drill down in the data to see how groups of viewers behave. Marketers can answer questions like "How are buyers (those taking the action that I want them to on the site -- a purchase, a form submission, a download, a mail list signup) different from lookers?" "What referral sources are they coming from?" "What keywords?" "Are they new users or returning users?"

On the Dashboard or on any other Analytics page, look in the upper right for a link that says Advanced Segments with a default of All Visits. If you click the dropdown by All Views, you can easily segment the page's data using preset or custom "slices." Click "new visitors" to see all page data related only to new visitors, for example.

Stats to focus on:Keywords, Visitor Type (new/returning), Source (paid, direct, referral) Questions to ask yourself: Lets assuming you have set up a "thank you" page to land people on after a purchase, email signup or form completion. Look at that page using pre-determined segments. How does use by new visitors differ from repeat visitors? What referral source is sending most visitors to that page? How can you beef up actions from the groups/segments you want and reduce those that bounce or don't buy. In essence, use segmentation to learn how your best visitors differ from lower-quality visitors and how to alter content to meet the best-customers' interests. Links:

Google site: Cross Segmentation Google Analytics Releases Advanced Segments Google video Advanced Segments

So many options, so much data. Are you digesting it all? Analytics pros, what did I miss? Please leave me a comment about how you slice and dice, or how you cope with data overload.

GREAT general reference: The Missing Google Analytics Manual

Peg Corwin, SCORE Chicago View more posts by Peg

Peg Corwin
// by Sabrina Parsons / May. 15, 2009 7 comments
life-balance-business-travel-kids

I often get asked how I manage to juggle my life as a mommy and my life as a CEO. People assume that I give up a lot of time with my children, especially since they know that I travel quite a bit. What a lot of people in my business life don’t know is that when I travel, whether for business or pleasure, I take my kids with me. Yup, you heard me. I take them with me. So how do I do this and still manage to do business? I put in a lot of hard work and definitely a good amount of out-of-pocket money. Since my two kids were born (ages 2 and 4), I have arranged business travel to coincide with:

1.  My husband being able to come

2.  My mother being able to come

3.  My mother-in-law being able to come

4.  One of my sisters, or sister-in-law being able to come

You see the pattern. I travel enough that I use mileage to bring along family members. When my kids were under 9 months old I didn’t buy them seats and just brought them with me. After 9 months though traveling with a 20+ pound child on your lap can be ridiculous – so I started buying seats for the kids, and they started building miles that they can share with family members to get them to come along. Once I get to the location, I don’t stay at hotels. I use short-term rentals which usually are the same price as a hotel room – but come with a full kitchen and generally two bedrooms. Because the cost is equal to what I would spend on my own in a hotel room, the company picks up the tab for the rental. My family member who accompanies me is comfortable and we all have access to a kitchen to make easy meals for the kids and not have to go out to restaurants. It works and the kids get the benefit of time with an extended family member. Voila! I get to do my business, but not miss out on seeing my kids.

When the kids were younger and breast feeding, I didn’t have to worry about pumping and making sure there was enough milk left at home, instead the baby came right along with me. As the kids have gotten older, they benefit from the education that travel can provide. They have been to science museums in major cities all over the US, as well as in Europe. They understand airport security and are pros at traveling. They know the difference between different kinds of planes and know that San Francisco airport has some of the best food. They also have an extremely robust travel vocabulary. Last weekend, we were in San Francisco with the kids, and my 4 year old said “Mommy, I think London should have cable cars instead of just the Tube. It would be more fun, and besides they look cool.” How amazing is it that he can make that sort of comparison at 4 years of age! It’s worth all the work, effort and money that I have spent taking the kids along. Sabrina Parsons, Guest Blogger View more posts by SCORE’s Guest Bloggers

Sabrina Parsons
// by Julie Brander / May. 14, 2009 6 comments
strategy-business-plan-today-will-generate-profits-tomorrow

A business plan is an essential management and operating tool for using your time, capital and energy the most effective way. This plan of action for building a successful small business examines the environment in which you expect your business to operate including potential problems, cyclical trends and growth opportunities. If you plan to get financing, most lenders will require a business plan as part of the loan application. Putting your business objectives in writing as you build a business plan also forces you to think realistically about sales, expenses, short and long term goals. The more specific your goals are the better.

Make sure that the plan is easy to read, clear and can convince family, friends bankers and investors to give you a loan. A formal professional document is essential. A complete business plan should identify: target customers and you plan to attract them; approaches to differentiating your products and services from competitors; sales and promotions; financial projections and a much more. Ideally, it will show anyone who sees it that you have done your research and understand the industry. Every business plan starts with a cover page containing your contact information, which is vital to loan officers and other financial backers. The sections that follow include:

  • Table of contents
  • Executive summary: this is page number 1 and explains the overview of the business objectives and goals.
  • Business Description and strategy: describes the business and how it will grow and profit.
  • Services and Products: describes in detail what you are selling, what is unique and what are the benefits to the customer.
  • The competition; identify your direct and indirect competitors.
  • The market: Who are your customers and are there enough to sustain the business. What are your competitive advantages?
  • Promotion and Marketing Strategy: How will you sell your products or services? How will you attract customers to do business with you, keep them coming back and continue to grow the business.
  • The management: Who will run the company and what are their credentials. What industry expertise do they have? Include resumes.
  • Financial information and projections: Show how much cash your business will need. Include the start up costs, monthly expenses, projected sales and that you can pay back the loan with your cash flow projections.
  • Appendix: supporting documents

The business plan is the most important document for any business as it describes what you are selling and how you are selling it. A business plan benefits both start up and established businesses that need to look at their goals and strategies. Make planning an ongoing effort.

Julie Brander
Business Mentor
SCORE New Haven
Julie has been a SCORE volunteer since 1997. She has 20 years of experience in business, starting a manufacturing, wholesale and retail jewelry company. After selling her business, she dedicated herself to helping other entrepreneurs start and expand their business.
// by Sabrina Parsons / May. 8, 2009 2 comments
worklife-balance-keeping-your-personal-professional-networks-separate

Recently I have realized that I get more Facebook requests than LinkedIn requests. A lot of the Facebook friend requests that I have been getting are from colleagues and business contacts. It’s the type of requests that I used to get through LinkedIn all the time. Initially I struggled with how to handle the Facebooks requests and whether I should connect to all these business contacts through Facebook. For a long time my Facebook friend requests continued to grow and grow while I debated how to use these two separate systems. I did not want to lose the networking ability you get by connecting to people through these systems, but I did want to have a place to connect with friends and family, which was separated from my work.

Finally I have come up with a solution that has worked really well for me and has let me enjoy Facebook while still allowing me to continue to connect with a powerful business network. When a business person asks to be my friend on Facebook, I simply ignore their request on Facebook, but send them a request through LinkedIn. I usually add a message that says:

“Thanks for your friend request on Facebook. I use Facebook for personal use only and not for business networking. I would love to connect with you through LinkedIn where my business contacts are. Please accept my invitation."

This way I can use Facebook with all my friends (I love it for reconnecting with old friends!) and family. I can post pictures of my kids and family activities, and not worry about what business professional may be seeing about my personal life. I don’t have to ever worry about dealing with the cumbersome Facebook permissions, or that a friend will write something on my wall that I don’t necessarily want to share with my business network. I can tell you that I have NEVER received a negative response to my message. In fact more often than not people tell me that they like my approach and are adopting it. I feel like this keeps me tightly in the business networking game, but lets me run free and network with people I enjoy being social with. I really do believe that a nice, clear separation between personal life and business life is imperative to helping keep your life balanced. Sabrina Parsons, Guest Blogger View more posts by SCORE’s Guest Bloggers

Sabrina Parsons