When To Stop and Ask For Help

Feeling overwhelmed by all the different functions that your small business needs to have in order to be successful and efficient? You are not alone – accounting, finance, marketing, sales, management, human resources, and any other areas where your business has hired employees for can be a lot to take on. Business owners sometimes feel the need to hire more people or give more responsibility to one person which can backfire; hiring more means spending more and giving more responsibility to one person when they may or may not be well versed in the area can be a dangerous path to go down. That’s why there is outside help and sometimes business owners need to learn when to stop and ask for help.

Depending on what industry you are in, hiring outside help may be beneficial. Paying an outside marketing firm to do your mail outs, e-mail campaigns, maintain your website and social media can take a huge stressor off the plate. These small things may seem like a hassle or even seem unimportant, but they are huge if you want to get your name out there and generate more business. Additionally, as we have discussed in previous blog posts, you can also network which does a lot of your marketing for you. By joining a networking organization or group, you attend and participate in a comfortable environment, and have the business generated for you. But your online presence is massively important and some business owners just don’t have the time to make sure that all their bases are covered. By hiring outside help, this can diminish your time spent slaving over the computer and more time out making sales, but it also helps because these website/SEO/social media companies focus on your company fully. You pay them to be focused and dedicated to your online presence, in a more attentive way then the average small business owner could. Scared to spend on an outside firm? Create your website on a website designer that has great analytics tools and readily accessible help – this can also help diminish the stress that comes with managing your online presence.

Financial, selling, and accounting can be pricier when it comes to getting outside help, but it’s not infeasible. There are small accounting firms that help small businesses get going and get moving. Hiring an additional employee to cover these areas may be a better course of action if you, the owner, are overwhelmed. You can train the employee to cover more ground with finance and accounting. Depending on what industry you are involved in, outside sales may be beneficial or it may be beneficial to hire one salesman to conduct all of your sales. Be sure to train your new employees to be fully versed in company ideals, your mission and everything in between. The more knowledgeable the employee, the better they can sell your product or service.

There is a lot to take into account when it comes to asking for help, but recognize when it is time to do so. If you find your business suffering due to lack of time spent creating your product or doing your service, then it might be time to consider getting additional help. Are you spending more hours on administrative tasks then you are living your life and enjoying your business? This could mean the time to hire outside help or hire another employee. Growing your business is important, but it shouldn’t be overwhelming. Do your research, ask current employees and look at how business is doing in order to decide your next step.

How Russia’s Problems Might Become Your Problems

With the violence that is currently going on in the Middle East and with allegations that Russians shot down a Malaysian airliner, governments around the world are split when it comes to how to deal with a Russian President who is running wild on the world stage. While calls for sanctions are running rampant on all news outlets, many have problems with sanctioning Russia because of the fact that Russia is one of the largest oil exporters – especially to the United States. What does this mean for your small business?

While there are currently economic sanctions in place against Russia, calls for tougher restrictions are being called for due to the alleged terrorist actions that the Ukrainians are saying are responsible for the Malaysian Airliner being shot down in Ukraine airspace. While several officials find it odd that a commercial airliner would fly through a war zone’s airspace (with air missiles having been launched previously in the Ukrainian/Russian conflict), innocent people were killed and a terrorist organization is potentially to blame. If stricter sanctions are imposed upon Russia, there may be a great dependence on other countries for oil, which would increase the price at home. Additionally, any opposition from government officials to drill in the U.S. for oil (in particular, the oil shale that was discovered in New York and Pennsylvania) may be placed on hold in order to help oil demands throughout the country. The United States has one of the greatest dependencies on oil production and if a major player were to begin to diminish their exportation of oil to the U.S., we may be facing a pricing issue. Higher oil prices mean higher costs to conduct business – is your company prepared?

As is to be expected, there are going to be several news updates, conferences and meetings in regards to how to proceed with the issue that is Russia. President Vladimir Putin is becoming an increasingly larger issue for more governments who try to stay out of foreign affairs. Governments can’t sit idly by while Putin acts in whatever manner he chooses, something has to be done to control his actions. Many people think that military action might be the best course of action however, this is costly (both financially and humanely) but sanctions may be an increasingly preferable path to take. The price of sanctions hit home though, and hopefully your business is prepared for the aftermath.

Wait, Can You Explain That Again?

Let’s be real here – most of your customers have no idea what half of the business terms you use on them mean. This differs from business to business and industry to industry but when it comes to financial terms like “liability insurance” or certain fees with strange names “dock fees” “credit card processing fee” this can confuse people. When you are dealing with large amounts of money and big asset purchases, customers need to have phrases broken down into simple terms that they will understand. This is how you stay a step ahead.

If your company charges fees for several different things, then the salesman in charge of the sale must lay out where someone could get charged. Want to have stellar customer service? Show customers where they can save themselves from being slammed with fees, whether that means saying they should pay in check instead of credit card or to avoid doing a wire transfer because of the associated bank fees. Customers who feel that you are on their side will remember and appreciate that and will continue to use your company’s business as well as refer potential clients to you. Think a step ahead of a customer always, do this by thinking of how you would react in a situation. Fees, weird language that you don’t understand – would you ask questions? When conducting business, pretend like the customer has no idea what you’re talking about and break down for them every little thing for them so they can’t ask you questions. This also helps with wait time when conducting a deal or completing a sale – if a customer knows ahead of time all of the paperwork they need to bring or fill out, their wait time is shorter and they are on their way quicker which makes them happier.

Think a step ahead and thoroughly explain terms and conditions to customers. The less questions you get asked, the happier the customer is. Nobody wants to be confused when it comes to spending money – they want to know everything from the start. A knowledgeable customer is a happy customer and a happy customer will do your marketing for you. Word-of-mouth marketing is a huge part of Fleetway Capital, or anyone’s, business. Happy customers want others to use the same service they are because it’s so great and you can help work towards that by making sure the customer knows what they are getting and there aren’t surprises.

What is Upselling and What Can it Do For You?

Upselling – used heavily in the restaurant business as a way to have guests spend more money on their bill. This happens by the waiter or waitress, after your order has been placed, asking if you would like to have an appetizer with that or if you ordered drinks selling their more expensive drinks (seasonal beers on tap don’t tend to land on the happy hour menu). Finished with your meal and asking for the check? Waiters and waitresses will ask if you’d like desert and they usually tend to try to sell you their most expensive one. Only one person ordering desert? While sharing is an option, the waiter will typically try to persuade you into ordering one for yourself because it’s “that good”. This is upselling – getting your customers to buy more when they weren’t initially thinking of doing so in the first place.

What about retail? Retail has more blatantly subtle ways that they upsell you; impulse buys are the items that surround you or are placed at the counter so that when you are waiting in line you’ll either pick something up without really thinking about it or while you’re checking out, you’ll throw that pack of gum onto the pile. Retail upsells by blatantly putting items of easy access in your face, but without saying “BUY ME!” this is their subtle way of upselling.

But what about corporate finance companies or companies who maybe don’t have physical products to put out to the customer? Upselling probably seems less important or even nonexistent. But this is actually probably the most important aspect of your business. When customers come in, after you’ve pitched to them your service and they are planning on using your company, they are ripe for the picking to get them to spend more money. It doesn’t hurt to ask things like “well you’re in the landscaping business and we just had a tough winter, maybe you’d be interested in adding a snow plough onto your truck now before winter hits so you’re prepared?” It is blatantly subtle, you’re asking them to spend more money while not being in their face about it; you’re simply asking if they’d be interested in your company helping them out further for their future. You’re helping them to consider investment rather than spend more money. This goes for any financial industry; do you sell insurance? Well, if your company offers multiple insurance packages maybe you could ask the new client if they’d be interested in having additional insurance on their home, auto or other assets. Look into your company’s service offering and see where you can get customers to buy more. If you offer it not as something they are spending more money on but rather an investment for the future, customers will be more willing to listen to your pitch.

Upselling is easier than it would seem to be, after you have already made the sale (this is when the customer is most interested and would be most open to hearing about how they can spend more) you can usually hook them by casually asking if they’d like to upgrade or invest in something else. Even if they say they aren’t interested, you have at least planted the idea in their head for them to consider for later. Many customers will remember what you initially tried to sell them and if you ask again if it is something they are interested in, many customers will agree at a later time. Think where you can get customers to spend more; it’s not a sales pitch, per say, but more of a casual conversation about how they can upgrade or invest. Something to consider!

Satellites – Why Are They Important and How Could You Benefit?

This post is completely different than the posts we typically have on our blog. However, I feel that for any business that is looking to diversify and get into an industry where movers and shakers haven’t, this could be big. The satellite insurance industry is worth over $8 billion. Satellites are used in almost every country and many countries, namely third world countries, are starting to get involved in the space race. For any insurer, lender, manufacturer, who wants to get ahead of competition this could be a major opportunity for you.

When you ask anyone about satellites, there are a few common questions and comments that one can receive – “aren’t they government controlled?”, “but they’re so large, I can’t do anything about that”, etc. However, with new and improved technology and telecommunications companies entering into more markets that they were not in previously, this could be the breakthrough that is needed. Silicon Valley startup, Planet Labs, have begun to use things like cellphone batteries and small parts in order to send up “nanosats” which are very small satellites that can be launched into space in bulk. These nanosats are currently being used for earth imagery – meaning, they take pictures that can be used to help companies like Google who is using the images to improve upon their Google Maps. This is huge – this puts satellite technology into the hands of the general public, making satellite technology easier to understand.

There are also the huge satellites that countries are using for telecommunications purposes or huge companies like XM or DirecTV are using to increase their reach. These are the major satellites that are government controlled and can be hard for investors and manufacturers to get involved in. In The United States, the satellite industry is a bit more easily accessed because of the fact that NASA is no longer the only player in the game, but also because NASA is no longer funded by taxpayer money. Therefore, NASA is a bit more accessible (not easily accessible, but it is accessible). However, going after private companies, start ups and universities who send up test satellites into space would probably be most beneficial. Checking out space news sites such as spacenews.com can help to look into who is big in the industry and who isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong – satellites are expensive and a major investment. Going after smaller companies that are testing newer technology can be a safer avenue to take or talking to universities with space programs that send up small satellites can be easier to potentially get involved with. Do your research on these companies and the space programs at universities – they are usually very well funded, so ask yourself what you can do differently than the rest to help them better. Satellite technology will be a permanent fixture in the future. Telecommunications, “earth observation”, cargo satellites will never cease to exist. Additionally, television companies, as they become larger, will be constantly improving the satellites they put into space as well as increasing the amount of satellites that are up in space as more countries begin to have contracts to use their technology.

Get involved in the “space race” as it is now. It is new and improving, with improving technology comes more risk, however. For insurers this is a deterrent but for investors this is a major opportunity. Do research carefully and pick wisely if you do decide to get involved.

Press Coverage – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Have you ever heard of the saying “There’s no such thing as bad press”? It tends to be a belief held by people who feel that as long as they’re being talked about in the media, whether it is good or bad, they’re doing something right. But this is not simply the case – while having people talk about you and your business is always good, it becomes a problem when what they are saying isn’t very nice.

Everyone wants to be talked about in a positive light but this is not what tends to happen. The media wants big headlines that draw people and there used to be a saying “if it bleeds it reads” which meant that it was the murder stories that tended to make the headlines in the 6 o’clock news every night. The media wants a story that will get people watching, which is why when you turn on the news in the morning stories tend to get weeks of air time. When your company is going to be featured in the news (print, radio, television, etc) make sure that everyone who is going to be featured is on the same page with what is going to be talked about. Print up a media kit for the employees that includes topics such as company history, specifics on what you do (some employees get confused, can exaggerate to sound better, etc – make sure all know exactly what you do), the limits of your geographic reach (if your business is only local, make sure the paper doesn’t print that you cover more area than you actually do!) and any other important company information. Set ground rules – ensure that there is absolutely no profanity usage (people can get comfortable and forget that reports are recording the conversation, it is inappropriate and unprofessional), topics that may be tricky to talk about (are there certain aspects of your business that may not be most efficient and you are working to fix it? Don’t talk to a reporter about that aspect then) and anything else that could be misconstrued by a reporter.

You want good press and to help contribute to good press you should have a good business. Treat customers with respect and dignity, go the extra mile to help them out – if your company is very referral based like Fleetway Capital’s is then you’re already winning half the battle. If your company has reviews on Google, online directories from happy and satisfied customers, news outlets will pick up on this. Reach out to local news outlets, if that is intimidating then reach out to a local blogger to discuss having your company featured on their blog. Every little bit of press helps to get your company’s name out there. Bigger local blogs may require that you pay money in order to be featured but that can be a mere expense when referrals come in and give your company business. Reach out to local papers and ask to have a story done on how you help your community out. There are small ways to get noticed which can have a huge impact.

Be careful with what you say, treat your customers with respect and the good press will come in. Be aware that negative reviews and irate customers may be an issue that has to be taken care of before you invite press or the media to come and learn about your company.

Networking – How, Why, What for?

Networking sounds like a scary task to some people – it means building up your network and that means talking to a lot of people. What typically comes to mind are massive events with hundreds of people that you don’t know and you’re forced to strike up conversation with them in hopes of maybe getting a business card from them. Just getting a business card is not enough; putting a business card into a system, sending that person an e-mail or giving them a phone call, making the effort is the point of why you went and got the business card but most people don’t even do that.

Networking shouldn’t be daunting. Networking should be exciting and shouldn’t be viewed as a life or death thing that one must complete in order to get new business and grow your business network. Networking should be organic, one should enter a networking event with the intent to meet new people, maybe get some business cards but most importantly to build a relationship with that person. When you build a relationship with someone, there is a level of trust that you can help each other out – that is the point of networking. Networking is like making new friends, friends help friends out.

When choosing networking events there are a few things to keep in mind. First, choose a time and place that work for your schedule. Some managers don’t appreciate having employees away from the office to network (time is money, after all) and may not be willing for you to leave early, take a longer lunch or come in late. There are plenty of networking events that take place early in the morning before work or happy hour networking events. There are several local and national websites that can connect you to networking events near you. Second, make sure there will be people that either in your industry (idea and opinion networking) or people your industry services (trade networking). Typically, networking events have an RSVP list that shows who will be showing up or a group that shows who will typically is in attendance. Additionally, there are networking groups (national and local) that you can join for a fee (typically yearly or quarterly membership). These can be good for building consistent relationships as well as getting to know who’s within a group and be able to think better of an entire group who offer a multitude of services that you can refer others to.

Referrals are what drive networking to be successful. This is why we network, to refer friends/customers/coworkers/family/etc to use the business of your new contact. By building a relationship with your new contact, when people come to you and need a service you would be able to refer that person to your new contact.

Build up an extensive network in order to get more business. By giving more business referrals you will get more business referrals. Networking helps drive business and it is easy to find events to go to. Research, check some out and see what happens.

Big Ideas – Why They Help To Think Outside the Box

Has anyone ever had a manager, supervisor, teacher or parent tell them to “think outside the box”? This is a common saying but sometimes there tends to be no direction when asked to think outside the box, you’re just supposed do it. In order to brainstorm for new ideas and make things better for your company.

For some people, education is what helps one to think outside the box. Our marketing manager, Elaine, recently graduated from Saint Joseph’s University this past May. St. Joe’s is a Jesuit school and Jesuits are most known for their dedication to academic excellence. This means taking classes in a variety of academic disciplines and making things like minors or concentrations easier to access for students in order to truly cultivate an excitement for learning. Having gone through St. Joe’s, Elaine says she truly learned a lot and was able to take classes in areas she never would have normally. This is crucial for thinking outside the box – taking other disciplines and using them towards yours. Sometimes a big idea from one concentration can be taken and condensed to fit your concentration or job.

Read the news – this seems like a no brainer, but most people do not read the news. What is going on out there? Does your company do clean up for a living? We are currently in the middle of hurricane season – is your company prepared to help be a part of the clean up effort? Or maybe you work in health care – with the new Obamacare law in place and the division of both policy makers and citizens alike with the law, what is your stance and how are you dealing with it? Does your company need newer equipment or are you considering downsizing because of fees or regulation requirements? Check your local paper – what are people talking about? Most towns have a local “patch” where people can post ideas, opinions, items they are buying and selling – check these out and see what people are saying.

Talk to your friends with jobs different than yours. Are you in marketing? What would your friends in accounting, finance, biology, non-profit, media, print news have to say about an idea you have or a challenge you are facing at work? Just talking to other people can give you the insight you need to think outside the box.

Think back to previous experience, sometimes that is all it takes. What are you interested in? What gets you excited? People who have passion for something know all the ins/outs of it and will have great ideas to help come up with a better way to serve customers. Thinking outside the box is key to moving forward and making business better. Have brainstorm sessions with your team and have everyone throw ideas out together.

Recalls, Recalls Everywhere!

Doesn’t it seem like every day in the news we hear about a new recall? This morning, GM announced another recall of vehicles. It’s not just new vehicles either – GM has recalled cars that date back to 1998 according to an NBC article. It’s not just GM, Mazda also recalled cars due to spiders getting into fuel tanks and causing issues if they weaved webs. According to the same article, “Nearly Every GM Model Touched by Recalls This Year” by Paul A. Einstein, the auto industry collectively has recalled close to 40 million vehicles. With improving technology in the auto industry (cars that can sense collisions before they happen and then stop your car for you, auto parking cars…the list goes on) the more risk the industry takes when putting new technology into their cars.

But what can a consumer do to ensure that they do not purchase a car that may be recalled a few years later? For starters, do your research. Purchasing a car based on name or the lifestyle that is associated with the name, is a dangerous path to go down. Consumer Reports, a magazine and a website subscription, tests all makes and models of vehicles until they can’t be used anymore. They test everything from how the brakes work to how safe they are in collisions. They also take into account the maker – are people recommending the maker to their friends? Are people happy with the car overall? Ensuring that the car that you are about to purchase is of good quality and make is a good place to start. Check the news on the maker, have they issued recalls in recent years? Are the cars having their technology, safety and performing ability improving?

Next, go take a test drive. Once you have done your research, go to the dealer and check out the cars. Take a test drive and ask the questions on the car that are important to you. Be aware that the dealers are looking to sell to you in anyway that they can so you have to be smart and pick out what information is useful or what information is just selling the product and isn’t as useful.

Ensuring that your next car is recall proof is difficult to predict. Recalls are only implemented if absolutely necessary but when they are issued, they tend to be a headache for all involved. Ensuring that your car is built to last and customers are happy with their purchase makes your life a little bit easier.

source: “Nearly Every GM Model Touched By Recalls This Year” by Paul A. Einstein. 3 July 2014. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/gm-recall/nearly-every-gm-model-touched-recalls-year-n145961

Forums: Your Best Friend or Your Worst Enemy

 Why are forums important? Forums are where your potential customers are asking questions and getting answers from other people like them. Businesses do not use forums largely unless they are company run but forums can be your best friend – you can comment on posts and ask questions in order to get a better perspective on what is going on in your industry. Industry insight is crucial to success, and while there are countless companies that you can pay to give you industry insight that is quantifiable. But if you are cold calling customers regularly, industry insight can be more valuable if you are seeing directly what people are saying. Forums provide that direct insight – forums allow people to express opinion and insight, which helps you in selling. Are customers upset over new laws? How can your company help them? Is there new equipment out that people want more information on? Give them that insight and talk to them about how issues are getting fixed or not and what can be done to help people in the industry.

 But forums can be tricky too. When posting on forums, you must be careful of not posting advertisements or sounding like you are selling. When signing up for a forum, many companies will not only include in the Agreement Terms that most people just click agree to, that you cannot advertise without paying upfront or advertise at all. This is to protect the community from being sold to so they can be as honest as possible as well as not leave the community due to unwarranted advertisements. When signing up for a forum, some companies may ask a bit about your company and if the description sounds like you are trying to sell to posters, then they will not even let you on the forum. Be aware of this and try to use the forum not as a selling outlet but more as an industry insight.

 Participating on forums should be kept more to commenting on how to fix something, asking questions and gaining answers in order to better understand the industries you sell in. Just be careful and be aware of what you are posting on the forums.