Tag Archive: entrepreneur

Google’s New Algorithm Search: How it can affect your business.

Hold on to your hats, small business owners. Everything you thought you knew about SEO and making sure your customers could find your business online may not be true anymore. That’s thanks to Google’s recent adoption of Hummingbird, its new, more dynamic method for improving search results.

“The Hummingbird algorithm is significant as it changes Google from being a search engine to an information engine,” says Mert Sahinoglu, a partner in Chicago’s Falcon Living Real Estate. He has been a digital marketing consultant for over a decade and says that for the small business owner, “This means that they will have to provide more information and multimedia content to their Google+ profile.”

“It’s important to state that Hummingbird is not just an algorithm update,” adds George Zlatin, director of operations at Digital Third Coast Internet Marketing, a Chicago-based SEO consulting and marketing firm. “It is a structural update to the algorithm that affects 90 percent of search queries. To put that in perspective, when Google releases a normal algorithm update, that usually affects anywhere from one to three percent of queries. So this is much, much larger.”

Widespread smartphone and tablet use led to Hummingbird

“In mobile search, thanks to technologies such as the iPhone’s Siri, customers are asking more questions rather than typing keywords,” Sahinoglu explains. Keyword-based searching is still practiced by the majority of desktop users, but Sahinoglu expects this to change. “As Google improves Hummingbird, questions will replace keywords as customer confidence in getting the right answer for the question increases.”
Hummingbird may already be helping your small business

“If you create a lot of good content on your website that is relevant to your business you are more likely to get more traffic from that than pre-Hummingbird,” says Zlatin. “Hummingbird does not mean that Google doesn’t use traditional ranking factors anymore, such as keywords, backlinks to your site, or content. It is just a new framework put on top of it.”

Best practices for small businesses

It’s very important to understand that Hummingbird places a high value on information from Google+ profiles and social media platforms. This means your business may have some more work to do besides the creation and sharing of keyword-rich, unique content on your website and social media platforms.

“You should provide as much detail as possible in your Google+ Local profile, including opening/closing hours,” Sahinoglu says. Images are also becoming increasingly important. Sahinoglu recommends that profile photos should always be selected with marketing in mind. “Photos are definitely becoming the first impression a new customer sees about a business in the new Google.”

Hummingbird will also push small businesses to network with their geographic area customers or with their niche group of customers more on Google+, according to Sahinoglu. Another key factor to consider is your Google + Authorship authority. Google + Authorship is a verification that links online content to the person who wrote it. The more published content you have out there, the more important you become in Hummingbird’s eyes. You will get a bigger boost from content that appears on sites you don’t actually control.
Content is still king

“The best advice I can give small business owners is to really focus on adding unique content to their websites.” Zlantin says. “Talk about what you know. Talk about what customers are asking you. This type of content is going to bring more traffic from Hummingbird.” He adds, “There is no way you can predict all of the search terms people will write, so it’s better to just focus on writing content that is important to them.”

“Start building an extensive Q&A library about your products or services,” Sahinoglu recommends. “This could be a brand-related Q&A or a non-brand product/service Q&A. Optimize a unique page for each Q&A.”

Going forward: Be prepared for change

Google is continually refining and adjusting all of the algorithms they use to determine search results. This upgrade to Hummingbird is sure to be followed by others in the future. As a small business owner, maintaining awareness of these changes and implementing recommended best practices is the best way to ensure favorable search engine rankings.

Getting Positive Reviews on Yelp

How can you get honest, positive feedback to appear on Yelp or review portions of Google, Facebook, or TripAdvisor? It may sound daunting, but some say all small businesses need to do is ask.

“If you don’t ask, the likelihood of it happening is almost zero,” says Adi Bittan, chief executive and cofounder of Palo Alto, California-based OwnerListens.com, a company with an online tool that gives customers a direct line to a business’s owners via an app or text messages. “People are actually much nicer than many people give them credit for.”

Where to start? Listen up the next time a customer pays a compliment for great service or expresses satisfaction about a mistake that was quickly fixed. Translating pleasant, in-person encounters into positive social media capital is a matter of reading the signals your customers are giving and being direct about a request for help, Bittan says. If clients praise an employee, service, or product, that’s a cue that they’re likely open to doing more.

Bittan points to a series of Stanford University studies that show people underestimate how likely others are to agree to requests for assistance. In one, researchers concluded those who are approached for a favor are under social pressure to be benevolent, because saying no might them look bad—to themselves or others. (After all, everyone is sensitive to reviews.)

It’s that perception of altruism that motivates some reviewers, and that’s some of the surprisingly good news that might make your own foray a bit easier than expected. Jon Hall, chief executive and founder of Bloomfield, New Jersey-based Grade.us, has written extensively on the topic of customer reviews and says the vast majority are positive, regardless of the product, service, industry or online community. “There is no need to ask for a ‘good’ or ‘positive’ review. Just ask for a review, ask for feedback,” he says.
Hall’s company, as well as Bittan’s, tries to steer customer reviews toward a company’s preferred online destination. Grade.us uses a platform that directs customers to a landing page, where a business owner can “funnel” their feedback to a review site they care about most, be it Foursquare, TripAdvisor, Google+, Yelp, or a dozen more. Bittan’s service provides a direct channel to the business owner, where compliments or complaints are acknowledged in real time. Both aim to take the steam out of the fieriest of missives from angry clients: first, by making the process of filing good reviews easier for happy customers and swelling those numbers; second, by giving unhappy clients the attention they need from those who can actually help them.

For businesses now, the stakes are particularly high on Yelp, in more ways than one. The site has more than 100-million unique visitors a month worldwide, via its website and apps, and a recent Nielsen survey reported four out of five of its users consult the site before they spend money. A 2011 Harvard Business School survey found that restaurants that boosted their rating by one full star on Yelp saw their annual revenue increase five to nine percent.

But there’s also a very delicate balance small businesses must maintain when soliciting glowing reports.

For its part, Yelp discourages businesses from asking customers for positive feedback on the site. In its FAQ, it says “These self-selected reviews tell only part of the story, and we don’t think that’s fair to consumers. We would much rather hear from members of the Yelp community who are inspired to talk about their experiences without a business owner’s encouragement.”

Any savvy Internet user can spot the obvious inside jobs. But along with filters that try to weed out phony reviews, Yelp has been active in pursuing those attempting to game the system. In late 2012, the site launched what it termed a sting operation, and exposed dozens of businesses that solicited positive reports from undercover “elite” Yelp users with offers of cash payments. In September, the New York state attorney general fined 19 reputation management companies for fake online reviews on several major sites, including Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch.

All of which makes a genuine rave more meaningful. So what’s the right way to ask for a review?

Bittar says do it “in the moment,” when the goodwill is fresh and top-of-mind. Here is some advice from her and Hall on how to approach a customer:
1. Explain why you’re asking. Put it at the bottom of receipts or in signage in your shop, and say something like “Please let the rest of the world know that we did a good job. Online reviews are one of the most important drivers of our business.”

2. Link it to a customer’s identity as a local shopper, or just a good person. Use messages like “We’ve been serving the [town name] for more than two decades” or “Please show your kindness and support by letting your social media followers know.”

3. Have a tangible reminder, and try to stay unbiased. Hall’s clients hand their customers a postcard asking them to write a review. It reads: “Help us. Help others. You’re invited to review X.”

Social media has given everyone a voice, for better or worse, but for small businesses, it’s how you deal with it that matters, Bittar says. “It still all comes down to giving great service,” she says. “And the way the world is going, the bar has been raised for everyone. You have to wow them. And it’s that much harder.”

Think Before You Leap: Seven questions to ask before making a big decision

Think Before You Leap: Seven questions to ask before making a big decision
by Heather Chaet.

When deciding to use a beautiful photo of Mount Fuji or that funny cat picture as your screensaver or to have the Cobb salad or a turkey sandwich for lunch, a simple coin flip will do. But, for big decisions that affect the direction and success of your company, navigating which way to head when you reach that fork in the proverbial road means you need something more than the quarter in your pocket.

LookBeforeLeap_PQ.jpgWhat is your decision-making GPS system? Small business owners are confronted perhaps daily with large dilemmas or issues to resolve—having a method to make a smart choice streamlines and focuses those often daunting determinations you need to make. Here’s a checklist of seven questions to ask before making that big decision.

1. What is best in the long term?

When making a big decision, thinking beyond the “right here, right now” is a vital first step toward avoiding a big stumble. “It’s easy to make decisions based on what’s [simple] at the moment or what makes my ego feel good. But those are rarely the right decisions,” says Ian Ippolito, founder and CEO of vWorker.com, which connects employers and entrepreneurs with virtual workers. Sometimes it helps to add a specific time frame on that question, as Paige Arnof-Fenn, 
founder and CEO
 of Mavens & Moguls, a global marketing strategy consulting firm, suggests. “[One of] the main things I think about is
 will it matter six months down the road,” says Arnof-Fenn. Thinking in terms of a finite time horizon often provides better insight to the right solution.

2. What is the return on investment?

For any small business owner, evaluating how this choice will impact your bottom line is essential. Christy Cook, president and founder of Teach My, the maker of award-winning learning kits for children, agrees. “I am not a ‘numbers’ girl, but over the years, I have trained myself to ask 
the same question every time: What is the return on investment? If small business owners don’t measure
the ROI, decisions will be made that could put the business into serious
 financial jeopardy.” Fred Deblasi, cofounder and CEO of HooplaDoopla.com, the online money saving site, says ROI goes beyond just finances, “I think this is a very common question for business at any stage, as it can cost money and time to not get a return on something—[whether it is] a marketing decision or even hiring a new employee.”

3. Are there any other decisions that need to be made before this one?

All too often when running a small business, many issues must be dealt with at the same time. Prioritizing which one needs your immediate attention is as tough and as important as figuring out the right answers to those decisions. “For the last year, we’ve been implementing a raft of changes, and we
 always need to weigh the pros (and any cons) of the change and see if
 anything else is needed more urgently,” says Sandip Singh, CEO and founder of the fundraising website GoGetFunding.com.

4. What’s the worst thing that can
happen if I make a mistake (and can I live with it)?

Just as fundamental as exploring the benefits to any change, looking at the worst-case scenario can provide a prime perspective. “We use the same advice in running our [own] business as we give to the business
owners we work with,”
Jim Stewart, founder and CEO of ProfitPATH, a strategy consulting firm, “For them and us the main question is ‘What’s the worst thing that can 
happen if this goes wrong?’”
 Being able to evaluate how your company will handle a situation if projections are incorrect or unexpected additional funds are needed to complete an expansion is crucial.

5. What will happen if I don’t do this?

Stewart often asks this after tackling the doomsday situation. Envisioning the alternative—doing nothing—can lead to a more definite outlook on the issue, perhaps even providing alternative choices not considered before or a totally new path your company could take to achieve a similar result.


Entrepreneur Facing Your Fears

Entrepreneur Facing Your Fears

Everyone I have ever talked to that is an entrepreneur has had to come face to face with their fears. I have had to as well. I want to share with you some of the techniques that I have used to face them. The first step is not to be in denial. You have fears even if you don’t readily acknowledge them. They sometimes take the form of that chatter in the back of your head that says you can’t do it. Entrepreneur Facing Your Fears

Fear is such a huge issue preventing people from becoming entrepreneurs. I have heard from the CEO of a real-estate based network marketing company that even though he has people packing out company seminars, that maybe 2-5% of people will actually go out and apply the knowledge by putting offers on real estate. He is convinced that the rest are paralyzed by fear. Entrepreneur Facing Your Fears

Here are some of the techniques I have used as I learned them from the entrepreneurs I know:

Think about what you do want. When you find yourself spinning the wheels in your mind over and again about your worst case scenario, turn it around and focus on what you DO want. Visualize yourself getting what you do want. See the new house. See yourself talking to the interested person as they become a part of your business. You get what you focus on. 

Change the voice. When you hear yourself telling you that you’re not good enough – you’re going to fail. Just change the voice from yours to that of Mickey Mouse or Jim Cary or something that would hold little weight with you anyway! Who cares if Mickey Mouse thinks you’re not good enough? Is Mickey Mouse an entrepreneur?

Voice them to a trusted friend or associate. Hopefully you have been able to find some level of support from at least one other entrepreneur. Ideally, you have a significant other that supports you. If not, then you should have some kind of support network from your team, upline, or corporate that you can talk to. Some people may tell you that it is silly you could even believe that you’re not good enough. For me, my wife has been a constant source of support. However, don’t go looking for support to all those people who doubted you and told you it was crazy to go out on your own. They will never understand the entrepreneur.

Have a personal development library. I draw tremendous support from my library. It is not just filled with how to resources, but also stories of others who conquered their fears. I couldn’t begin to list the many sources I have, but if you email me I can recommend something based on your own description of your circumstances. Entrepreneur Facing Your Fears

Go ahead and do it. Sometimes just making the smallest step will help get you going enough that the fear of not doing something can go away. An example would be neglecting to write an article such as this one out of fear of failure. Just starting it can create enough momentum to see it through.
Visualize the result, but make the action the goal. There is a subtle difference here for the entrepreneur. Of course you want the result, but maybe that’s not in your direct control. Visualize the result in your mind, but make your goal the consistent and persistent action of the entrepreneur. The action will eventually produce the result and you can certainly achieve that goal. Entrepreneur Facing Your Fears

Never, ever quit. I hate to even use that q word. If you do quit, you cease to be an entrepreneur – otherwise you’re not beaten, you are moving ahead! Entrepreneur Facing Your Fears


Holiday Guilt for Creative Entrepreneurs

Holiday Guilt for Creative Entrepreneurs
Guilt, guilt, guilt. Guilt is a terrible feeling and is often self-inflicted by creative entrepreneurs, especially during the holidays.

Most people who work for themselves say they chose to do so because they wanted to “control their time.” People who value time over money, recognize that time is a precious commodity that cannot be created, bought, or borrowed. You have to use it wisely or else it is gone. Holiday Guilt for Creative Entrepreneurs

Having the luxury to control how, with whom, and where you spend your time is one of the bonuses of working for yourself. So, why is it that an overwhelming number of female entrepreneurs also say they feel guilty when they are not working on their businesses or with a client between the hours of 9 am to 5 pm?

To be truly happy and successful as an entrepreneur, you must break the corporate-created walls of time and learn how to set your day according to your needs and the needs of your clients. There is no law chaining you to your desk eight hours a day between 9 am and 5 pm. Holiday Guilt for Creative Entrepreneurs

Here’s my advice: stop feeling guilty about when you are working and when you are not, and ditch the idea of playing by rules set up by other organizations. Make sure you benefit from the freedoms of entrepreneurship and maximize your time by performing regular activities such as food shopping at off times like 10 am on a Tuesday or having your teeth cleaned at 2pm on a Monday. You will spend less time waiting in line, you will be less stressed, and actually have more time to devote to your clients and other activities, then if you went on a weekend or during a busier time. Holiday Guilt for Creative Entrepreneurs

Of course, be sure to take a day or two off completely during the holidays to go gift shopping, ice-skating, or for decorating your home. Give yourself permission to enjoy your life and do something for yourself, even if it is on a week day between nine and five. You deserve it.

Happy holidays! Holiday Guilt for Creative Entrepreneurs


Self-Employment: Is It The Right Choice

Self-Employment: Is It The Right Choice!
Business ownership can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences – under the right circumstances and at the right time! It’s not necessarily “better” than having a job – it’s just different. For some, self-employment is the ideal career solution. How about you?

The exercises below are designed to help you ask the “tough questions,” and quickly discover whether self-employment would be right for you or not. So, take out paper and pen – or get comfortable in front of your computer – because you’re about to do some important “homework!” Self-Employment: Is It The Right Choice!

If you’re seriously considering the self-employment option, there are two main questions to ask yourself:

1. Is self-employment potentially right for you?

2. If so, which of the four paths to business ownership would be most appropriate for you?

Let’s address both of these important questions.

In the world of work, you have two main career paths: Self-Employment and “Getting a Job.” You’ve probably already gone the “getting a job” route. If you’re reading this article, chances are that you’ve found your jobs unsatisfying. So, now you’re probably asking yourself, “Could self-employment be right for me?” Self-Employment: Is It The Right Choice!

The following three questions will provide some direction:

1. Why are you exploring entrepreneurial alternatives at this time?

2. Rate your desire/motivation/commitment to have your own business, 1 to 10 (10 being the highest)?

3. If you could land the ideal job OR start your ideal business, which would you choose TODAY?

Focus now on the first of these three questions, because you must first understand your core motivators:

– What’s your WHY? (Lifestyle, income, image/prestige, leave a legacy, control, build equity, self-expression, independence, make a difference, passionate interest, etc.??) Unless you identify and hold onto your deepest need and desire, you will not have a strong likelihood of succeeding. So, spend some time writing about your WHY! Self-Employment: Is It The Right Choice!
There are Four Paths to Business Ownership:

1. Become a Consultant

2. Buy an Existing Business

3. Start a New Business

4. Buy a Franchise

Below, you will see the “unique considerations” for each of these entrepreneurial pathways. Take some time to answer all the questions in the four categories. Self-Employment: Is It The Right Choice!

– What markets will you serve?

– What services will you offer?

– Who will be your competition?

– How will you price your services?

– How will you market and sell your services?

– What type of business do you want to buy?

– How do you envision your own role?

– How will you finance the purchase?

– What will you expect of the seller?

– What markets will the business serve?

– What products or services will you offer?

– Who will be your competition?

– How will you market and sell your products or services?

– How will you finance the business?

– What type of business do you want to be in?

– How do you envision your own role?

– What will you expect from the Franchisor?

– How will you finance the purchase?
Go back now, and review all your answers. Then address the questions below, as thoroughly as you can. Self-Employment: Is It The Right Choice!

What are your “Pros and Cons” for each entrepreneurial option?

1. Become a Consultant

2. Buy an Existing Business

3. Start a New Business

4. Buy a Franchise

In reviewing this brief list of “Pros and Cons” for each of the four business options, which choice seems best for you right now? Why?

Another way to determine if self-employment could work for you is to consider your own qualifications and preferences. Many people THINK they could successfully own and manage a business – but in reality, this takes a particular kind of person with a specific set of skills. This section will help you do an honest self-assessment. Self-Employment: Is It The Right Choice!

The main categories of ability include:

– Marketing and Sales

– Financial Management

– Operations and Administration

– Human Resources

– General Management
For each category above, answer these questions:

– What results will the business require each year to become and remain successful?

– What education, training or experience do you have to indicate that you will be capable of producing desired results?

– Are you personally interested in, and willing to do, the required tasks?

– If you do not plan to lead specific parts of the business, who will manage them, and how much will you need to pay those people?

Every business has its challenges, but some of the biggest challenges of self-employment often come from “the inside.” Here are some of the most common personal issues faced by new entrepreneurs. Self-Employment: Is It The Right Choice!

– Do you feel certain or doubtful about becoming self-employed?

– What are the major challenges or obstacles you will face?

– What are your biggest concerns or fears?

– What questions or issues do you still have?
There are definitely answers to your questions, and there is help to get you through the transition effectively!
Here are five more questions for you to consider:

1. Two years from now, the qualities that you want most in your work/career are:

2. Will you have those qualities in your work if you continue doing what you’ve been doing?

3. If not, what changes must you make in order to make these qualities a reality?

4. Could business ownership or franchising help you create these desired qualities in your work/career? How?

5. If you’re still interested in business ownership, what are the next steps you will take (include approximate dates for completion):

If these exercises have made you decide that self-employment is NOT for you, that’s actually a positive outcome. Think of all the time, frustration and money you’ll save by not going into business! On the other hand, if the questions above have crystallized and clarified your intention to own a business, then nothing should hold you back from the great entrepreneurial adventure.

May you achieve success greater than your dreams! Self-Employment: Is It The Right Choice!



Small Business Thinking Out of Crisis-Mode

Small Business Thinking Out of Crisis-ModSmall Business Thinking Out of Crisis-Mode

by Erin McDermott.


Small Business Thinking Out of Crisis-Mode. Your business has weathered a tough and challenging cycle. Now it’s time to start breaking out of crisis mode. How do you do it?  As with any kind of upheaval, it’s difficult to get past fears born out of a bad experience. A brush with the demise of a business falls into its own traumatic category, with your professional, financial, legal, and personal life seemingly on the line. But how you deal with the aftermath of that tough situation is important, too. Afraid of committing to an expansion or new segment of customers? Lingering resentments over what went wrong and who’s to blame? Unable to lead staffers in a clear direction?


Troy Hazard compares it to what he’s learned from racing cars. The serial entrepreneur, business consultant, and author has been taking classes at tracks for years. But one instructor’s advice resonated with both of his passions. The lesson: Don’t obsess over the first turn, or getting into an accident. Think about what you intend to do to attack the curve that’s two turns ahead, because that’s what will help you win the race. Small Business Thinking Out of Crisis-Mode


“The biggest challenge most businesses have now is the hit they took back in 2008,” he says. “There’s such a fear about ‘What if it happens again?’ And the answer is: It’s going to happen again. It’s happened every seven to 10 years for the last 70 years. The problem is we’re so reactive to things that are drama today instead of focusing on a strategy for tomorrow.”


His advice to clients: Take time every day—“walking the dog, even that 15 minutes in the shower”—to think about where you want to be in five years or 10 years, and what changes you might make now to reach that goal. Small Business Thinking Out of Crisis-Mode


Jeffrey Kadlic works with companies in the wake of a crisis. His small business private equity fund, Evolution Capital Partners, based in Cleveland, uses a system of five “pillars” to take a company out of what he calls “no man’s land.” Small Business Thinking Out of Crisis-Mode


Kadlic’s five steps to getting back to business:

1. Get timely and accurate financials

“You can’t have any sense of what you’re doing or where you’re going until you measure where you’re at and what your performance has been,” Kadlic says. Some important questions: Where do you stand compared to your peer group? How profitable are you really?


2. Create a plan

Most companies start with a short-term plan, going out at least a few pay periods to evaluate their cash cycles. Kadlic suggests a 100-day plan, which should be enough time to see tangible results from the changes you’re implementing.


3. Put the right people in the right seats

Kadlic equates it to football: How can you create a roster if you don’t yet have a playbook? Once you know the market you’re about to attack, then it’s time to put the right specialists in your lineup to get it done.


4. Be transparent

This part can be difficult for a small business owner who’s used to making most of the decisions. But to have your key staff understand where they fit in this new plan is essential, Kadlic explains. “Show them the big picture and how they’re contributing to the results as a whole,” he says. He recommends monthly meetings to show where everyone stands in proximity to their goal. “It gives people a sense of ownership in what’s going on,” he adds.


5. Be accountable

Give employees a realistic goal against which they can be measured, he says. It sets expectations for old and new staffers. Plus, if someone isn’t working out as you’re trying to get back on track, those benchmarks make a dismissal less of a surprise to the employee and an easier way to define what a successor will need to do, Kadlic says.

At all of the businesses he’s bought over the years—most of which he’s entered during crisis mode, “because that’s where the opportunity is”—Hazard says he’s implemented not only a routine of not-to-miss Monday morning meetings, but also a “daily huddle” that keeps the focus on what’s down the road. In that 10-minute meet-up, teams from finance to operations come together to answer the question: What are the things you see that are strategic roadblocks for you right now? “It brings up the things that are going to affect the business long-term,” he says, “but it also gives everyone a chance to help overcome these obstacles and collaborate on a solution.” Small Business Thinking Out of Crisis-Mode


Hazard likens it to what he’s learned on the racetrack. “It takes the day-to-day issues and turns them into longer-term strategies,” he says. “That’s what changes the culture.” Small Business Thinking Out of Crisis-Mode

Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business

Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small BusinessOpening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business

While pop-up stores—businesses that set up or occupy a retail space from a few days to a few months—exist only temporarily, the trend may be here to stay. A 2011 report from Specialty Retail Report showed that this segment of the market grew by over 14 percent in just six months. It’s not surprising, given the allure of short-term leases and the variety of retail settings. Although the start-up costs can be high in some cases—which is why big businesses have taken the lead in this tactic—many small business owners might finally find the return on investment is worth the expense. Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business


Operate professionally

Pop-up retail stores can be set up to test new products, sell off excess inventory, ignite a quick spike in sales, and spread awareness of a small business. A pop-up store may be short-term, but the regular protocols of business still apply.


“Temporary doesn’t mean unprofessional. Temporary doesn’t mean bootstrapping. You really have to put the effort in to make sure the consumer experience is what they are expecting,” says Christina Norsig, CEO of PopUpInsider, the first online national marketplace for temporary spaces, and author of Pop-Up Retail.


Before founding PopUpInsider in 2009, Norsig opened eight of her own pop-up stores in New York City, the largest one in a storefront across the street from Macy’s that was formerly a Payless shoe store. The experience allowed her to see which items were popular, work out a pricing structure, and even figure out the most productive hours of operation. “When I had the store across from Macy’s, [peak traffic] was early in the morning to late in the afternoon,” Norsig says. “But for my store in Soho, there was no need to show up before twelve because no one was there.”


Some customers may take longer to feel comfortable in or trusting of a temporary pop-up store. Having a well-trained sales team who can communicate your business’s message and build excitement for your products can bridge the gap. Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business


Inevitably, even well-planned stores will encounter unexpected problems. For example, landlords will often give priority attention to businesses with long-term leases. In Norsig’s store on 34th Street, she didn’t anticipate the heavy volume of product she needed and struggled to get containers in. “I was sharing the dock time with stores that were there all year round, so they got priority on the loading dock,” she says.


Norsig often finds that some small businesses don’t even have a defined business plan yet before they ask her to look for space. Rather than inundate landlords with requests for available listings, Norsig questions the small business owner to make sure their idea is complete. “That’s not to say that you have to have a warehouse stocked with merchandise,” Norsig says, “but you have to be ready to pull the trigger and open up a store and be ready to go.”


Personalize the experience

Pop-up stores offer small businesses great flexibility in setting up a space quickly, whether it’s a kiosk, mobile store, store within a store, or its own free-standing retail space. Whatever space you use, experts say focusing on the customer experience is key.


“If you can go out and demonstrate to the customer how they can use the product, how it will benefit them in their life, and how they will be impacted from their purchase, that is how these pop-ups can be very successful,” says Jennifer Davis, director of client services for Medallion Retail, a New York-based agency that specializes in retail marketing.


Every type of business is suitable for a pop-up retail store, according to Davis. For small start-ups that don’t have any retail experience, a pop-up can give them the chance to try something new in the marketplace efficiently. Pop-ups can sometimes break the patterns of customers who never stray far from their usual shopping neighborhoods if the incentive is there. “You need to give them a reason to come to your shop,” Davis says. “You need to personalize the experience for them. That’s really what retail is about these days.” For example, the type of fixtures and store signage in a pop-up will contribute to the overall customer experience.


Small business owners also need to figure out what they can afford to pay. While rents vary because of neighborhood and length of lease, Davis explains that the flexibility of pop-ups can fit almost any budget. “You could do something as simple as taking your product and setting it up at a park or a playground or something much more mobile,” she says. “Or you can have four walls within a space. Regardless of your budget, there is a way to get your brand and your product to the consumer in really unexpected, unconventional ways. It allows the customer to have a sense of discovery and make a connection.”


An integrated strategy

In addition to the growth of pop-up stores themselves, companies that specialize in finding space seem to be on the rise, too. Case in point: Republic Spaces, a New York-based agency that launched in early 2013. While they concentrate primarily on finding space in the metro New York City area, they have plans to expand their coverage to include Los Angeles next, then major European cities.

For many businesses with a wholly online presence, having a pop-up store has become part of their overall strategy. “For the brand to get to the next stage, they need to be offline in certain respects,” says Republic Spaces’ founder, Angela Wang. “Designers offline get to connect with new customers, test different markets, and create a tactile experience that’s a lot more engaging for everyone.” Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business


Obviously, the location of a pop-up is critical, but small businesses also need to market their new location ahead of time to build awareness. Wang agrees with Norsig and Davis that pop-ups that give customers a good in-store experience can propel sales.


While Republic Spaces is still a relatively new company, they seem to have discovered at least one truth about pop-up stores. “A lot of brands are formed pretty fast online these days,” Wang says, “but to be successful, you need a very integrated offline/online experience.” Opening an Instant Pop Up Retail Small Business

Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!

Turning Down a Customer When Is It Smart!Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!

by Erin McDermott.


Yoga is supposed to be an escape to mindfulness and physical rejuvenation.


But running a yoga studio is like any business, and Patrice Simon has had to refuse some customers. Once, she even had to summon police to her busy Costa Mesa, California, spot, Bikram Yoga Studio, when a student became alarmingly verbally abusive.


“It’s been a lesson in psychology for me. There are individuals who intentionally raise their voice at the desk or become insulting—and they do it so an audience can hear them,” explains Simon “I don’t let it get that far. I say, ‘You need to leave, and now.’ I get a vibe from dealing with people at this point. This individual went far over the line.” Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


It may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes it’s best to turn down a customer. Many business owners say it’s rarely as straightforward as encountering an unruly person at the other side of the counter. It could be that the limits of your own enterprise are overstretched, or their deadline is impossible to meet. Mostly, it’s just one of those things that only your gut can tell you. Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


Everyone’s in business to make money, but when are those dollars just not worth it? Here are four situations that small business owners say they’ve encountered on the road to saying “no thanks” to new customers. Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


1)  It’s never going to be profitable


Some projects require an investment to keep relationships with big potential growing. And there are times when you have to hold your nose and say yes in order to keep your doors open. But those numbers need to add up somewhere on the horizon.


Michael Bremmer is founder and CEO of TelecomQuotes.com, a Marino Valley, California telecommunications-solutions provider for small and midsize businesses. He says 20 years of trial and error have led him to ask three questions of himself for any new customer: 1) What’s his gut feeling about the individual or business? (“Every time I’ve ignored my gut, I’ve paid the price,” he says.) 2) How reasonable are their requests? and 3) Is the amount of profit worth the time and effort?  “Even if you’re struggling to start your business, you have to choose so wisely because your time is your most valuable asset,” Bremmer says. Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


For example, Bremmer has had to send some customers to competitors or outright “fire” others. He says he recently had to cut off a longtime family friend who became unreasonable about pricing. He struggled with the decision because he could see how stress had made her irrational, but “the client who keeps you awake at 3 a.m.—that’s the one you’ve got to fire.” Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


2)  Haggling over price


John Olson calls them “the price hunters” and he’s learned to turn them away over his 20 years in business. They’re the people who call or email GrayStone Industries, his pond and fountain-supply company in Cleveland, Georgia,, with eyes only on the price tag. He says his staff gets calls from people who say they’ve contacted them and their competitors, and will buy from whoever has the lowest price.


In those cases, Olson says “we will not even provide a quote, which would force some other poor seller into beating it by sacrificing their own profit. That’s not the way we want to do business.”  His products and these projects, he says, require a “modicum of intelligence” from customers, and his staff is constantly trained to assist anyone with questions before or after a sale. So forget about a retail race to the bottom, he explains. “Anyone who cares more about the price than the company selling these type of products is setting themselves up for failure—it will come back to haunt any company who caters to this type of customer.”


3) Negative or abusive comments


The customer is always right? Let’s hope not, judging by the unprecedented abuse that business owners say they’re experiencing via the Internet. Melinda West, founder and CEO of SwagsGalore.com, a curtain and window-treatment ecommerce site based in Lakeville, Pennsylvania., says she has a greatest-hits collection of the crude, angry, or wacky messages she’s seen from the site’s order-comments box since she opened in 1999.


“People seem to have no problem leaving messages, but in person they likely wouldn’t be that crass,” West says. “The comments are so rude or bizarre that you don’t know whether to take them seriously.” So she’s had to block some users’ IP numbers from the site, canceled orders with a brief note, or told the pushiest ones that their goods were out of stock—just to make them go away. Though West says the overwhelming majority of the company’s orders are pleasant or at least uneventful, cutting off negative new customers no longer keeps her up at night. “Sometimes people are nasty and they don’t even order anything—how can they be so irate over curtains?” Turning Down a Customer: When Is It Smart!


4) A bad fit


Maybe the work is too outside your specialty, the budget is a tough stretch, or ethical or personal lines are crossed. Don’t ignore the red flags. Frank Ebysen, a founder of Santa Monica, California-based OnClick Marketing, an SEO and social media services company, says he’s adopted a “serious person” test, a concept his business partner learned from co-workers at a company overseas. For example, there are clients who have good ideas, but the lack of a sound game plan makes them problematic, he says. Now when they discuss whether to take on a client or turn them away, it comes down to whether the person is genuine and worth their expertise, or if they come off as “not a serious person.”


Or you could turn the tables. One PR agency executive says her small agency has started asking potential clients for a list of their references before they agree to do business. “They’ll get the feeling that you are selective and not just looking to make a buck. You’ll appear to be the leader in the situation—but mostly it helps to ward off the ones who will be a headache,” she says.

Perhaps turning away someone’s business could possibly help make that customer look within, to see that they were —gasp!—wrong. Simon says that yoga client who sparked the police call came back to her studio a year later, seeking forgiveness and promising to behave. He’s been a regular on the mats there for years now.


She says it’s added to the meaning of her business. “You never know what’s going on in someone’s life. There are students I see that are in such despair and in a heightened state of anxiety. They are coming to me to take care of that,” Simon says. “When you can understand that, then you’re doing your job.”

8 Signs of an Entrepreneur

8 Signs of An Entrepreneur8 Signs of an Entrepreneur

8 Signs of an Entrepreneur. Do you have the right personality type to successfully run your own business? It takes an entrepreneurial fire in your belly to start a business and make it succeed. Not everyone has it.

How do you know if you have what it takes to start a business? There’s really no way to know for sure. But I do find things in common among the emotional and family fabric of people ready to consider an entrepreneurial venture.

You don’t have to fit all seven of these categories to be a good candidate for entrepreneurship. But it probably wouldn’t hurt. In general, the more you have in common with these characteristics, the closer you probably are to being ready to try going out on your own. 

1. You come from a line of people who couldn’t work for someone else. I don’t mean that in a negative way. People who are successful at establishing their own business tend to have had parents who worked for themselves. It’s usually easier to get a job with a company than to start your own business; people who strike out on their own often have the direct example of a parent to look to.

2.You’re a lousy employee. No need to sugar-coat this one. People who start their own businesses tend to have been fired from or quit more than one job. I’m not saying you were laid off for lack of work or moved from one job to a better-paying one. You were asked to leave, or you quit before they could fire you. Think of it as the marketplace telling you that the only person who can effectively motivate and manage you is yourself. 8 Signs of an Entrepreneur

3.You see more than one definition of “job security.” I am truly envious of the few people I know who have stayed with one employer for 25 or 30 years. They look very secure. But how many people do you know who are able to stay with one company for that long? In a rapidly changing economy, job security can be frighteningly fleeting.

4. You’ve gone as far as you can go, or you’re not going anywhere at all. Sometimes the motivation to start a new venture comes from having reached the top of the pile where you are, looking around, and saying, “What’s next?” Early success can be wonderful, but early retirement can sometimes drive energetic and motivated people totally crazy.

5. You’ve done the market research already. Don’t even talk to me about your great business idea if you haven’t put the time into figuring out if there’s a market for your product or service. As the people behind any number of failed Internet ventures will tell you, “cool” doesn’t necessarily translate into “profitable.” Don’t bother building it if you haven’t figured out whether there’s a good chance the customers will come. 8 Signs of an Entrepreneur

6. You’ve got the support of your family. Starting a business is stressful under the best of circumstances. Trying to do it without the support of your spouse or other significant family members or friends would probably be unbearable.

7. You know you cannot do it alone. You might excel at promoting a business. Maybe you love running the financial end of the enterprise. You could be someone who starts a business because you have unique creative or technical know-how to create a product.

8. You must have passion, energy, drive, and love your business and the work you do!

Any of the above is possible, but it’s unlikely that you are going to excel at all of these tasks — or at all of the tasks involved in running any business. Forget all that doing it alone stuff. You are going to need some help sometime.

The willingness to get that help — having employees, partners or consultants for those areas in which you are not an expert — is one indicator of likely future success. “No successful entrepreneur has ever succeeded alone,” development consultant Ernesto Sirolli writes in “Ripples From the Zambezi.” “The person who is most capable of enlisting the support of others is the most likely to succeed.” 

This article is provided by Apple Capital Group, Inc.