Tag Archive: entrepreneur

Resolving Conflicts in Your Workplace

Resolving Conflicts in Your Workplace

Resolving Conflicts in Your WorkplaceResolving Conflicts in Your Workplace. Conflict in the workplace can deflate the morale of workers, lower productivity, and possibly result in physical harm. Since many people try to avoid or ignore conflict, they don’t learn how to confront it in a constructive, responsible way. Yet, some conflict can actually ignite creative and healthy energy in a business. Managers who know how to deal properly with disputes at work can help equip employees with new leadership skills and empower them to make the workplace a thriving, congenial setting for everyone. Resolving Conflicts in Your Workplace


Address conflict head-on

Instead of being afraid of conflict, experts tend to agree that it should be faced directly. “It should be a priority of companies to create an environment in which people are comfortable bringing up conflicts,” says Susan Heathfield, a management consultant and human resources expert for About.com. “You want people disagreeing because that strengthens your company and your mission.”


For example, employees may have strong feelings about the direction of the company or the next product line to introduce. Heathfield says that business owners should have some way to recognize and reward co-workers who take a stand and support it with concrete evidence, not simply personal feelings. Even if their recommendation is ultimately turned down, it encourages workers to take an active, constructive interest in the growth of the business. “The most important thing a business can do is to create a culture in which conflict is okay, where people feel comfortable debating ideas and directions and thoughts,” Heathfield explains. Resolving Conflicts in Your Workplace


For conflicts between co-workers, managers should take a lighter touch. “It’s not the manager’s responsibility to referee or set themselves up as the all-powerful arbiter,” Heathfield says. “They need to sit the two people down in a room as they talk out their individual differences and make sure things go okay. If you do it with that approach, you’ve made them more comfortable airing their different points of view to each other.” Resolving Conflicts in Your Workplace


Talk away from the office

Sometimes conflict can flare up simply because co-workers aren’t familiar with each other, even though they work side-by-side.


“A lot of people have their defenses up at work. They don’t know the other person and they don’t know what’s going on in their life,” saysAndy Teach, a California-based career advancement expert and author of From Graduation to Corporation. “If you just sit down with them and try to talk to them, you might be surprised at how things can work out.”


While direct communication is key to resolving conflicts, picking when and where to talk is also critical. If, after two or three emails, antagonism is only rising, it’s time to pick up the phone or knock on their office door. Still, it’s never a good idea to talk when you’re upset, even if that means waiting a day or two to calm down before addressing the issue. Instead of talking to the person you disagree with at work, inviting them out for coffee or lunch—somewhere offsite where the stresses of the workplace are absent—can facilitate a more personal and productive conversation.


But wherever you meet, exercising some self-discipline and focus is paramount. “You don’t want to start accusing them or raising your voice. You want to have a conversation,” Teach says. “You can say: ‘Look—you’re treating me in this inappropriate way. Do you agree with my assessment? Can you tell me why? Is there anything I can do to make the situation better since we have to work together?


To settle a conflict with a fellow employee, a co-worker can offer them an incentive, Teach says. For example, the reward for settling a dispute amicably on their own can mean that both of them will enjoy their jobs more, produce more, make the workplace more harmonious for everyone—and help the department garner praise from upper management.


Keep it impersonal

It’s essential in conflict negotiations to keep emotions out of the discussion and to focus on the disputed action—not the person behind it. Still, if you are attacked in an objectionable way, you can take control of the situation and even gain an advantage by holding your fire. Resolving Conflicts in Your Workplace


If somebody raised his voice at me, I might say: ‘Are you aware of how loud you said what you just said?’ It moves it from attacking the other person back to making them aware of what they just did,” says David Stanislaw, founder of Michigan-based Stanislaw Consulting, and a trained psychotherapist. “The biggest problem that people make in addressing each other is that they think the other person knows what they did. The level of self-awareness generally is low in the workplace, particularly when it comes to emotionally-charged communications.”


After defusing a verbal exchange, it’s best to step back and ask questions that move the discussion in constructive ways. “The idea is to take on the responsibility of being the communicator and to not assume that you know how to use the correct combination of words that accurately conveys what you’re thinking or feeling to somebody else,” Stanislaw explains. One key question to ask could be: “I don’t think I meant that in the way you’re taking it. Can I clarify what I was trying to say?” Resolving Conflicts in Your Workplace


Stanislaw points out that most conflict is subtle—such as an offhanded joke or a rude attitude toward another person—and is often ignored or dismissed because many people don’t want to address it. Laying out transparent rules for settling disputes that everyone follows—including the owners—can be the first step toward a healthier workplace. Resolving Conflicts in Your Workplace

How Recommendations can Boost E-Commerce Sales

How Recommendations can Boost E-Commerce Sales

How Recommendations can Boost E-Commerce Salesby Jennifer Shaheen.


How Recommendations can Boost E-Commerce Sales. There are three reasons why retailers should want to use the recommended product feature on their websites, explains Dave Huckaby, author of the Grabapple Guide to E-Commerce. “You increase conversion rates, increase ticket size, and increase user engagement,” he says. “Amazon is the king of product recommendations, and we can all learn from their example.”


Carol Friedman, owner of Books to Bed, which sells children’s sleepwear, agrees. “I wanted the Amazon effect,” she says. “After adding the recommended product feature to our website, we saw an increase in how long our visitors were staying on our website. And the longer they stay, the more they spend.”


Making the most of the recommended products feature

There are two ways for a retailer to add the recommended product feature. The first option, custom-coded websites, generally incorporate a SAAS (software as a service)-based solution where a third party manages the recommended product feature for a monthly fee. Custom coded websites are a pricey option, costing at least $5,000, which Huckaby says is typically out of reach for many small businesses. On the other hand, a majority of e-commerce sites, including Shopify, Yahoo Stores, and Big Commerce, incorporate a recommended product functionality as part of their standard package, with enhanced versions available as an upgrade. How Recommendations can Boost E-Commerce Sales


“It’s one thing to have a recommended products feature, it’s another thing to use it strategically,” says Linda Bustos, director of e-commerce research at Elastic Path, a provider of e-commerce software. “The biggest mistake is using defaults out of the box, and not applying appropriate merchandising rules to your tools.


Taking a hands-on approach is essential to success with the recommendation products feature, Bustos adds. “The key is to begin with your sales strategy, and ensure your tool is set up to deliver you goals. Systems that automatically generate recommendations require some behind-the-scenes fine-tuning to ensure that your customers are seeing the products you want them to see. How Recommendations can Boost E-Commerce Sales


“Whichever platform you choose, take a quick run through the instructions, watch any videos the host may provide, and see what the tool’s limitations are,” Huckaby recommends. “The best way to learn the software is to just start playing with it. See what you can do and what you can’t.”


eCommerce_PQ.jpgHuckaby, who uses Big Commerce to host his own e-commerce sites, used this method to discover a problem. “On the categories pages on my site, there’s lots of relevant text, which is great for Google, but that text is the first thing the customer sees.” he says.  “They have to scroll down to see the product. I had to go into the code and fix that myself. It’s an example of how these solutions aren’t necessarily tailored to the needs of the retailer. You have to be willing to go in and tweak them.”


Location is everything: The best place to display product recommendations

“Where you show product recommendations matters,” Bustos says. “It’s very common to do so on a product page, but you can also use the recommended product feature to display merchandise on your home page based on past visit viewing behavior or incoming search terms. You can also make use of the recommended product feature right after the action ‘add to cart’ and on your cart page.” How Recommendations can Boost E-Commerce Sales


“You want to alter your product recommendations based on where your customer is in the buying process,” Huckaby adds. “If your customer is looking at bass boats, for example, you can recommend other bass boats. But if they’ve started spending a lot of time looking at one particular bass boat, you’ll want to display trolling motors, oar locks—the type of add-on items that would increase their satisfaction with the purchase. Once they have that boat in their shopping cart, you want to recommend the specific bolt-on accessories that are made for that particular bass boat.”


Creating your own recommended products feature

Using your site-search feature, you can create your own recommended products feature if the results you’re getting from your embedded tool aren’t satisfactory. “Let’s say during the holiday season you want to offer gift sets containing several items, but your system doesn’t have the capacity,” Huckaby says. “Making use of your site-search feature, you can do a search by tags to include all of the gift sets. Then you save this search as a static web page, and link to it from your product page. When customers click on the link, they’re presented with all of the gift sets.” How Recommendations can Boost E-Commerce Sales


Test everything

“As the store owner, you want to keep a log,” Huckaby says. “Track your results over 90 days to see how things are working. Then, if you go in and make some tweaks, you’ll want to track those as well.”


Bustos also recommends extensive testing of the recommended product feature. Her list of what to look at includes where the recommendations are placed; how many per page; and the price points. She also advises retailers to use language such as “you might like” and “recommended for you” rather than “similar item” or “goes perfect with.”


Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinking

Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinking

Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinkingby Erin McDermott.

Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinking. 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? Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinking

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. Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinking

“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.” Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinking

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.

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.” Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinking

Kadlic’s five steps to getting back to business:

CrisisMode_PQ.jpg1. 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. Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinking

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.

SBC newsletter logo.gifAt 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.” Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinking

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.” Breaking Out of Crisis-Mode Thinking

This Entrepreneur Ascribes His Success to 5 Core Values

This Entrepreneur Ascribes His Success to 5 Core Values
This Entrepreneur Ascribes His Success to 5 Core Values.One owner tells Inc. columnist Paul Spiegelman how establishing core values 10 years ago helped his firm thrive. Seriously.

Assess Your Culture

During the Inc. Small Giants Summit and the Inc. Leadership Forum in June, culture and core values stood out to me as the recurring theme of successful and fulfilling companies. This stood out so much that Keith Squires, president and CEO of PathMaker Group in Colleyville, Texas, and an attendee at both events, sent me the story of how he turned around an unfulfilling pattern when he discovered that core company values would drive business behaviors that lead to sustainable success. Here Squires explains:

After doing a series of consulting projects that left me truly discouraged when the last one ended abruptly, I decided it was time to step up and create a real company. I started PathMaker Group in 2003 out of a desire (you might even say a calling) to develop a company that would last. This Entrepreneur Ascribes His Success to 5 Core Values

I chose to focus this new company on a niche within IT Security called “identity management.” To be honest, I could have been building widgets and it really would not have mattered to me. My real passion is forming the right team of people with the right skills for the job. The first two things I did? I read–a lot. There’s no need to invent a new way to build a good company. There’s data, best practices, and guiding information that will get you where you want to be. I also hired a couple of key people. This Entrepreneur Ascribes His Success to 5 Core Values

We went to work right away and after some personal soul searching each of us brought our ideas to the table. We ended up with five core values that continue to be the keys to our long-term survival:

  • Personal growth
  • Leadership and mentoring
  • Creativity and thought leadership
  • Work and family balance
  • High quality results

So how have these core values really helped us make business decisions? Here are the five resulting behaviors that sustained PathMaker over the last 10 years:This Entrepreneur Ascribes His Success to 5 Core Values

We buck the industry.
We encourage a highly collaborative environment of creativity and thought leadership. In a day when every company is reducing cost with work-from-home employees, we want people in the office. That’s an expensive decision but one we believe is essential if we truly want to be an industry leader. In an industry in which 100 percent year-round travel is pretty common and hard on the family, our standard is 25 percent. We rarely have a problem making the model work and it gives us an advantage when recruiting and keeping employee retention high. This Entrepreneur Ascribes His Success to 5 Core Values

We hire for a values fit.
All the experience in the world will not change an employee’s attitude and willingness to help a co-worker with humility and a servant’s heart. If you wander around talking to our team, you will not find arrogance. It has no place at PathMaker. In the technology industry, you need to be interested in learning. We look for people who wake up every day asking themselves how they can get better at what they do. You really can’t teach this–either you have it or you don’t. This Entrepreneur Ascribes His Success to 5 Core Values

We make painful decisions.
We have had some of the most wonderful people working incredibly hard who are also joys to be around. But they just couldn’t produce the technical quality that’s required at PathMaker. For a company that looks so much for a values fit, these are the most painful decisions. But they have to be made if you want high-quality results.

We choose our software partners carefully.
The technology you use has to work for a large enterprise. But if the supporting vendor organization can’t provide proper technical support and training and treat your employees and customers with respect, you won’t be able to live out your core values. We parted ways with a vendor that represented 40 percent of our revenue but caused us to lose a series of good people and projects. It took us a couple of years to recover but looking back now it was the right decision for our long-term health as an organization. This Entrepreneur Ascribes His Success to 5 Core Values

We break up with customers when the relationship isn’t working.
It takes us about two or three months to figure out if a new client will last. Does the customer treat our employees with respect? Can we produce high quality results and have a satisfied customer? We work so hard as an organization to win new customers that it absolutely kills me to let one go. But if you want to keep your people and your reputation in the industry sometimes it’s the only option.

On the surface the idea of establishing core values may sound like just some great theory. Take it from one company who has relied on core values for 10 years for our very survival as an organization. This stuff works. This Entrepreneur Ascribes His Success to 5 Core Values

How to hire a CEO for your small business

How to hire a CEO for your small business
by Susan Caminiti.

How to hire a CEO for your small business. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the skills needed to start a small business—perseverance, patience, and passion, to name a few—aren’t always the same ones necessary to take a company to the next level. Sure, as the founder you’re the person who came up with the brilliant idea for your product or service, and can zealously promote it to potential customers better than anyone. But if you can’t (or don’t want to) deal with the day-to-day functions of running a growing enterprise, it might be time to consider bringing in a chief executive officer.

Charley Polachi, a partner at Polachi & Co., an executive search firm in Framingham, Mass., works with many small companies as they’re entering their early growth stage. He says the first step he recommends for any founder looking to hire a senior manager is to define the pain they’re trying to address. “Usually it’s a matter of too much or too little,” he says. “The small business owner is either too busy and can’t keep up with all aspects of the business adequately, or the business has stalled and he or she needs someone who can come in and move it ahead.” How to hire a CEO for your small business

Know what you want

Regardless of which scenario is driving the decision, the experts we spoke with all agree on one thing: define the CEO job thoroughly before you start your search. It’s not enough to say you want someone with financial or organizational skills. As you draw up a detailed list of the attributes and qualities you’re looking for, go a step further, suggest Polachi. What functions will this person be responsible for every day? What are you able to pay? And of course, as the founder, what roles and duties are you willing to realistically delegate? “Very few small businesses need a clone of the owner,” explains Dan Bowser, president of Value Insights Inc., a business valuation and exit strategy consulting firm based in Summerville, Pennsylvania. “When you’re drawing up the specs for this new person, you want to hire someone with skills and abilities that you don’t have.” How to hire a CEO for your small business

Evaluate the person, not just the resume

Once the job has been defined, don’t rush through the interviews. “There should be no fewer than three interviews when you find a promising candidate,” says Polachi. Each time you bring them back, the conversation should delve deeper into determining if you’ve found a good fit. “Ask them if they’ve ever scaled-up a business and how they did it,” he adds. “When you’re bringing someone into a small business in a senior position, his or her management style is absolutely critical.”

That’s because the skills and style that worked wonderfully in a billion-dollar corporation with thousands of employees doesn’t always translate well into a million-dollar organization with dozens (or fewer) workers. “There is a huge difference in support and responsibilities between a big and small company,” observes Bowser. “Everything from having to make your own travel arrangements to the ego boost that comes from working for a big company—all those issues have to be considered before bringing someone into your small business. I’d have real concerns about an otherwise great candidate if all they have is big business experience.” How to hire a CEO for your small business

HireaCEO_PQ.jpgDon’t expect perfection

What if you do everything right to find a CEO for your company and the person still doesn’t work out? For starters, don’t panic. Experts say most small business owners aren’t terribly good at (or even like) the hiring process, so the chances of getting it wrong—even when looking for a senior person—are pretty high.

John Brown, president of the Business Enterprise Institute (BEI), agrees. He recently worked with a couple that was routinely clocking 50 hours to 60 hours a week at their small business and hadn’t taken a vacation in 15 years. They hired a senior manager to relieve some of the burden, but when he didn’t work out they moved him into sales and contacted Brown about selling the company. “They were so burned out and so sure they’d never find the right person that they just felt they had no choice other than to sell the business,” he says. How to hire a CEO for your small business

To avoid that sort of draconian response, set 60- and 90-day performance reviews once you’ve hired someone into a senior position. “You’ll probably know within the first 30 days if this person is going to work out, but after 90 days you should certainly have a feel for whether this was a smart hire,” says Brown. And if it’s not, Brown says he likes to remind his clients of management consulting guru Peter Drucker’s advice: Hire slow and fire fast. How to hire a CEO for your small business

Understand your new role

“Someone can be an ex-CEO of a company or an ex-president, but no one ever introduces themselves as the ‘ex-founder’ of a company,” says Polachi. “Once you’re the founder, you’re always the founder.” That doesn’t mean, however, you’re going to play the same role if you’ve decided to bring in a CEO. How to hire a CEO for your small business

Bowser advises clients to take the time to introduce the new manager to existing staff, outline his or her responsibilities within the organization, and then clearly state that this new person has your full support. Do not tolerate end-runs around your new hire by employees who say they’re more comfortable working with you. “That will only confuse people even more and undermine the person you’ve brought in,” Bowser says. “Calmly explain that the new person is now handling some of the duties you had been and ask them to work directly with him or her. Eventually employees will get the message.” How to hire a CEO for your small business

Engage Clients on Houzz

Engage Clients on Houzz

by Erin McDermott.


Engage Clients on Houzz Amanda Bertele has a much simpler office these days.


As a designer, she spent years thumbing through stacks of magazines, brochures, and portfolios to get ideas for kitchens, bathrooms, and other home-interior projects to show customers. She asked clients to do the same, by keeping photos or ripped pages or color strips in scrapbooks so they could share their ideas. Engage Clients on Houzz


Now she’s got Houzz, and so do many of the customers at Superior Woodcraft in Doylestown, Pa. Bertele says she asks clients to add photos and comments to their online “ideabooks,” which both of them can see instantly. She shares projects that she finds inspiring, letting others in on her design sensibility and opening new conversations. Engage Clients on Houzz


“It’s completely changed the vocabulary of design,” Bertele says. “It used to be so time-consuming, a ton of work, and expensive to go out and buy all of those design books. Now, it’s ‘Go on Houzz. Save what you like and make comments.’ The images take away the barrier to what everyone’s trying to convey in words.” Engage Clients on Houzz


If you’ve yet to tune in, Houzz is a beautiful and highly addictive website that brings a social-media element to residential remodeling, design, decor, and landscaping. For users, it’s a resource book, inspiration point, and fantasy island for those looking to improve the look and feel of their homes. As of early 2013, more than 150 million photos have been uploaded that 14 million Houzzers comment on, ask questions about, or save to their ideabooks, which are personal stashes of images any member can hold for later reference. Engage Clients on Houzz


Houzz’s images come from nearly 250,000 businesses in the U.S. and Canada, showcasing their work, creativity, and goods—and serve as an entry point to interacting with clients and future clients. The site lets professionals ask and answer questions about products and projects and lets them chime in on lively discussions that include tradesmen, contractors, designers, as well as homeowners with an itch to upgrade. Engage Clients on Houzz


The site was launched in late 2009 by a husband and wife team who’d struggled to renovate their Bay Area home. Many Houzz pros interviewed for this article say they first learned of it by looking at their Google Analytics data—after Houzzers shared photos of their work and cited them as the designer, driving traffic to their website. It’s all proving to be a disruptor in the $300 billion a year home-remodeling market.


Houzz_PQ.jpgAnd that’s why it’s quickly become a must-have for anyone in a host of businesses, from architects and landscape artists to swimming pool installers, electrical contractors or anyone tied to just about every room in a house or apartment. Or even a dog house. (And the best news: it’s largely free. The site’s now accepting ads and there’s a paid tool, Houzz Pro+, that breaks down traffic statistics to individual pictures, for example.)  Engage Clients on Houzz


Engage Clients on Houzz How can you get your Houzz in order? Here are a few tips from other Houzz pros on using the site to engage customers:


Think of it as a communication tool.

Bertele says photos communicate in ways that words never can when it comes to a look or a feel that a homeowner is trying to achieve. She says Houzz bridges a gap between a designer’s technical knowledge and vocabulary and what a client is trying to express. While insiders may throw around words like mullion, Palladian window, or waterfall island, such terms can fly over the heads of customers. “Or someone can say ‘French Country‘ style, but that has so many different meanings,” she says, noting that’s something that can be easily cleared up with an image that establishes a common language. “If you don’t have good communication, you don’t have a happy client.” Engage Clients on Houzz


It’s also a much more nimble tool when compared with the steps required to update a business’s homepage. On Houzz, all you have to do is point, click to add to an ideabook, and voilà: your showcase is freshened up with a half-dozen new pictures of a completed job.


Show you’re a problem-solver

Jeffrey Veffer, a Toronto-based architect and co-owner of Incite Design, says the best ideabooks give clear explanations for how a project was commissioned and the clients’ expectations, which he says has elevated the dialogues he’s had with some Houzz-using customers. “Clients are coming to us with a bit more literacy in terms of style, which we find is helpful,” he says. “We’re advising people to use these sites to help clarify their ideas before they engage designers. And it enhances the value of what designers really do.”


By contributing to the site’s conversations and articles with his own expertise, Veffer says he hopes it shows potential clients his willingness to be involved and solve any inevitable issues that arise in a project, qualities that are highly sought after and can help to build an initial relationship.  Engage Clients on Houzz


Gloria Franklin, the Cleveland-based owner of Colom & Brit Interiors, agrees with that approach. In Houzz’s discussion section regarding design dilemmas, she often weighs in with possible solutions, sometimes including items from her own home accessories and furniture business, but more often with links to other room shots, to illustrate her point. “I’ve found that giving free and valuable content builds trust and a loyal following,” she says. Engage Clients on Houzz


Remember, it’s the Web

When you create your professional profile, fill out all available fields with the most up-to-date information, including your name and company, location, website, and personal Houzz page, if you wish. When a consumer does a search on the site, the Houzz algorithm puts a high value on the number and quality of the photos posted, the number of reviews from clients and colleagues, how many questions you’ve responded to, and if you have a Houzz badge—the widget to let clients link back—on your company’s site. Those with the most interactions become the top of the search results. Engage Clients on HouzzEngage Clients on Houzz


The rules of search-engine optimization apply here, too. When you post a photo, think about your keywords you’re using to describe what’s in it. More important, think about how a consumer would be searching. (Fun fact: The words “white kitchen” are among the most searched on the Internet.) If the standout element of a living room you’re highlighting is the red wallpaper, add “red living room” to the list. And consider the emotions that certain rooms might conjure for users and the words they’d use to describe it. Bertele says she was trying to come across a bedroom that she considered “rustic,” but had trouble locating the snapshot. She thought again and typed in “sexy bedrooms” and it popped right up.


Build up a community

All of this sharing—isn’t this just giving away your tricks of the trade? Not at all, says Robin Baron, an interior designer in New York whose page was voted Best of Houzz for 2013 by the site’s users. An industry veteran, she says roughly 80 percent of her clients are now Houzzing, and she finds it to be a huge improvement when hunting for just the right piece for a project and collecting the results in one place.


She answers all questions posed to her on the site and reports what materials she used in all of her photos, from furniture makers and chandeliers down to her color choices for the walls. “There’s no harm in giving them a paint number. I’ll give them the price category, and if it’s something they can afford or not is their decision,” Baron says. “It’s about building on the engagement.”


And that’s one of the keys to succeeding in social media, in Baron’s industry and elsewhere. On Twitter, Facebook, and Houzz, she often promotes other designers‘ projects, just as she refers out small jobs to fledgling colleagues whose work she appreciates. “Supporting each other is critical. The more that do well, then we all will do well,” she says. “It’s an important way to live your life—on Houzz and beyond!

Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

Interns Can Grow Your Small Business Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

by Susan Caminiti.

Interns Can Grow Your Small Business Remember when you were in college and couldn’t wait to get some work experience out in the so-called “real world”? Well, there’s a current crop of college students who feel the same way, and when utilized correctly, they can be a big help to your small business. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business


Contrary to what you might think, college interns aren’t just for Fortune 500 companies. Whether for the summer or during the fall and spring semesters, hiring an intern enables you to influence the next generation of professionals that will soon be out in the workforce—and gives you valuable insights from young, enthusiastic men and women who are interested in your industry. In fact, in a survey of their members, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that employers last year planned on hiring 8.5 percent more college students for internships than they did the prior year. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business


Before you rush out to your local college or trade school to find students to hire, however, there are some basics do’s and don’ts of internships that are important to understand. Some are simple common sense, but others, if violated, could run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business


Define the job

The first thing to understand is that these opportunities are more for the benefit of the college student than your small business. Think of internships as a smart way for you to take your experience and success and pay it forward. That’s not to say, however, that there can’t be an upside for your company. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business


That’s why it’s important to take the time to define what you really expect from any intern you bring in—the same as you would a full-time employee. Decide on the job functions, how he or she will benefit from the internship, and who will supervise the intern.


Crissy Koehler, vice president of sales and marketing for Parties That Cook, a San Francisco-based firm that stages hands-on cooking parties and corporate team-building events, says that her company hires interns for its marketing department and for its kitchen management functions. “The students we bring in for our marketing department need to be proficient in social media and communications,” she says. The students in the kitchen management program need food- and cooking-related skills.  “We make it very clear in our job descriptions what the candidate will need for a specific internship,” Koehler adds. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business


Hiring-Interns_PQ.jpgGet your staff involved

Tara Goodwin Frier, founder of the Goodwin Group, a public relations firm based in Walpole, Mass., has two to three unpaid interns working for her at any given time. She typically finds them by attending college fairs or through the connections she’s developed as a guest lecturer at Boston University. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business


While she always makes sure to interview each candidate herself, she also has her younger employees interview the college student as well. These “peer interviews” as she calls them, often reveal more than what Frier will be able to glean. “It’s amazing what a college student will say—or reveal—to someone closer to their age,” she says, noting that some candidates have admitted during the interview process that they’re not even sure what they want to do with their lives. “As much as we value transparency in my company, I do tell these students that that’s something they probably don’t want to repeat in other job interviews,” Frier says. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business


Decide paid or unpaid

Given that most small businesses are not flush with money, many opt to offer unpaid internships. In most cases, the student will receive college credits for the hours worked in lieu of a paycheck. While hiring an unpaid intern is perfectly legal, there are some guidelines established by the Department of Labor that must be followed. Among them: The intern’s training should be centered on the skill they’re pursuing in college—writing, accounting, culinary trade—and not something unrelated to their studies. In other words, having an unpaid intern around as a source of cheap labor to pick up office supplies or fetch your dry cleaning would likely be frowned upon by the Labor Department. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business


Frier doesn’t pay her interns, but she does cover expenses related to any events she has them attend on behalf of the company and its clients, and does offer a stipend of several hundred dollars at their end of their internship. “They are getting college credit for the time they’re spending with the company, but I also think the stipend shows that we value their contribution,” she says. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business


Be ready to offer feedback—and patience

Though some interns will shine brighter than others, it’s important to keep in mind that they’re still college students and will likely need some gentle course correcting—or sometimes more—while they work at your company. Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

As a public relations firm with several high-profile clients, including the NFL’s New England Patriots, Frier often needs her interns to interact with reporters. “One of the things I noticed was that college students lack telephone etiquette,” she says. “They’re so used to simply texting or emailing.” To break them of that habit, Frier says she’s written out scripts for what they need to say on the phone when they reach a reporter to figure out if they’re interested in covering a particular event or client. “We work in a multi-generational world,” she says, “so it’s important that we stay aware of the skills that each generation brings with them—or doesn’t.” Interns Can Grow Your Small Business

7 investment principles for entrepreneurs

inc7 investment principles for entrepreneurs

by Karl Stark and Bill Stewart


7 investment principles for entrepreneurs. Those of us who have large investments in private businesses aren’t like typical savers. We need a different strategy for our personal investments.


Most personal finance experts tell a fairly consistent story about the need to build a diversified investment portfolio focused on long-term growth. But that type of investment strategy doesn’t necessarily apply to entrepreneurs and owners of private businesses, especially high-growth businesses.

We are a unique lot. Our concentrated investment in a risky but highly attractive company means that our overall investment portfolio is skewed differently than the average investor. One business owner once told us, “My business is my retirement strategy.” This perspective underscores the importance of building a plan that’s unique to your risk profile and your appetite for entrepreneurial opportunities. 7 investment principles for entrepreneurs


7 investment principles for entrepreneurs. Here are seven personal investment principles we have learned to keep in mind when your job is growing a business:


1. Build a “no touch” portfolio.

When you invest in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, put them out of reach by creating “no touch” portfolios in accounts that you will never access. This will reduce the temptation to dip into long-term investments to address a short-term need for a cash infusion if your business is struggling. You can create more protection by loading up your retirement accounts and your kids’ education accounts. These are places where there is a huge financial penalty to accessing those funds, which will keep you honest. 7 investment principles for entrepreneurs


2. Protect your assets.

Structure your investments–and your company–so that creditors can’t reach your money if the business runs into financial or legal peril. In addition to structuring your business appropriately, this also involves transferring assets to spouses and children where possible and investing within retirement accounts and real estate, which in some cases are out of reach. 7 investment principles for entrepreneurs

3. Diversify away from your business.

Seek investments in your portfolio that are counter cyclical to your industry and business cycle. Investing in commodities may be risky in general, but if your business is heavily linked to the broader economy or public equity markets, a counter cyclical asset such as commodities may be attractive.


4. Invest more conservatively outside your business.

Most investment professionals recommend a heavy equity portfolio for younger professionals and a larger fixed-income portfolio for older individuals. Given that an entrepreneur’s business may largely cover her “equity risk,” she may be better off with a more conservative portfolio outside of her business. 7 investment principles for entrepreneurs


5. Build a cash cushion for future entrepreneurial ventures.

Most of us can’t pass up a good deal when it comes along. That’s why we became entrepreneurs in the first place. If you have the luxury of cash outflows from your business, put a sufficient amount aside so that you can keep some dry powder when new opportunities present themselves. 7 investment principles for entrepreneurs


6. Make smart business investments.

The best way to protect your personal finances is to ensure that your business has a sound, balanced approach to investing its capital. Our recent column on a growing business’s investment strategy discussed this in some detail. 7 investment principles for entrepreneurs


7. Build a great business model.

Of course, the best personal investment strategy may be your business itself. After all, your business can be your retirement strategy if it’s successful. Building your business should be what you do best. So focus your time and effort there and leave the investing to a professional. 7 investment principles for entrepreneurs

We should note that although we advise private investors on investing in growth companies, we aren’t investment advisers. We can share our own thoughts and experiences, but for more targeted advice you should seek a professional investment adviser. 7 investment principles for entrepreneurs


Article provided by Inc.com. © Inc.

5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs

5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

by Erin McDermott.

5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.. It’s cap and gown time. Another generation faces the daunting question: What on earth should I do now?  Rest assured, America’s entrepreneurs were there once, too. So what would this wizened and battle-hardened group tell an ambitious young person if they could? We offered a few business owners the chance to proffer some smart advice to future head honchos. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

What do these entrepreneurs wish they knew when they were leaving school?5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

1. Capitalize on your freedom

Most new grads have life’s weightiest matters still ahead of them: marriage, kids, mortgages. So if you’re looking to strike out on your own, now may be the time—before decisions become more complicated and the risks too great. Twentysomething Nick Ramil and his business partner, Tim Nybo, finished college and headed to Guangzhou, China, to teach English part-time—and start up their consultancy on the side to pursue international opportunities. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs. Now they’re running Royal American Wines, an importer and distributor, and coaching Chinese and global entrepreneurs. “The majority of people are too scared to take action,” Ramil says. “Over time, these people’s dreams and ambitions are slowly extinguished. Even if you fail, you played the game… this will only be a positive or sign of strength on a resume.” 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

2. Build something

Create a website. Or, better yet, an app—it’s a skill that’s in high demand. Along the way, you’ll learn things that are indispensable, like how to code, manage a project, study analytics, or a thousand other tools, says Gabriel Mays, the 28-year-old founder of Justaddcontent.com, a San Diego-based website maker for small businesses, and a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs. The bottom line: Work on something that solves a problem in your industry. “If this isn’t your background, it’ll make your mind work in ways you never thought it could,” Mays says. “Can you image someone who conceived of, designed, built, marketed, and supported something completely new? They understand every step of the process. Talk about marketable when you throw that on a resume.” 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

3. Your early relationships matter more than you think

Everyone has to start somewhere, but don’t make the mistake of believing that any task is beneath you. Vannessa Wade, now the 32-year-old president of her own Houston-based public-relations firm, Connect the Dots PR, looks back at her early work days and cringes a bit. “You have to learn to volunteer for projects and to be a team player,” she says. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs. On one job, “my mind was always ‘Get me out of here,’ not realizing it was coming out in my actions.’” Instead, learn how to take disappointment and keep adding more skills. “You don’t have to show that you’d rather be out trying to be an entrepreneur,” Wade says. Instead, become a magnet for a mentor: “Work hard and people will want to look out for you.” These days, she often taps into that early network she built for advice. “People actually want to help you,” Wade explains. “I can reach out to other entrepreneurs to pick their brains about what does and doesn’t work, or get an honest answer about what I might be doing wrong.” 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.


4. Be a good observer

Watch how other people operate, what niches they occupy, how their systems and organizations work, and zero in on their motivations and goals. It’s the best thing Matthew Zehner says he’s learned from his business. He takes the time “to read people, interpret this information, and use it to communicate more effectively to create the best possible outcome for my clients, my business, and my employees.” 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs. Zehner, the 28-year-old chief executive of ZehnerGroup, an interactive media agency, now has a staff of 30 employees, based in Los Angeles. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.The observational skill set becomes essential when dealing with difficult situations. “That life lesson is invaluable in the business world—whether it’s knowing how to word an email to a potential client to get the response I’m hoping for or how to communicate project risk with a client early on.” 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.


5. Know when to ask for help

Georgette Blau was just out of college in 1999 when she started giving weekend tours of New York’s famous movie and television locations, as a sideline to her job in publishing. “Once I hit about $400 a week, I thought I could make a go of it full-time and make it a lot bigger,” she says. There were plenty of in-demand settings, as Sex and the City, The Sopranos, Seinfeld and others were becoming popular. But for about 18 months, she was doing it all: taking reservations, conducting tours, arranging marketing and logistics, and handling the finances. Looking back, she says monopolizing all of these burdens kept her fledgling company from growing faster. 5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.She added an office staffer and made it through some difficult times after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, then steadily started to build up On Location Tours, learning plenty of management lessons along the way. Now with 50 employees on the job, she’s readying a TMZ celebrity-gossip-themed tour and looking at possibilities for the HBO series Girls. “It’s great to have the experience of wearing different hats, but in order to move forward in a business, you really have to hire at least an office manager to help with more time-consuming tasks, say Blau, now 38.  5 Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

Tips for New Graduates From Young Entrepreneurs.

Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

3 Ways To Grow Your BusinessGoogle Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business Google “business networking” and you’ll see links to articles on how to increase your Facebook Likes and Twitter followers. Connecting with potential customers and business partners via social networking is, by now, an essential part of any company’s growth. Despite the skyrocketing impact of social media over the past decade, however, the importance of old-fashioned, face-to-face networking has not faded. Shaking hands at conferences and making chit chat at cocktail parties is still one of the best ways to expand your brand’s reach, build your business, and create vital partnerships. So, just how good are your networking skills? To turn that annual conference small talk into a critical company connection, look over this list of networking Dos and Don’ts.


DO research who is coming

If possible, look over the guest list for any conference or party and make a mental list of those folks you want to meet. Shawna Tregunna, founder and owner of ReSoMe.com, a social media company, explores who is coming online and uses social media to reach out to fellow attendees before the event. “I watch for mentions of [the event] on social media by hashtag or name. I also check out the guest list if it is public. If I see someone I want to connect with, I look for them on Twitter or LinkedIn and [send them a Tweet or message such as] ‘I see we are both headed to XYZ event! I would love to get a chance to say hi. Looking forward to connecting!’ Then, at the event, I have a list of people I know I will connect with,” says Tregunna. Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


DON’T be afraid to approach someone

“Take every advantage possible to meet new people,” says Lori Cheek, founder and CEO of Cheekd.com, a sort of reverse-engineered dating site that provides its members icebreakers they can use to introduce themselves to new people. “When attending networking events, I find that it’s most advantageous to go alone so that you’re forced to talk to new people,” suggests Cheek. “Understand everyone is there for a similar reason and, for the most part, want to make new connections, so don’t be shy—just walk up and introduce yourself. The only thing you have to lose is an opportunity.” Cheek also offers a reminder not to make quick judgments. “Efficiently communicate and never dismiss a single soul—you never know who you’re talking to, who they might know, or how they’d be able to contribute [to your company].” Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


DO listen…and listen and listen

“Listen more than you talk. People invariably like someone who listens to them and makes them feel interesting and appreciated,” says Lisa Thompson, L.P.C., director of professional services for Pearson Partners International, Inc., a full-service retained executive search firm. Thompson suggests keeping your own story to a minimum. “Avoid immediately going into too much detail about what you offer. Unless they indicate a real interest by asking direct questions, you will bore them and they will want to escape,” suggests Thompson. “Practice describing what you do in just a couple of sentences.” Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


DON’T stay in just your industry

Getting beyond the folks within your industry can benefit your company in surprising ways. New ideas for marketing partnerships, insight on fresh ways to approach sales, and more solid business opportunities may arise from chatting with someone in another field or specialty. “It pays dividends to diversify your connections. Raise your awareness of the circles you spend your time in and if the circles have become too narrow—one type of industry, one type of profession—make it a point to widen the circle from time-to-time,“ writes founder and CEO of Impact Instruction Group Amy Franko in her e-book 35 Tips to Build Lasting Strategic RelationshipsGoogle Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business


SmallTalk_PQ.jpgDO take notes

Katie Shea, director of marketing at OrderGroove.com, a company that launches and manages subscription programs for major retailers, suggests taking a brief moment to take notes on people you meet. “If you are at a large networking event like a cocktail party
or fundraiser, it’s easy to collect dozens of cards, yet difficult to keep
track of all of the different two- to three-minute conversations,” says Shea. “After a few
conversations, take a break to write personal notes on the back of each
card you’ve received—[things like] ‘NYU alum, born in South Africa, avid traveler.’ Not only will this jog your memory of the conversation, but your new
contact is likely to be impressed that you remembered such a personal
detail about him or her during later conversations.”


DON’T get stuck in conversations

Having a few ideas on how to exit a conversation is just as important as having opening lines to start one. Being “trapped” with one person for too long means missed opportunities to connect with others. “Learn to handle networking vultures and elegantly get out of a conversation with someone who wants to stick with you,” suggests Thompson. “You might say there is someone across the room you just have to speak to, or introduce that person to another and move along, or have other possible strategies up your sleeve.”


DO follow up in person

Keep that brief conversation going after the event with another face-to-face meeting—even if you don’t see an immediate use for the relationship. “You’ve heard the saying that if you need a relationship, it’s usually too late to build it. It’s often why people end up feeling as though they’re being insincere, because continual relationship building isn’t a habit built into their everyday life,” notes Franko. “A quick conversation with a new contact is rarely a bad
thing, but where the deals happen is later down the road. Be sure to follow
up—offer to buy coffee, lunch, a drink—with those individuals that you
believe offer synergies to your business,” offers Shea. Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business

DON’T have an out-of-date online presence

To cultivate and grow relationships, many go beyond “just touching base” periodic emails. They build on that face-to-face networking with social media, which means it is vital your LinkedIn account is always up-to-date, and you are active on at least one social media channel. “I will connect with everyone within 48 hours [of an event] on LinkedIn with a unique greeting and ask for their other social channels so we can stay in touch,” notes Tregunna. “I then try to do mentions of them on social media if they are active – ‘Great meeting at on ! If you haven’t connected with them here you should try!’” That virtual connection keeps the lines of communication open and ready for future business opportunities that happen in person. Google Business Networking Tips for Building Your Small Business