100 Great Business Ideas

by Jeremy Kourdi
Isbn 978-462-09960-6

Another book to add to your bookshelf – well at least to your library list to have a read of!  Each chapter is limited to 2 pages and concludes with an “in Practice” to help you implement the ideas in business.  While the ideas vary from running a business, managing a team, marketing the business irrespective whether you work in a business or own a business I think there is value in this book.

My favourite chapters were Bumper-sticker strategy, Information dash boards and monitoring performance, Balancing core and the context, Built-in obsolescence, Precision marketing, Rethinking the budget, the balanced scorecard, Value innovation, and The leadership pipeline.  Now while you might be thinking “I’m up on all of these topics”, I find each of us have so many things happening that having a short reminder and a practical way to assist you to implement a great idea is always refreshing.

One of the ideas that I have implemented involved re-writing the closing page of each of my face-2-face training courses to include a paragraph on how participants can go to my online learning site if they want to get more information.
Another topic that I have implemented is creating a weekly dashboard to monitor my life. 
The dashboard has indicators that let me know that I’m on track with my personal and business goals.

Small Business, Big Opportunity

by Sensis in partnership with Rob Hartnett.   isbn: 0 646 46222 9

This is one of my all time favourite books for Small Businesses (for that matter any business) trying to get a hold on smart marketing and advertising. 

The book starts with an explanation of various business models and continues on to the big issues facing businesses.  It also gives a snap shot of Michael Gerber’s three types of business owners. 
(Let me know Which one are you? After you have read the book.)

The book focuses on the four factors which Rob Hartnett believes build a successful business:

  1. Your available market;
  2. Your ability to create selling opportunities from that market;
  3. Your – and your staff’s – business, sales and marketing skills;
  4. Your ability to contain costs and increase margins.

Now if you are thinking that these four factors are only relevant to business, I believe any successful business person could relate how these factors influenced them.  For instance, if I apply these four factors to a business person I believe they would relate them by:

  • Knowing who is interested in their skills (their market);
  • Understanding what their skills mean to a market space;
  • While mastering their business skills, having an understanding how to market and sell themselves;
  • Being able to demonstrate how they can add value to the business they are joining.

So I believe this book is for everyone.

What will you find inside?  When I flick through my copy each page has several highlighted points.  The book is jam-packed with helpful tips and hints, and it gives you some very practical activities to assist you in quantifying some of the intangible aspects of your business or business profile.

The most sensational aspect of this book is that it is absolutely FREE!  You can obtain your hard or soft copy by going to www.smartadvice.com.au and clicking my “Favourites” tag and using the link to the book or you can contact Sensis.

Women, Work & the Art of Savoir Faire

By Mireille Guiliano. isbn: 978 1 84737 440 0

Next time someone next asks me “What is your philosophy of doing business?” I will just hand them a copy of this book. Yes, this book is a mirror image of how I believe business professionals (and not just women) should conduct themselves in business.

This book has many tips and aspiring stories to build your confidence (at any stage of your business career) and the author has also tackled some business topics that no-one wants to talk about. Perhaps you may consider some of these topics ‘light-on’ such as how to handle your emotions at work; business dress-sense; how to conduct yourself in business entertaining (whether at home or out). I believe that after reading the chapter on ‘Branding’ you will see how these fundamentals will contribute to your business signature.

The book was easy to read and had an interesting title for each chapter. Here are some of my favourite chapters and tips within:

• The principle of enlightened self-interest: Mireille acknowledges “We live in a 24/7/365 business world and the demands always to ‘be on’ are intense”. Mireille suggests the way to survive is to ‘to know thyself’ and act with enlightened self-interest. This requires you to step out of your immediate body full of instant passions, anger, love, jealousy and perhaps even hate and to make a cold analysis of your situation in its content before acting. Not always easy but Mireille gives some great tips on how to do this.

• Of velvet gloves, words, and handshakes: One of the greatest challenges we have in the business world is communication and this chapter covers some of the fundamentals that should be taught in every business course including – how to make a PowerPoint presentation; greeting business people (do you kiss them or give them a hand-shake, including how to do a handshake); giving feedback; mentoring others plus other great basics.

• Paint yourself orange: My favourite paragraph in this chapter is “What do people think of when they think of you as a brand? If you don’t stand out with a clear identity, you are lost in a sea of indistinguishable peers. If you have business ambitions, you don’t want to be a commodity, something perceived as commonly available, unspecialized and easily exchangeable with another product of the same type. … You need to be known for your unique qualities, and that means being recognized.” This chapter also covers some great tips on company branding.

• Whose success?: Mireille believes many women ‘want it all’, but she says that is not possible unless you manage your expectations and those of the people closest to you of what ‘having it all’ means. This is a great chapter for those over-achievers.

The book’s subtitle is ‘business sense and sensibility’ and I believe it lives up to this. I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I did.

Why have signs?

A sign is a very effective way to communicate with people.  A universal sign that is understood in nearly every language is the Stop sign.  This sign has the same shape and colour everywhere (maybe the wording a little different) but you know what it means as you travel the globe.

What sparked me to write about signs is I have been eying off a sign as I travel to Brisbane which says “everyone needs a truck driver”.  Now I am very interested in this sign – there is only one sign, it has been there for approx 6 months and so I have started to ask people what this sign means to them.  The answers are as varied as:

  truck drivers are needed to drive our goods around the country;
  truck drivers should be supported and not abused on the roads;
  one person asked “is there a telephone number given so you can hire the truck driver?”

So the intention of a sign can be made misleading by the words that are used or not used.  Another issue can be the placement of the sign.  The difference between an ideal viewing spot and terrible one may only be a few feet.

So what you can you do to maximise the impact of your business signage:

1. Ask people what they think it means.  And if it is not what you intended then don’t do it.

2. For maximum exposure, a sign should interrupt the existing natural sight lines in any given area.  So you’ve got to stand in a spot and determine: Where am I looking?

3. On shop fronts consider angling the sign so passersby can see the sign (as they are not going to stand in front of your shop to read the signs before moving on!)

4. Don’t place a sign on the way to the bathroom as people usually are focused on getting to the bathroom.  Consider facing the sign as people exit the bathroom.

Another pet favourite is – refresh your sign.  In Queensland we have a great sun and it burns – your skin and paint work.  So if you want to have a professional image regularly refresh the paint work on your sign as necessary.

What is an activity that everyone practices but few people succeed at?

Communication!

Good communication is vital for a business to run smoothly and profitably, yet we often do it so poorly.   Why? 

Two things prompted me to write this article:

(1) I am presently reading Stephen R. Covey The 8th Habit which refreshes your recollection of the 7 habits of highly effective people; Habit 5 is “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.  How many communicators do this? 

For example, at a recent training course, a participant asked a question of the trainer who rattled off an answer.  I doubted the answer addressed the question which was a fundamental part of the subject matter for the remaining two hours of the course.  My doubts were later confirmed by the way the participant spoke about the trainer. 

So how could this have been overcome?  Well, as Stephen Covey suggests, the trainer didn’t seek to understand what the person was trying to ask.  Nor did the trainer ask if he had answered the question before continuing with the content.  While each step can take time (and we were pressed for time in the training course) it is better to clarify the issue before going to the next step, as the whole relationship (or content in this case) can break down or be wasted.
(2) My own self-learning!  I was asked to give a presentation on communication – to which I politely and promptly answered “I’m not the right person”.  Now what I did was jump to the conclusion that this organisation wanted me to talk about written communication.  You see, I secretly hate writing (PS – by the way they did not want me to do that at all!).  What I did, as I see/hear numerous people doing, is jump to my own (non-)preferred communication style and assumed that this will (or want in my case would not) work!

Communication is a tool that will help you build a profitable business provided that you consider all modes of communication when interacting with people.  Just because you like to receive an SMS don’t assume the receiver does.  If you prefer to receive an email, check if this is suitable to the other person.  They might like a phone call or SMS!  So talk to your clients and ask them how they would prefer you to communicate with them.

I know that!

Last week I went to a session and the speaker suggested that instead of saying “I know that” try saying “that is fascinating”. 

Now while you may feel a bit silly saying “that is fascinating”, you are not blocking out your listening and/or reading skills.  If you say “I know that” a part of you switches off to your speaker.  I do understand that you may have heard and read it before but sometimes the presenter will have a small nugget of information that may prompt you to take action in a way that will delight your customers, encourage your staff and/or give you a new lease of life in your business.

For example I often instruct people on the customer ladder.  My ladder has the steps of:
Suspect -> Prospect -> Customer -> Clients -> Raving Fans

Our speaker had another model:
Suspect -> Prospect -> Shopper -> Customer -> Member -> Advocate -> Raving Fan

(NB: A suspect is your target market; a prospect is someone who takes action; a shopper is someone who buys; a customer is repeat business; a member is special level of customer; an advocate tells others about your business; and a raving fan is someone who closes the sale for you.)

Now if I have just switched out because “I know that” then I would not have heard about a new opportunity to classify clients and to potentially make more money!

So instead of saying “I know that” try “that is fascinating”, and just be receptive to new ideas.

Are you involved in a hate fest?

A response to a blog of mine, “What do your customers really think of you?”, got me thinking about a situation I recently encountered.

The respondent suggested: “Attempts to get useful feedback from your customers usually end up being a hate fest.”

Now while I think a “hate fest” is a little severe, customers can get extremely frustrated in trying to deal with businesses. So what can businesses do to ensure their customers do not get in this state?

Let’s set the stage: I have been a client of a certain mobile phone dealer for around 12 years. Every two years I faithfully come in to buy the latest mobile phone and continue on with my plan.

When a competitor calls to entice me to switch, I remain faithful, saying: “No, thank you, as I am happy with my dealer and provider.”

Well, if a competitor called today, that could change!

Last October I purchased from my dealer an additional mobile number (to be put in an old mobile phone that was purchased from them).

The dealer’s rep talked about the benefits of having another business number associated with my number, including free SMS and calls between both phones. I thought this benefit would enhance my bottom line, so I signed on with all of the options (answering service, etc).

Within a week I found the new number didn’t have the answering service, so I trotted back to the dealer and we got that fixed.

The November bill came and on investigation I found the calls and SMS between each phone had been charged. So I went back to the dealer (bill in hand) to talk about the benefits that had been promised but not forthcoming.

I spoke to a new rep, who said I had to talk to the phone company customer service people, so I did, and after two calls they promised it would be fixed.

The December bill came and – Guess what? – the text messages were free from one phone, but the calls from both were charged for. So I trotted off to the dealer again, talking about my long-standing relationship with them and suggesting I needed their assistance to fix this problem.

They said they would fix it and they would get back to me! I didn’t get a call but the next bill came completely free, so I thought: “Great, they have given me a present to say sorry and everything is fixed.”

The February bill has arrived and I am back to the beginning, being charged for calls between each mobile. So I went down again to the dealer and found myself talking to yet another representative, who apologised for the situation and said he would get back to me within the week.

Well, as you guessed, no call and another bill and nothing had changed. So I called again, this time to the principal, asking who could help me resolve this situation.

This time I did get a call back, I was told it has been fixed and I now await the next bill.

Hate fest? No. Extreme frustration? YES!

How can a business avoid having an extremely frustrated client? A simple call at any time to say “Just want to check if the bill is right” could have avoided most of the anguish.

PS: When they fixed the billing last week, someone turned off my SMS feature!

Do you show your price tag or not?

At the Sunshine Coast Business Expo recently, Debra Templar (Australian Retail Services) told her audience that they should be showing their price tag.  Now – I am little undecided on this topic after taking into consideration the following points:

Showing a price tag:
• can save clients time, as they can make the decision to purchase without having to talk to you;
• allows you to spend more time with customers that want to purchase,  as they already know the price, and you can be talking to them about the benefits of your product/service;
• enables competitors to know what you are charging
(NB: a pet hate is when the price tag is showing – but upside down to show you the code and not the price!)

Conversely, not showing a price tag:
• encourages prospective clients to talk to you;
• enables you to deliver your pitch to prospective clients (your point of difference);
• requires you to manage all the people in your showroom at one time.

Now, while I have spoken mainly from a retail point of view, today you can view prices on some consultants’ websites.  So, what do you think?  Should your price be showing?

What is your pipeline like?

Interesting question!  Most small business owners don’t think about the flow of their work but rather the immediate project(s) that they are working on.

The pipeline approach assists you with sales forecasting and is an early warning indicator to (temporary or permanent) business decline.  There are 2 ways to use the pipeline approach; either showing guaranteed work or potential work.  Whichever you use be very clear what the pipeline shows.

For example, a pipeline for guaranteed business could show: one end of the pipeline indicating your current projects, in the pipeline are your contracts waiting to be implemented and at the other end are the prospects, targets and referrals that you would like to introduce into the flow.  Along the way are the repeat business deals with current clients.

Here are some red flags to watch for in your pipeline:

  • the pipeline is filled with potential business
  • there are clumps and gaps instead of a smooth flow in your pipeline, that is, the business in your pipeline is not evenly distributed
  • you have no prospects or target business coming into your pipeline
  • there is an absence of repeat business from current clients
  • there are no referrals

There is no reason why you cannot or should not be able draw a pipeline of your business now.  If you can’t then you have no idea of the work flow and cash flow of your business. 

Did I hear you say “but I have plenty of work at the moment”?  Yes but many businesses (especially small businesses) are surprised by business drying up as they get caught in the euphoria of current business and its delivery, mindlessly assuming there’s more to come from your current source.

Take action today and draw your pipeline of business.

What is Direct Marketing?

You want more exposure in the market-place and someone has suggested that you consider Direct Mail as an option. 

Direct mail is a marketing tool that uses the mail service to deliver a printed promotional piece to a group of people.  Promotional pieces can include newsletters, sales letters, brochures, catalogues, and/or cards.

The main advantage of direct mail is that it enables you to control who receives your message, when it is delivered, what’s in the envelope and how many people you reach.

To maximise this advantage, there are a number of steps you should consider when preparing your direct mail campaign:

(1)  What is the objective of your campaign?  Is it to build brand awareness or is it to create a call-to-action mail item!  For example, a newsletter containing stories will build brand awareness whereas a Coles sales catalogue illustrating what they have to offer, pricing and specials is a call-to-action mail piece.

(2)  Who do you want to communicate with? That is, who is your target audience?  Do you want to send the item to all and sundry (and hope that something sticks)?  Or do you want to reach a particular audience?  For example, adults / women / doctors who live in a specific post code.

(3)  How best to reach your target?  There are two types of direct mail – unaddressed mail and addressed mail.  An example of unaddressed mail is the Coles sales brochure that you receive in your letter box.  Addressed mail is when a business creates or acquires a database that allows them to send marketing material personally addressed to the recipient.  Either methods work (or why would Coles continue to use this style of promotion), the method you select will depend on your answers to steps 1 and 2.

NB – If you choose to use addressed mail you will need to either create a database or purchase one.  Either way you need to pay particular attention to the privacy laws surrounding acquiring and/or the use of mailing databases (eg. http://www.privacy.gov.au/ for more information). 

(4)  The content of the direct mailing item must grab the attention of your target market.  This can be achieved in a number of ways such as catchy headlines, a well designed cover, a special offer, an unusual shaped mail piece or the quality of the mailing piece.  Remember the item is about your audience, not you.

Now you have answered Why, Who, How, and What, the last step is to make sure you have the systems in place to cope with the response.

Direct mail can be a very cost effective method to communicate with your target audience.  Remember a direct mail campaign needs to be well planned and executed to achieve the desired results