By: John McGee, CEO OptifiNow
Approximately 543,000 new businesses get started each month. Seven out of 10 new employer firms survive at least two years, half at least five years, a third at least 10 years and only a quarter stay in business 15 years or more. With so many businesses launching and folding up each year, there are lessons to be learned from the successes and failures of others.
Most SMB owners have heard advice about what should be done with their business, but many times that advice is too general or too particular to a completely different niche. Rather than being told to conform to a certain mold, businesses owners should observe what has caused failure in other ventures and evaluate if those pitfalls are something they need to avoid as well. The common mistakes businesses often make include:
1. Focusing on the customer base you want versus the customers who are actually interested in your product or services.
During market research and when writing a business plan, entrepreneurs are able to develop a sense of who they will want to market their product or services to in terms of a target customer. But, if after launch the majority of sales are coming from a different market segment, do not be afraid to take a change of course and redirect your efforts to capitalize on an emerging opportunity.
2. Lacking a differentiator from competitors.
Cost-savings, better quality, efficiency, technology, these are all reasons that your product or service might be different from other similar solutions already on the market. Figuring out what your unique qualifiers are and how to explain them to your audiences will influence the overall success of your business.
3. Not being able to succinctly describe what your business does.
Whether you are communicating via email, in person or over the phone it is essential to have an easy to understand two to three sentence description of what your company does, why your product or service is important and why it is unique. Investors, customers and partners will only give you a limited opportunity to catch their attention. Allowing it to slip by because you are unable to articulate what you do is a fatal error.
About the Author
John McGee, President OptifiNow
As the President of OptifiNow, John leads the company’s vision, strategy and growth. John founded OptifiNow to solve a common problem of enterprise customers – the shared struggle of managing national and global sales teams with brand and legal compliant messaging. OptifiNow was built from the ground up by simplifying the complex needs of customers. The result is a software platform that delivers a complete suite of customer engagement solutions for its clients.
For more information visit http://www.optifinow.com/
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While social media has been around since the early days of the internet, it isn't until recently that advertisers and marketers are beginning to realize its widespread influence. People of all ages are now using at least one of these platforms to connect with their peers and companies. In fact, more consumers are shunning traditional advertisements in favor of social media and customer reviews to make informed purchasing decisions. Luckily for companies, the same principles of engaging customers in a marketing funnel still apply in today's digital world: create brand awareness through incremental exposure.
In a way, the dominance of networks like Facebook and Twitter has made it much easier to increase brand awareness quickly and cheaply. However, with so many other businesses competing for consumers' attention and money, it can also be much more difficult to get in front of your target audience and even get them started in your marketing funnel. In order to pique the interests and desires of your market, you must take a more relationship-oriented approach to your social profiles. If you're stuck on how to foster a community and convert them into paying customers, the infographic below will provide you with some useful tips and ideas.
Just a few years ago, social media sites weren't even considered as part of the process of screening job candidates. Today there are very few job-seekers without at least a Facebook profile. No matter what social media sites a job seeker is using, a Google search is all a recruiter needs to find them.
What you tweet may be used against you
Research initiated by Microsoft indicated that nearly 90 percent of United States hiring managers admitted that they reviewed Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or other social medial about job applicants.
Did you know? 75% report that that their companies have formal policies REQUIRING hiring managers to research applicants online.
84% of the hiring managers used what they found online in deciding to hire or not. In fact, 70% of hiring managers from the study said they rejected candidates specifically based on what they found online about a job candidate.
As a result many job-seekers hide their Facebook pages according to Stephanie Goldberg, a technology reporter for CNN Tech. Her findings indicate that, "many students and recent graduates say they are changing their names on Facebook or tightening privacy settings to hide photos and wall posts from potential employers."
Is it appropriate for an employer to use Social Media in Hiring?
Seeing an applicant's Facebook postings/pictures may unfairly bias a hiring decision. People don't take pictures of people studying or doing school work, they take pictures of people at parties and doing silly things.
Sometimes there are too many Facebook pics to untag or delete. Unsuitable or inappropriate comments and photos from friends, customers, former coworkers do not necessarily demonstrate whether a candidate can do the job. In general it should not matter what someone does when not at work. That is unless the job happens to be in marketing and social media networking. Then you want to see how good they are at social media.
From the Microsoft study mentioned above, 44% of the general population think it is somewhat or very inappropriate, 40% think it's ok or very ok for employers to check social cites. However of young people 18-24, 53% think it's ok or very ok.
Is it legal for an employer to use Social Media Sites in Hiring?
That depends where, when and which.
According to Karen Harned of NFIB, "Check your state law, a number of states have introduced and/or passed legislation that prohibits employers from looking at certain information on potential hires. In addition, some states have proposed legislation to prevent employers from requesting passwords to personal Internet accounts to get or keep a job."
Melanie Berkowitz, Esq., writing for Monster.com says, "Be Careful. Once you review a candidate’s online profile, a court will assume you are aware of that person’s protected characteristics.” By being aware of a person's race or religion for example, a hiring employer opens up the company to potential lawsuits brought about on the basis of that particular protected characteristic.
David Baffa of Seyfarth Shaw, LLP (an employment law firm) advises, "If you decide to use social media in your recruiting process, make sure you conduct the same searches at the same point in the process for every applicant." Additionally Mr. Baffa advises not to review social sites until after meeting a candidate face to face, “you are less likely to be accused of making snap selection decisions or of relying on protected characteristics evident from a social network profile.”
The NFIB recommends to avoid sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Instead use Linkedin and similar professional websites that are commonly used by recruiting/hiring managers. "Those sites are your safest bet."
About the Author
John Beagle is a SMB owner since 1987, who owns and manages 5 enterprises. Prior to that he was a employee headhunter and a district manager for a restaurant chain. During the last three decades he has interviewed and hired thousands of people for all sorts of technical and non technical jobs. His BBA degree is from Cleveland State University specializing in personnel management. https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnbeagle
As a small business owner, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the web of daily operations that you may never notice inefficiencies in the system until it is too late. A study conducted by the Siemens Enterprise Communications group found that inefficient communications alone cost SMBs $5000 per employee every year. Add to this the inefficiencies in manufacturing, distribution, technology, etc. and you can see the costs add up pretty quickly.
As an operations consultant, I work with companies to weed out these inefficiencies. Over time, I have realized that the best way to approach the problem is by identifying the four pillars that contribute to the health of an SMB. By independently tackling the challenges in these four pillars, it is possible to handle growth regardless of how quickly it happens.
Organization Standards: Many times, small businesses dismiss the standards and processes that are followed in larger corporations as a symptom of bureaucracy and red-tape. There is no doubt that a number of large companies do suffer from red tape arising from unnecessary processes. But that does not make the concept of following due processes redundant. According to Aaron Chatham, tech architect and blogger, one of the optimal ways to bring this about is through establishing an organizational structure. By deploying governance toolsand process consultants, your business can ensure that the team structure is agile and ready to handle any scale of business.
Security: Security is often an overlooked aspect of small business management. The underlying assumption is that only large businesses are targeted by hackers and malware distributors. But according to a report published by Kaspersky labs, over 60% of small and medium-sized businesses are victims of malware-based data attacks every year. It is important for small business owners to realize that keeping the security infrastructure of your organization is like buying yourself (delete an) insurance – the investment often seems like wasted expenditure. But when you do need it, you will need it quite badly. By constantly upgrading your security and backing up your data, you can avoid the one inefficiency that can potentially put you out of business.
Growth Management: When a company grows, it is not just the revenues that multiply. The churn, expenses, inefficiencies, red tape – they all multiply too. It is important that the business owner always has a plan in place for the next phase of growth. So how do you do it? The first step is to make every staff and tool in your company replaceable. That is, there should not be an employee in your company that is the sole authority on any particular process. This way, when any employee leaves the company, you can be rest assured that your business will move along fine without any hitch. Also, when your company grows, you can always ensure that you have people to multi-task and take care of the main points without delays due to recruiting additional staff.
Life-Cycle Management: The fourth and final pillar of a healthy SMB is proper management of your product life-cycle. As your business grows, there is an inevitable rise in the number of SKUs handled, the time to market and wastage. Through an optimized product life-cycle management process, you can efficiently handle the wastage and optimize the time to market. While the processes to optimize life-cycle management can be learned, it is always advisable to hire a PLM consultant to help you with establishing a process.
Author Bio: Ian McGrath is a lean manufacturing consultant who works with businesses on identifying operational inefficiencies and helps them optimize their work processes.
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