Wednesday, September 26, 2012

In Business, Image Isn't Everything; It's The Only Thing

We have all heard this lament, but how much do we practice it. With all the relaxed rules today, do we really present ourselves in the best light. It seems all the articles I see today are about how old fashioned today's workers find their supervisors or bosses to be in the way they dress, the policies they implement and the old fashioned ways in which they conduct their business.
I am of the belief, and will continue to believe, that the first impression I make is the lasting one. Whether it is by phone or in person, I want to present myself in the best possible light. But then again, I am from the old school, the one today's workers are complaining about.
Let's look at the companies that are still standing. After all the hoopla has passed, the companies that have used the fundamental principles of Business 101 are the ones still among us. The Intels, IBMs, Burger Kings, AT&Ts, Sears, Microsofts, Dells, Gateways, etc.
I am not advocating living in the dark ages. I believe for a company to survive it has to move with the times, but the basic structure and foundation on which we have built our business - image, courtesy, ethics, the customer being right, are the cornerstones to running a successful business, whether it is home-based or not.
Too many home-based business have taken the pajama mentality into all of their business practices. I have called on businesses that have cute messages on their machines, music that is obnoxious, children answering the telephone, screaming televisions, radios in the background. This does not inspire confidence in me to do business with this person.
That is not to say I have not had reservations about companies that have offices outside the home. In fact, it was a call placed to one that inspired this article. When I called and spoke to the owner of this business, she had no idea on how a particular process worked or what it's cost would be. Wow, it's her business and she doesn't know how it works or what it costs. Guess who I didn't do business with. I am not saying you have to be an expert, but at least know the basics and tell me you employ an expert in that area that will be better able to help me, don't hem and haw and tell me you don't have a clue. This does not give me a good impression of you or your company.
There are businesses in corporate offices that are more fun houses than companies...and they don't inspire any confidence in me either, so I am not picking on home-based businesses.
The purpose of this article is to remind all of us (home-based and non-home-based) that how we present ourselves is of paramount importance.
When you answer your telephone, answer it in a professional manner. When you go to an outside meeting, if you are home-based, dress for the meeting, not for home. If you have clients come to your home, be sure it is presentable, and that you are too. Just because you work out of your home, does not mean, shorts and a T-shirt are appropriate for meeting a client. Have your identity package (business cards, letterhead, brochure) done professionally, proofread and spell check any correspondence that leaves your office.
Your first impression, whether in person, by phone or correspondence is a lasting one. Make it a good one and you'll have clients for life if you treat them right - the old fashioned way.
The only place I've ever found I was wrong is with restaurants. Some of those little holes in the wall have turned out to have the best service and the best food, so I guess when it comes to businesses, you can't judge all books by their covers, just most of them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Small and Homebased Business Owners

The homebased and small business owner is the "Unsung Hero".  Why? The small business owner and today even the homebased business owner are the cornerstones of our society. The homebased business owner employs a number of independent contractors. Small businesses account for a large percentage of our economic work force.
Think of the homebased and small business owner as the leaders of a team. They organize their team, tell them the strategy they want to be followed and  how to implement that strategy. The business owner takes their responsibility of that team very seriously. Why? Because it they don't, they won't have those people working for them very long, in fact they won't be in business for very long.
The small and homebased business owner are - Unsung Heroes! Why? Because people do not realize how important they are to our society.
They not only take care of their business and their family, but the families of all their employees. Think about it. Look around at the town you live in. Sure there are Walmarts, Targets, and other large businesses, and malls. However, our malls are not only comprised of corporate franchises but also a lot of small business owners.
Those small business owners are the backbone of your local economy. You might think, Oh, they only employee 6 people. However, multiply those 6 people by 100 small businesses in your area, and it adds up very quickly.
The homebased business owner is also of major importance to your local economy. They contract with other homebased and small business owners. Think of the local contractor. Many contractors are homebased. That contractor needs supplies from the local hardware store. They might have to employ a plumber or an electrician to complete a project, because they don't have expertise in that area. All of these people make up the business spectrum of your local economy.
People are leaving corporate America everyday. Either because they want to run their own business or due to a layoff. These folks are discovering that the only sure thing is to run your own business,  that they only have themselves to rely on.
So while yes, the large corporations are important, REMEMBER, the backbone of our society will always be "the small and homebased business owner".  They are what keep our society going. More UNSUNG HEROES are joining our ranks every day. Let's  give them a HEROES WELCOME!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Business Start Ups...Let's Play Ball

Starting a business is like starting your own baseball team. Start-up (Spring training) is when you are doing your research, deciding on a business name, zoning requirements, setting up your business, deciding on what form your business will take (sole proprietorship, corporation, LLC). You're assembling all the parts of your business (team), getting ready for the season (your opening day).
Once spring training is over, and the season begins (your business is open) you start making your run around the bases. Getting to first base is the hardest (obtaining your first customer, making your first sale, doing your first consultation).  You are helped along to second base by the support staff (players) you assembled. Moving around the bases constitutes all the steps, hurdles, obstacles, however you want to think of daily business grind. This is part of running a business ( and what the game of baseball is all about). Having game plans to deal with certain contingencies.
Being aware of what your staff is capable of. Some of your staff will be single hit players.  Others will hit doubles.  Some will hit or make the triple play, while others will hit home runs. Your employees (players) look to you, the business owner, (their coach), and learn from you. They will look to you for direction (signals), on how they should respond (play the game).
The season (your first year in business) gives you the opportunity to assess your staff (your team) to ascertain where they work best. Do you need to make changes (change the line-up). Obviously, some will perform better than others. It's up to you, as the leader (coach) to decide who belongs in what position, where their strong points are, where their weaknesses are, and how to utilize them to the best of their abilities. Be sure to set up staff (team) meetings.
How successful your team is (your business) will be determined by the end of the season. Are you just one of many new businesses in your area, or will you make the playoffs (distinguish your business, find your niche, make a name for yourself in your area).
Making the playoffs and/or winning the championship means your business has made it. You paid your dues.  You're in it for the long run. You're part of the business community (recognized by the other teams).
Now you're ready to play every season. You use spring training of each year to feel out the other teams (find out what your business competition is doing) and make any adjustments you need to keep your business (team) in the thick of things for the coming year.
If you listen real carefully you'll hear......"Let's play ball!"
Copyright 2002 DeFiore Enterprises

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Realistic Goals...How To Set Them and Why

So many people want to start a business today and be rich tomorrow. Sorry, people it doesn't happen that way. If it did, everyone would do it. There is no free takes hard work, determination and realistic goal setting.
Think about the businesses you have worked at, look at the businesses in your community. I mean really look. When you go to the dry cleaners, how many other people are there also. Think about what it takes for that dry cleaner to open every day. How many people he needs to come in with their dry cleaning in order to make a profit. OK, dry cleaning doesn't excite you. How about that specialty shop you want to open! You want to open a retail store that caters to people that buy Hummels, knick knacs, bric-a-brac. Will you only handle certain types? How many will you order of each type? What are the best sellers? How many will you have to sell to make money for yourself, and to also keep that shop open, or will you sell them by mail order only from your home?
Want to do business on the web? The same principles apply. How many visitors to your web site do you need to make a sale? How do you get them to visit? How do you get them to stay? You get the idea. You need goals in order to measure any progress in your business.
Realistic goals come from a well thought out mission statement, which leads to a very good business plan, which leads to a well thought out marketing strategy. You should have short and long term goals. The short term goals will cover the upcoming 6 months to 2 years. Your long term goals will go further out, let's say over the next five years. Remember, you need to give a business at least two years in order to give it a real chance. Not all businesses make a gigantic profit immediately.
Let's say you want to start a house cleaning business. Your initial plan is to work it yourself, and add independent contractors as needed. You decide on your mission statement, you make up your business plan. You want to make $500 per week, working six days per week, 10 hour days. Your marketing will include advertising in your local paper, flyers, and mailers. You can clean 3 houses/apartments per day at $25-$50. You also have to decide your price points, what will you charge for a 1 bedroom, 2 bedroom, or a house with 3 bedrooms 2 bathrooms, etc. After all this is done you can better determine how many of each type you will need each week to meet you goal of $500 per week. These are your short term realistic goals. Your long term goals are to eventually hire independent contractors to do the work. Obviously, the more clients you market for, the more independent contractors you need, but also the more income you can generate. You will make up long term goals for the third, fourth, and fifth years of how many independent contractors you want to add and how many clients you want. Your marketing plan will reflect what you need to do to get the numbers you are projecting.
Realistic goals can and must be set, you just need a plan. For example, in Lease Purchasing, as in any other business, goal setting is of paramount importance. You need to follow a plan, a plan for success. Short term goals and long term goals are part of this plan. Like many franchise businesses that have an outline for their franchisees to follow for a successful business, the same should be done in lease purchasing.
To set these realistic goals and to obtain a good foundation, you need a program that provides you with support in the start up and running of your business. Using our own Lease Purchase Coaching Program as an example, we schedule consultations that cover all students need to know to get started. We role play with students and have specific assignments giving them certain things to do, and certain goals to meet. If they follow the program, and do their deals, they will be able to run their own successful business. We work with our students to accomplish the above and to help them set realistic goals.
An example of goals in Lease Purchasing is the number of deals you want to do, and how many calls or contacts you need to make to do that number of deals. How many consultations do you want to do, again, how many contacts you make will determine how many you get. Lease Purchasing like many other businesses is a numbers game. Make so many contacts, and/or calls and get so many deals. However, in order to do this, you have to make some goal making decisions and set realistic goals, not farfetched ones. Making a million dollars by the end of six months is not a realistic goal. Making so many calls per day, per week, per month is, and then from the number of calls/contacts you make, realize you are going to get so many responses, and from those responses make so many deals. A realistic income working full time the first year is $50,000 to $75,000.
Following a proven method is of the utmost importance. You don't hear of many Burger King or Taco Bell franchises failing. Why, because they follow the corporate plan. The company will tell them there are no short cuts. If they want to succeed, they need to follow the company's proven formula.
The people who fail in business are usually those who don't listen; don't want to follow a proven program; want to take short cuts; and who don't set realistic goals.
So remember, no matter what your business is, if you want to succeed you need to set goals for yourself ... and make them realistic.