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Grow Smart Business Conference Articles


From the GrowSmartBiz Conference: Proven Strategies to Convert Web Visitors into Customers

November 17th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

One of my favorite sessions at the GrowSmartBiz Conference on November 5 was a Technology Track panel discussion that offered valuable, no-nonsense ways to convert Web visitors into customers.  Thanks to Jennifer Shaheen, President of the Technology Therapy Group, Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady, and Walt Rivenbank, VP of the Mobility Applications Consulting group at AT&T for such great information!

Their strategies are fairly easy to implement, but they will require some time.  Here’s what to do:

1. Check Google Analytics to find out whether your Web visitors are staying.

If you don’t have an account yet, get sign up for one today (it’s free, natch).  One of the things Google Analytics looks at is your website’s bounce rate.  If people are visiting your website but not staying long and not moving from one page to the next, it’s not good.  It means you are probably not supplying them with the information they are looking for and you are definitely not converting them into leads, let alone customers.   It also means you need to update your website.

2. Have a clear call-to-action (CTA).

Update your website by offering a consultation, white paper, how-to guide—anything that is both educational and valuable.  As Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady, said, “Give away your best stuff.”  But you’re not giving away anything for free!  Before they get that free consultation or white paper, ask them for their name and e-mail address.  Your web designer/programmer can help you set this up.

3. Be sure your CTA is easy to find.

Don’t hide your CTAs!  Add them to every page in the form of a big button that is hard to miss (it need not be a garish eyesore, just prominent).  If you have a shopping cart, make it a really big button that is easy to click on.

4. You have 7 seconds to convince your Web visitors to stay.

Your website is your home base and most visible online presence.  Because you only have 7 seconds to grab the attention of your Web visitors, your home page must be especially well-written.  As you are writing—or re-writing—your website content, also keep in mind that your website is not a book—people do not read it from beginning to end.

5. No handouts.

When you give a presentation or workshop, do not hand out information that elaborates on your topic.  Instead, ask attendees to visit you online at your website, Facebook page, or Twitter account to receive some great information that they will find useful (really sell it!).  You can, however, give them a one-sheet (a one-page brochure) that acts as a CTA.  It should only include some information to pique their interest.  Your goal is to get them onto your website or connected to you via social media so you can continue to engage with them and convert them into customers.

Photo Courtesy Shashi Bellamkonda

GrowSmartBiz Conference: How to Multiply the Effects of SEO With Great Content

November 15th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

One of the Marketing Track sessions I attended at the GrowSmartBiz Conference had a great title-Stories, Content, and the Search Engine Sword Over Your Head-and delivered useful information in spades.  No matter how new or established your business, this session was a great way to learn exactly how to improve your search engine optimization efforts and results.

Ben Cook, the SEO Manager at Network Solutions, moderated the panel of 4 pros, including Tinu Abayomi-Paul, principal of Leveraged Promotion, Dr. Alan Glazier, founder and owner of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care, Deborah Ager, principal of ClickWisdom, LLC, and Liana Evans, CEO of LiBeck Integrated Marketing.    (You might be curious as to why there’s an optometrist on the panel.  Dr. Grazier has successfully implemented SEO at Shady Grove Eye and become a prolific blogger in the process.)

Here are their tips on using great content to boost your website’s search engine optimization:

Write for your audience! To produce great content specific to your audience, you need to understand what they search for when online.  Use Market Samurai, a keyword analysis tool, to help you figure what people are searching for.  Then you will be able to write content that addresses their needs.

Use long-tail search terms in your content. Long-tail search terms are the descriptive keywords people enter in the search box when they’re conducting research online.  For instance, “children’s navy blue cotton jacket” rather than “children’s jackets”.  The more pages your website has, the more content you’ll have, and the more chances you’ll have at being found for long-tail terms.

Content type is important. Blogs, videos, and podcasts are great for search engine optimization, thanks to plenty of chances for back linking (aka, links from other sites).  All search engines, including Google and Bing, measure how often content is linked and how many views it gets, so the more varied your content, the better.

Make it easy to share content. Twitter makes sharing content and getting links easy as your content is spread from one person to the next.  On your blog, make sure you add “tweet this” and “like” buttons.  Google rewards websites that have links back to it from both new and established websites.

Optimize video and podcasts. Because search engines cannot read videos or podcasts, add a transcript.

The importance of the URL. You can create custom URL shorteners for branding purposes (I had no idea!).  Awe.sm is the first company I found in search results that does this.  Also be sure that your blog’s URLs contain the title of the blog post rather than numbers.

Photo Courtesy Shashi Bellamkonda

From the GrowSmartBiz Conference: Customer Service as a Differentiator for Small Businesses

November 12th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

‘There is a general cultural of bad customer service in this country.”

Barry Moltz began his presentation, Customer Service Is the New Marketing, at the GrowSmartBusiness Conference on November 5 with the above statement.  As a prolific author and sought-after speaker on entrepreneurship (he has started three companies and founded an angel investing fund), Barry focused on the incredibly important role customer service now plays in a company’s growth and success.  (His engaging and entertaining presentation was based on his newest book, BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World.)

As he alluded to in his presentation, small business owners have a competitive advantage over large companies because we consistently deliver exceptional customer service to our clients.  I can only name three large companies that have built their cultures around customer service: Apple, Zappos, and Nordstrom.  (Maybe this is a trick question, but are there any others you can add to the list?)

Following are excerpts from Barry’s presentation, per my furiously scribbled notes:

“In a world with no boundaries, the only sustainable competitive advantage is excellent customer service.

‘There are a lot of myths associated with customer service.  These myths have to be busted, because the customer is not always right.  Under-promising and over-delivering is not a customer service strategy.  Unhappy customers are not part of doing business.  Customers do not only care about low price….

“Good customer service is whatever a customer says it is in a particular instant on a particular day.  Instead of asking, ‘How can I help you?’, ask ‘How can I make your day better?’

“To ensure your customer service is as good as it can be, put together a customer service manifesto to clearly explain what your customers can expect from you. It should include the following:

  • Deliver on what you promise
  • Listen to your customers
  • When things go wrong, be reachable
  • Resolve issues in a reasonable amount of time
  • Admit mistakes
  • Empower employees to resolve issues
  • Make it easy to stop doing business with you (in direct contrast to cell phone and cable companies, as Barry pointed out)
  • Don’t charge nuisance fees or surcharges
  • Treat your customers with respect and dignity
  • Don’t change the rules without prior notification (cough—credit card companies—cough)

“To get useful feedback from your customers, ask the following four questions:

  1. Why did you choose to do business with us?
  2. Did anyone do a good or bad job servicing you?
  3. Do you plan to use us in the future?
  4. Can you tell any friends, colleagues, or business partners about our business?”

There’s Something for Every Entrepreneur at the GrowSmartBusiness Conference Nov. 5

November 2nd, 2010 :: Rieva_L

By Rieva Lesonsky

Being a small business owner is hard work. There’s lots to know, even more to do, and never enough time to accomplish it all. That’s why it’s essential to get as much information as you can from other entrepreneurs and industry experts.

If you’re in the Washington, DC, area you can do just that on Friday, November 5, by coming to the GrowSmartBusiness Conference hosted by the Washington Business Journal and Network Solutions.

There’s something for every business owner (including nonprofits), no matter the size or stage of your business. You can attend sessions in any one of four tracks and find out how to (among other things):

  • Use social media to grow your business
  • Get funding
  • Attract and keep customers
  • Be innovative
  • Navigate the “mobile world”
  • Get started in business today
  • Hire smart

We all know most entrepreneurs don’t like to follow the rules, but I think you’ll want to know about the 6 rules for tech success, and the 10 rules of business cards. I can’t wait to share 3 big trends that you can start cashing in on almost immediately. One of our speakers is even going to share the “5 minutes that can change your business—forever.”

I know you’re busy; all of us business owners are. But getting away from the office, meeting new people, and hearing different perspectives is as important to growing your business as almost anything else you do.

Come join me Friday, November 5th at the Renaissance Hotel. I promise, you won’t regret it.

10 Reasons to Attend the GrowSmartBiz Conference on November 5

October 19th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

If you didn’t make it to last year’s GrowSmartBiz Conference, you absolutely must make it a priority to go to this year’s conference, which will be co-hosted by the Washington Business Journal and Network Solutions on November 5.  The conference was expanded to include a trade show, and it will take place once again at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC.

Based on my experience at last year’s conference, here are 10 reasons to attend this year’s conference:

10. Great networking opportunities. Last year, I got to meet a lot of interesting people (here’s one), as this event attracts hundreds of executives from various industries throughout the region.

9. You will learn a lot from small business owners. All of the small business owners and executives who spoke last year shared their knowledge and experience on issues that affect us as we try to grow our businesses.  And some of them are very funny (especially Ramon Ray of SmallBizTechnology, who said he thought Shashi was Network Solutions for the longest time).

8. Meet the vendors you’ve been meaning to contact. The trade show aspect is a really great opportunity to meet product and service providers who can help you grow your small business.

7. Pick a conference track. Last year, all attendees heard great presentations on a handful of topics, but with only an hour for each session, the surface was barely scratched.  This year, you get to immerse yourself in one of four topics to gain a much deeper understanding of that area. Choose from Marketing & Innovation; Government, Small Business Finance, and Non-Profit; Technology as a Tool for Your Business, or Entrepreneur Bootcamp.

6. Breakfast and lunch. The food was really good last year.

5. Meet the NetSol bloggers! All of us bloggers (yes, including Shashi) will be at the event.  Because I work remotely, I loved meeting everyone last year, including some of NetSol’s marketing people. 

4. It’s not expensive. The cost to attend is only $79 per person this year, way down from last year’s rate.

3. You get out of the office for the day! Last year’s conference was on a Tuesday, and because of the simple fact that this year’s conference takes place on a Friday, it’ll be more fun.

2.  This year’s event is bigger. More vendors, more speakers, and more topics.

And the number one reason to attend this year:

1. You will leave inspired. Sounds a little too Oprah Winfrey, I know, but when I left last year, I had learned a lot, and I was honestly excited not only about being a small business owner, but confident that I could grow my small business (and I have!).

GrowSmartBiz 2010 Conference is on Nov 5 so Save the Date!

August 11th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

Coming this fall is the second annual GrowSmartBiz Conference being held on November 5, 2010 at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC. Last year Network Solutions launched this conference and it was MC’d by Alex Orfinger of the Washington Business Journal. This year the Washington Business Journal is partnering with Network Solutions to make this a bigger and even better event than last year.

We listened to your feedback and this year we also plan to have multiple content tracks to really take this event up a notch. If you are interested in reserving your booth space before August 27, call 703-258-0800.

Register Now!

Our GrowSmartBiz registration site is up and running! Tickets are $79 per person and if you want to bring a group of 10 the cost $69 per person or $690 for the group. You can register at

http://washington.bizjournals.com/washington/events/2010/growsmartbiz/

If you are curious as to the quality of content, here are some videos from the 2009 GrowSmartBiz Conference.

This is an event not to be missed. We will be announcing more in the weeks ahead so fill out the form below and we will let you know the details as they are announced.

If you are curious as to the quality of content, here are some videos from the 2009 GrowSmartBiz Conference.

Does great CRM software exist for an independent professional?

February 17th, 2010 :: Carlos Diggs

One of the greatest frustrations for many independent professionals is the lack of a really good, flexible, economical contact relationship management system.

Does such a thing exist for a solo business person?

Everyone’s needs are unique. Your knowledge and experience may make the selection and implementation easy or difficult. You may have to compromise on a few features and functionality and settle for at least 80% of your requirements. I have spoken with many colleagues and clients who are all dissatisfied with what they are using. So, a fundamental question is this: Is there a resource for doing a fair assessment of all options? Well, it depends.

All successful systems and software selection projects begin with a list of requirements or wish list (Must have vs. Would like to have). You may ask, “Where should one start? Are there knowledgeable people who can guide a person or team toward an intelligent selection of a contact management system?” The answer is YES.  They exist at www.360salesfocus.com. 360SF will hold your hand through the entire selection process or provide just-in-time coaching on an as needed basis. For individuals who want to do it themselves, below are some initial considerations.

Regardless of the nature of your practice as an independent professional or the size of a company, its sales value and volume, business development for simple or complex opportunities, I always suggest to clients to first clearly define their processes before evaluating and selecting a technology or automation tool for anything.

For example: What does a typical sales cycle look like for you? How do you process new leads/contacts? How soon do you follow up?  What method do you prefer (email, letter, greeting card, phone call, etc.)? What’s the message? Do you have a sales/biz dev process? What are the steps, decisions, possible outcomes, etc.?

Processes enable people and technology enables processes

Technology without a correctly defined process will speed up poor results. It’s the old garbage in, garbage out concept…but faster.

MY PREFERED METHOD when I was an independent consultant: Even though I’ve implemented, used, optimized, and managed several CRM projects for clients (including SalesForce.com and ACT!), for 20 plus years as a solo consultant or, as the only business development person, my preferred CRM & Sales Force Automation (SFA) has consisted mostly of Microsoft Outlook for basic contact profile descriptions & management. I first had to learn effective relationship management without technology to make this work, thanks to Stephen Covey’s 7-Habits of Effective People. Outlook has all the basics such as detail contact info, calendar, and task, space for tons of notes, attachments, and links on every item. I think this may be true for most PC & Mac office-like contact/calendar/email applications.

For forecasting and tracking sales/business development opportunities, a spreadsheet does it all on one sheet, one line per opportunity (forecast of qualified opportunities…date, company, contact, offer, value, priority, close date, win-probability percentage, next Step (notes/remarks). If you want to see a good example, contact www.360salefocus.com/contact-us for a free Microsoft Excel forecasting spreadsheet that we use often and that you may use and modify for your unique purposes.

One of my requirements is mobility. Both Outlook and the spreadsheet interface well and are mobile (works on my smart phone).  I use Card Scan to scan business cards that I receive from meetings and networking events. I import ../../../css/and_synchronize_contacts_with_Outlook._It_s_also_great_for_mail_merges__letters_and_emails.css). I’ve also incorporated David Allen’s Getting Things Done method for processing all my action items.

Once you get your process defined, then you can go shopping. Effective contact relationship management is at the core of what I do and coach my clients to do. Technology can bog you down if you are not careful. Let’s face it; nothing gets done unless you do it…whether on paper or on-screen. A discipline to keep records up to date, follow-up and follow-through still requires the consistent human touch.

One other consideration might be a marketing campaign management system for managing high volumes (> 500 contacts per campaign) of outbound/inbound lead generation efforts of large and frequent marketing campaigns (direct mail, events, website leads, etc.). This is ideal for processing and managing hundreds of leads that you will try to convert to clients. You still need a process first.

Unless you are trying to track contacts for a multiple people, I would keep it simple and use your desktop office apps for contact profiles, scheduling events/meetings and tasks, date all detail notes, and use every reminder and alert possible.

If you need help implementing a program like this, consider contacting a sales consultant.

Share your experience by leaving a comment.

At http://www.360salesfocus.com we have an entire integrated sales and marketing company at your disposal. How can we help you generate more business? Let’s talk about making something happen for your company.

Carlos Diggs is Managing Partner at 360 Sales Focus, a full service sales and marketing consultancy. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/carlosdiggs. Reach Carlos at [email protected] or 410.782.0360 or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/360salesfocus.

Enabling a World Class Communication Infrastructure for Your Small Business – A #GrowSmartBiz Interview with Jason Welz of Comcast Communications

November 20th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

Welz Jason_webMany people have heard of Comcast and many readers of this blog might be customers of its television or Internet services. What many might not be familiar with is its growing business services group that works with thousands of small businesses. Recently at the GrowSmartBiz conference I got to meet Jason Welz, VP of Business Services, Comcast Beltway Region.  In this role, Welz oversees sales and marketing operations efforts for Comcast Business Class services throughout the company’s footprint in Southern Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and parts of West Virginia. Welz joined Comcast from Knight Enterprises, where he served as president and CEO of the privately held cable and telecommunications construction and integration firm. Before Knight Enterprises, Welz spent more than 10 years in executive leadership positions throughout the cable industry, including positions at Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable where he focused his efforts on supporting the growth of high-speed data services, telephony and business services.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk about the increasing power and flexibility that small businesses have when it comes to putting in a communications infrastructure. Here is a transcript of that interview:

Steve: Jason, you have been working in the telecommunications and Internet fields for over a decade. Are we finally at a point where convergence of technologies and affordable bandwidth gives every small business the potential to compete with their larger respective competitors?

Jason: Absolutely.  If you consider the rate of broadband adoption in the SMB arena over the course of the last decade, you can clearly see the way that the adoption curve, available broadband speeds and pricing have converged to make high capacity IP (Internet Protocol) services widely available and affordable to everyone.  This availability and affordability allows small firms to do things from an IT and Communications perspective that were once limited to large firms with extensive human and technical resources.

Steve: What are the components, in your opinion, of a world-class communications infrastructure that all small business should have to compete in today’s world?

Jason: It starts with a solid and scalable physical infrastructure allowing a firm’s employee’s to communicate effectively both internally and externally.  This includes reliable hardware and physical network equipment and a stable computing environment.  From there, collaborative software applications and highly available, high capacity connectivity to the internet supported by a 24×7 service provider with feet on the street resources who can be onsite quickly should a problem arise.  Lastly, security, reliability and Business Class support layered on top of that infrastructure, provide a sustainable environment for the SMB.

Steve: Businesses would expect to get Internet connectivity services from Comcast but one area that Comcast has been expanding into is its digital voice product. How does something like that take a small business to the next level?

Jason: The convergence of voice, video and data has become a given over the last 18-24 months and there is arguably not a single firm who understands these three applications and services better than Comcast.  What Comcast has done is to take its leadership position in being a world class service provider of converged broadband services and created a Business Class offering combining these technologies into a highly affordable bundle of services while leveraging Comcast’s extensive and scalable network infrastructure to deliver them.  In the coming months, Comcast will further combine these services and features to create an end user experience that’s second to none.  These features, particularly in the voice arena, have only been available to very large enterprises with large IT and Telecom support organizations.  The rapid evolution of these converged technologies has created an environment allowing SMB’s the same experience at a fraction of the cost.

Steve: Many small business customers have some sort of connectivity to the Internet and might be surprised the Comcast Business Services is available to them. What are some of the differentiators that they might not know about?

Jason: Three things come to mind.  First, broadband and ultimately wideband over cable is one of the most cost effective and reliable methods of accessing the Internet for SMB’s.  Secondly, Comcast bundles a fantastic suite of services including Hosted Microsoft Exchange, Sharepoint and McAfee Security suite into every Business Class connection we provide.  These products help our customer’s save in excess of $1200 annually in their IT expenditures and give our customer’s the advantages of a cloud computing and software as a service platform traditionally only available to larger firms.  Lastly, and most importantly, Comcast focuses on the value of our local presence in the communities we serve.  This local presence allows us to provide a level of service that’s unmatched in the industry, while making a direct and positive impact in the business community every day.

Steve: To wrap up I always like to ask a “five things” questions. So for you, when a small business owner is looking to evaluate a provider for a full services communications solution, what are the top five things they should absolutely have in a vendor?

Jason:

  1. Great value
  2. Reliability
  3. A partner relationship with a provider they can trust
  4. Products and services that will grow as their business grows and needs change.
  5. Being assured that the partner they choose is committed to the long-term and has sustainability – Their there when you need them!

Advice on Starting and Building a Great Business – A #GrowSmartBiz Interview with Jake Weatherly of Palo Alto Software

November 18th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

PasLOGO_highres_webMany people might not be familiar with the name Palo Alto Software, but I bet if I said “Business Plan Pro” or “Marketing Plan Pro” you would probably say “oh, yeah, I have heard of that” or “I used that to kickstart my business plan process”. This is a credit to their branding and ability to be on almost every retail shelf where software is sold.

Jake_Weatherly_WebJake Weatherly is VP of Customer Experience, which covers all customer service, support, retail presence and non-web sales efforts. He has been with the company since he was 19 as a part time employee while in college. He was the 12th person hired by Tim Berry, the company’s founder, President, and original author of Business Plan Pro. Over the years he has been responsible for everything from partner engineering, to product marketing, education, training, and product evangelism.  I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk about effective business planning and the role of software in helping small business owners grow their business. Here is a transcript of that interview:

Steve: Jake, Palo Alto Software has been around for over 20 years and as technology and business models have evolved, how has your product mix evolved to help businesses large and small?
Jake:
For businesses large and small, the value of planning is about the process, not just the plan. Over the years our business planning and marketing planning lines have grown to include a UK version, products for nonprofits, social enterprise planning software, programs to write business plans in Spanish, a monthly recurring revenue model, and the list goes on. Our customers have benefited from our software constantly evolving with new technology, and we have made business planning exponentially easier and faster year after year.

Looking just at products and features, however, does not tell the true story. Our software catalog has evolved from an original focus on creating a document to become a comprehensive set of tools and services to help you start, run, and grow business. Sure we consistently help small business owners and executive teams all over the world obtain their start-up and subsequent rounds of funding, but our customers quickly realize that the value of planning lies in the process itself; it’s not just about creating the document. Business Plan Pro and Marketing Plan Pro help companies large and small take action and develop leadership in their respective markets. Palo Alto Software customers compare their monthly and quarterly achievements against what they planned, and as simple as it sounds, that’s the difference between achieving successful results versus being slow, reactive, and cumbersome in the marketplace.

Steve: Palo Alto Software has shifted its mission to not just providing software to help a business stay on track but to teach them how to be more effective with your tools. Could you elaborate on that more?
Jake:
Simply handing off a tool and moving on to the next potential customer will not lead to long-term success. Our responsibility is clear; we help people succeed in business, and central to that role are our training, implementation, and support services. For entrepreneurs who wish to work with experts, we have a team of business success coaches who hold people accountable to achieve their objectives. For the do-it-yourselfers, we offer a vast library of training and help resources. Our support and product specialists are available to ensure successful implementation of ongoing planning and forecasting. The bottom line? Our customers are succeeding everyday by turning to us to help with starting, running, and growing their businesses.

Steve: You have adapted best practices of software as a service and the move to web based software. What are some things you are doing to build community or streamline the planning process with these kinds of offerings?
Jake:
We have created web-based tools and a long-standing community of experts and entrepreneurs who contribute content that we make available for free on our websites www.Bplans.com and www.Mplans.com. We were early adopters of live and on-demand online training, we’re big in the blogosphere with our own blogs and partners, and we are part of the entrepreneurial community online using social networking technology like Twitter and Facebook. With these kinds of offerings we are able to be anywhere anytime and everywhere all the time. In the end, it’s about effective collaboration, and all of the stages of business from start-up to growth and maturity benefit from being part of the conversation instead of observing from the sidelines.

Steve: Many people are familiar with Business Plan Pro or Marketing Plan Pro. What are some other products and services that Palo Alto provides that small businesses should be aware of?
Jake:
Very near and dear to my heart are our two latest products: Email Center Pro, and Start, Run, & Grow Your Business.
Email Center Pro helps companies respond to their customers quickly and accurately every time. It’s the result of five years of engineering for my support, customer service, and sales teams to decrease their email response time to customers. Before we created this SaaS offering, our customers were getting responses between 24 and 48 hours after asking their question – unacceptable. We now respond to customer emails in less than an hour, and so we released Email Center Pro just over a year ago to help people achieve the same results to manage customer email and get out from under their inboxes.

Start, Run, & Grow Your Business is huge. Years of discussions with hundreds of thousands of businesses about their needs and a solid history of quality partnerships brought the program together. Start, Run, & Grow Your Business combines best-in-class solutions with educational content to help you reach more customers, sell more products and services, and improve business productivity. Successful business owners today are using awesome logos; they’re sending email newsletters; they have great web sites, and they love learning from industry experts. Start, Run, & Grow Your Business delivers all of this for a super low price, and that means we will be working with more entrepreneurs than ever before. That’s really exciting.

Steve: To wrap up I always like to ask a “five things” question. So for you, what are five things a small business should consider when beginning the planning and forecasting process?
Jake:
I am going to keep this one simple by focusing on actions and not words:

  1. Start anywhere, and start now.
  2. Forecast your sales and expenses and then regularly compare against what you achieve. Adjust your plan accordingly, and repeat the process.
  3. Only do what you need now. Get to the other parts as you need them.
  4. Don’t get stuck in the details. Remember to stay focused on the future.
  5. Use the Internet, join the online conversation, and get out on the street to research your customers, your competitors, and build your strategies.

Streamlining Your Small Business Operations with Barcoding – A #GrowSmartBiz Interview with Grant Wickes of Wasp Barcode Technologies

November 13th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

grant_pic_bigThe world of barcodes could be thought of as a very dry topic and something we don’t think of and only notice when we are checking out at the grocery store. But Grant Wickes is passionate about his work and makes this an interesting topic and one that every small business should take a look at using. Grant is VP of Marketing at Wasp Barcode Technologies and he sees this technology as something that can truly streamline and transform a small business operations. I recently had the opportunity to sit down and talk about barcoding technology and what Wasp is up to. Here is a transcript of that interview:

Steve: Grant, Wasp Barcode has been around for over 13 years and as technology has evolved, how has thiskind of technology become accessible to small businesses?

Grant: I am amazed even today at how few small businesses deploy barcode technology. Over the last three years, we have conducted quarterly customer surveys. The results have consistently shown that, prior to buying our solutions, 90 percent of our customers have never automated with barcodes before. In almost every case, we are not replacing a new technology. Rather, we are replacing a manual process. I just don’t think business owners know how much barcodes can help their business, how affordable the solutions are, and how much time and money they will save using barcode technology.

Steve: Could outline for us the types of Wasp Barcode solutions that small businesses could utilize right now?

Grant: This is the fun part, since there are so many applications. There are small retailers – the local hobby shop, liquor store, card and gift store, apparel or shoe store – the thousands of local shops that serve local communities. These smart business owners use barcodes to accurately know what products they have on the shelf, how many they have, and what’s moving (and what’s not). These customers typically pay for the system in less then two months from increased sales.

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Then there are the small warehouse, service companies (HVAC, plumbing, etc.), and parts/supply depots that carry inventory, which is resold or used on service calls. Many of these companies attempt to track their inventory in their head or struggle with Excel. As a result, their stock counts are constantly wrong or out of date, causing errors, wasted time and increased expenses. By using barcode technology, these companies keep an accurate count of what inventory is on hand, where it’s located, and even the cost of these parts. For example, we had an 18-man HVAC company save more than $40,000 per year after they implemented our barcoding solution, recouping their investment in one month.

As companies get a bit larger, say more than 50 employees, many assets that are used within the company such as computers, laptops, equipment, tools and even software are lost or misplaced. As a result, these companies lose time searching for items or spend money buying redundant assets. Using barcodes and asset tracking software, companies immediately know how many assets they have, which employee has them, and where they are located. For example, an IT support contract at an army base saved more than $30,000 per year in time previously spent tracking and auditing assets.  Moving from pen and paper and an Access database, he easily paid for his barcode investment in less than one month.

Steve: What is the biggest advantage for small businesses using this kind of technology?

Grant: Small businesses are looking for technology that provides rapid improvement without costing a lot or requiring complex implementation. As you can see from the few examples I mentioned, the impact and return is felt in months.  What’s terrific about barcodes is:

  1. They’re simple and proven.
  2. They are affordable.
  3. They are easy to implement.

It’s a great message in today’s business climate: something that can quickly and effectively save time, save money and improve profitability.

Steve: There are many companies that don’t ship physical products but could benefit from this technology, like your time and attendance products. How does something like that work?

Grant: One of a company’s biggest expenses is its employees. That’s why using barcodes to track employees’ time can save money. Using a time and attendance system with badges, or even a “human barcode” (fingerprints), companies can save up to 4 percent of their annual payroll. This is achieved through accurate time calculation and eliminating “buddy punching”. Buddy punching is a term given when an employee punches in for their colleague when they may not actually be working.  We had a 14-person manufacturing firm save more than $6,000 per year, which paid for our system in less than two months.

Steve: To wrap up I always like to ask a “five things” questions. So for you, what are five things a small business could do with Wasp Barcode Technologies that they may never thought of before?

Grant:

  1. Save money tracking supplies like paper, pens, file folders – the things you use day-to-day in your business. You’ll be surprised at what you use – and how you can save big by making smarter purchasing decisions.
  2. Save time auditing (counting and verifying) your company assets. Like when you clean your garage at home, you’ll be amazed how many things you’ve “lost” or misplaced that will save you thousands of dollars avoiding redundant purchases
  3. Do more with less (or the same) people. Barcode automation allows your team to do more. Your business can grow without adding staff or become more efficient with the same staff
  4. Start to work on your business, not in your business. With barcodes, reports can be generated to highlight trends. Use this information to make smarter business decisions.
  5. Get mobile. Barcodes are not just tied to a PC. Now, web applications and mobile devices can scan barcodes, providing information you need immediately to improve your business.