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Small Business Success Index 4

Index Score*   Grade
73 marginal
Capital Access 67
Marketing & Innovation 65
Workforce 76
Customer Service 88
Computer Technology 73
Compliance 92
*Index score is calculated on a 1-100 scale.
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NetSol’s Refer a Friend Program: What a Deal!

October 21st, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

Even though you know me as a NetSol blogger here at GrowSmartBiz (and perhaps over at Solutions Are Power, where I’ve also been blogging this month), I am also a client.  When I first launched my business, I hastily put together a website myself using off-the-shelf software.  Last fall, I realized I need to overhaul the website’s look with something that was as sleek and stylish as me.  And so I became a NetSol customer.  I was so happy with the service and final product that I am working with them once again to make my website even better by adding pages and a blog.  I also host my website and e-mail with NetSol.

If you’re a happy-as-a-camper NetSol customer as well, you might want to take advantage of our Refer a Friend program. You give little, and you get a little something super useful.  For each friend you refer who becomes a new NetSol customer, you’ll get a $50 Amazon.com gift card to spend on, well, lots of things (did you know you could buy auto parts from Amazon.com?).  The best part of this deal: Amazon.com gift cards don’t expire.

I’m not eligible for this program, but I wish I were.  All you have to do is spend a minute or two submitting your contact info and the e-mail addresses of a few friends. Be sure you tell them about it, too, because they get 25 percent off their entire order, whether they buy a Web address, build a new website, overhaul an existing website, set up a shopping cart on their site, choose an SEO package, or purchase one of NetSol’s other tools to help small businesses find new customers.

There’s no crazy fine print, but remind your friends that they need to use the links or the “Learn More” button at the bottom of the e-mail they’ll get from Network Solutions in order to be eligible for the discount (and so that you’ll get your gift card!).

Small Biz Resource Tip: SmartBusinessReports.com

October 13th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

SmartBusinessReports.com

Did you know that unlike personal credit score reports, anyone can get a business credit report on your business without your permission? Do you know what your business credit score is? At this site, Experian offers several products to help you monitor and maintain an accurate credit report. Your business credit score can help determine what interest rates you will pay, how much money lending institutions will lend you, how customers view you and more. And to help you make informed decisions, you can also pull reports on other companies you plan to do business with such as suppliers and potential business partners.

Small Biz Resource Tip: Business.gov

October 11th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

Business.gov should be on your favorite website list-it’s a great place to get useful information from the government on starting and running a business. An official site of the Small Business Administration, Business.gov publishes how-to articles on all aspects of entrepreneurship and allows you to search all federal, state and local government sites for specific data for your business. You can also join the Business.gov community to share ideas with other business owners and sign up to get e-mail updates on events and information important to your business.

Ready to Power Up Your Business Success

October 8th, 2010 :: Rieva_L

Greetings, small business owners—and welcome to a new and updated blog! I’m the new editor here, and I’d like to share a bit about myself and welcome you to Network Solutions’ new small business blog.

Helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses is my passion, which is why I’m so excited to be working with Network Solutions. A little over two years ago, I launched GrowBiz Media, a media company that provides information, ideas and inspiration to help small business owners succeed.

Before starting my own business, I spent nearly 30 years at Entrepreneur Magazine, where I was Editorial Director. I’ve written several books about entrepreneurship, and have been interviewed on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, MSNBC’s Your Business, The Martha Stewart show and Oprah.

I am the daughter and granddaughter of small business owners. And I’ve learned so much about entrepreneurs from speaking to them, writing about them and interacting with them. But nothing prepared me for the challenges of striking out on my own as an entrepreneur myself—just as a recession was taking hold. Actually living the ups and downs of business ownership on a daily basis has given me an even better understanding of the concerns entrepreneurs face, and an even greater admiration for all that entrepreneurs do and achieve.

That’s why I’m so excited to have the chance to bring you tips, ideas and insights that can help you run a better business. My two business partners, Maria Valdez Haubrich and Karen Axelton, will share their thoughts on this blog as well.

In the coming months, we’ll have more changes to share with you. And I hope you’ll share your opinions and concerns by commenting. Let us know what you like, don’t like, want to hear more about. We’d love to hear from you!

Want to know more about me or connect? Take a moment to visit my website, GrowBizMedia.com, or follow me on Twitter at Twitter.com/Rieva.

The 4 Hour Workweek

October 5th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen
The 4 Hour Workweek book cover

From Amazon.com

I don’t know about you, but the thought of working less and playing more is very appealing.  Even though I have my own business, I am most definitely not a workaholic.  In fact, I would always rather be on vacation.  During a recent week-long vacation, I ignored email (both personal and professional)—and it was awesome.  Everyone with whom I was working on a project knew I would be unreachable for an entire work week, and no one bothered me.  Projects are still on schedule, and the Earth is still rotating.

So it was with great interest that I read The 4-Hour Workweek on the plane ride home from vacation.  It was written a few years ago by the then-30 year old entrepreneur, Timothy Ferriss.  This is book is not an Anthony Robbins-type, become-a-millionaire-and-everything-will-be-great book.  Tim actually has his own business manufacturing and selling nutritional supplements. He figured out a way to legitimately game the system so he could still earn money but spend his time pursuing interests outside of work.  And he wrote a book about it, which shot to the top of both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers lists.

His main argument for reducing your work load centers on the idea of regularly taking mini-retirements.  It’s a much better plan, he argues, than what we’re expected to do (and what everyone else does): work like a dog during the prime of our lives, take a short vacation once a year, and retire before we drop dead—at which point we can (hopefully) enjoy life and the fruits of our labor.  Tim refers to this as the deferred-life plan, and I wholeheartedly agree that’s a stupid plan.

In the book, he outlines exactly what to do to gain time and mobility, as they are the keys to living like the New Rich.

  1. D is for Defintion.  This section introduces the rules and objectives of the new game—lifestyle design.  Tim assigns some homework to get you motivated.  He asks you to write down and confront and what is stopping you from doing what you need to do to be happier: quitting your job, expanding your business, etc.  He also asks you to write down your dreams and calculate how much they will cost to achieve.
  2. E is for Elimination.  Time management is turned on its head in this section, which is based on “Pareto’s Law” that states 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs.  By using selective ignorance, consuming less information, and ignoring the unimportant, Tim argues that you can do your work in very little time—and thus gain lots of time.  He gives you ideas on how to effectively use your time, some of which I have already implemented myself (yes, they work).
  3. A is for Automation.  Because work still needs to get done so you can get paid and fund your lifestyle, Tim explains how arbitrage, outsourcing, and not making decisions can put your “cash flow on autopilot,” a term I love, and thus ensure you a steady income.  I’ve already started outsourcing more work to my intern to free up some of my time.
  4. L is for Liberation.  The final section of the book focuses on mobility, mini-retirements, controlling your business from a distance, and escaping the boss.  Because of the nature of my work, I can already work anywhere. Until I conquer my fears, expand my business, and hire employees, though, working 4 hour days and taking mini-retirements will have to wait.

I highly recommend the book.  If you’ve read it, I’d love to know if you have made significant changes and altered your life for the better?  If not, what is holding you back?

Small Businesses Focusing on Increasing Training and Development of Employees

September 16th, 2010 :: Thursday Bram

In the most recent Small Business Success Index, small business owners responded to questions about their workforce. They noted that concerns about workforce were less important than those about capital access or marketing and innovation, but are still ranked above those on customer service, computer technology or compliance. The workforce index score was 76 — a ‘C’ grade — which remains fairly constant from the last Small Business Success Index.

Slipping Workforce Scores

While the overall Workforce score did not dramatically change, it has slipped slightly, which could create concerns for most small businesses. Specifically, concerns seem to focus on training and developing employees: a year ago, the Small Business Success Index reported 65 percent of small businesses were successful in this area. In the most recent set of results, however, only 58 percent reach the same level.

Not all factors that the Small Business Success Index measures for creating an overall workforce score showed slips, however. Small business owners reported better results in rewarding employees and maximizing the productivity of their employees. Overall, however, the changing economic situation makes it necessary for small businesses to improve workforce factors in the near future — it may not be the highest priority in a business today, but it’s going to be increasingly important.

It is worth noting that 33 percent of small businesses have just one employee — also known as the owner. On average, a small business has two employees, typically still counting the owner. It may also be counting a partner or co-owner. That information does mean that workforce concerns look a little different for roughly a third of small businesses than all the rest: training, development and maximizing efficiency are at least somewhat higher priorities when the owner of a small business is the only person on the job. Rewarding employees and employee morale looks very different in such situations.

Spouse Participation

This Small Business Success Index brought interesting considerations about spouse participation to light. While every small business owner knows that, when you start a new business, having the support of your spouse or significant other makes your life a lot easier. But the numbers show that the participation of a spouse or significant other doesn’t have a discernible impact at first — whether or not your significant other is involved, you have similar odds of success.

But the long-term impact is much more dramatic. If your significant other takes on a full-time role in the business, it can lead to success. Businesses with spousal participation rank as more successful on the Small Business Success Index — a 76. In comparison, businesses where spouses play no role rank a score of 73, while businesses with spouses as silent partners rank a score of 72. Those numbers can have interesting ramifications for your workforce if your significant other is interested in getting involved with the business.

Image by Flickr user iyasser