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  • Are Distributors Employees Or Customers?

    Thursday, April 9, 2015 by
    distributors

    Distributors are the companies or individuals that you use in order to get your inventory to your clients. They are designed specifically around the logistics of getting your materials to the people who have ordered your products or services. Your suppliers may even be distributors for other companies. These people and companies have a responsibility to you to make sure that your customers get what they have ordered within the agreed upon time frame. The question becomes how exactly should you treat these companies and individuals.

     

    Employees Or Customers

    Distributors may seem like they are your employees, in a sense, as you are paying them to provide a service for your company. On the other hand, your distributors, like your customers, have their own lists of demands. These demands must be met in order for these distributors to do anything for you.

    If you are a small business, your distributor may simply be the post office, yet even the post office has its own set of demands regarding what and how you must ship certain objects. If you're shipping lotions, for example, you must declare the lotions and follow specific protocols in order to ensure that they are shipped properly. Any liquid must be declared, as must anything flammable. The list goes on and on.

    Are they working for you? Yes, they are delivering your goods to your clients. Are they your customers? Yes, they have demands that you must meet. Are you their customer? Yes again, without their services, you would have a difficult time getting your product distributed, and as such you have certain demands that they must meet as well.

     

    If The Answer Is Yes To All, How Do I Act?

    The answer is of course quite simple. Treat them as you would like to be treated. Explain your situation, explain what you are looking for, and determine if your distributor can meet your expectations. If not, thank them and move on to a different distributor.

    The important thing is working to ensure that all needs are met, and the only way to do so is to act like a thinking, rational, and respectful adult. If all the relationships do not work smoothly, they will not work. You wouldn’t yell at your customer for asking something to be shipped next day when you offer next day shipping, nor should you yell at the person or company you are attempting to use to get that done.

    Treat all distributors like both customers and employees. If you need something done within X amount of time, state this, like an employer would, but do so respectfully, in the same manner that you would use when you would talk to a customer. In return you will be treated like you want to be treated in a customer capacity. Supplier chains work the best when all aspects of the relationship are addressed and all are taken into account.

     
    Image Source: Powered Play. (2014). Distributors. Retrieved from http://poweredplay.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/distributors.jpg
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  • Determining When To Enact Change

    Tuesday, March 31, 2015 by

    Nothing stays the same forever, and neither should your website. It’s important to constantly work to improve the content and quality of your website, but how do you determine when change is necessary? What changes should you make? These are both valid questions, and while we cannot provide you with all the answers, as some of that will depend on your client base, profit margins, and the like, we can offer you some tips as to when you should start looking to change things up.

     

    Updates

    This is huge. When you receive a notification that your site or any of the different programs, applications, widgets, templates, etc. that you use has an update available, do it. These updates are typically designed to address vulnerabilities. Your site needs to stay up to date. Make the change. Update your site. Your customers, your tech support, your staff, and your pocketbook will all thank you. It can be disastrous to fail to do this one simple step.

    Granted, these changes will likely not bear any visible changes to your site, but they will keep the back-end safe which is just as important.

     

    What About The Rest of It?

    If you’re blogging, try to update at least two to three times per week. More if you like, but at least weekly updates are ideal. Keep new content coming and you will have repeat readers. If you have an e-commerce site, keep it constantly flowing - add new products or services. Change product descriptions to make them sound catchier if you notice a particular item isn’t selling.

    You can even poll your customers regarding changes that they would like to see on your site and then determine how you would like to go from there. Not all the ideas are going to be ones that you will implement, but if half a dozen people tell you that they want the search options updated, there’s a good chance you should get on that. If you have no suggestions, go look at your site from a customer’s point of view. See the site as they would see it, try to see it as if you are seeing it for the first time. See where it looks cumbersome, see what you did well. Try to remove the clunky and the cumbersome and try to work to ensure that what you did well is done well everywhere. If you really like the way one item page looks and flows, try to replicate it on the others.

     

    It’s Natural

    It’s natural to not want to update your site (the "set it and forget it" mentality), and you don’t have to update everything. If you like your background color or the template you’re using, keep it. If you’re using a black background and neon pink text, you may want to consider changing it to something easier to read, however. The Internet is constantly evolving, and your site should be as well. In working to determine the different things you like about other sites, you may find things you want to change about your own site. Inspiration can come from anywhere. Change is not a bad thing. Keep things fresh and your content up to date and attention grabbing and your website will flourish!

     
    Image Source: Jelly Ranger. (2014). Future Self. Retrieved from http://jellyranger.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/futureself.jpg
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  • Why Your Online Presence Matters

    Thursday, March 12, 2015 by

    You’ve just setup a new company, and you think it’s going to be big. It’s got everything – all the bells and whistles that you could ever possibly want. It addresses all of the concerns that you’ve ever had in regard to the jobs you’ve held in the past. No questionable benefits for your employees! A great vacation plan! Flexible schedules and a sick day policy that works to address all of the gripes that you’ve had in the past.

    Woman Sweeping Her Home Jean Francois Millet

    You’ve got a winning product, one that’s sure to make your company an overnight success, and a marketing plan that’s guaranteed to ensure that the product you’ve created catches the attention of the masses. You’re pleased. It’s taken years of hard work and dedication, but nothing could possibly go wrong, right?

     

    Your Social Media

    Over the years you have amassed profiles in a variety of different places. Your long-ago MySpace account hasn’t been touched in almost a decade, though it’s still out there. You’ve got a G+ profile that you don’t use much, a Facebook profile, and a LinkedIn profile, and you even, if you’re old enough, may still have a profile floating about in AOL land somewhere.

    You may not use any of these accounts anymore, but they still exist, and with them so does all of the information you posted. That time with the tequila and your friends out on the beach, that time you ranted about your boss and how much you hated his guts, and maybe even that time you streaked down the football field back in college is documented somewhere. This information may be about to come back to haunt you.

     

    Cause And Effect

    Picture this: Your company’s marketing campaign is a huge success. Your product has just taken off, and people are clamoring to get a hold of you to find out just what your secret is. Then someone pulls up Google. Thirty seconds later and *BAM* you’ve just gotten some of the worst publicity of your life. All that stuff you put up on social media? It’s now a part of the daily news. This may seem far-fetched, but today we truly live in a digital world; after all, that’s why you’re reading this online, right?

     

    The Fact Of The Matter

    The truth is, I’ve seen not one, not two, not even three, but five news articles within the past two days from legitimate online news sites that have utilized information in an individual’s social media profile as legitimate sources, linking those profiles to the readers of the article for all to click through and view. The fact of the matter is that no matter how “private” you set your profile up to be, there is still information that can be gathered by others and used as a means of making a determination or judgment against you just because you’ve placed it on a social media site.  

    What To Do?

    Social media can be a beneficial tool for businesses, allowing them to connect with their customers and their target market in ways that were not possible in the past, but it’s a two way street. Before you launch that product of yours, before you start up that company, go to the old social media sites that you don’t use anymore and delete your old profiles.

    Set everything to private that you wouldn’t want that nice little old lady down the street from you to read or to see. Make sure to untag yourself from all those pesky photos of that time you went to Vegas. Ask your friends to take down embarrassing photos, explaining that it’s nothing personal, but that your online reputation could suffer as a result. Don’t stop doing the fun stuff, just don’t broadcast it for the world to see.

    I was a part of the generation that received in-home Internet access for the first time as teenagers – most of the embarrassing stuff that we did never made it online – primarily because these social media sites didn’t exist at this time. I’m now a part of that first generation of parents whose children are growing up with the Internet and technologies as a part of their everyday lives; the best bit of advice I can give you is the same thing I tell my kiddo: “It’s okay to keep your personal life personal; the whole world doesn’t have to know what you do all the time. And if it’s something you know you would get in trouble with me for doing, you darn sure don’t want strangers knowing about it either.”

    Think of it like that – if you don’t want your mother, or your grandparents seeing you do something, there’s a good chance you don’t want your potential customers seeing it either. Clean up your online presence and then launch the product. Trust me; you’ll be glad you did.

      Image Source: Millet, J. (n.d.). Woman Sweeping Her Home. Retrieved from http://www.canvasreplicas.com/images/Woman%20Sweeping%20Her%20Home%20Jean%20Francois%20Millet.jpg
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  • How You May Be Sabotaging Your Small Business

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015 by
    need-for-control You’re running your small business. You’re doing things your way, and you think you have it all under control. The fact of the matter is, the potential for things to spiral out of your control always exists. There are several different things that you may be doing that might actually be hurting your business instead of helping it. We are going to review some of these things. Take a look at whether or not you are actually committing a small business faux pas, and if so, you’ll be able to correct course before they start to negatively affect your business.  

    Excessive Focus on Profits

    While profit is certainly a goal of business, there is such a thing as being too focused on the bottom line. If your only concern is money, you will slowly start to drive employees away, and ultimately drive your customers away as well. Money is important, but losing sight of the human aspect, the fact that your employees have lives, that stuff happens, and that your customers, and even you have a life outside of making money or having someone make money for you is important. If you become lost in the idea of money, you will lose sight of the reason you are making money, and thus will inevitably start to lose control.  

    Overconfidence

    It is vital to be confident in your business and your business ideas. It is this confidence that serves to grow your business and is surely what prompted you to start your business in the first place. Don’t be overconfident, however. Keep both feet on the ground. Be realistic in your expectations. Remember that there is always room for improvement, and a good idea can always be improved upon to become a great idea. Constantly look for new ways to improve your business. Don’t just assume that your business is awesome and it rocks and you need to change absolutely nothing. This overconfidence is what can cause your business to fail.  

    Need for Control

    The last faux pas we are going to address is the relentless need for control. Small business owners have often started their business by themselves. They are generally the only employee until their business takes off. They get used to doing everything themselves. When the business grows, the problem comes when they continue to try to do everything themselves. Learn to delegate. Understand that things may not get done the way that you used to do them, but they will still get done and done to the standards you have set. Accept that change is necessary and release a modicum of control; if you don’t, it can become a literal death grip that chokes the life out of your company.  

    It’s Not Perfect, But It’s Mine

    In working to address each of these concerns and working to ensure that there is the appropriate balance within the company, it will become possible for your business to grow and flourish in ways that you may not have dreamed possible. Your small business is like a child you are raising, and just like when raising a child, you have to learn when to let go and to allow it to grow. The first step, the first bicycle ride without training wheels, the first car... businesses grow similarly to people, and when your business grows, you have to remember to keep sight of what is important, just like with a child.   Want more tips like these? We asked 30 entrepreneurs their best advice for small business owners - read the post here.
    Image Source: Borselaer. (2014). Need for Control. Retrieved from http://www.borselaer.org/wp-content/uploads/need-for-control.jpg
  • Outsourcing: Is It Right For You?

    Friday, January 23, 2015 by
    outsourcing

    Outsourcing is the process of contracting out certain aspects of a business to an alternative company as a means of working to reduce the overall costs incurred by the business.

    A computer manufacturer may outsource the creation of certain components to another company because it is cheaper for that other company to make them, as opposed to making the components themselves. A government entity may find that it is cheaper to outsource their tech support to another organization as opposed to keeping IT professionals on staff, and a small business owner may decide that it makes the most sense to outsource their human resources department rather than to create one of their own for only a few employees.

    Regardless of the type of outsourcing being completed or the type of company looking to outsource, there are several different factors that must be considered, outside of the cost, when looking into this decision.

     

    Factors for Consideration

    The first factor the company needs to look into is cost. The question of whether or not the company will save any money, in terms of their overhead or operating expenses is a key factor in business decisions. If the company will not save any money by outsourcing, then there is really no point in proceeding. If the company will save money through using outsourcing options, the company must then look to factor two.

    The second factor a company must consider is whether or not there is an available company willing to take on the outsourced role, and whether or not that company is reliable. Research must be completed regarding the validity of the company and, more importantly, the types of checks and balances that the organization has in place in order to ensure the safety of the data they will be handling.

    Studies have shown that 63% of data breaches occur as a result of outsourcing, and most companies do not even know the breach has occurred, that is, until they are notified of the breach by a third party. (Guess who is responsible for the breach? Not the company being outsourced to, the company who was responsible for maintaining the data in the first place: YOU.)

    If the company looks legitimate, and if the company does not have any past complaints for data breaches, and if your company can afford to outsource, then go for it. If none of these aspects meet your expectations, however, it’s best to nix the idea altogether.

     

    You are Responsible

    Always remember, you are the one responsible for the data, regardless of whether or not you outsource a role. If you can’t afford a data breach, chances are you can’t afford to outsource. This is not to say that all outsourced departments or companies are horrible, but rather that there is simply not enough oversight in order to properly regulate this type of transaction as of yet.

    As the old saying goes: “you get what you pay for;” if you can’t afford the potential consequences of using a lower cost alternative, you can’t afford not to have the standard measures in place.

     
    Image Source: Workhoppers.com. (2013). Outsourcing. Retrieved from https://workhoppers.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/outsourcing.jpg
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