Starting your own business is a great achievement, but it can also be a solitary one. As the “Chief Everything Officer,” everything rests on your shoulders—sales, marketing, business admin, information technology, taxes, accounting and keeping pace with business laws and regulations—and that’s without paid time off to help you unwind! But it doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you are a solopreneur or in a business partnership, there are some things you are going to need to outsource as soon as you can afford to—not because you don’t enjoy doing those things, but getting them off your back will let you focus on what you do best – running and building your business. Here are four things you should consider outsourcing to an expert:
1. Business Administration Business administration is basically the paperwork that either ends up getting left till the weekend or until tax day is knocking on your door. Which function of business administration you choose to outsource will vary by business. For some, it might come down to using the services of a virtual assistant to take calls, manage scheduling and invoicing or even helping with basic marketing tasks. For others, it might be payroll, an especially time-consuming and detail-oriented task that can quickly consume even the savviest business owner.
Three areas of business administration that you should definitely consider outsourcing are legal incorporation, taxes and accounting (for example, a good accountant can help you manage your books, payroll, cash flow, and balance your personal and business finances).
Tax advice, in particular, is something every small business, from freelancers to employee-based companies, can benefit from. Whether it’s an initial consultation with an expert or year-round tax planning and tax preparation services, do not wait until tax season to start to understand your obligations for making estimated tax payments, paying employer taxes, claiming the right deductions, filing income taxes and so on.
2. Marketing Communications Marketing communications is basically what you do to communicate with your target market and customer base, whether it’s through emails, advertising, a website, blogs, press releases and so on. It’s also about formulating in words who you are, what you do, and why your market should care – known in the business as your marketing message.
Getting this right is vitally important to building your brand and differentiating you from your competition. As a start-up, consider bringing in pros to help you get your message right.
A marketing communications consultant or writer can also help you write copy for your website, create blogs, brochures, newsletters, case studies and more. These are all time-consuming tasks that often fall by the wayside, but should be maintained. By outsourcing this function, you can also bring in new ideas, see value where you may have overlooked it and translate this into great copy. If budget is an issue, use this resource as a second pair of eyes only—someone who can edit existing copy and give it that extra polish.
3. Social Media Social media often looks easy from the outside, but it takes time to build and manage a fan base of engaged followers, create and broadcast great content, and respond to user comments.
Savvy start-ups know this, but many are reluctant to let go of their own social media voice and bring in a third party to manage it for them. That’s fine. Getting your business established on social media doesn’t require much effort, but you might quickly find that you don’t have the time to monitor and post regularly, and your activity is starting to dry up. This is the time to let go of the reins. Building a community rests upon being there, with that community, checking in several times a day and listening and responding quickly. As the business owner, CEO and founder, finding the time to do this is hard.
Now you don’t have to be a social media powerhouse, or even hire one. Is there someone on your team who would be interested in taking this task on? After all, they know the business, the industry and your customers well. If not, consider paying an independent contractor. They may require some ramp-up time to get to know your business. Then work out a schedule where perhaps you share social media management time with that person, as your workload permits.
4. General Business Assistance Wearing the weight of your business on your own shoulders can be hard and it’s easy to lose sight of your plans, hit roadblocks or go off track a little. But “going it alone” doesn’t mean you literally have to “go it alone.” Organizations such as SCORE can team you up with a free personal mentor who can help you navigate the ins and outs of business ownership. These mentors have expertise in many functions and industries and provide the “coaching” that many small business owners need to offset their own weaknesses and refine their strengths. You can view examples of how SCORE has benefited small business owners here.
Other organizations, such as Small Business Development Centers and Women’s Business Centers, also offer assistance in local communities in the form of training, networking and other business incubation activities. Use this interactive map to find a resource in your area.
Customer relationship management (“CRM”) is a term that refers to two things:
Here are three examples of how different companies can use CRM:
Company A is a national insurance company that sells direct to consumers and uses a single CRM system. Thousands of sales reps across the country log in, enter prospect data and use the system to manage their sales activities. At regional and corporate offices, many departments use the data to run-real time reports – revenue projections, sales metrics, customer growth, customer satisfaction, and ROI for marketing campaigns – to effectively manage the business.
Company B’s 60 employees use CRM to manage 1,200 customer records and thousands of prospects. The system links to the “request information” form on the company’s website; leads are intelligently routed directly to the sales rep for that territory. The CRM links to the company’s accounting software. When orders appear in the CRM system, they also appear in the appropriate financial reports.
The operations team uses the system to fulfill orders and track shipping and service history.
Company C has four sales reps, two account managers and a marketing manager. They use a web-based system and pay per user per month. They started with a simple version and upgraded when they needed more functionality.
Their system tracks leads by campaign, assigns leads to sales reps, tracks activity, estimates revenue, launches and measures marketing campaigns, and stores templates for sales letters, emails and presentations.
Every company needs to store this information somewhere, and there are CRM products with very simple functionality and complex multimillion-dollar versions. When you use the right CRM system, you gain knowledge and power to keep your team on track and measure progress against goals.
Best Case Neutral Case Worst Case
Your CRM matches your marketing, sales, customer service and retention strategies. It’s easy to use and provides reports that eliminate the need to generate tedious manual reports. It may integrate with other software like accounting and inventory, enabling your entire team to view important data and reports in real time.
Your CRM meets your basic needs. Your team uses it fairly consistently, but you have to keep on them to update data regularly. It doesn’t have all of the reporting capabilities you’d like, and revenue reporting tends to be manual, so there’s some lost sales productivity.
It’s fine, but it probably isn’t the best solution.
You don’t have a solid system for managing customer information; it’s kept in various files or databases that aren’t linked. It’s difficult and time-consuming to create revenue projections, sales reports and marketing campaign reports.
The result: lost revenue, productivity and opportunity.
CRM Key Concepts & Steps
Before you begin When you build your competitive positioning and brand strategies, you may decide that you need a system that helps you better manage your customer relationships and information, driving you to look at CRM. You may also decide to evaluate CRM after developing marketing campaigns or a marketing plan that will require better lead capture, reporting and other marketing capabilities.
Once you have a defined sales process, you’ll enter it in the system so your reps can track the steps each account goes through.
Analyze your needs
If you’re new to CRM or have a system that could be improved, define what you need.
Evaluate and compare CRM software Once you’ve defined your requirements, look for a CRM package that meets your needs. Remember that many systems come in several versions; you can start with a basic version and upgrade as you grow, but make sure the upgrade process is seamless.
Implement and monitor your system
When you’re nearing the end of your selection process, get ready for implementation.
Ask salespeople to describe their prospecting plans and most will describe a medley of activities which often include: a little networking now and then, asking for referrals from time to time, following up with the leads generated by the marketing department, and “touching base” with former clients. But, the last thing you’re likely to hear is an actual PLAN – a step-by-step process for identifying and contacting prospects on a consistent basis.
Because prospecting – especially proactive prospecting (a.k.a cold calling) – is a last resort activity for most salespeople. Even those who engage in activity and obtain favorable results are quick to abandon it as soon as they find an opportunity to pursue.
Why would they abandon activities that are working?
They abandon them because a hodge-podge of activity with no particular goal, no well-thought-out steps, and no way to gauge effectiveness is not a plan. And consequently, the results are inconsistent, unpredictable, and not likely to motivate one to continue along such a path.
Ironically, taking the “easy” route to prospecting – the hodge-podge approach – rather than investing the initial time and effort to develop a comprehensive plan, makes the activity more difficult…and less rewarding.
Developing a real prospecting plan will take a little work. But, the long-term payoff is well worth the effort.
What goes into a prospecting plan?
Rather than take a shotgun approach, hoping to find someone to whom to sell something, decide which market segment you want to pursue. The more you define and focus on the profile of the prospects you’re attempting to find, the more likely you are to find them.
Next, identify the specific product or service you will be focusing on during your quest for prospects. Unless there is a specific reason to do otherwise, focus on the product or service that provides consistent desirable outcomes for your clients.
Once you’ve identified the product or service and the target market, you need to develop a prospecting “message.” The message is not a sales pitch, but a short statement and question to capture the attention of the decision makers and explore the relevance of your product or service to their current or potential future needs. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point.
Finally, you will need to develop some follow-up questions for those prospects who respond positively to your relevance question. These questions should delve a little deeper into the prospects’ situation and engage them in short conversations that reveal reasons to scheduling appointments.
There you have it – a systematic prospecting approach that can be implemented at regular intervals. It will take some effort to develop and refine your approach. But, with a little patience and practice, you’ll have a process for consistently and predictably finding new prospects.
LinkedIn is a social media site geared towards professionals in business. It is the world’s largest audience of affluent, influential professionals. When you have a home based business, you are now a business professional, so it only makes sense to have a profile on LinkedIN. Joining LinkedIn is a great way to expand your connections online and off. Here are three reasons why getting LinkedIn is beneficial to your business growth and business contacts.
One thing a lot of business owners do on other social media sites is they brag about who they are. But they miss one crucial element: Being your own boss is the one crucial element that customers don’t really care about. LinkedIn allows you to post as much information as you are willing to share about your professional life. The more you post on your profile the better because it will help to widen your connection realm on the site and show others all the experience you have acquired. Be specific and give detailed information about what experience you have. Do not use generic terms or vague descriptions.
Business professionals who are leaders in their field tend to share information. Joining groups is pivotal because the discussions are insightful and informative. Many discussion threads are posted throughout each group. You can even start your own discussion in the group you join. While in your group be an active participant. Read what the other members are posting and leave a comment. The more active you are in each group you join, the more connections you will encounter. Like-minded people will want to be connected to you and your business. These connections can lead to more business opportunities.
I tend to look at LinkedIN as a virtual handshake. Once you have that connection, you have the option to speak with your new connections over the phone or meet on Skype or in person to speak about collaborating between your business and your new connection’s business. New connections give a fresh perspective on increasing your brand in your target market.
There are a ton of other reasons why you should have your home based business on LinkedIN, but focusing on these three aspects ( 1. Fully Create your Profile and Post on it, 2. Join Groups, 3. Make Personal Connections) is a great start especially If you are just starting out in business. Once you get started, the connections will come especially if you are active and promoting yourself with a completed profile.
Entrepreneurs don’t become a success overnight. There is no magic bullet. The beauty of success is that everyone has a different definition of it. But the measurement of success is the same for all people. You know that in order to achieve anything worthwhile, you need a burning desire to achieve. Small desires= small outcomes. A huge burning desire = huge outcomes of achievement. To be the best your desire needs to be nuclear!!!
Those who started from nothing and built huge success for themselves have one thing in common: An unyielding focus and work ethic.
Find a field you Love
Mastery Takes Effort. Successful athletes are made by the blood, sweat, and tears they put into honing their natural talents. Chess masters have played tens of thousands of games of chess. A concert pianist practices his craft every day, sometimes for hours on end. Being an entrepreneur should be the same way. Learn your craft and become the expert in it. How many things can you do perfectly? If your answer is anything other than one, and you are a small start-up on a shoe-string, guess what? You are an idiot. Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither was Google. Both were built brick by brick, scaled and then, and only then, did they diversify. Keep your business plan simple, because if it’s not simple, you’re dead. Of course finding something you are passionate about and love doing everyday makes the task of putting in that extra effort easier.
Learning is great as long as you go to the School of Hard Knocks.
Think about it like riding a bike. You can show me all day how to do it and the best way to do it, but until I try it myself, I am never going to learn. Learning entrepreneurship in abstractly in school is inane. The best way to become an entrepreneur is to try building a business. One of the most overlooked concepts of entrepreneurship is not business savvy, it’s learning from your mistakes. In basketball you have to shoot 50pct.; If you make an extra 10 shots per hundred, you are an All-Star. In baseball you have to get a hit 30 pct of the time. If you get an extra 10 hits per hundred at bats, you are on the cover of every magazine, lead off every SportsCenter and make the Hall of Fame.
In Business, the odds are a little different. You don’t have to break the Mendoza line (hitting .200). In fact, it doesn’t matter how many times you strike out. In business, to be a success, you only have to be right once. Sir James Dyson, creator of the Dyson Vacuum Cleaner failed 5,126. Today, Dyson makes the best-selling vacuum cleaner by revenue in the United States and is one of the richest men in all the world. But it took him 15 years and nearly his entire savings to develop his bag-less, transparent creation. His latest innovation, a hand dryer that uses neither heat nor evaporation, took only three years, but Dyson says his grinding, error-filled approach hasn't changed.
Don’t Focus on Making Money:
If the focus of money is your #1 motivator, you will not succeed. Your business ( and YOU) will be viewed by everyone else as transactional instead of relational. Even with the best product or service, you still need strong relations to succeed in any marketplace. Respect is at the heart of business relationships. Respect leads to recognition. If you’re not respecting (and recognizing) the people around you – employees, vendors, customers or clients, How in the world can you ever accomplish what we want to accomplish if you don’t bring the people around you with you. Respect in business is highly important to the success of your company.
Think about it. How would you feel if you were on the other side of the conversation? If you were the one not being respected or your work wasn’t appreciated? Would you have great performance or would you do the minimal of what was absolutely necessary to get by? It’s the same thing when your client or customer knows that you are only a paycheck or a commission. Nobody wants to be taken for granted. Because when they know that relationship is not part of your business philosophy, you can hang it up. No one will patronage you business.
Be Flexible and Creative
Too many aspiring entrepreneurs think their initial idea and inspiration requires the most important creative thinking. Experience entrepreneurs will tell them that’s the easy part. It’s the later implementation, and the competitive business marketing that are the real creative challenges. This brings me back to the abstract way of how schools teach entrepreneurship. Our education and training to logically associate related concepts reduces our ability to add the creative side to the equation, even though we were all born without that bias. Maybe that’s why “thinking outside the box” is so rare. If you want to teach me How To Think Outside The Box, then you need to be out of the box too.Traditional business plans will bankrupt you. Don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis! Business planning is not a revenue generating exercise. Execution is where the money is at.
What do you love to do? Is it baking, fixing old cars, writing? What if you could turn that passion into a lucrative business?
Well that was the topic of the Philadelphia Wynnfield Business Association workshop on March 23rd " How To Turn Your Hobby Into A Business" sponsored by the Free Library of Philadelphia. Five powerful and successful women panelist were living embodiments of how they s
key to figuring out whether or not you should turn your hobby into a business is simple. It's planning and action. Good Planning can overcome a bad decision. Bad planning can destroy your business overnight. The key is to plan everything out. Do more than you think you can do and do more than the next person has done. Have perseverance and and a burning desire to become great. Because with desire comes action and with action come results. One man with a vision can move mountains. Or in this case 5 women!