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If you’ve got a small business that’s been doing well, but you’ve been struggling to grow it into something bigger, it might be time to take things online. By turning your small brick-and-mortar boutique into an online business, you can reach a much larger audience. If you’re selling small goods, then you should be able to ship anywhere in the nation, or even globally depending on the sort of goods you’re selling. Meanwhile, if you’re offering a service, taking your business online can help to spread the word about your business and bring in new clients.

When potential customers are looking for a product or service, 81 percent of shoppers will research it online first. Creating a strong online presence can help to guide that search and lead those potential customers to your business. So what does taking your business online entail? Here are a few steps to follow that can get you started.

Start small.

While moving your business online is a big step, that doesn’t mean you should get overly ambitious straight out of the gate. Don’t expect to be the next Amazon before you’ve even started. Decide on a few products to sell online at the start just to test the waters. If you’re selling handmade crafts, you might even consider opening up a small shop on Etsy.com. If you’re ready to aim a little higher, though, you’ll want to build a solid website.

Reserve your domain name.

One of the first steps in making a website is registering a domain name. A domain name is important, because it creates a sort of identity that customers can associate with your business. Without a domain name, following the format www.[yourdomainname].com, your company’s web address would be an unintelligible series of numbers.

To reserve a domain name, find a domain name registrar online, such as GoDaddy or Dotster. On the registrar’s site, you can search to see if the domain name you want is available or if it’s already been taken. If it’s available, you’ll be able to pay to register it for your website. Once you’ve built your website, you can associate it with your domain so that customers will be able to find you easily. Make sure to pick something easy to remember and easy to communicate. If it’s difficult to spell, that means it will be difficult for your customers to find you. Keep it short, and keep it simple.

Build a quality website.

Remember, your website is the online equivalent of your business’s storefront. You want it to look professional and appealing. Make sure that it’s easy to navigate so customers can easily find their way from the homepage to any product descriptions or other pages they might be looking for. Make sure to optimize it for keywords that people will be searching for that apply to your business. Keep the website up to date, and post relevant content on a regular basis. Make sure that all information about your business is current as well, including business hours, phone numbers, email addresses, and address of your physical location.

Also, when you are first designing your website, keep growth in mind. Your business may be small now, but if you’re successful, it won’t always be. Make sure to build a framework that can handle bigger customer loads later on so that you won’t need to do a complete revamp of the system if business explodes.

Claim and update online profiles.

Make sure to claim all online profiles that point back to your business, both on review sites like Yelp and in business directories such as Google My Business. Make sure that all of those profiles have accurate, up-to-date information about your business. In order to improve local SEO, you’ll want to claim a physical location on Google My Business. Often, your local search results will improve based on the user’s proximity to that location, and it will give Google Maps something to work with. It’s particularly useful if you provide a service within a local radius, such as pool builders in Henderson, Nevada or lawn care in Jacksonville, Florida. For the people who are within a certain range of your headquarters, you will get prime placement in their local search results.

Encourage customers to leave positive reviews online.

Another way to boost your online search results is to consistently receive positive reviews from your customers on sites like Yelp and Google. If a customer seems particularly pleased with your product or service, don’t hesitate to ask them to go online and give you a 5-star review. It will improve your search rankings and direct more traffic to your site.

Make sure to monitor these sites and address each review as it comes in. If you get a positive review, be sure to thank them and let them know you appreciate their business. If the review is negative, attempt to address the problems they bring up. Make a point of avoiding any confrontation online, and if a customer does have a problem with your business, invite them to take the discussion offline to preserve their privacy and allow you to come to a solution together.

The internet is one of the most powerful tools small business owners have in their arsenal, so don’t delay in building your online presence. In the end, it will improve your relationships with your customers, as well as bring in new business.


 
 

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Employee engagement is a hot button topic for many companies and entrepreneurs across the globe. In fact, employee engagement has risen in the ranks as a strategic focus in the minds of high-level leadership.

Employee engagement has a huge impact on the overall health of a business, especially of small businesses and newer start ups. A recent poll of over 1.4 million employees found that the top 25% most engaged teams experienced lower turnover, lower absenteeism, higher productivity and higher profitability. Here are a few low cost ways to take on the employee engagement challenge and give your employees what they need and crave:

Offer Frequent & Individual Feedback

Feedback is important to all employees and it should come more often than during the performance review process. A recent poll found that 65 percent of employees would like to receive more feedback. Modern talent development research suggests that employees prefer frequent and informal feedback with their managers rather than the more stuffy formal review process.

Employees are more receptive to both positive and negative feedback when it happens in real time as they can connect more closely with the comments. This strategy also ensures you correct issues in a timely manner and provides encouragement when needed creating a more personal connection between the organisation and each employee.

Promote Learning & Development

Learning and professional development are important components of a healthy organization. Many employees are motivated by the opportunity to learn new ways of doing business and taking on new responsibilities. Many organizations will offer tuition reimbursement and the opportunity for GRE tutoring. Other companies will focus on internal workshops and certifications. Either way, an organization focused on employee engagement should invest time and dollars into the training of the staff. This ensures your team is continually learning and equipped with the tools and knowledge to take your organization to the next level.

Incorporate Community Service

Community service initiatives are a great way to boost employee morale. Workplace volunteerism provides team building in a natural way and can create a deeper connection to the workplace. Employees overall want to feel empowered and appreciated and volunteerism gives them this sense of value.

In addition, employees who are offered the chance to volunteer through work are much more likely to share it with others. This paints your organization in a positive light and can have a huge impact on your reputation.

Invest in the Right Tools

In today’s fast-paced business environment, employees are under immense pressure and stress to complete a lot of work with limited time and resources. As an employer committed to employee engagement, you want to provide your employees with the tools and infrastructure that will allow them to complete their work in the most efficient way possible. This step alone will dramatically improve the employee’s perception of the company and will maximize the effectiveness of the organization.

Communicate Laterally

Many organizational leaders make the mistake of limiting their communication with the lower levels of the organization. Unfortunately, many organizations are structured hierarchically which stifles communication flow. Important messages get lost in this communication pathway and employees on the lower end of the totem poll aren’t updated on the progress or challenges of the company. If you want engagement at all levels of the organization, your leaders need to be visible and available to all employees. This creates a sense of connection and teamwork that can’t be beat!

These are just a few of the many strategies you can implement when focusing on employee engagement. There is no doubt, employee engagement is crucial to the overall health of the organization. It may take a little time and research, but the results are well worth the investment.


26Sep

How to Start a Business the Right Way

Posted by Pamela Swift in Starting Up

Taking the leap towards entrepreneurship can be rewarding and it brings a great sense of freedom. The idea of being your own boss is thrilling because there is joy in being in charge of your schedules and finances. However, you can’t just wake up one day and start a business if you intend to achieve lasting success.

The truth is that building a business takes a lot of time and patience since you have to come up with solid plans and strategies that will guide your business to success.

After you’ve laid all the necessary plans, it’s time for implementation and laying a strong foundation for the business. In this article, you’ll learn about the necessary steps you should take to build a successful business.

Identify a need in the market

When starting a business, you can draw upon your past experience or a solid research to identify a gap in the market. However, it’s important to go past superficial findings if you want to establish a profitable business. If you have a brilliant idea without an ideal market, it may take a lot of time before making profits from that business.

Before starting a business, try to see if there are businesses similar to your idea and then think about the target group that is likely to visit your business premises. The good thing is that there are several government sources that can offer useful information and statistics on trends and emerging markets.

Generally, it’s important to look at expanding markets and trends, but you should be careful when you are dealing with products and services that exhibit rapid changes. In addition, you should be careful when engaging in businesses that are likely to be over flooded within a short time.

As a rule of thumb, you should start a business in an area that you know well but if you don’t know, it’s in your best interest to do a pilot test and determine viability. An idea may seem to be very attractive to you but it has no real value in the market.

Instead of wasting several years trying to build a business that is destined for failure, it’s better to spend a few months testing the idea in the market. Once you’ve determined the viability, it’s upon you to ensure you become better than your competition.

Combine the right motivation with adequate funding

If you are going to achieve any meaningful success, you have to be working towards something that you are truly passionate about. If you are starting a business because you want to run away from your job or because you are jobless, things might be tricky for you. Statistics show that most people who start a business as an alternative plan are more likely to give up in the early stages.

Although some businesses are conceived as a result of acute financial desperation, it’s definitely not a good starting point. Generally, you shouldn’t jump into a business without thoughtful consideration of the effect it will have on your personal finances.

Before you start, figure out how much you can comfortably lose and how long your finances will take you if you don’t make any profits. Because startups are likely to be locked out by most traditional lenders, it’s important to consider your credit profile since you might need to take a loan for your business.

Although you can have a hard time getting funds from traditional lenders, it doesn’t mean you are doomed. Today, there are many non-conventional lenders that are friendly to startups and they understand the challenges of a new business. With them, you can get a just right loans product that is tailored to suit your financial situation. However, it’s common to come across many business owners taking a line of credit since it enables them to borrow at any time of need.

Plan for success

Take your time to create a comprehensive business plan and commit to reviewing it on a regular basis. Although not all parts of a business plan are comfortable to handle, you should do your best to come up with an actionable plan. In the process, you’ll learn invaluable lessons and discover some useful information about your business.

In the business planning process, make sure you’ve figured out all the financial facts and don’t base your conclusions on assumptions. You need to clearly come up with a realistic financial plan that encompasses projected income, costs, and growth. In addition, try to figure out how long it will take before you’ve made some profits so that you can plan adequately.

Conclusion

Starting a business comes with significant benefits and it is a dream for many people. Despite the fact that it may seem hard at first, you can conquer all hardships if you start on the right footing. Finances are the major cause of most business failures but you can easily access some funding from unconventional lenders. Most importantly, ensure that your business idea is viable and focused on the right market.


Article Contributed by Bella Williams

Launching a high-growth business can be a rollercoaster ride. CEOs experience tremendous pressure to put up a strong face when things are falling apart. Startups can fail because of different reasons but you have to learn how to overcome these to move on and get back on your feet. Some common triggers for a startup failure have been discussed below and you need to learn how to get past these.

10 situations that can destroy your startup dream:

  1. Solo Founder: The very fact that there is only one person at the helm of affairs suggests that he was unable to convince others to get on board with him. This indirectly implies that even his friends were not convinced about this decision. It may however be true that founding the company was a great decision in hindsight and his friends may have been wrong in thinking otherwise. Even if that were the case, the CEO is at a disadvantage because handling a startup independently is a huge task. To overcome this, you need to reach out to people you can brainstorm ideas with. You need cofounders to share your views and concerns and for encouraging you when things go wrong.
  2. Copying Ideas: Most startups are founded on the basis of ideas which may have worked for some other startups. The successful ones have always been founded to find solutions to unresolved problems identified by the entrepreneurs. The best way to ensure success for your startup is to look for a solution to a problem which affects you on a personal level. For instance, Google came about since Sergey and Larry could not locate things online. So, instead of blindly copying another business and introducing minor modifications to it, you should look in other directions.
  3. Faulty Location: Another reason why startups are found to fail is because they have been set up in places where business prospects are poor. You will find startups succeeding in some regions more than in others. There may be many factors for this. It could be that the region produces more experience and technically-sound people or that people are more open to supporting new ventures. The staff that you are looking to hire is easily available there and you get supports from other ancillary industries.
  4. Limited Reach: A common reason why a startup may not be able to take off is because you are only targeting a limited audience for the fear of competition. When you decide to go for marginal projects you are taking the safer route to avoid competition. If you produce something that is really good, you are bound to have competition, and that is healthy. The tendency to move away from bigger problems is inherent; your subconscious stops you from visualizing bigger ideas. The best way to overcome this problem is to start thinking of projects without involving oneself.
  5. Stubbornness: At times, obstinacy may come in the way of a startup success. In some industries, the only way you can be successful is to stay determined and focused, notwithstanding the many challenges that come your way. This grit is fine when you are seeking solutions to a problem which is already defined. But a startup is a different ball game and you are expected to follow the trail regardless of the direction it is headed for. This means that it is naïve to stick to the original plan; the plan may be flawed and you may have to improvise as you go.
  6. Incompetent Staff: At times the programmers may be the reason for failure and your decision to quit. Many of the earlier ecommerce companies for instance had been founded by businessmen who believed startups would work by hiring programmers. However, identifying a good programmer is something that you cannot learn as an entrepreneur. This choice remains a grey area even today and you just have to rely on your gut instinct. Watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuNQgln6TL0
  7. Incorrect Platform: Selecting the wrong platform can get your business in trouble. Platform can refer to the operating system or programming languages or the framework based upon a language. In the 90s, Windows sounded the death knell for many startups with introduction of Java applets. To get the right platform, you need to consult quality programmers.
  8. Slow Launch: Startups often fail because their launch is unreasonably delayed. At times, the software is almost complete but the launch does not happen. It is important to push for this because the truth is, nothing finishes till the time is gets released. Unless you bounce the idea off customers, you cannot completely understand it. When you delay this, you fail to gauge the problems; you are afraid of user reactions. In an attempt to become perfect, you end up working on multiple things and delaying them all.
  9. Fewer Funds: Startups will not work if there is too less money for takeoff. Almost all startups are not profitable right from the start but they should have some money left to sustain them before they actually shut down. You must take enough funds from your investors to be able to proceed to the next step. On the other hand, when you use up too much money, your fund channels will soon dry up.
  10. Sacrificing User Needs: Very few startups can actually offer something that the user needs. It is easier to focus on making more profits. So, you should ideally keep the business models for later. You need to put user needs first and then think about how to generate revenue from it.

Author Bio:

As an academic researcher & private tutor, Bella Williams guides the new age professionals and students with their career. A graduate from Monash University, Bella organizes free coaching workshops and promotes free sharing of knowledge. She is also on LinkedIn.


You have worked hard at forming a new small company, and it is time to get it off the ground. You are proud of the final outcome and can’t wait to show off your efforts to the world. Before opening it for business, be sure you have integrated the following into your plans to ensure a bright and successful future for your new enterprise:

Budget for Advertising

You want everyone to know about your new venture, so it is very important to set aside funds for advertising. The type of advertising utilized will depend on the general makeup of your business. It could be print, radio, television, or billboard advertising or a combination of any of these. Realize that advertising is not cheap, but it is vital to the overall volume and ultimate success of your product or service. Hire a company that has a solid reputation and produces a quality product for the optimum in advertising your business’s positive attributes.

Hold a Grand Opening

One of the most enjoyable aspects of starting a new business is the grand opening day festivities. Plan and advertise this event in advance so you are well-prepared for the onslaught of potential customers. Do not procrastinate and then realize that you will not be ready on the projected date. This will make your company look unreliable and disorganized. Provide food, beverages, and entertainment for your prospective clients. To be successful, it is important to look successful before you even begin making a profit.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

Never open a business without effective insurance coverage. A fire, an accident, or natural disaster could close your doors before they are even fully open. Seek out a reputable agent who is familiar with the needs of small businesses and ask for advice on effective coverage for your place of business. If your company is very unique, you may wish to use a company that provides specialty insurance that covers the unique assets of your particular venue. If you run a spa for example, then you might want to consider getting a specialized medispa insurance policy. There is insurance for pretty much every type of business out there. All you have to do is look for it.

Continue Marketing Your Business

Ongoing marketing is essential for your ultimate business success. You must do everything in your power to ensure that your business will withstand the tests of competition, current trends, and the ebbs and flows of customer demand. Maintain a website with high SEO content, so prospective customers can find your site quickly and easily.

Planning for the ultimate success of your new business from day one is vital. Presenting a well-prepared, quality image and beginning with a solid and reliable reputation is of utmost importance to the ongoing flow of clients and customers.



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