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“My business is in trouble with debt spiraling out of control and I simply don’t have enough cash to make payments on time. I’ve read that most small business startups have problems similar to mine, but why?”

This concern is common amongst the directors, managers, and owners of small business startups in the UK, and for good reason – about 2/3 of startups fail within their first 3 years of operation. Usually the failure is brought about by a number of factors that work together synergistically to make business progression difficult. Here are the 4 most common reasons why small business startups don’t do well:

1. Inadequate Preparation

Starting a successful startup is all about planning – analysing your market conditions and competition. Some of the things you’ll need to know and have planned for:

  • Who is going to buy your product/service
  • How many companies are providing similar offerings
  • Why your company’s offerings will be more appealing
  • How much your competition is charging
  • What it will cost to get the business of the ground and start an advertising campaign
  • How much the business will need to spend to operate on an ongoing basis

2. Lack of Help or Too Much Help 

Operating a startup all by yourself can be a recipe for disaster. Things happen that we don’t expect, and when there’s absolutely no one else to fall back on it can be easier to become stuck in predicaments that result in missed deadlines and unsatisfied clients.

At the very least you should have a professional accountant on call and/or a general helper to assist with medial duties so that you can focus on the business.  At the same time, hiring too many employees prematurely can drain your cash flow and hinder your company’s ability to invest and progress.

3. Borrowing Too Much Money From the Start 

Most startup founders are a bit overzealous and as such have a tendency to overestimate their funding needs. The prospect of getting a £50,000 business loan definitely sounds tempting, but realistically you don’t even know if your company is going to be profitable yet.

Borrow only what you need to get started, and never borrow more than you’ll be able to pay back in the event that the business fails. If you’ve recently realised that you have too many debt obligations, you may want to consider debt consolidation or a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) as potential solutions.

4. Inexperienced Founders

Unless you’ve actually set up and managed a business before, there’s no way to know how it feels to deal with such pressure and responsibility on an ongoing basis. When you think about it, the entire endeavour is a learning process, as essentially everything you do is a new experience. For this reason there’s a much higher chance of making mistakes that could lead to the failure of the company in the long-term.

If you feel as though you won’t be able to recover from the current debt situation but you’d like to salvage some of the company’s assets before it is dissolved, you may want to contact an insolvency practitioner (IP) to arrange a pre-pack administration sale.

If your startup is not doing as well as you had planned there are still many recovery options that could put you in the 1/3 of those that succeed. Give us a call on 0800 644 6080 or send us an email and tell us about your situation. We’re trained and certified in business rescue so there’s no problem that we can’t help fix.

Keith Tully

About Our GE Network Expert - KeithTully

Keith Tully, managing director of Real Business Rescue, understands how quickly a company can go downhill if operating capital is not available. He has been rescuing distressed businesses for the better part of two decades and is happy to see young businesses survive and grow.



Practically everybody has dreams of earning a bit of media coverage and being flooded with business. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. The main reason most press releases fail is because they are self-promotional.

Promotional copy is the cardinal sin of press releases.

Reporters want news, not advertisements, so before you begin to write, pick up an industry journal or two, read through a couple of newspaper articles that pertain to your occupation and take some notes.

1. No First or Second Person - Notice how all the news is written in third person (they, she, them, etc.)? You won’t find “we” or “us” or “you” unless they are included in quotes from various people.

2. Your Target Audience is the Reporter, Not Your Target Market – Unlike writing copy, you are not directing the press release to your target customers. You should be writing to a reporter. So, you aren’t answering the age-old question of “Why should I buy from you” that is constantly answered when writing website or other copy. Instead, the question you’re answering in a press release is, “Why would my readers care about what you have to say?”

3. Everyday Business Activities are Usually Not Enough to be Considered Newsworthy - The launch of a website (unless it does something super-cool), the addition of services (unless they are highly desired and free or never-before heard of) are typically ho-hum in the eyes of most reporters. I’m not saying you can’t get media attention for such things; just that you’d have to have a pretty clever twist most of the time.

4. Have it Professionally Proofread - Unlike other people who fear the Grammar Police, journalists ARE the Grammar Police. Sending press releases out that contain spelling and/or grammatical errors is a sure way to have your submission deleted instantly.

So What Exactly Is “Newsworthy” Material?

I found an excellent course the other day that I’ve really enjoyed called Project Toolkit: Presto Press Releases by Melissa Ingold. With Melissa’s permission, I’m going to share 3 of the 52 clever ideas for creating press releases with examples and explain why they work so well.

1. Launch of a Product Line - Yeah, yeah, I know what I said. “Everyday business activities are usually not enough to be considered newsworthy.” True. Here’s one example of a launch press release that uses one of those clever twists I mentioned.

Diversity Awareness Comes to the Classroom and Scrapbooking

Marlton, NJ – New scrapbooking company launches first in a series of product lines promoting diversity awareness.

Scrapbooking is one of America’s popular pastimes that allows individuals to preserve their memories and express themselves in a creative way. Scrapbooking themes and supplies are in abundance, but Kim Luty, owner of Same-Differences, saw that there was something amiss in the world of scrapbooking.

“A missing segment of scrapbooking products are those that focus on diversity,” says Luty, “disabled, elderly and different ethnic segments of our population who often cannot find products which adequately represent themselves.”

Same-Differences seeks to fill this gap and has begun by launching its Everyday Kids line.

See how this company captures attention by positioning its new product line as the solution to a problem? If you use promotional language and say, “Hey! Come look at our new product line” a reporter will likely yawn and think, “Another one? Big deal.” But if you use this company’s approach and say, “Hey! We’ve solved a problem that bugs a lot of people. Here’s how we did it” that’s something a reporter in the scrapbooking industry would be excited about.

2. Give Away a Free Ebook - “Come get our free ebook” isn’t going to cut it as far as press releases go. So how do you offer a free ebook or report in a way that journalists will be eager to pass the info onto their readers? By solving a problem. (Sound familiar?)

Babies Are Learning Speak to Their Parents 
Before They Develop Verbal Skills

City, State – Simple hand gestures can eliminate frustration for parents as they try to communicate with their babies.

Long before a baby can speak, he has the ability to understand language and even communicate. Certain biological development is required to communicate verbally, but parents can teach their babies different hand gestures to communicate various needs and desires.

This communication is commonly called “Baby Sign Language.” With simple gestures, babies can tell their parents when they are hungry, thirsty or when they want more.

… at the end was this bit of text…

Parents are encouraged to instantly pick up a free report on teaching their baby sign language at XXXXXXXX or call toll-free XXXXXXX to order their free report by mail.

See how it’s written? It’s written to tell someone else’s story, not their own. It doesn’t say, “We have a new report to help you and your baby communicate.” A third-person approach is taken and it’s as if the company interviewed someone else and is relaying the information they found out (which is exactly the process reporters use when writing stories).

3. Give an Award - Don’t have an award to give away? Create one! People love being considered for awards because it gives them a bit of credibility and exposure. It’s simple enough to do. Just decide what you value and choose to offer an award (monthly, annually, etc.) for accomplishing that task. Need some ideas?

• Best New {product/service/idea} of {year}
• Excellence in {industry/niche} Award
• Best Collaboration Between {nonprofits, corporations, hospitals, whatever}
• ______ Love Award {for showing kindness to our earth, children, pets, the homeless, etc.}
• Innovation in {industry/area of business/compassion}
• Anti-_____________ Award {anti-waste, anti-hate, anti-litter, anti-crime, something funny, etc.}
• Responsibility in ________________ {processes, money, caring for others}

Set your criteria (the highest number of nominations wins, those who apply must write an essay, etc., dates for entry/nomination, date you’ll announce the winner(s)) and send out your press release.

With 52 creative ideas for press releases along with templates, blueprints, samples and even software to help you format the media release, Project Toolkit: Presto Press Releases is well worth the measly $27 price tag.

It’s difficult to swap hats after years of writing about your company from the business owner’s standpoint, but when it comes to press releases, it’s vital that you do. Think of it like you’re interviewing yourself. Then combine that authoritative tone with a newsworthy idea and you’re bound to see better results than you’ve gotten in the past.

Karon Thackston

About Our GE Network Expert - Karon Thackston

Karon Thackston is President of Marketing Words (, a full-service copywriting agency specializing in web and search engine copywriting. She has over 25 years combined experience in marketing, advertising, copywriting and SEO copywriting. Karon has a strong understanding of the processes involved with creating successful advertising strategies.

business teamwork - business men making a puzzle over a white background

You may be starting out as a sales manager or have gotten to the limit of wearing those multiple hats for your ever expanding business. Now’s the time to begin hiring and growing your sales team, if that’s the case then take some of these notes below and start building the foundations of a truly successful sales team.

The importance of a sales team will always vary as it’s all dependent on what the company sells and how they sell it. Take an ecommerce business, the need for a sale person is pretty minimal, unless the sales size is of a considerable amount so realistically most of the work can be handed over to the customer service department.

Some businesses however have sales people as the direct representation of the brand, they are the face of it and they are the one’s who meet with all the customers – this sales person is obviously of high importance to the company.

Let’s begin building that truly successful sales team.

Evaluating the Force

Firstly you have to decide what it is that you want your sales team to do for you, like I mentioned in the paragraph above are they going to be on the front line or will they be mostly in the background working within the Sales 2.0 style.

It won’t take long to come up with an idea as to what you want the sales team to be doing, just make sure that when you do decide that it’s not based on the decisions and styles of other companies and their sales teams.

The last thing you want to be doing is creating a sales team, giving them an idea of what they should be doing but expecting them to either be doing something else or working it out – everything should be transparent, if working smarter and harder results in a possible promotion then let everyone know, it shouldn’t ever be a guessing game.

Measure Productivity

The total order amount per sales person is one of the easiest measures of sales productivity, if you take the whole team’s numbers and average it out it then gives you a really good spectrum to work with to compare your sales people to the average.

Whilst the productivity metric shouldn’t determine the hiring or firing of a sales person it can play a big part in the motivation of the individual – like a leaderboard would encourage an athlete a sales person generally has the same mentality.

Some key factors to consider when it comes to measuring the productivity of your sales team are:

  • Are the team maintaining relations with current and previous customers?
  • How effective are the team at converting prospects into leads and leads into customers?
  • How much time is being spent on prospecting and how effective is it?
  • Are the sales team keeping to strict procedures, for example they should never make too big of a promise and then not deliver.
  • Are the sales team emphasising focus on the profitable items or are they selling lots of the wrong product?
  • Are there a lot of returns due to financial reasons such as credit checks?

Hiring Sales People

Now that you’ve got an understanding of what it is that you expect of the sales team and what is driving the team as well as the success, or at least metrics that determine the level of success, you can start to think about either hiring a new sales team or growing the current one.

You’ll have to consider a couple of things that determine how and who you hire to really get the benefit that you’re looking for.

Outsource or In-house

Whilst we initially think that hiring someone full time is always going to be the best option you may find that outsourcing the work to an outside sales company, for the same value as a monthly salary, can be far more beneficial. There’s a lack of employment contract that makes everything a bit more difficult, if the company doesn’t deliver then you can just cut ties and ultimately the job of that whole company is to simply bring in leads or sales.

A lot of companies these days hire people for a job which then evolves into 4 different jobs that still carry high expectations but without the pay rise or the time allowance. This isn’t desirable for many people even if the promotion prospects are their the idea of burning out due to work commitments is something that is likely to put people off.

So take the steps to decide right now – will you be outsourcing or keeping the sale team in-house?


One thing that a lot of sales managers and company owners fail to put into thought is where the sales people are going to be coming from and where they will be placed to do the selling. One key aspect of this is to see if anyone in the sales team or a new hire happens to already have a rolodex of contacts in a specific area.

If someone does then it would be perfect for their placement to be in that location which they carry a lot of knowledge and contacts in.

Successful placement of sales teams or people in territories can play a huge part in the success of the team and how well they can hit targets. There is no point in sending someone that has to learn the area and build contacts from a fresh start when there is someone that has already done the heavy lifting.

You shouldn’t place too much value on someones rolodex but it should certainly play a part in deciding where they would be stationed and what the benefits would be too. Company benefits result in sales team benefits so for everyone it’ll be a positive situation.


About Our GE Network Expert - JohnPerrin

Director of Tactical Sales Training where we teach the subtle art of sales. Offering B2B focused sales training with and emphasis on no scripts and instantly measurable results.


My cranberry experience was one of the worst online shopping experiences I have had this year! And it did make me realize that it’s a big step for any business, and perhaps an even bigger step for their customers, to make online shopping the only option. The question arises; should e-commerce be the only option? And what about the customers who don’t use computers; yes, they still exist; do they just fall by the wayside? How is your cranberry customer experience?

This is a real life story:

The company which sells the best dried cranberries is Davis Lewis Orchards. The customer was my neighbor Mary Anne, who though she inherited her partner’s MacBook, only reads the news, and surfs modestly, and even today does not do email or any online ordering! She insists on a live person and telephone contact, and when asked for her email, smiles and says “Hello?” There is a segment of the population, usually over “a certain age” that does not use computers as we do. I’ve been doing email for close to 20 years and e-commerce for almost as long; in fact I tested some of the first e-commerce websites as a beta customer!

Mary Anne had been ordering dried cranberries by phone from competitors for years, but when she called Davis Lewis Orchards she was told “only online ordering”. Not using a computer for email or online ordering, she was dead in the water; so I told her that the first time she needed to order cranberries online I would take care of it, but in future I’d show her how to do the ordering process herself. I think the incentive and stakes are high enough for her to learn (she loves cranberries), and anyway I’ll still be available to help.

I searched Google for Davis Lewis Orchards, and found the 5lb bags of cranberries, and added one bag to my shopping cart. I filled out the usual form, billing and shipping address (twice, as the form did not remember my input) and when the shipping costs came to $18.00 for a $17.00 bag of cranberries, I hesitated and called Mary Anne. She decided that if 2 bags cost the same shipping, she could go for it and this would tide her over to find another supplier who did not have such exhorbitant shipping costs.

In order to change the quantity to 2 bags, I returned to the website and updated the order to 2 (so I thought) then I went through the checkout process again, and as the shipping charges appeared to be OK, I concluded the transaction. When the email arrived confirming the order, I noticed it had not updated to the 2 bags and shipping was still $18. I tried to cancel the order; not happening! Next I called their 800 number and got a live person, though by then it was Friday afternoon. The 800 customer service person was unable to help, but she took my message: ”2 bags, only if shipping is still $18.00, otherwise cancel the order!” She informed me that nothing could be done until Monday when the person who processed the orders would be back in the office and would call me.

Monday morning I received an email from Diane at Davis Lewis Orchards, the order for one bag and $18.00 shipping had been processed. Uh oh…. I called Diane and the fact that she answered and knew what was going on made up for a lot of the negative customer experience to that point. A live person can do that!

Diane had not received my message from her 800 service. Not a good thing! Next I found out that 2 bags of cranberries would be $36 shipping!!! Now I was ready to cancel, but then Diane mentioned that orders over $50 get free shipping! I had not seen this  mentioned anywhere on the website! So now I changed the order to 3 bags and free shipping. But Diane was unable to make this order change for me! She said I needed to go back to the website and cancel my original order (which I had previously been unable to do). She finally agreed to cancel my order at her end. I waited and waited, as she had difficulty doing the cancellation herself, and then she suggested she call me back; which she did after about 30 minutes; original order finally cancelled.

I then returned to the website, put three bags in the cart, filled out the forms (fourth time!) and voila(!) estimated shipping now gave me the free shipping option; first time I had seen it, end of order story. The buying process thus far had taken me close to two hours including the phone calls, and made it quite clear to me that teaching Mary Anne to order from that particular website is going to be a challenge, since things were not the least bit intuitive, even for me, an online ordering veteran.

What should companies like Davis Lewis Orchards consider to keep their customers, and make the transition to online ordering a viable option:

1- Consider having more than only the online ordering option.
The reason Diane gave why the were focused on “only” online ordering was that they had no payment option available to them for phone orders; which I translated into: they didn’t have an “affordable” telephone credit card option. I’m sure there are payment companies that have options for companies like Davis Lewis Orchards to take credit cards by phone, and not be killed by high processing fees. Maybe some of you can mention these payment options in the comments below.

2 – Consider a visual timeline for step-by-step ordering.
To accommodate new customers and those grooved into “phone” ordering, give a step-by-step visual help process (guidelines), which takes you through the ordering procedure from soup to nuts (or cranberries). Visual timelines with numbered progress steps would have been very useful for me as a first time visitor to David Lewis Orchards.

3 – Consider accommodating those unaccustomed to online ordering.
Think through all the aspects of your website that will make it user friendly to those new to online ordering. I don’t want to find out about free shipping for orders over $50 at the last moment. I don’t want to fill out my billing and shipping information 4 times. Consider retaining a customer experience consultant to go through the process with you from the customer’s point of view.

4 – Consider having an 800 helpline that really helps.
I know Diane was perturbed when I asked her if she had received the message I left on Friday, and she realized she hadn’t! It’s unlikely a small company with comparatively small 800 usage will have round the clock trained personal to help customers and take orders, so they retain services that accommodate multiple customers, who naturally are unfamiliar with every product. However, not passing on a message is inexcusable.

I personally will not return to a website where I have an annoying or time consuming experience finding information or ordering a product. Your customers need to leave your website with their goals quickly and easily accomplished (whether purchase or finding information), and they need to look forward to returning again. This is some insight on designing a website I wrote about, which many small businesses and companies have used to get started. 12 Most Useful Insights Every Designer Needs to Know About People.

Small business online does not have the infrastructure capabilities of the big guys like Amazon, however it can be a learning experience to go through their seamless ordering process, and do your best to replicate it.

If you take it from the customer experience point of view, which means understanding your customers, even those unaccustomed to online ordering, or those visiting your website for the first time, you will be well on your way to designing a website experience which will keep loyal customers and attract new ones.

The post was first seen on Designing Success as How is Your Cranberry Customer Experience?


About Our GE Network Expert - CASUDI Caroline Di Diego

Caroline Di Diego is a social media whisperer inspiring brands and communities to find their social voice via new media. Casudi has 25+ years of experience helping grow companies from concept/chaos to fundable and profitable. She is the creator of the successful Entrepreneurs Questions EQlist.

Closeup of crayon tips.

During a recent copywriting consulting call with a new client, we discussed her primary concern: having good traffic, but no sales. I’ve seen this a thousand times before. Usually, what I find is a site filled with content that is chock-full of keyphrases and sounds stupidly repetitive. The solution is easy: Write natural-sounding, persuasive SEO copy that entices customers to buy. But this client’s site didn’t fit the stereotype.

The home-page copy needed some work, but it wasn’t awful. The category and sub-category pages had no copy at all that needed to be fixed. The product descriptions were canned (straight from the manufacturer). While that’s definitely not the best way to go for several reasons, it’s not a death sentence. But still, for a site – even a brand-new one – to have several hundred unique visitors a week and not one sale was frustrating.

We looked at some stats. Low bounce rate, high number of pages viewed per visit, acceptable length of time spent on the site. The rankings left something to be desired, but they’d come along soon enough with a few tweaks and some linking.

As we clicked our way through the site’s pages, it became clear. This site suffered from a common curse among e-commerce resellers: lack of differentiation.

Why Should I Buy From You?

Generally speaking, most grocery stores carry nearly the same things. So how did you decide to shop at the one you frequent most? Chances are it was because of the store’s location. Online, we don’t have that advantage.

When e-commerce resellers carry the same exact items as hundreds or thousands of other sites, comparison shoppers have a difficult time deciding whom to buy from. Most often, it falls to price. Since my client wasn’t branding her site to be the cheapest, she had lost the location and the price advantage.

After searching through dozens of websites offering the same products, the surfer had no way to answer their most burning question: Why should I buy from you?

Identifying Differentiation Points

As our tour continued, I asked questions – lots of questions – in an effort to help my client find ways she was different and/or better than her competition.

> > Do you offer free shipping or reduced shipping (with or without a minimum order)?

She did, but that wasn’t stated visibly on her site. There’s one differentiating item. Online shoppers love free shipping.

> > Do you hold any promotions?

She did, but that also wasn’t clearly stated. She made a note to draw attention to her promotion on the home page.

> > Do you offer quantity discounts?

She did, but the link to the copy that explained the discounts was rather hidden. We discussed adding a few words of copy right by the price to let visitors know discounts were available.

> > Can you tell me about the wish list feature? What happens after someone adds products to their wish list?

She didn’t know, so we went through the process together and created a plan for strategically placed copy that would entice visitors to add items to their wish lists. We then discussed the particulars of creating copy for an autoresponder series that would follow up with people who had created a wish list, but never ordered.

When our hour was up, we had identified several actionable steps for her to work on to differentiate her site from her competitors. Of course, they’ll all need to be tested to see which works best to achieve her goals. But for now she’s busy tweaking and tracking instead of scratching her head.

Need some proven strategies for boosting the search rankings & sales of your ecommerce site? You’ll find them in Karon’s new course “Ecommerce Copywriting”.

Karon Thackston

About Our GE Network Expert - Karon Thackston

Karon Thackston is President of Marketing Words (, a full-service copywriting agency specializing in web and search engine copywriting. She has over 25 years combined experience in marketing, advertising, copywriting and SEO copywriting. Karon has a strong understanding of the processes involved with creating successful advertising strategies.

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