5 Top Small-Business Posts of 2017 from The Experts Blog

5 Top Small-Business Posts of 2017 from The Experts Blog

In case you missed them, these blog post for entrepreneurs trended in the Wall Street Journal in 2017. While you’re catching up on your reading before Q1 takes off, don’t forget to add these to you must-read list

In 2017, the WSJ Experts panel wrote about meaningful ways entrepreneurs can build and improve their small businesses. Below are five of the most-popular small-business Experts blog posts of 2017. And you can read what they had to say throughout the year here. The Experts is made up of industry thought leaders from business, academia and nonprofits who weigh in on the big issues they see in the field.  It is a part of the The Journal Report online. A persistent frustration of many businesses is the loss in translation from strategic intent to actual behavior. Everyone agrees to focus on priority X, only to then have people spend just slightly more time on X while continuing to distract themselves with lesser priorities. This problem has pervaded the realm of sales, where senior executives have long been hamstrung by the dearth of reliable data about which activities and behaviors lead to the best outcomes. Much of the data from sources such as customer relationship management reporting tools and time studies is self-reported, which makes it inherently flawed. Read the full column by Bain & Co. executive and author James Allen. “Sleep is the healer of all mortal suffering,” Sophocles wrote in Philoctetes. I learned… Read more here …

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Posted by Sharon@ShastonWrites in Small Business, 0 comments
Why Core Documentation is Essential to Your Business

Why Core Documentation is Essential to Your Business

 

 

Core documentation.

Google it.

The search engine picks up the keywords “support documentation” and “medical documentation.” Search the phrase “core business documentation,” and all you get is a few articles on documenting your business’ core processes — a topic worthy of exploration in other posts, to be sure. But when I use the term in the context of business documentation, I mean something else.

I guess I assume every business keeps a series of files in the company “vault” of official papers that say who you are as a business (along with your registration and business plan). But, as a business owner myself, I’ve learned how easy it is to get mired in the business of business building that you don’t get around to formally putting your vision on paper. I’ve also learned that, in the long run, that’s no excuse.

Roughly half of small businesses fail within the first five years. Moreover, experienced entrepreneurs and experts agree that one reason is they don’t build their business infrastructure starting with a clearly defined mission, vision, and values statements.

“Wait! Yes, I did!” you protest as you search for that coffee-stained Starbucks napkin with the doodled mind map you drew at the moment of your epiphany.

That doesn’t count.

Create a “company vault” of core documents

When I say “document”, I mean just that. Take the time to write formal statements, and other key documentation outlining your business’ purpose, vision, mission, values and keep it in your company file. If you don’t you’ll become a Ben Franklin proverb along with other would-be geniuses who had a great idea but tanked it:

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”

It behooves you, your partners, staff, and customers to bite the bullet, pull up your sleeves and generate those essential pieces of paper that may ensure your business’ longevity.

Then, compile those documents and keep them in your version of a vault — I recommend an organized file of hard copies, a digital copy in a secure location on the cloud and a copy you keep in your external hard drive. In other words, treat them like expensive jewels.

 

Core Documents You Should Have in your vault

Core Three Statements

Core Operation Documents

 

●   Mission statement

●   Vision statement

●   Statement of core values

 

●   Products/Services Profile

●   Ideal Client Profiles & Avatars

●   Company Position Descriptions

●   Five-year Strategic Plan

●   Operating Budget

●   Operations Inventory

Brand Messaging Documents

Marketing Collateral

 

●   Brand Identity

●   Brand Personality Profile

●   Brand Manifesto

●   Brand Story

●   Tags & Slogans

●   Social Media Profiles

●   Brand Imaging and Aesthetics

 

●   Marketing Plan

●   Content Marketing Strategy

●   Company Profile

●   Press Kit

●   Elevator Pitch Scripts

●   Brand Board

●   Business Cards

●   Website

●   Brand Video/Presentation

 

While I’m not going to expound on the elements and mechanics of creating these documents in this post(there’s an ocean of information floating around out there about writing them), I’ll give you a few reasons why you should invest time in the process of generating them.

  1. They help you understand why you’re in business

You may think you know all the reasons you’re starting your business, but in my experience, most first-time entrepreneurs don’t examine their motives. It’s a valuable exercise that helps you tap into your initial passion and excitement for your vision that will fuel you for the long journey.

  1. They map out your business’ future

Starting a business is like embarking on an exploratory expedition. You’re charting a new path for yourself. And, like most expeditions, you need a compass to help you plot your route, and you need a route plan to get to your destination.

  1. You’ll need them when you create your business plan

At some point, you’re going to need a business plan for funding. Producing at least some of these documents, in the beginning, will cut in half the time and effort to generate your business plan.

  1. They’re the foundation of future strategic plans

The beauty of core documentation is you can always tweak them. You’ll have your business’ blueprint at your fingertips. When you need to adjust to market fluctuations or if you have to re-brand, you don’t have to start from scratch.

  1. They ensure brand image consistency

Because core documentation is your brand’s rebar and foundation, everything you produce will reinforce your image in the marketplace, strengthen you as a leader in your niche, inspire customer loyalty, and expand your following. That’s because everyone inside and outside of your company will know exactly who you are.

  1. They put your team on the same page

I often refer to Zappos’ company culture formula: happy employees provide excellent customer service that creates happy customers. It’s true. Your core documentation defines your business’ standards and values. When you’re clear about those, you hire and partner with like-minded people who have a stake in your brand, so they’re happy to be on the journey with you. That’s how company culture is created. It starts with clarifying your business vision and practices in writing.

  1. They’re the basis of all training

Whether you need new-hire orientation materials or a manual of best practices, you have the structure already codified and accessible for internal training requirements.

Core Documents need revision over time

Alright … I did liken business core documents to sacred stone tablets with your company’s commandments inscribed on them for posterity. The truth is, they’re fluid. You can revise and amend them as needed. After all, markets and industries change. You’ll change. Your company will change to adapt. But creating the core documentation early in your business’ life is like feeding an infant a healthy diet of breast milk. It gives your business a healthy start that will evolve into good habits that will position it for a long life.

 

Isn’t that what you want?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Sharon@ShastonWrites in Blog, 0 comments
7 small business resolutions for 2018

7 small business resolutions for 2018

Okay. So last year you planned to launch your brand. Maybe you launched your brand but progress is slow going. Now’s not the time to stay in stuck mode. Make 2018 the year for momentum. But before you rev up all pistons, make sure you’ve got your infrastructure firmly in place. Here’s a New Year’s checklist to help get you there!

Real-deal stuff that you the entrepreneur can actually do that will really get your business going. Here’s real-deal stuff that you the entrepreneur can actually do that will really get your business going.
(Photo: GETTY IMAGES) It’s that time of year again: Time for new year’s resolutions. Personal resolutions can be tough to keep — lose those pounds or quit smoking — but those of the small business variety can be a whole lot easier and bring you greater satisfaction and success by year’s end. Seven resolutions to help you succeed in 2018: 1. Find — and then actually speak with! — a good accountant.   With the new tax bill just passed, your business finances just got a whole lot more complicated. Most rules went into effect Jan. 1, so you need to know about them now. One feature of the tax bill is the new deduction for a portion of “pass-through” income. Since small businesses overwhelmingly operate on a “pass-through” basis, this may apply to you. But the pass-through rules have more contortions than a Cirque de Soleil performer, so you need professional help. While you’re talking to an accountant, ask for advice to start preparing for your retirement, too.  Ask… Read more here …

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Posted by Sharon@ShastonWrites in Start Ups, 0 comments
Terms You Should Know: Connection Economy

Terms You Should Know: Connection Economy

What It Is

Nearly 20 years ago, author/publisher Kevin Kelly wrote New rules for the new economy: 10 Radical Strategies For A Connected World – a book in which he introduced a concept that marketing guru Seth Godin later made famous:

“The new economy is about communication, deep and wide. All the
transformations suggested in this book stem from the fundamental way
we are revolutionizing communications. Communication is the foundation
of society, of our culture, of our humanity, of our own individual
identity, and of all economic systems. This is why networks are such a
big deal. Communication is so close to culture and society itself that
the effects of technologizing it are beyond the scale of a mere industrial-
sector cycle. Communication, and its ally computers is a special
case in economic history. Not because it happens to be the fashionable
leading business sector of our day, but because its cultural, technological,
and conceptual impacts reverberate at the root of our lives.”
— New rules for the new economy: 10 Radical Strategies For A Connected World, pg 15.

Kelly and two other early 21st-century influencers, Robert Hargrove and Seth Godin,predicted that the internet would change how we all do business. From their respective perches, they opened our eyes to three fundamental changes in industry driven by emerging technologies:

1. The marketplace has globalized at a personal level.
2. The new economy has replaced the industrial economy.
3. The new economy is driven by communication.
4. Intangible “soft” digital products are the new commodity.

Transition from the Industrial Economy

To understand the worldwide transition to a connection economy, let’s review where we all came from: the industrial economy.

Since the early 19th century industrial revolution, the marketplace was built on a combination of manufacturing and labor to produce goods intended for sale in the market. After World War II and the early development of computers, a new commodity emerged: services. Technical services — from programming to secretarial skills — were necessary to maintain and program innovations hitting the market. So, the last 30 years of the 20th century is considered the post-industrial economy.

As a late baby-boomer, my childhood brain was assaulted by industrial marketing practices built on several principles:

● Manufacture products in mass quantities to beat the numbers game
● Advertise to the masses but make it sound personal
● Message saturation ensures sales
● Cast a VERY wide net

In short, the industrial economy was all about the masses. But, it was also regionalized. Under the old structure, each industrial country had its own economy, so their products, services, and marketing were culturally-specific.

The world wide web changed all that. For the first time in the history of mankind, small businesses can sell to customers across the globe instantaneously.

The evolution has begun

Once cellular, satellite, and computer chip technology was adapted for personal use and became a modern staple, social media had the infrastructure to build its platforms. Individuals all over the planet have a soapbox now. For the first time, marketers can engage with people without putting a receiver to their ears. Messaging is no longer designed for the ubiquitous masses. It’s crafted to speak directly to an individual. A new culture is born.

Rather than summarize Seth Godin’s four pillars of the Connection Economy, I’m going to let you hear him for yourself. He lays it out during his keynote at the 2013 SAP ERP Systems Conference:

How to survive in the Connection paradigm

The new economy has ushered in a marketing precedent: engagement. Customers want more than just products; they want meaningful connection. That means the connection economy has developed certain criteria that brands must adapt to meet the new demand:

Be tribal
Niche marketing is where it’s at. Brands must carve out their niche and market to a community of people who are most likely to buy their product. This also means the lines between culture, tribe, and niche are a little blurry.
Speak to the heart
Under the industrial economy, getting too personal was a no-no. It crossed boundaries set by a corporate culture. But, the B2C experience is more relaxed. Customers won’t tolerate being treated like a number. They want to know that your brand cares about them.
Be transparent
These days, people want to know what’s going behind the curtain. They don’t trust slick corporate institutions who tend to, in their minds, forfeit morality for fat profits. Rather, talking about the inner workings of your brand fosters customer trust and loyalty. So, give your tribe a tour behind the scenes.
Build Community
Community-building is a new skill formerly lacking in the industrial economy. Businesses just didn’t inject themselves into the community-building process. But, the new paradigm requires that brands get good at community building through engagement. But once you start engaging, you can’t quit. If you snooze, you’ll surely lose.

Final thoughts

Dictatorial industrial-age mass marketing just doesn’t cut it anymore. People are now empowered to demand attention to their individualism. If you want your brand to survive, start by understanding the connection economy concept. If you want to thrive, you’ll have to embrace it.

#

Sources:

Kelly, Kevin. New rules for the new economy: 10 Radical Strategies For A Connected World. Fourth Estate, 1999, pg, 15.

“Getting Ahead in the Connection Economy,” We Are All Connected, http://www.weareallconnected.co.uk/its-the-connection-economy/

“Seth Godin and the Connection Revolution,” Sapphire Now, June 12, 2013, https://youtu.be/sKXZgTzEyWY

Posted by Sharon@ShastonWrites in Blog, 0 comments