Posts Tagged ‘small business growth’

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Aspiring entrepreneurs can at least take heart in the fact that not all of the available stats about business failure are credible. One of the foremost of these invalid stats is attributed to a study done by Bloomberg and which declares that 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months. The stat has been widely referenced including here. It’s sort of reassuring that this particular study is non-existent.

According to the SBA approximately 50% of new businesses survive for 5+ years while about one-third survive for 10+ years. There is however sufficient reason to question this statistic as well and this has to do with how the reason for failure is defined. Indeed, businesses close down for a variety of reasons, apart from failure. The SBA’s stat is therefore inaccurate.

This position is supported by a University of Tennessee 2013 study which showed that only 25% of businesses failed in Year 1 while just 36% failed in Year 2. An alternative independent study estimates the number of closures at 3% to 25%.

I digress though. This post isn’t about business failure stats but rather the reasons why new businesses fail.

Hopefully you are now more upbeat about launching your business venture. Don’t let your optimism cloud prudence though. Here are some reasons why your startup could make the annual damned 25% list:

1. Your motivations for entrepreneurship are misguided

To succeed in an entrepreneurial career you have to be pragmatic right from the get-go. In addition to having a passion for what you intend to do, your reasons for starting a business should be based on a practical foundation. Your startup must be focused on providing a practical solution for an identified need in the market.

Business failure is a harsh reality...

Business failure is a harsh reality…

If your reasons for starting a business are to make more money, escape the 9-to-5 lifestyle and be answerable to yourself only, etc, you clearly need to rethink things. These are the perks of a successful entrepreneurial lifestyle and they don’t come easy. In entrepreneurship things typically get worse before they get better.

2. Lack of a unique value proposition and innovativeness

Deciding to offer a product/service that virtually everyone else is providing and doing this in the exact same way is really business suicide. Naturally you will have to contend with poor revenues month after month. The probability of making real progress is virtually zero – how can this happen when you are barely able to make enough?

Many businesses offer the same products/services but the most successful among them are the ones that do this in a unique way. Think about your business – what can you do to set it apart from the rest? Once you find the answer make sure that this uniqueness is well communicated to the target market.

3. Ignoring customers feedback

One adage that you must never forget as a business owner is that the customer is always right. The reason is simple – without customers your business is useless. Engaging with your customers therefore will give you a firsthand opportunity to learn about those things they feel will make their buying experience better. Customers feedback, whether offline or online, will give you hints about what to improve on with regards to your product/service, business practices, pricing, etc. Ignore feedback at your peril – when customers decide to ignore you back the failure list could be where you are headed.

Ignoring customers feedback is the one-way street to business oblivion...

Ignoring customers feedback is the one-way street to business oblivion…

4. Incompetent management

Being the owner of a new small business often means that you are in charge of just about every aspect of running the enterprise. You are therefore supposed to handle or oversee the critical roles of production, sales, purchasing, finance, marketing, customer relations, hiring and managing staff, etc. Don’t forget that you are the custodian of the company’s mission and vision – in charge of providing direction and strategically steering the company forward.

Business success depends on how well an entrepreneur handles the managerial role...

Business success depends on how well an entrepreneur handles the managerial role…

The characteristic volatility of the workplace and marketplace ensures that no two days are the same. To be successful as a manager therefore you must learn how to be proactive and to stay on top of things. Indecision, neglect, lethargy and other qualities of this ilk are the hallmarks of a poor and dysfunctional leader.

5. Insufficient capital and poor cash flow

One very significant reason why many startups fail is the lack of sufficient funding. Before launching a business you must ensure that you have enough funds to cater for startup costs and to support operations until the venture becomes self-supporting. Clearly one needs to be realistic. Businesses do take some time to get going. Having enough funds to cater for operational expenses for a year or two is advisable in order to give the business ample opportunity to establish itself in the market.

6. Financial mismanagement

Failing to properly account for business money is a sure path to early failure. From a financial perspective, effectively running a business means that you’ve got a grip on cash flow, expenses, taxes, employee salaries and benefits, etc. Many business owners opt to delegate this aspect of running a business to accountants or bookkeepers out of sheer reluctance to learn the basics of money management. Opt to not be ignorant. At the very least you should be able to understand simple financial documentation including a balance sheet, P&L statement account and a cash flow statement.

7. Poor location

Even the best funded and managed startup will find it difficult to survive and thrive if the location is wanting.

Consider the spot where you intend to open shop. Is it easily accessible for your target customers and suppliers? Is it secure? Are all the necessary amenities provided? Is the local community receptive or hostile to new businesses? Is the cost running the business from there manageable? Would it be wiser to relocate to a cheaper neighborhood?

An unsuitable location does your business a major disservice

Are you sure that your business’ location can’t be better?

8. Failure to adapt to market changes

The marketplace is typically dynamic – never static. Your initial business model may be working wonderfully for now but moving forward you’ll need to adapt to the changes in the marketplace in order to remain relevant. Many a business owner has opted to adamantly maintain status quo in the face of changing times only to make a belated realization that in the business world it is “adapt or die”.

9. Ineffective marketing

It’s no good to have a superb product or service if no one knows about it. If they don’t know about it they won’t buy it and if they don’t buy it you’ll be out of business. Marketing is therefore imperative for business success.

Marketing doesn’t have to be all complicated and expensive. Depending on what you are offering you definitely have several cost-effective options to consider starting with word-of-mouth which is absolutely free. How about using social media to spread the word even further?

10. Overambitious expansion

Upon achieving early business success many entrepreneurs erroneously embark on an expansion spree without adequately thinking about whether the move could be premature. The reasons for success vary and could indeed be temporal. For this reason, steady business growth is most advisable. Expansion efforts should be based on well observed and deliberated business realities as well as marketplace trends and opportunities. Steady growth will allow you ample time to secure the required systems and people that will give the new addition to your business a fair shot at success.

11. Hiring the wrong team

Successful entrepreneurs will tell you that nothing quite beats having a good team. Your staff should be individuals who are equally motivated to succeed and see the business grow and go places. It is therefore important for you to hire people who can talk and walk the part. Getting such people won’t be easy but once you find them make sure that they have a good reason to stay.

Hiring a dysfunctional team is catastrophic for business sucess

Hiring a dysfunctional team is catastrophic for business success

12. Lack of a website or any online presence

The number of people with Internet access globally is at an all-time high and continues to rise by the day. As such, conventional methods of conducting business searches are being tossed aside in favor of online convenience. The lack of an online presence is therefore counter-effective for a modern-day business. Even though your business doesn’t sell goods/services online it is of utmost importance that people know about its existence. The site must of course be presentable enough so as not to put off potential customers.

It's of the essence to ensure that your small business has an online presence

It’s of the essence to ensure that your small business has an online presence

The least you should do in case you don’t have a website is become part of the social media conversation. Starting a company Twitter or Facebook account is a more than sufficient way to guarantee your business’ visibility and relevance.

13. Underestimating the competition

For a new business, gaining customer loyalty is quite akin to wooing a beautiful lady – the loyalty has to be earned, and the suitors are plentiful. As such, you cannot afford to take your customers for granted assuming that they’ll always come back for more. Remember that the competition is eyeing the same target market; up the game best and the customers will come in droves, remain mediocre and stare failure in the face.

14. The belief that you can do it all

However high your motivation and energy levels are it will be foolhardy for you to believe that you can alone deliver success for your business. It’s prudent therefore to seek advice from persons with longer and better experience about how best various aspects of business operations can be handled. Delegating tasks to capable staff is equally vital.

Why risk burnout and the failure of your business when all you have to do is ask for a little help?

Why risk burnout and the failure of your business when all you have to do is ask for a little help?

15. Unwillingness to take responsibility

As the business owner you must be willing to admit and own your mistakes without exception. Apportioning blame to others or to circumstances will only briefly soothe the ego but the realities of the situation will still need to be addressed. Running a small business successfully is about the ability to remain objective and goals-oriented.

Hope springs eternal though. Things may be really grim for your business venture right now but hopefully it isn’t too late for you to turn things around. It’s not going to be easy but if you are committed to the cause your entrepreneurial dream need not be added to the “crashed and burnt” list. Here are some tips for how you can turn around the fortunes of your business for the better.

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The United States Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Advocacy asserts that small businesses make up 99.7% of all U.S. firms. It’s therefore safe to say that small businesses are the economy’s driving force.

Starting a small business is basically about setting up shop, finding clients and earning money. This is true for whatever form of business you plan to start.

Several more traits are also used to define small businesses as follows:

1. Low startup costs

Depending on the specific type of small business, startup costs are typically quite low. A retailing business doesn’t have to start big; simply buying the initial inventory and renting a suitable space will do. A consultancy service doesn’t have to start in a plush office with a flashy address; starting out in your home office where the overhead costs are minimal is certainly prudent.

2. Just a few employees

It’s typical of a small business to have a single worker – the owner. For this reason these businesses are commonly referred to as “one-man-shows”.

Nevertheless, as operations grow you may need to hire a number of employees. To keep your operating costs low you may, like many other small business owners, find it feasible to hire independent contractors or freelancers.

3. Small market share and intense competition

A small business serves just a small portion of the market. This is as compared to the significantly larger shares of the same market that corporations and larger businesses can control thanks to their bigger capacities.

Also, since there are a huge number of small businesses that need to compete for business opportunities in the same market, competition is rife. This typically results in product/service innovation and differentiation.

4. Limited budgets and funding

As compared to larger firms, small businesses typically operate with limited budgets. With their limited finances these enterprises have little or no choice but to keep their costs of doing business low. Cost-efficiency is the name of the game for small business owners.

5. A single location

Most small businesses operate from a single location; not many of these businesses have branches or outlets in multiple cities or states. Also, the rising prominence of home-based businesses means that a significant number of enterprises are now operating without formal business facilities. To their credit, many small businesses now have a global reach thanks to running internet-based operations.

Every role that an entrepreneur needs to play requires proactive thinking. Do you have what it takes?

Every role that an entrepreneur needs to play requires proactive thinking. Do you have what it takes?

You’ve now launched your own business. A long-cherished dream has finally seen the light of day. Deep within you truly desire to succeed. You’ve read about what legendary entrepreneurs have and are doing to ensure that they are always at the top. You know that being an entrepreneur means you are responsible for making your vision of success a reality. You also understand that this responsibility will require you to play a number of roles. Well, here are some of the different hats you’ll have to wear.

You certainly don’t need to be good at all these roles to be a successful entrepreneur. What you aren’t good at – at the onset – can always be improved upon with time.

1. Head of new customer acquisition

You’ll need clients for your products/services. Unfortunately, they won’t start coming to your premises automatically; you’ll need to attract and then convince them to start spending their money on what you have to offer. At this point in time you already know who your ideal target customers are. You just need to find the best message that will strike a chord with them.

Reaching out to your target customers appropriately will bring them in droves...

Reaching out to your target customers appropriately will bring them in droves…

Marketing your business will be a continuous effort moving forward. You’ll always need to create relevance for your business in order to keep drawing in new clients.

2. Customer experience and service architect

Once customers have started trickling in, it’s upon you to ensure that all their interactions with your business are top-notch. Customers should be assured of satisfaction whatever their engagement with your business involves. This is what superb customer experience is all about – and it starts right from your mission statement which you always have to live up to.

Top entrepreneurs understand that keeping their customers satisfied is absolutely vital.

Top entrepreneurs understand that keeping their customers satisfied is absolutely vital.

Your customer experience strategy will need to be complemented by exemplary customer service which involves all the things a business needs to do to make a customer feel valued and important.

3. Chief salesman

Making sales is the only way your business is going to earn revenue. Ideally, the healthier your sales volumes, the higher your revenues and profits will be. Ensuring that your product/service gets out there and convincing people to spend money on it is an art that you must perfect. Even if you have a sales team it is clear that they will look up to you for inspiration and direction. Simply put, if you lack passion for your product/service don’t expect the sales team to work miracles on the ground.

Self-explanatory.

Self-explanatory.

Selling is an aspect of business where your input on the front lines is really required Steve Jobs-style. Interactions with your customers will reveal many pointers and ideas that you can take advantage of in order to make your sales effort more precise and focused.

4. Minding the business’ coffers

It’s quite ironic that for many entrepreneurs the sight of a healthy bottom line is what causes them to grin widest yet they are stubbornly hesitant to learn about how to prepare balance sheets, profit and loss statements and cash flow statements. While finding and paying fine accountants and bookkeepers to handle these matters on your behalf is undeniably convenient, the truth of the matter is that entrepreneurs who are personally involved in their business’ financial matters are best placed to lead their ventures to long-term success.

Successful entrepreneurs are involved with the money right from the get go...

Successful entrepreneurs are involved with the money right from the get go…

Being in charge of the financials will enable you to among other things know your business’ health, be sure of its tax compliance, and be able to monitor trends such that you can plan ahead based on facts rather than assumptions.

5. Undisputed team leader

As the business owner you also have the distinction of being employee #1. This means that even if your business does not hire other people you’ll be responsible for leading yourself. Being team leader means that you’ll have to espouse all the qualities of an efficient team and lead from the front.

There can be no other way for entrepreneurs to lead - it must be from the front

There can be no other way for entrepreneurs to lead – it must be from the front

Running a business successfully is no walk in the park – it requires dedication, commitment, zeal and focus from everyone involved. The team will eagerly play ball if they see you doing your part with vim and then some.

6. Head visionary and strategist

How big do you wish to grow your business? Does your vision portend success? To achieve mega growth you will need to have a solid strategy for the future. Indeed the most successful entrepreneurs have all grown from the ground up because one eye is firmly fixed on the big picture.

Successful entrepreneurs look at the big picture and strategize on how to get there...

Successful entrepreneurs look at the big picture and strategize on how to get there…

As such, even as you are engaged in the day to day running of your nascent business’ operations, you should ensure that all the present effort is essentially about preparing the groundwork for future growth and success. Long-term vision is imperative.

7. Head of creativity and innovation

Unless you are dealing with something quite unique that virtually nobody else can offer e.g. corks then constantly wearing your thinking cap is not an option. Why? You need to ensure that your business will always remain relevant and competitive.

New and relevant ideas will be key for your business'success...

New and relevant ideas will be key for your business’success…

Businesses often reinvent themselves after their previous brilliant offerings become obsolete. Reinvention is about progressively providing new offerings that can satisfy the needs of your customers. Reinventing is actually an investment of time, money and brain cells. Done well, you’ll certainly reap handsomely moving forward.

8. Chief perceiver of opportunity

Your ability to utilize the entrepreneurial qualities of foresight, instinct and alertness will definitely contribute to your business success. Given the dynamic nature of societal trends, new opportunities and possibilities are constantly being revealed. Only the entrepreneurial eye can identify these opportunities and only the entrepreneurial mind can come up with a blueprint of how to harness them profitably.

As an entrepreneur you need the ability to sense opportunity...

As an entrepreneur you need the ability to sense opportunity…

You therefore always need to keep an eye on trends. Specifically, you need to be aware of changing needs and requirements with the aim of providing innovative solutions.

9. Informed risk-taker

This role is ideally connected to that on opportunity perception described in the previous point. Entrepreneurial risk-taking describes the willingness to perform the actions required to harness an identified business opportunity knowing full well that the actions could result in profit or loss.

...as well as the skill and capacity to make a profitable swoop

…as well as the skill and capacity to make a profitable swoop

As such, considering the unknowable nature of the result you expect, your actions in this regard will need to be based on informed assumptions. It is for this reason that many successful entrepreneurs have on several occasions invested time and money in seemingly profitable opportunities only to have their fingers burnt. On most occasions though, these entrepreneurs’ achievements can justly be described as legendary.

10. Motivation guru

The rigors of running a business are such that you’ll always need steady hands to steer the vessel forward towards success. Even so, the exertion will regularly take a toll on you and the team hence the need for everyone to enjoy some down time for purposes of re-energizing.

Every team member needs to feel fully appreciated and involved in order to be optimally productive

Every team member needs to feel fully appreciated and involved in order to be optimally productive

Keeping the team well motivated is essential and there are many ways to do this besides paying competitive salaries. You can start by making the workplace atmosphere and culture truly conducive to productivity. It is also vital to make the team part of your vision; you can really use some of the bright ideas and suggestions your team can offer. Rewarding effort and goal achievement is also imperative.

Counterfeiters are so good nowadays, it's almost impossible to distinguish between originals and imitations...

Counterfeiters are so good nowadays, it’s almost impossible to distinguish between originals and imitations…

Counterfeit goods are also known as imitations. They are products that are manufactured and sold under another company’s name and without permission from that company. Today, the counterfeiting problem affects virtually every industry. Commonly counterfeited goods include car parts, electronics, personal care products, handbags and wallets, computers, shoes, jewelry and clothes. There are even imitations for medication.

Counterfeiting is big business around the world. It is estimated that $700 billion worth of fake merchandise is produced every year. Losses incurred in the U.S. as a result of counterfeit trading are estimated at $1 trillion annually and in excess of 75000 jobs. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has estimated that counterfeit trading may cost the global economy as much as $250 billion every year.

Closely associated with counterfeiting are two similarly despicable practices – tampering and diversion. Tampering involves altering of product ingredients. The consequences can be lethal. In 1990, for instance, 89 children in Haiti died after ingesting pharmaceuticals laced with antifreeze.  Diversion, on the other hand, involves the selling of a manufacturer’s product via an unauthorized seller or channel.

What risks does counterfeit trading pose for your business?

Well, in addition to lost revenues, counterfeits can potentially ruin your business’ reputation and erode its goodwill.

So, what are the various techniques that you can employ to fight the counterfeiting menace?

1. Registering your trademarks

Federal trademark registration is a vital aspect of brand protection. Doing this will enable you to enforce your trademark anywhere around the country. You will also get access to federal courts. You should also ensure that your trademark is registered in all countries where you do business. Foreign registration can assist in stopping the exportation of counterfeits that bear your trademarks.

Registering your intellectual property will help you to enforce anti-counterfeiting measures legally

Registering your intellectual property will help you to enforce anti-counterfeiting measures legally

2. Registering your trademarks with customs agencies

Your trademarks should also be registered with customs agencies, both locally and in countries where you do business. The U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) runs the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Enforcement program tasked with preventing the inflow of counterfeit merchandise into the country. Based on the information you have provided, the CBP will be able to curb the trade of counterfeits as it carries out its shipment monitoring mandate.

3. Investigating the market

As a proactive business owner you should regularly monitor the market to ascertain that what is being sold as your merchandise is actually genuine. Regardless of where you sell your products, online or through brick-and-mortar retailers, three factors should be able to inform your curiosity: price, packaging, and location.

You should regularly scour the market to see if imitations of your brands are being sold

You should regularly scour the market to see if imitations of your brands are being sold

Don’t hesitate to take immediate enforcement action in the event that counterfeit goods are found. Pursuing civil litigation will send out a strong deterring message to other potential sellers of counterfeits.

The following are some of the legal measures and settlements you (the plaintiff) can demand of a person (the defendant) caught selling imitations bearing your trademark:

  • Monetary compensation
  • A recall of the counterfeits sold
  • Ongoing audits of the defendant’s inventory and records
  • A permanent injunction preventing the defendant from importing and selling imitations

To practically distinguish your products from counterfeiters’ merchandise you can employ the following technological defenses:

4. Placing brand-specific patterns on clothing

The use of a partially invisible thread to produce brand-specific patterns on fabrics can help clothing manufacturers to identify and nab counterfeits. The thread used for this purpose is produced cheaply but is not easily reproduced. The customized patterns made with the thread are only visible under special lighting.

5. Using iridescent security images

Courtesy of Nanotech Security it is now possible to emboss a security image of your choice on your merchandise. This image can be applied on a variety of surfaces, ranging from metals to fabrics. This anti-counterfeiting measure will set you back a few pennies per unit. For counterfeiters, however, replicating your security image will be quite impossible.

6. Adding pigments to plastics

You can also opt to include custom additives or pigments in the plastics that your company produces or uses. Being specific to your company, these additives, and which can easily be identified with the help of a handheld device, will help to separate genuine merchandise from market imitations.

7. Using the uFaker app

With the help of the uFaker app you can be able to monitor counterfeiting activities that involve your brand. This information can then be forwarded to law enforcement agencies, private investigators and lawyers.

8. Using the Authenticateit app

You can use the Authenticateit smartphone app to identify, track and deter counterfeiters from selling imitations. Consumers can use the same app to ascertain the authenticity of a product prior to making purchase.

9. Using the Black Market Billions app

Yet another useful solution is the Black Market Billions crowdsourcing app. Users use the app to take photos of possible imitations and upload the images to an online map linked to a GPS locator. Alerts are then sent to consumers of counterfeited merchandise in specific locations.

10. Consumer education

Providing consumers with information about your product will help them to make informed purchases and effectively protect them from the risks of using imitations.

Effective education will help consumers to identify and buy original merchandise

Effective education will help consumers to identify and buy original merchandise

You can use various websites to share information about your product and where genuine merchandise can be purchased. These sites include:

DesignsFauxReal – A website that sells fictitious counterfeit goods. It educates consumers about the negative consequences of purchasing imitations.

The Counterfeit Report – A website through which manufacturers pass information about counterfeits to consumers. Consumers are encouraged to report counterfeits.

Unreal Campaign – This teen-focused website teaches young people about the economic, health and social risks that result from using counterfeits.

A business that offers diverse products/services is almost always doing business

A business that offers diverse products/services is almost always doing business

After successfully steering your small business from existence and through survival, you are now at the success stage. It is now beyond doubt that your business idea was a winner right from inception –the naysayers are now eating lots of humble pie.

You are now thinking about the next stage of growth for your business enterprise and are considering two options:

  1. Whether you should grow the current business to the next level OR
  2. Whether you should venture out in a new direction while using the current business as your support.

If no.2 is what’s on your mind then you are basically planning to diversify your business.

Business diversification does make a lot of sense. After all, we all concur with the old adage “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.

Like for many other critical business decisions, you need to approach and implement diversification from an informed point of view. Whatever the proposed implementation will involve, there is a single rule: Your core business should remain as it is.

Why does diversification make so much business sense today?

The need to always expect the unexpected can hardly be overstated.

However much your business may be thriving currently, there is always need to ask “what if”.

Business diversification will in this context help you to:

1. Avoid becoming too dependent on a single customer

There are many small (and large) businesses whose entire operations are based on serving a single very profitable customer. Things are typically very smooth for as long as this symbiotic business relationship exists, so much so that these business hardly see the need to source for other clients.

What will you do if your only client is suddenly no longer available for business?

What will you do if your only client is suddenly no longer available for business?

If your business fits this description you need to start imagining what would happen if for some reason your client is no longer available for business. You would definitely need to find other clients, the failure of which would likely compel you to wind down your operations.

Start making hay while the sun shines. Seek out alternative clients or make sure that substantial sums of your income are being saved for the proverbial rainy day.

2. Avoid becoming too dependent on a single supplier

Similar to having a single customer, there are many positives that come with having a single supplier, more so when the business relationship is mutually beneficial. Likewise, the negatives of such a relationship can have a crippling effect on your business.

What will happen if the only source of your raw material is shut down?

What will happen if the only source of your raw material is shut down?

What happens if your supplier can no longer provide the raw material you need for production? In case you can’t find an alternative supplier you’ll have no choice but to halt operations and think about introducing a new product altogether.

3. Ensure you have multiple revenue streams

Ideally, if ¾ of your current business revenue is generated by a single product/service, you should start thinking about additional revenue streams.

Why, you ask?

Well, if your cash cow takes a hit, your revenues will most likely dip severely, at least in the short-term. In the worst case scenario you may have to start an entirely new business.

Multiple sources of income will add more stability to your business...

Multiple sources of income will add more stability to your business…

Diversification in this case can be done through the introduction of new products/services that are complementary to your cash cow. For example, if you run a bread bakery, you may want to introduce alternatives like cakes, cupcakes, buns, donuts, etc.

Doing this will also help you to have an extra edge on the competition.

4. Avoid depending on a single distribution channel

If your business has just a single way of getting things to the marketplace, or a single way of making sales, you need to start thinking fast. What will happen if your current distributor is suddenly acquired? What if your door-to-door sales technique is blacklisted by the government in the wake of terror threats?

What if the authorities start enforcing this ban strictly?

What if the authorities start enforcing this ban strictly?

In both scenarios it is likely that a completely new approach will have to be thought up and implemented. Knowing just how much time such new approaches may require before becoming effective (if ever) these are scenarios you don’t want for your small business.

What are the motivations for small business diversification?

5. The need to reduce financial risk

Some of these will most likely break or crack...

Some of these will most likely break or crack…

Many business owners resort to diversification in order to secure their financial assets.

Borrowing from “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” you may find it prudent to put your money into different investments. This is done in the hope that should some investments flop, others will thrive.

6. The need to harness new market opportunities 

If your idea feels viable then go ahead and test it...who knows what may come of it?

If your idea feels viable then go ahead and test it…who knows what may come of it?

Every once in a while you may discover a market opportunity that you feel is potentially profitable and therefore worth exploring. Whether or not this proves worthwhile, your focus should always be on your core business. Ensure that the distractions of your new pursuit won’t result in the demise of your primary source of revenue.

7. To create more appeal amongst current and potential customers

Business diversification results in customer base diversification.

Introducing new products/services into your business portfolio will firstly allow you to earn more revenue from additional sales to your current clientele. Secondly, the new products/services will help you to break into a new market segment thus adding to your overall customer base.

Expanding on an original idea will most likely make your business more relevant to your target market...

Expanding on an original idea will most likely make your business more relevant to your target market…

There is immense risk in undertaking such diversification; a sober-minded approach is required considering that a new product/service may either do well or flop. In case it flops you will have to contend with the effects of losing substantial cash flow.

8. To improve your business’ profile and appeal for potential buyers

A diversified business makes for a more valuable proposition for potential buyers

A diversified business makes for a more valuable proposition for potential buyers

Perhaps you are considering selling off your business at some point in the future. Businesses that have diversified portfolios tend to have an edge with regards to potential buyers. Such buyers would love to know that their financial risk will be spread out across multiple market segments. You will therefore have additional bargaining clout when a buyout arrangement materializes.

What should you consider before embarking on business diversification?

9. Ensure that your new product/service has a value proposition for the customer

How about this for a new business idea?

How about this for a new business idea?

Your diversification efforts are guaranteed to achieve success if customers perceive the new product/service you are offering to be relevant and valuable. Creating a new product/service that customers need to use very regularly is a good way to approach diversification.

10. Have expertise in your proposed area of diversification

Success will also be guaranteed if you have the expertise and know-how required for providing the new product/service. Ensure that the relevant systems and personnel required to deliver your new product/service to customers are in place.

Your new business direction should also be a fit with your overall business model thereby ensuring that you won’t be entering into completely uncharted territory. This way it will be easier for you to penetrate and expand within the new market segment.

Diversification tends to be more successful if the entrepreneur is knowledgeable about the proposed idea...

Diversification tends to be more successful if the entrepreneur is knowledgeable about the proposed idea…

11. Leverage on your business’ strengths

If you are thinking about diversification it means that you already have a successful business model in place. Using this as the scaffolding for your next stage of business growth will make it easier to explore and implement the new ideas you have in mind. Of course you must be thoroughly knowledgeable about the ins and outs of the proposed business field.

12. Find the right people for the job

You must ensure that you have a competent team in place before you implement the proposed transition. You’ll most likely be required to hire personnel that have the required skills, as well as train the current team to ensure that everyone is on board with the new direction the business will be taking.

Introducing a new offering may require you to engage a skilled team - ensure that everyone is competent

Introducing a new offering may require you to engage a skilled team – ensure that everyone is competent

Creating passion about the new direction amongst your employees is guaranteed to make implementation far much easier and more successful.

What types of diversification can you consider for your current product/service?

13. Adaptation

This will involve tweaking and/or adjusting your product/service so that it can become useful to a new type of clients.

The same product or service can be adapted to suit new and different types of clients

The same product or service can be adapted to suit new and different types of clients

For example, if you create top-notch premium-priced anti-virus software you may think of introducing two new versions of the software, say basic and advanced, that will cost cheaper and attract two new categories of consumers. This is an example of a diversified sales strategy.

14. Introducing complementary products/services

Here you will be introducing a new line of product/service that is related to what you offer, but that your customers currently have to purchase from a different vendor or competitor.

For example, if you manufacture pencils, you may decide to introduce erasers and pencil sharpeners. This is an example of related and/or concentric diversification.

You can diversify your business by offering a portfolio of related products or services...

You can diversify your business by offering a portfolio of related products or services…

Some of these approaches may require you to purchase a company that produces the sort of product/service you wish to introduce. This typically results in a diversified business portfolio and the elimination of a potential competitor from the market.

15. Introducing an integrated product/service lineup

Quite similar to the previous strategy, this is about finding out what more your business can offer the market with regards to its current offerings. The pencil manufacturer can think about adding color pencils, crayons, ballpoint pens and fountain pens to its product portfolio. This is an example of horizontal diversification.

...or by offering an integrated portfolio of products or services

…or by offering an integrated portfolio of products or services

16. Strategic partnerships

It may be the case that there are viable opportunities to be accrued by partnering with another company that is related to but not directly competing with your business. The pencil manufacturer can perhaps partner with a stationery manufacturer resulting in a win-win alliance.

This is an example of unrelated and/or conglomerate diversification.

17. Anticipating future market requirements

The last thing you would want for your business is to be rendered obscure as a result of failing to keep up with industry advancements. As a proactive business owner you always want to be among the ‘early adopters’ as this will allow you to earn significant returns on investment before the rest of the market catches up.

18. Launching new stores

This is the conventional way of reaching more of your target customers. You can invest in opening a new store/s in another town(s) or state(s). This is described as geographical diversification.

It doesn’t have to stop there. Venturing to neighboring countries and other continents is a possibility you can pursue in future.

Establishing new stores and venturing into e-commerce is an effective way to reach more of your target customers

Establishing new stores and venturing into e-commerce is an effective way to reach more of your target customers

19. Embracing e-commerce

The online marketplace is where the big players are doing splendid business. Make a point of taking your product/service online if you aren’t there yet.

Considering that people are increasingly embracing the conveniences of online shopping, your business will definitely expand its reach by targeting a global audience. Again, considering how expansive the online marketplace is, who says you can’t open multiple stores? This is a good example of market diversification.

While you may as a small business owner feel the natural inclination to maintain your business’ current status quo (and enjoy the risk-free and safety advantages of doing so), it is worth appreciating that sudden events can result in the stalling or complete demise of your enterprise.

Business diversification is a proactive way to forestall such eventualities. It is also an effective way of growing your business and adding to your revenue.

In what ways have you diversified your operations? If you haven’t done this yet, what are some of the ideas you may consider implementing?

Making the sales process enjoyable will most likely draw even more prospects and customers to your business...

Making the sales process enjoyable will most likely draw even more prospects and customers to your business…

Just about everyone who has started a business is initially quite upbeat about finding customers, making sales and getting profits. This early gusto soon dwindles though when it becomes apparent that making substantial sales takes more than just being open for business.

Established businesses on the other hand are always looking to increase their sales volumes and therefore earn more profits.

As a business owner who is stuck with insufficient and/or mediocre sales volumes, it is perhaps time to take a step back and reflect about your approach to making sales. Are you really doing things right?

How about approaching salesmanship as an art form? This way you can perhaps start enjoying the process instead of merely thinking about it as something that needs to be done.

This shouldn’t be too hard.

In fact, all the suggestions here are nothing new. Implementing them with a new mindset however may be just what your business requires. Start enjoying the sales part of your business and let the enthusiasm rub off onto your customers and prospects.

1. Implement an effective pricing strategy

For most people, price comparison shopping is the only way to shop; it’s all about making smart purchases. If you are therefore selling your wares at astronomical prices as compared to your competitors, making decent sales is bound to be quite difficult.

Your price should make sense to prospects and make them willing to buy...

Your price should make sense to prospects and make them willing to buy…

You, in this regard, need to adopt an appropriate pricing strategy for your products and/or services. These two guidelines should be helpful:

  • Find out what your competitors are charging for their wares. If the quality of their products is similar to yours you may consider lowering your price slightly. If the pricing is influenced by product features, you can consider adding several more features to yours and then set your price slightly higher.
  • If you are convinced of your product/service’s superiority and that your high price is therefore justified, then by all means let customers and prospects know of the extra value they’ll get by using the same. Breathe life into your message!

2. Making the most of business upsells

Think about it.

You’ve most likely gone out to shop for something you really needed and ended up spending more than you had budgeted for simply because the sales guy convinced you that you needed one or two more things related to the original purchase. The ease with which you agreed to buy these extra things surprised you – especially because you consider yourself a responsible buyer.

Get your customers into the mood, give them hints, and make more sales...

Get your customers into the mood, give them hints, and make more sales…

This is the power of upselling. The sales guy simply got you into a buying mood, made the necessary suggestions, and you obliged.

How about you try this in your business?

Hint: First try it on regular customers; practice makes perfect.

3. Name your product/service appropriately

With effective branding you can make your product a household name...expect mega sales volumes once you get there!

With effective branding you can make your product a household name…expect mega sales volumes once you get there!

Effective naming of products or services typically takes into account several considerations:

  • Easy pronunciation
  • Ease of remembering
  • Simple association between the name and the product/service features and benefits

Nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with going for a unique product/service name. If this is how you opt to proceed just ensure that the name is easy to pronounce and write down. Coupled with effective branding, your product/service will very soon no longer be associated with outer space.

4. Embrace targeted content marketing

Dispatching your marketing contents all over the place simply because you have the budget for it is a haphazard and cost-ineffective tactic to gain more sales. Away with these hit and miss marketing tactics!

Targeted content marketing is about knowing your product and your ideal customers

Targeted content marketing is about knowing your product and your ideal customers

A statement I came across recently made me smile: “Wonder why there are no Lamborghini and Porsche ads on TV? Rich guys don’t watch TV!”

This is what targeted content marketing is all about. Don’t demean your product/service by marketing it to everyone; direct your messages to your customers and prospects.

This approach will deliver the following benefits (in addition to increased sales):

  • Lower marketing costs
  • Lower customer acquisition rates
  • Higher conversion rates
  • Higher customer satisfaction – which is very essential

5. Offering free samples

Giving out free samples is an effective way to increase prospective customers’ confidence in your product/service. After all, seeing is believing.

Offering free samples typically encourages prospects to buy...

Offering free samples typically encourages prospects to buy…

If you have a food catering business, for example, you can offer to treat some prospects to free delicious lunch. Practically convincing them of your culinary expertise will most likely see them hire your services.

6. Advertise your product/service effectively

Ads help to spread the word about products and/or services 24/7 and they’ll therefore greatly augment your marketing effort.

Well designed ads easily attract prospects and encourage repeat customers leading to increased sales

Well designed ads easily attract prospects and encourage repeat customers leading to increased sales

Effective advertising has everything to do with attracting prospects attention and describing what the benefits of using a product/service are.

In designing your ads therefore, ensure that they are so well designed that it’s impossible to ignore them. A creative graphic designer’s services will come in handy here.

Secondly, spell out your product/service’s benefits honestly – no hyping; undersell and over-deliver.

Thirdly, choose appropriate advertising mediums. Think about where the ad will be more effective – your target market’s behaviors and preferences will help you in this regard.

7. Introduce rewards programs

There are plenty of ideas to choose from for this increased sales strategy including basic ones like “buy 2 get 1 free” and more complex ones e.g. those where shoppers earn points which can be redeemed for certain products once they accumulate to a certain number.

"Buy 2 get 1 free" is a really effective way to attract customers and increase sales

“Buy 2 get 1 free” is a really effective way to attract customers and increase sales

In addition to marketing your products/services, these initiatives will actually help to increase sales, and additionally help to create customer loyalty.

8. Make the purchasing experience more convenient

How much effort do prospects have to put in before they can use your product/service? If transacting business with you borders on doing work then you can be sure that your sales volumes will be proportionally low.

Whether you have a physical or online store, you have to do all you can to reduce customer effort.

Go to your customers - most of the effort should be yours, not theirs.

Go to your customers – most of the effort should be yours, not theirs.

A brick-and-mortar store has to be conveniently located. Purchasing should be just as simple; customers shouldn’t have to shuffle from one office to the next to get clearance – a one-stop desk will make all the difference.

For an online store the concepts are really quite similar. All the links should be functional. Filling out forms should be easy. The shopping and shipping processes should be easily understood and doable. Any potentially troublesome processes should be made easy for customers e.g. through the use of screen shares on Google Hangouts.

9. Practice superb telephone etiquette and offer quality customer support

Placing your business’ telephone number on your product or ad implies that customers and prospects can reach you over the phone. It therefore makes no sense why no one at your end bothers to pick up the phone. You don’t pick up = Lost business.

Answering the phone promptly and correctly is good for business...

Answering the phone promptly and correctly is good for business…

Telephone etiquette is really a no-brainer; handle prospects poorly over the phone and say goodbye to a potential sale. It’s that simple.

You and the team should therefore style up with regards to telephone conversations, and more so when handling regular customers. Answer the phone graciously, strike up a brief conversation just to ease the tension, and then handle the business. Creating a cordial business relationship will go a long way in helping to foster customer loyalty, a win-win situation.

10. Tier your customers

It’s true that regular and new customers both bring revenue to the business by purchasing products and services. There is however need to show and treat regular customers in a manner that portrays your appreciation for them. It is really their continued support for your business that has enabled you to reach your present success.

Make esteemed clients feel appreciated; show them that you value their business

Make esteemed clients feel appreciated; show them that you value their business

Appreciation can be shown in a variety of ways, starting with the most basic e.g. greeting them by name and even ushering them into your office while other customers are served at the storefront. Appreciation can also extend to tangible benefits e.g. discounts, extended credit, free delivery, etc.

Why would such an esteemed client want to take his/her business elsewhere?

Research has proven that organic farming makes a better business proposition than conventional farming

Research has proven that organic farming makes a better business proposition than conventional farming

Organic agriculture can be defined as an approach to farming that’s reliant on ecosystem management rather than the use of external agricultural inputs.

You can therefore picture a farmer whose operations do not involve the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, genetically-modified seeds and breeds, veterinary drugs, preservatives and additives. In place of these are management practices that are geared towards achieving long-term soil fertility and the prevention of crop and animal pests and diseases.   

According to FAO there are three main motivations for organic agriculture as follows:

  • Consumer or market-driven organic agriculture – whereby farmers target consumers who prefer organic produce
  • Service-driven organic agriculture – farmers are incentivized for implementing production techniques that result in environmental sustainability
  • Farmer-driven organic agriculture – the farmers are self-motivated to embrace sustainable production techniques since they consider conventional agriculture to be unsustainable

From a business perspective though, is it advisable to practice organic farming?

Research carried out by different institutions and stakeholders has indeed revealed that organic farming tops conventional farming. One of these studies, carried out by the Rodale Institute over a 30-year period, practically affirms as much. The findings of this study confirm that embracing organic farming does make more business sense as follows:

1. Organic farms rake in more profits

This study revealed that organic farms made an average net return of $558/acre/year as compared to $190/acre/year in conventional farms. The two major reasons why organic farms manage to earn three times as much as conventional farms include the higher prices paid for organic produce and the lower input costs incurred.

A 20-year study at the Swan Lake Research Farm in Minnesota, USA, also confirmed the immense profit potential of organic farming.

Generally, organically-farmed food attracts price premiums of up to 30%.

Organic produce is sold at far much better prices than conventionally-grown produce and is thus more profitable...

Organic produce is sold at far much better prices than conventionally-grown produce and is thus more profitable…

Further evidence of organic farming’s high earning potential has been witnessed in Uganda, Africa’s leading practitioner of organic agriculture. Earnings from organic exports in 2003/4 stood at US$3.7 million. These increased to US$6.2 million in 2004/5 and leapt to US$22.8 million in 2007/8.

It’s rather obvious therefore that organic farming is the way to go.

2. Organic farming yields equal or surpass yields from conventional and GM farming

The Rodale study revealed that following a three-year transition period, yields from organic farming equaled those from conventional farming. It also revealed that leguminous crops were capable of fixing sufficient quantities of nitrogen in the soil, and that they can in effect be used instead of synthetic fertilizers.

Because the soils are fertile, organically-grown crops yields are typically very impressive...

Because the soils are fertile, organically-grown crops yields are typically very impressive…

In this regard, organic soil enrichment has been shown to offer a better promise for farm efficiency and sustainability.

As a farmer, you would certainly want your soils to remain fertile and productive over the long-run.

3. Organic crops are comparatively more resilient

In this study, organic corn yields in years of drought were 31% higher than conventional corn yields. Interestingly, these organic yields also outdid those from genetically-modified drought-tolerant corn varieties, and whose yields only bettered the conventional corn yields by 6.7-13.3%.

Organic farming techniques will typically result in substantial yields even in harsh climates

Organic farming techniques will typically result in substantial yields even in harsh climates

Growing organic crops is therefore certain to ensure the sustainability of your farming business during drought years.

4. Organic farming methods are comparatively more efficient

The Rodale study revealed that compared to conventional systems, organic systems used 45% less energy. Production efficiency was 28% higher in the organic systems.

Organic farming systems are less energy-intensive and more production-efficient...they are also climate-friendly

Organic farming systems are less energy-intensive and more production-efficient…they are also climate-friendly

Yet another study at Cornell University showed that organic farming systems use 63% of the energy required by conventional farming systems. Additionally, less energy expenditure results in less greenhouse gas emissions. Organic farming is therefore climate-friendly.

An organic farming business will therefore incur less expense with regards to energy usage, thus translating into cost savings.

5. Organic agriculture progressively increases soil health

The study showed that while conventional farming maintained overall soil health, organic farming actually improved soil health.

Organic farming allows Mother Nature's agents to replenish soil's fertility...

Organic farming allows Mother Nature’s agents to replenish soil’s fertility…

Organic farming enhances soil fertility by improving moisture retention and by naturally facilitating microbial activity. As a result, plant nutrition is boosted.

It is thanks to organic practices such as inter-cropping, crop rotation, application of organic fertilizer, planting of cover crops, use of symbiotic associations and minimum tillage that soil productivity is progressively enhanced. These practices are also crucial in helping to control soil erosion.

Organic farming is therefore a superb way to ensure the continuity of your farming enterprise.