Archives for January 2013

Growing An International Business

So your business has grown to the point where your client base is strong and people around the country know your reputation as a sharp company. 

Pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Now think about how much more you could make if you grew your business overseas.

Going across the border to Canada or Mexico, or across the oceans to other countries, is a sure-fire way to attract new customers and clientele to your business. However, it can also provide unwanted pitfalls or unforeseen problems that may make your life a little complicated until they are settled.

Remember the red tape you had when you created your business in the United States? Now imagine that red tape, maybe multiplied by 10. Creating a business and getting things started in an unfamiliar country can create headaches, especially when you are walking on eggshells as it is.

A recent article in Business Insider cited examples of expanding internationally to business in China, and a lot of the examples work well when inserted into other countries.

Think about it. You probably have brushed up on your foreign-language skills, or at the least hired an interpreter, but one slip-up of the tongue could translate “It is a pleasure doing business with you” into something far worse, possibly something insensitive. Communication skills are vital when it comes to cutting through that red tape and finding success at your new business.

The culture may require you to spend more time together than you really are used to doing here in the United States. Here, you may close a business deal over dinner at a restaurant, 18 holes of golf or a simple face-to-face office meeting. In other countries, you might have to attend someone’s ballet recital, have dinner with the family, etc.

You don’t have to be experienced to have the skills to grow your business elsewhere. A fine example of someone that took their skills to the next level is Ehsan Bayat of Telephone Systems International. After spending his childhood and teenage years in his native Afghanistan, he overcame American language and cultural barriers to get an engineering degree. He then founded wireless companies in Afghanistan and built a charitable foundation that reached out across the borders to other countries.

The thought of growing a business like that may give you sweaty palms. You may think this is growing your business in the states all over again. Still, you have to stick with it.

If you do it the right way, you will have more than one place where business is booming. That will open more opportunities for the future and help your business grow around the world.

For the Fundraisers

Fundraisers are a great way to get some extra money for your organization while getting you name out into the community as well. There are plenty of fundraising ideas for nonprofits, schools and churches. Things like donation drives, walks/runs/bicycling events and raffles are great ways to raise a bit of money while getting the message of your cause into the public ears. Why are you holding the fundraiser? What is the purpose besides raising money (new connections, spreading the word, etc.)? All of these should be considerations in the event planner’s mind.

Ask for Donations

Donations are a great way to get your fundraiser off the ground. This is the most simple way of fundraising, and it has been done successfully over the years. However, instead of simply asking for money, find creative ways to match the giver and get him/her involved in something larger than both of you. Perhaps for every $500 someone donates you could match $250 in food storage supplies to a homeless shelter. A Legacy Premium supply, which boasts 100% GMO free products, can make that money go a long way.

The point is to get creative and give back to the community.

Hold an Activity Fundraiser

Activity fundraisers are anything that gets the community together for something active. This can be a walk, 5K run or a bicycle race. These events tend to attract a whole lot of people. Market it through flyers and banners within the community. Charge an entry fee for each walker/runner/bicycler. Have water and snacks for those that finish the race. Give out a trophy to the top three people. This also opens up the door for selling food, drinks and snacks as well.

Promote an Auction and Raffle

Raffles and auctions tend to attract the masses. If you have a large support group at your organization, ask them if they have anything of value they would be willing to auction off. These need to be higher ticketed items like a Timeshare or something. You can also contact local businesses and ask if they have anything they would be willing to donate to the auction. Hand out tickets to everyone that comes in the door. Then, one of your high ticket items and raffle it off at the end of the night.

Successful fundraisers give back to the people giving to you. It should be about more than simply taking their money. In what ways can you say thank you to those that gave during your fundraiser? Handing out t-shirts, providing food and planning activities are all ways to make the donator feel like their giving was worth it.

Turning a Business Idea into an Actual Business

Everyone has business ideas but, unfortunately, most of them never come to fruition.  That’s because an idea without the plan to back it up is just that, an idea.  If you’re keen on turning your business idea into a business reality the following advice will help you and, hopefully, give you a lot to consider and think about.

One of the first things that you should do is to settle on 1 idea and 1 idea only.  The truth is, many people never get their business dreams off the ground because they’re too busy trying to decide which of their ideas to follow.  If you have a few and they are all good you should pick one and run with it because if you don’t your chance of success is much lower.

If this seems to difficult what you should do is write out each idea and take it as far as you can, on paper, to see which of them is the ‘best’. If you see what an idea could possibly involve and then you compare those unknowns together sometimes the best idea of the bunch will stick out like a sore thumb.

The next thing you need to do is validate your idea.  What we mean is that you need to see your actual product, even if it’s a prototype, in use and get customer feedback about the product to make sure it’s the solution to the problem that you are trying to solve for your customers.  All the market research in the world can’t do as well as some solid feedback on your actual product from as many customers as possible.

Don’t wait until you’re sure you have a million dollar idea. Execute a launch, get your product out there and tweak it as you go if necessary.   Very few businesses were hits right out of the gate but you can bet your sweet bippy that they all started and then worked their way to the top. If your product isn’t perfect right away you can improve it on the fly.

Of course having a target market is vital and, if your idea has a small target market, you may need to expand it so that many people will find it helpful, useful or even adorable (like Webkins for instance). Also keep in mind that the idea should be scalable so that, when orders eventually do start to flow, you’ll be able to take up the slack.

Finally whatever your product is if you can make it the next ‘must have’ item you’ll do well for yourself so make sure that you keep that in mind during the design phase.  The more people that really need your product the better chance of success it will have.  Good luck!

Essential Tools for a Small Office

If you’re running a small business, chances are you’re either running your office out of your own home, or in the back of a shop, with few people to help out with day to day admin. Therefore, it’s important that your office is well-equipped, to allow you time to focus on all aspects of your business. Whether you’ve already set up your office or are in the middle of planning, our guide will take you through some of the essentials.



A laptop is perhaps the most important tool in your office, providing you with a portable way of managing your business. While a desktop PC can technically carry out all of the same tasks, having a laptop means that you can take it to meetings, allowing you to better record client progress and have presentations ready in seconds.



If your business requires you to store a lot of data, it’s worth purchasing an external hard drive to store backups of all of your files – this way you needn’t worry if your laptop is lost or broken. For less secure files, it’s also worth looking into cloud services such as Dropbox or Google Drive, as these allow you to store documents online, and access them from any computer.



A printer is an immensely useful tool, even in a so-called “paper free” office. Small retail businesses always benefit from till tracking and stock-taking forms, while invoices and bills are much easier to draw up when they are for the most part automated. Staff training materials are ideal for those offering a specialist service or product, making access to printed information essential.



Equally important are shredders, designed to ensure security and waste management. Shred sensitive information quickly and effectively, and ensure that unnecessary pieces of paper are kept out of the way. It makes the recycling process easier, as all of your paper is in the same place, and some models such as the shredders from Ebuyer even shred credit cards and CDs, too.


Cordless phone

If you carry out most of your business from your office, a cordless phone is the ideal way to maintain communications while still being able to efficiently move around and carry out related tasks – this is especially useful in conference calls and when dealing with customer issues. If you’re making a lot of calls throughout the day, for example if you make sales calls, it may even be worth picking up a headset-enabled phone.


Master the Art of Negotiation with These 3 Simple Rules

As customers we’re sometimes not very skilled in the art of negotiation. Your average car salesman, insurance agent or mortgage lender is however and that’s why it pays to go into any negotiating situation with a few common sense tools and a little bit of inside knowledge on your side.

Rule #1- Never let the salesperson start the negotiations. It may sound silly but the person who starts any negotiation is usually the person that ends up on the better side of the deal when it’s done. If you let this crucial point slip by you‘ll find yourself constantly trying to amend the number that they want instead of negotiating on the number that you want. Remember, it is you who are making a purchase and it is you who will be spending your money for their product or service.  You control the situation and can simply end it by getting up and leaving.  Never let go of that power and you’ll always be on the winning side of any negotiation.

Rule #2 – Always get whatever you agreed upon in writing and as soon as possible.  No matter what you have negotiated the deal isn’t done until there are signatures from both you and the salesperson, in writing and on a contract.  It seems obvious but many people have put off this crucial step and ended up getting burned when an increase or change was made at the last minute to what they thought was a ‘done deal’.  Do yourself a favor and, once you’re satisfied with price and/or conditions, get them in writing.

Rule #3 – Always keep your cool and never let your emotions get the best of you.  The simple fact is this; you can always walk away. No harm, no foul.  Many things come into play at the negotiating table and emotions, as well as tempers, can be high.  If the amount of money is greater the emotions will be also.  Our best advice?  Keep cool, act authoritatively and make a decision without too much hesitation.  This will show the other side that you mean business and aren’t going to play games.

One final thing to keep in mind is simply this; the person trying to get you to agree with them is probably a nice person, as you are as well.  Respect is as important at the negotiating table as it is in any other facet of our lives.  Be kind, be respectful and be firm.  Do these things and you will always get a great price and feel good about it afterwards.

Time to Broaden the Entrepreneurial Horizons?

Looking to broaden the entrepreneurial horizons in 2013? The island kingdom of Bahrain might not readily spring to mind as a potential location for a business startup. But maybe it should given how much happens in this small but important Persian Gulf state. Hundreds of American companies are already represented there, indicating the business-friendly nature of the country’s regulatory environment.


A free trade agreement provides the cornerstone of bilateral trade between the US and Bahrain, with the flow of imports and exports growing year-on-year since it was signed in 2006. A strong, modern finance sector has also helped to underpin growth, too, through innovative product offerings including business banking and other vital services.


Last year, the American conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, which is based in Washington D.C., listed Bahrain as the world’s 12th freest economy, the highest ranking of any country in the region. And the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2012” report ranked Bahrain 38 out of 183 countries in the world for ease of doing business in terms of foreign investment.


As a result, Bahrain’s economic growth has increased steadily over the years, rising by around 4-5% annually. But with unrest in the country in 2011, a direct consequence of the Arab Spring, growth dropped dramatically to around 1.5%. But the temporary blip in the figure was expected to have reversed itself during 2012.


Although oil and gas production will remain the backbone of Bahrain’s economy for years to come, the non-petroleum sector of the economy is making great strides, says the US government.


Growth areas include finance, high value manufacturing and industrial services, information technology, health care and medical equipment, education and training, construction and engineering, ports, professional services, renewable energy construction, and tourism.


The US government says, “The government of Bahrain has substantially liberalized Bahrain’s economy and deepened commercial ties with the United States. Bahrain permits 100 percent foreign-ownership of a business or branch office, without the need for a local partner. Bahrain has no tax on corporate income, personal income, wealth or capital gains, withholding,  death/inheritance. There is no restriction on repatriation of capital, profits or dividends.”


Any US company interested in setting up in Bahrain is urged to contact the commercial section of the US embassy for additional details and guidance.


If you’re wondering by now whether Bahrain is not some kind of Shangri-La, the country does have its fair share of problems. One of the most pressing is the lack of affordable housing for its citizens.


However, the Bahrain government is considering various ways of cooperating with the private sector to help overcome the residential accommodation shortage.


That could mean private construction firms taking on social housing projects from start to finish and then handing completed houses back to the government. The government would then allocate them  to families on the housing waiting list.


A report by global publishing, research and consultancy firm Oxford Business Group (OBG), says if the private sector is able to win a greater share of state contracts for affordable housing, this will go a long way to restore the fortunes of the industry, which has seen business trail off in the wake of the global financial crisis.


The OBG adds, “Though not as glamorous as skyscrapers or high-end residential complexes, the affordable housing market is one that offers good returns on large-scale projects.”


Go here to read the full OBG report.

Use The Internet To Fuel Business Ideas

The Internet is a phenomenal tool, especially for entrepreneurs who are hoping to go into business for themselves or want to expand a company they have already started.

The New Sales Frontier

If you are someone who hasn’t spent much time online it might shock you to find out that there are some companies and businesses that operate solely on the web. It’s true—web based companies are the wave of the future because they are cheaper to run and can service customers all over the planet.

This is not limited to informational products, though those are the backbone to the Internet Marketing community. It is also possible, thanks to drop shippers and companies like Zazzle, CafePress, etc to sell physical products as well.

Spy on Your Future Customers

Okay, “spy” probably isn’t the nicest word to use here but it still applies. As you navigate your way through the Internet pay attention to what people are talking about—especially if they are complaining. You won’t lack for material—people love to complain about stuff online! What’s the point of reading all of the complaints and criticism? To figure out what people need! Over time you will start to see common themes develop in people’s complaints and, hopefully, you’ll have an idea for a product or service that will solve the problem they are having.

The best example of this is Michael Fertik and According to the official Mike Fertik bio, Fertik saw that people were getting more and more concerned about their ability to protect their private information and reputations online. So he came up with a service that will help them solve this problem.

The Best Research Tool Ever

Do you have a great idea for a business? Look it up online and see whether or not it already exists. If you find that someone else is working along the same lines as your idea, that’s okay. In fact, it can even work out in your favor because you can see what that person has done and then make sure that your business is better. You can learn from their mistakes so that you don’t make them yourself. You can see what has worked for them and take it one step further.

If you don’t find that your idea is already being implemented that’s okay too—your business can be a pioneer in your field. There is certainly something to be said for being a novelty online. Even better, if you do well, you might get discovered by a major corporation or other type of big wig and be able to take your independent idea and turn it into a huge profit and major product. Google, for example, started out as the little guy trying to compete against big guys. MySpace spawned tons of spinoffs. John Scalzi published his first novel independently online and it did so well he’s now published several other novels under a major publisher.

The Internet is one of the best things to happen to the professional world and the indie business world. Whatever you need to know, or want to do you can find it or do it there.

Nervous About Starting Your New Start-up? These Tips Will Help

Going into business on your own is a nerve-wracking experience, to say the least.  If you’re ready to let your new idea fly loose on the world, even if you have a solid business plan and you prototype is ready to go, you should take one last step back to make sure that everything is in order, including you, before making that last push. We’re not saying stall, just a last minute pre-flight check. With that in mind take a look at these Tips for the entrepreneur that’s got the opening-day jitters.

If your product needs to be presented in any way, shape or form by you then you need to practice, practice, practice.  Practice your presentation, practice overcoming objectives and practice handling price questions. Practice on family and friends until you really feel confident. And then practice a little more.

Don’t start with a big prospect (unless the opportunity is handed to you) but instead with a smaller client that, if lost, won’t hurt your new business as badly.  Besides, when you actually use your sales pitch on a real world client you’ll see all of the areas that you still need to improve right away.  Learn from them for when that big client is ready to talk with you.

Start to love the idea of cold calling.  Listen, it’s just a simple business fact.  You will have to make cold calls when your business is first starting.  You may not need to always make them but, no matter what, you’d better make them if you need them to succeed in your industry.  It’s a numbers game and if you put in the numbers eventually it will pay off. Suck it up and do it.

If you’re not Blogging yet it’s time to start.  Blogging is one of the most powerful tools on the internet for branding yourself, getting noticed, building a following and creating revenue. If you want to brand yourself as an expert you need a Blog.  If you want people to refer to you, talk to you and ask questions to you (that lead to sales later) you need a Blog.

Networking, in the real world and online with social media, is another task that’s vital to your success. Get out there, meet people, go to trade shows and conventions.  Join some professional organizations in your town and go meet your neighbors. This may take some time but will always pay off in the end.

Finally, set a deadline.  Yes, you need to practice and try to perfect your baby but there comes a time when it has to leave the crib.  Set that time and you’ll be amazed how ready you are when the day finally comes.  Good luck.

SEO Tips for the Small Business Owner

It’s a new year, and with that comes another opportunity to improve your finances. While the year may be new, the financial techniques are the same one’s as they always have been. These tried and true tactics are sure fire ways to save money over the coming year, and the sooner you start the better off you will be when 2014 rolls around. So please see below for ways to shore up your finances!
It’s only January, the perfect time to make and stick to a monthly budget. If you start early then you will have a template to use for the rest of the year, and you can start saving money now. People often wait until their in debt, or dire financial straits before they decide to actually make a budget. Then they often wait even longer before they stick to said budget. Stand out from the masses and get serious right now. It’s a matter of figuring out revenue and expense, and then making sure that the first is more than the latter.
Take advantage of coupons, gift cards, and freebies! The holidays have just passed, and I am willing to bet that most of you received at least one gift card. The number of unused gift cards each year is simply staggering. Even if you receive a gift card to a store that you don’t particularly like, go online and sell it to someone else…that is still cash in your pocket! It’s all about the free samples. Companies are always eager to provide promotional products to give away in order to increase their exposure. Don’t pass up these giveaway items, you might be able to score free soap, toothpaste, chewing gum, you name it. Even if saves you a few dollars over the year, that is still more money in your bank account. The same holds true for coupons, whenever you purchase an item without a coupon you are giving away you money. Find items that you already purchase and then simply look for related coupons, they are out there if you look hard enough.
Save, save, save! Granted the interest rates aren’t particularly favorable on savings accounts right now, but that doesn’t give you an excuse to spend all of that disposable income. Savings accounts are a great way to safely store your money. Also, if you aren’t pleased with the low interest earning accounts then seek out a brokerage account and invest in some dividend paying mutual funds. This is akin to saving money, and it will allow you to outpace inflation as well.

Worth Saving Your Money?

A scheme launched earlier this year by the government to boost lending by banks may be having a negative effect on savings rates. The Funding for Lending scheme, created to stimulate lending to small and medium-sized businesses is seen as part of the reason why a growing number of banks and building societies have chosen to reduce the annual interest rates they pay for savings accounts.

Average returns on savings accounts have fallen by around 10% in the past couple of months, something that many savers and consumer groups are concerned about. During that period, the average rate for a one-year fixed rate savings account has dropped from 2.77% to just 2.57%, while two-year accounts have seen their rates fall to just 3.01% from 3.29%. Recently, a handful of savings account providers have reduced their rates in accordance with the current trend.

The fact that banks can now access new money from the Funding for Lending scheme is seen as the main reason why savings account holders can expect lower rates than usual. With more money from the government behind them, the need to offer attractive savings account deals is reduced. Will Becker from credit card comparison site Totally Money explained how savers are being hit in the pocket:

“Unfortunately, this already long period of falling output followed by stagnant or low growth means savers are really suffering.  However, we certainly wouldn’t want the Bank of England to stray from its low interest rate path.  Inflation (which would hit savers even harder) seems to have been checked and with mortgage affordability finely balanced, a significant rise in interest rates would almost certainly affect the entire economy, savers included, very negatively.

We suggest savers who are impatient to see better returns might be interested to look at the potential rates of return available from alternatives to deposit accounts including the very interesting peer to peer sector where lenders such as Zopa and Ratesetter [link to savings tables] offer the ability to lend direct to borrowers.”