7 Business Tips for Making a Workable Business Plan For Small Business

There is no successful small business without a plan on ground. Your business plan determines the scope of work you have to deal with; prepares you for what lies ahead and helps you to avoid waste of time, energy and resources. This article gives you business tips on how to make a workable plan for your business.

  • Clearly define your business idea

You need to have a clear picture of what you have in your mind. It should be well understood by you and any other person you may share it with.

  • Identify your driving force.

What is the motive behind your idea? Do you have a passion for owning a business, particularly this business idea? Your driving force determines the enthusiasm and speed with which you work your small business and how far you can go with it.

  • Do a long-term planning

Take the long view and do long-term planning. Map out where you want to be five years from now and a business plan on how to get there. Think of your plan as a living document and review it regularly to make sure you are on track or to adjust it to market changes.

  • Conduct a competitive market analysis

Do a thorough research on what is obtainable in your small business market, including products, prices, promotions, advertising, distribution, quality, service, and be aware of the outside influences like location, that affect your business.

  • Share the plan with relevant people

Share your business plan with others who can help you get to where you are going-such as lenders, key employees and advisors. They will supply the missing links to your destination.

  • Network with other related bodies

Seek help from other small businesses, vendors, professionals, government agencies, employees, trade associations and trade shows. Be alert, ask questions, and implement what you can adapt to your own small business

  • Be the architect of your business plan

Write the plan yourself. You will learn more about your business by doing so. Understand that you will pay a price in the short run to obtain long-term business growth and health.

Many businesses suffer because of lack of workable plans. Following the business tips I have given will alleviate for you the pains that others go through and are associated with starting a small business.

What other tips do you have for making workable plans for small businesses?

Effective PR For a Small Business on a Budget – Get Local and Get Online!

If yours is like most small businesses, you can’t afford the luxury of a PR department, much less a dedicated PR agency or even one employee responsible for external communications and PR. However, this business function is critical as the world of communications continues to expand with new applications, demands and opportunities like social media networks. The thought of a concerted PR strategy and execution can be overwhelming for a small business owner, but it doesn’t have to be. There are two primary elements of PR for a small business to engage upon – leveraging online and local offline outlets. The old world of face-to-face will continue to be critical in building your PR strategy and overall business, but let’s face it – the environment has changed, and you simply can’t ignore the power of the Web, particularly social networks. Proactively getting your business out in the community while leveraging the Web will ensure the success of your PR strategy. And, these tactics are not expensive; in fact, many present opportunities for free PR for your small business.

These PR strategy tips are designed for those small businesses that simply don’t have budget allocated toward hiring and retaining a communications expert. If you are a smaller company, hopefully you can take a few tips below to integrate PR into your small business to help build a brand and generate leads. Utilizing informative, valuable PR about your small business gives you the opportunity to influence people and lead them to your destination – your website, your store, your offering. Take advantage of what’s out there! Get online and get local – it’s that simple.

Growing Your PR Strategy

Grow Online

If you don’t have a website, you need to get one immediately. Today, you can get a starter site for free or within your communications packages from your voice and data provider. If it’s in the package, then it’s a no-brainer. If you have a website, then make sure it’s dynamic (video, blogs, and communities) to ensure your target audience comes back and builds a relationship with you and your brand. It’s a requirement in today’s online world; the days of stagnant sites are over. Then, once you have your interactive site, make sure you optimize your website and everything you say about your business online to ensure your potential customers are finding you online when they search. This is a key part of your online PR strategy. Don’t you search Google or Bing to find what you need a pinch? It’s called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and it can be an affordable way to create additional PR for your small business — and it’s often found in your communications and IT packages. At the very least, getting a URL allows you to be FOUND online and that’s key. Google now provides maps when visitors are looking for a specific service in a specific area. By simply having an Internet address – you can be found online looking professional with a map to your location and link to your business, which is pretty cool.

The Wild World of Social Media

You have probably heard about “social media” and you may already be taking part. For many, however, the world of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, blogs, vlogs and status updates may be a bit unsettling. Suffice it to say – these are powerful tools to help you carry out your PR strategy, especially when used properly to connect, communicate and yes, to sell.

As a small business, you can’t afford NOT to take part. It’s easy and affordable, so don’t waste anymore time. Of course, you do need to understand how best to engage before you jump in. Here are a few quick ways to start creating more PR for your small business:

1 – Create a Twitter profile and gain followers by “Tweeting” about your business, surrounding businesses and community topics that map back to your business. Build buzz about what you provide – can you Tweet special coupons? Can you give advice? Can you share relevant information to your community? Do you have an event you want to invite local prospects to? Twitter, an emerging PR strategy with an increasing audience, is a great way to quickly (140 characters or less) get a message out and position yourself as a leader. Remember, it’s not all about you; you must talk about the world around you to make an impact. Start off Tweeting about your business, but quickly begin integrating Tweets about your customers, your community, and your industry – and the most important part is to provide some kind of value or benefit in your tweets. Be respectable as well. And if you see someone comment about your business online (good or bad) – respond online for all to see. It’s a great way to show you are committed to your customers. The cost to you? It’s essentially free PR for your small business.

2 – Create free profiles on Linked In and Facebook. All you need for Linked In is a profile of you, and from there, you can create a group where you can share stories, news, and other PR about your small business. People can ping you for questions which positions you as an expert and, you can join interest groups that will help you track what other potential buyers in your community do, say and think. For Facebook, simply select “business” on the homepage to create a business “fan” page. Local residents, family and friends can then become “fans” of your company, which is an easy way to highlight the most recent PR about your small business. All you have to do is commit to posting news, updates, coupons, photos and other interactive content to get people engaged. Remember – provide a benefit – a reason for your “fans” to come back for more.

In addition to these PR strategy tips, there are local meet-up groups in every community that often originate from the Web, and then meet offline to have a real interactive discussion. Check out Meetup.com in your area to find one.

Confused about this new world of social media? Read Groundswell by two Forrester Research analysts, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. This book will set you straight and get you excited about the opportunities out there in terms of online PR for your small business.

Grow Local

Much like how consumers like to buy from locally grown farms, small businesses tend to buy from their peers – other small businesses. An effective PR strategy is all about supporting your local communities, and these days, that’s more important than ever. Keeping this in mind, focus on your community by generating PR for your small business at local events. Depending on your business, there are often specialty groups for different types of businesses such as professional service specialty groups. Often these groups gather monthly or quarterly to share best practices and to network. There are certainly general small business groups in your community such as your local Chamber that meet regularly as well. Beyond networking events, you can get ink for your business. Most Chambers have monthly newsletters or emails. Do you have something to say? Could you contribute twice a year with a special promotion to drive people to your business? Take advantage of these opportunities to fuel word-of-mouth marketing through PR for your small business. Hand out business cards, build relationships and follow-up. These opportunities are right outside your door.

Think grassroots.

Shake hands with other small businesses owners, refer each other and grow your business. To improve PR for your small business, think about what events are taking place this weekend where you could set up space, hand out collateral, serve up some hotdogs, and generate solid leads. Is there an art show or “Taste Of” type of event? Don’t take it all on yourself; partner with other local businesses right in your area to split costs and cross-sell to each other’s customers. A hand-shake goes a long way towards an effective PR strategy. Add a coupon and see the results. Most communities have annual events that bring hundreds/thousands of people – target those. In terms of PR for a small business, the best thing you can do is to connect directly to your audience by showing your personality and your value – get out there!

Leverage Local Media.

Another important element of your PR strategy involves local brand development, which means building relationships with local media. Yes, there is still benefit in reaching out to traditional media when it comes to PR for your small business. Take a moment to find out who your local reporters are and introduce yourself. Share with your new media contacts areas of expertise that you would be able to discuss if requested. If you create a relationship with your local media and have something compelling or contrarian to say, chances are they will call you when they need your input. Consider a quick email to your local reporters with an introduction, a quick reference of your expertise and what you could comment on. Being timely and relevant is critical to your PR strategy. Offer a cup of coffee. Those relationships can go a long way when you really want to make noise in the community. It’s important to know that if you want coverage and/or additional PR for your small business – you won’t get it with a cold pitch. You must: 1) – establish a relationship; 2) – have news to share that’s relevant, unique or at least different; and 3) – have a product/or service that is remarkable. These rules ring true for influential bloggers as well. For more on being remarkable, read Seth Godin’s Purple Cow – a great, quick read that will get you thinking about how to stand out from the rest to grow your business.

Blending Old and New: Building PR for a Small Business

Hopefully these PR strategy tips will help you build a brand for your small business and generate new and recurring business via PR. Communicating to customers and enabling them to communicate back to you is essential in today’s social world of media. However, what remains important today as it did 100 years ago is the face-to-face interaction. Nothing will replace it, so make sure you show your face and personality in the community. Coupling the old with the new will ensure a successful PR strategy for your small business.

Small Businesses – To Tweet Or Not to Tweet

Social media’s reputation with small business has really been on a roller coaster ride this year. First, the “2009 Tribalization of Business Survey” reported that that 94% of small businesses plan to increase or maintain their social media budgets. Then came the Citibank Small Business survey that found 75% of small businesses have not found social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to be of value in generating leads or revenue for their businesses.

So what are we small business owners and marketers supposed to believe about the effectiveness of social media as a lead generation and revenue driving marketing tool? Wanna know what I think? I think it’s free – SO WHO CARES (what the reports say)? OK, I realize that may sound short-sighted and maybe even irresponsible to some of you, but think about it: what if someone offered to mention your business to 100 friends – for free – would you stop them? As long as it wasn’t a negative mention – of course you wouldn’t. I’ll make it even more realistic: what if 100, 1000 or even 10,000 customers and potential customers asked you to send them something of interest, either about your business, your industry or even you, on a regular basis and all you had to do is spend 15 minutes to prepare that message – would you do it? I hope your answer is yes. Guess what? That is exactly what social networking is. So then why would you automatically rule out social media as another way to promote your business without giving it the old entrepreneurial try?

With over 200 million people using Facebook alone, social media can’t be ignored as a viable and respectable marketing tool. Yet for many small business owners it’s still a big ole scary unknown. But let’s face it, social media is the fastest, easiest and least expensive way to build a presence and earn trust; but it still takes planning – and time. What harm is there in trying it? As long as you follow a few simple “rules” there is no harm- it can only help. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Start small – Start with 2 social networking sites you are somewhat familiar with. Got a personal Facebook or LinkedIn profile? Great – set up a page for your business. You already know how to use the site; you already have a few friends, so use that to your advantage. The great thing about being in business for yourself is that your friends want to help you. Recruit them as your first fans. When they become fans of your business page, all of their friends see that- a great way to start building your business network.

2. Become a fan or a follower – Your job (at first) is to watch and learn. Find companies that you like, especially those that are relevant to your business, and follow them (on Twitter) or become a fan (on Facebook) to learn what they do to stay in touch with their audience. On Twitter, I love @Zappos and @SmallbizMag and on Facebook Whole Foods. Another tip – search for people or businesses that are most likely to buy your products or services and follow them on Twitter. This will help you get to know them better and they may decide to follow you too!

3. Don’t Sell – When you do start tweeting or updating your status the biggest mistake you can make is to start selling. No one is on social networking sites to have products and services crammed down their throats. That is the quickest way to alienate your social networking followers. Watch what other companies do – I have never seen Zappos even mention shoes in their tweets and Whole Foods – although they will promote specials and sales – they are usually promoting seasonal recipes or healthy eating tips that I find very interesting and almost always take the time to read. What are they doing? Getting me to know, like and trust them, so that when I do want to buy what they sell, I will think of them.

4. Be helpful – There is no better way to start growing your social networking community than by helping others. Follow others in your industry (I would stay away from competitors) and repost their blogs or help them promote their events by retweeting or posting on your Facebook status if you think your followers will be interested in the content. By doing this you are making friends with others in your industry who may later refer you and you are offering interesting and educational content to your readers. Voila, you’re a social networker!

That’s it, 4 simple steps to get you started on your path to social networking success. Remember, social media is not going to take over the world as the only way to promote your business – it’s is just another tool in your toolbox. Used as part of a marketing plan, along with other forms of promotion, it can help you grow your business. Does it take a little time? Of course it does. But if you aren’t investing time growing your business, is your business really growing?

Staff Training Tips – Training Your Small Business Employees

For businesses with a larger workforce, training often requires outsourcing to some degree. In this environment, training becomes less the responsibility of managers. Instead, they merely juggle workloads and provide materials. Conversely, small business owners have smaller training needs and usually a smaller budget to match. As such, they are left to teach their own staff, usually with no experience or background in effectively facilitating a classroom environment. For those business owners, the following staff training tips may prove useful. These tips are written with a small, informal training approach in mind as most small businesses have less than 20 employees.

Staff training tips one is to keep business needs firmly in mind. Do all your employees really need to know how to use all of the office software? Is safety training for equipment usage necessary for all staff that? Would time management training benefit both office and production employees? Keep company goals and objectives firmly in mind when deciding what training, and what training methods work best for your business. A realistic approach to what your business needs in terms of training will keep costs down and prevent boredom on behalf of the employees who really stand to gain nothing from training.

Staff training tips two is to get employees invested in training programs. Engage in discussions with employees about what training they feel would be useful to their job. Ask for recommendations from employees. This not only will help keep employees motivated in training activities, but will also take some of the pressure off “mandatory” training programs. Additionally, by soliciting employee involvement, businesses can determine what training methods work best for the majority of employees’ learning styles. Perhaps they learn better with hands on training, or with audio and visual aids such as video tutorials. Knowing this information can help make training efforts more effective.

Finally, staff training tips three is to ensure you use quality instructional materials and services. If a particular training requires bringing in outside instructors, make sure they are qualified and present the material in such a way as to keep employees’ attention. Ensure training materials such as workbooks, manuals, video tutorials, or online classes are also of quality. These materials should not only offer accurate information, but also present it in such a way as to instill staff confidence in what your employees are learning, as well as their ability to apply it to their work life. Keep these three training tips in mind and you should have a more successful experience training your staff for whatever your business requires.