The Australian Small Business Blog

Monday, December 18, 2006

Diary of a New Business- 5. The Critical Success Factors

In the last chapter we reality checked the business model I wanted to use. This was an online, one to many coaching model. But for it to work, I needed to identify the critical success factors, the areas that required special attention, whether I had the skill in them or not. Particularly if I didn’t have the skill!

The first factor I identified, was that this business would live or die on Marketing, particularly eMarketing. The concept was that most clients would be drawn to the business through online marketing.

But there are two fundamental steps in eMarketing. The first is traffic generation. The second step was the conversion of traffic to sales. Now with my existing business, this was done with a particular style of website which would result in a call to action, with the clients requesting a consultation.

But in the new business, I could not afford to give away consultations, as the investment for clients had been drastically reduced. The major difference between the businesses, was that while for private coaching, the sale was made offline, for the new business, the sale had to be made online. This was a major difference in the business models and would require a totally different approach.

If you visit both and you will see a totally different marketing approach.

But I did not want to rely on online marketing alone. It was also important to establish offline marketing as well to promote the business through other channels. This ultimately created opportunities I had not even conceived of at this stage.

The next step was to recognise that the level of sophistication of the technology for the online coaching site was an order of magnitude greater than the private coaching site. While there are many bells and whistles on the Empower site, it was basically a lead generator site. Once people became clients, they did not need to reference the site again. The new website was also to be a service delivery vehicle, requiring a certain level of automation to reduce the costs.

But even the marketing component of the new site required greater sophistication, as it had to manage and convert a higher volume of traffic in order to generate the level of sales to give a return on the investment in time and money.

So technology was also a critical success factor.

If I was successful in attracting clients only to lose them in a month or two, the business would not be a success. Therefore, the retention strategy was also a critical success factor. This came in two components, ongoing marketing strategies, and the quality of the service content.

And finally, as the costs were to be slashed, the business processes had to be as efficient as possible and I needed to be able to leverage my time. There had to be the right mixture of personal attention, and seamless support.

There were, of course, many other components to be considered, but these were the Critical Success Factors. The ones, that if I did not get right, would result in business failure. So I had to develop a plan to address each of these, before I could get started.

What are the Critical Success Factors for Your Business? Do you have a plan to address them?

If you want to ask questions or make a comment on Critical Success factors, please post a comment below.

The next article in this Diary of a New Business will be: Getting the Marketing Right.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Public Speaking Myths Debunked

There are some myths about public speaking that need debunking. Here are some of the and the truths:

One myth is that speaking in public is innate. In other words, some people can do it; others can’t.

The truth is that almost anyone can become an excellent public speaker if they know what to do and how to do it. Research has shown that it is 80% skill and 20% “gift of the gab”. The natural leaders and extroverts are given many more opportunities to speak up. They often volunteer to “say a few words”. Hence, they get more practice and become more confident and competent. The reluctant speaker can be taught how to learn tricks and methods. The 5Ps (prior practice prevents poor performance) helps as does many other tips.

A second myth is that you do not need to look at your audience. You can look above them or just scan the room in a vague sort of way.

The truth is that you must look at your audience. How else can you tell that they are responding to you? And this is the way to connect with them, which is exactly what a good speech does! When you are showing visual aids, you must still look at your audience and not the slide or power point. (You can quickly scan the monitor to make sure which slide is up) otherwise you may not know how long to leave a visual up there.

A third myth is related to the second one: imagine your audience naked!

What an off putting idea! Seriously, would you really like to strip middle aged men and women naked as you talk? You would probably burst out laughing! Besides, it will take your mind off what you are saying. Keeping your mind on what you are saying, stops you going blank and focuses you on your topic, which is what you should be thinking about 100% of the time!

Another myth is that it is okay to read a speech.

No, it is not! You can have the whole thing written out if you need to. However, you are better off with dot point notes and clear sequence ready. You need to learn the first bit off by heart and especially the last bit. Use “ready, aim fire” to say your speech. That means you look down when you need to, to see what is next. Look up (aim) and then “fire” the words at a particular person or people.

The last one that is also wrong is that a speech is like an essay.

No, it’s not! A speech has some common elements: Introduction, body, conclusion. Metaphors work well in both and language is important. However, in an essay, you need

Judith Field is the director of Direct Speech.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Branding Lesson 6 – How to Package your Brand : Are You Reflecting the Right Image?

Branding is your identity in the marketplace, is yours saying what it should? Your organisation image is all about the appearance of your packaging. What is your organisation image saying to the marketplace?

It's important to realize that packaging always either has a negative or positive influence on the purchaser. A negative impression can detour a potential customer, just as a positive reaction can influence a customer to buy. A time to pay special attention to your packaging is when you are in the launch of a "new" brand. If you've already built a strong brand that others recognize often people may not pay as close attention to the packaging.

How can you package your brand so that it is an integral part of your business and represents a strong identity? Keep in mind that I am not speaking of packaging has only a box that contains a product, but as a vehicle that reflects your organisation's brand and image.

Packaging can be judged and represented by the following common business tools:

  • business cards and stationery
  • Banners and digital printing
  • website
  • answering system
  • email address

What image are you putting across with these business tools that you use everyday? What are they saying about your organisation? Take a few moments and lets look at each one of these.

What are your business cards and stationery saying? Are they saying we are strong, we are confident, and we can succeed in helping you? Or does it reflect an image that says we are flimsy, our dynamics are minimal, and we will try but we cannot guarantee continuity?

What does your web site say about your organisation? Does it reflect professionalism, clarity, and show them that you respect and care about them? Or does your web site confuse viewers, project an untrustworthy image of your organisation and ultimately drive potential customers away?

What does your answering system and call return policy say about your organisation? Does it say we are here to help, eager for you business and will do what it takes? Or is it putting across the message that you are too busy to cater to new clientele, don't care about their needs, or wish they would just go away?

What does your email address say about your organisation? Does it suggest your role in the organisation, is it easy to remember, and does it something about you and your business? Or does it project a meaningless or generic emptiness? If you are using the email address for your business's time to change!!!!!

As you can see all these things speak volumes about your image and they either strengthen or weaken your brand. Your image is all in the packaging. Would potential clients take a second look or is your message getting lost? If you thought these things were not worth the investment or didn't matter, you were wrong. Clients and customers will make assessments of your organisation based on these things and while not always conscious, that customer appraisal says much about your business, your attitude and your priorities.

Australia Top ten Brands (As determined by Interbrand) $ Billions (2005)

1. Telstra $9.3
2. Commonwealth Bank $4
3. Westpac $3.6
4. ANZ $2.9
5. Woolworths $2.5
6. National Australia Bank $2.4
7. Billabong $1.1
8. St George $ 1.0
9. Macquarie Bank $0.83
10. Qantas $0.82

What number are you? What is your brand value??

"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own." - Benjamin Disraeli, - British Prime Minister

Richard Gill is the Director of The Banner Lady.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Saturday, December 02, 2006

How to deal with nerves in public speaking

As business owners we are often have to speak publically to Promote our Business. But when most people get up to speak, they are scared, even the ones who don’t appear to be nervous. Fear of public speaking is the number one fear in the United States! 97% of the population would rather be dead than speak. So, here are some tips to really shift the nerves.

Firstly, do plenty of practice. Remember the 5 Ps: Prior Practice Prevents Poor Performance. You do not need to practice in front of a mirror. However, you do need to see yourself up in front of the actual or imagined audience.

You should précis your points down to point form and have them on a small piece of paper. If you do need to have the whole thing written out, place it on the lectern and only look at it when you need to IN SILENCE.

Practice the voice changes and the gestures as well, in your head, if not in fact.

When you do speak on the real occasion, go to the toilet before you speak and drink a glass of water to keep the voice lubricated. Focus on what you are saying the whole time. As soon as you become “self conscious” you will start to be distracted and then you could become nervous, wondering what they are thinking of you. All your energy needs to be on what you are communicating out, not what you imagine they are thinking about you!
(I know that’s easier said than done.)

If you really believe what you are saying and speak with a mix of logic and emotion, connecting with the audience, even cracking an occasional joke, they will love it.

Lastly, breathe deeply to calm your nerves. It allows your voice to come up and you will have more pauses when you give yourself permission to breathe deeply. (Don’t over do the deep breathing or you could hyperventilate)

So, remember, nerves are normal. Harness them. Connect with your audience and practice, frequently.

Judith Field is the director of Direct Speech and provides education and training in public speaking.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Diary of a New Business- 4. The Reality Check

After considering a number of business models, I had come to a conclusion that an online group coaching model was going to meet all my objectives while utilising my competitive advantages. But would it work? Would it make money? Could I work less?

So it was time to do a Reality Check before I started to invest the considerable time and financial resources that I knew it would take to create the new business. To do this I needed to create a financial model to see if the new business could make money.

The first step was to consider the costs of the new business. These included, the cost of the website- which was not going to be cheap, the cost of operations and the cost of my time. To value my time, I looked at the opportunity cost of not continuing my existing business. In other words, I needed to be able to make more than I was making in my existing business. I also needed to make estimates on the time it would take to manage the business and provide the service. I also needed to consider the types of products I would offer.

The next step was to consider how much I should charge for the service. I started to consider what alternatives there were in the marketplace, but as what I was proposing was novel, it was not possible to make direct comparisons. But I was able to establish a working range.

With this information, I was able to determine how many clients I would need and how much I would need to charge to make the business viable. While I could handle many more clients with this business model, there was some incremental time cost to each new client. After experimenting with time, cost and income, I was able to establish some pricing points with numbers that were easily manageable, and prices that fit within my target range.

But there was one step left in the reality check. Was the number of clients achievable given the marketing allowance that I had made for the business? Fortunately, I had a reasonable handle on possible numbers based on my marketing experience with my existing business.

The new business was going to be Australia wide while my existing business was only actively marketed in Melbourne. And I already had a measure of those who wanted my services but were unable to afford private coaching. So it was possible for me to estimate for a given marketing effort, the number of clients that it would be possible to attract.

Note, all this was done before detailed planning of the business and the development of anything beyond a very basic marketing strategy which was little more than an extension of my existing strategy. But this was a screening exercise, a reality check. Up to this point, the resource expenditure was mainly my time. Daydreaming, and daydreaming inspired research. My financial exposure was very small.

Have you done a Reality Check for your new business, or new business strategy?

The next article in this Diary of a New Business will be: The Critical Success Factors.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Design your business before you plan it - Part 1.

By Ron Stark

Designing your business for success comes long before you even think of having a business plan, or even understanding what a business plan is. So how can you define a successful business?

The best answer I can come up with is this: A successful business is one that delivers on your expectations and meets your needs.

That in turn means it is necessary to understand your own view of success first, if you're to have any hope of starting a successful business. After all, one person's motivation may be to start a corporate empire, another's to supplement their retirement income, and some, because they've just been retrenched and need a job. In each case it's not the business itself that defines success, but the founder's wants, needs and expectations.

You as an individual

Many people fall into the trap of starting a business for its glamour, its perceived profits or because it's a well-known franchise, and fail because they've overlooked the most important thing of all - your new business depends on your individual skills, experience and personality.

Some of the things you need to carefully examine are:

  • Be honest with yourself about why you want to start a business. There are no right or wrong reasons, providing the business you want to start fits your motivation for doing so.

  • Research what a particular business demands by way of skills - don't guess. If possible talk to others in similar businesses.

  • Match your skills and experience to the requirements of the business. Be brutally honest with yourself - if you don't have the necessary skills, be prepared to employ somebody, outsource the work or get training. Once your business is running, you will be the key employee in your business, and you don't want to employ the wrong person!

  • Explore the impact of your new business on your lifestyle. For example, if you have a young family, starting a business that needs to be open 14 hours a day, your lifestyle and family are likely to suffer.

  • Consider the chores and tasks that you love - and absolutely hate. The thrill of a new business quickly disappears if you are always compelled to do those things you hate or are not good at.

Exploring one's self is usually very difficult, especially when reality risks getting in the way of your dream. If this is you, then it is best that you speak to an expert who is trained to ask the right questions. Your success may well depend on it.

The next article will look at you as an investor in your own business.

Ron Stark is the founder of Business Kits, a company specialising in helping new businesses before and during their crucial design and startup stage.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

We vs I; The importance of grammar and getting it right.

I learnt the hard way. I thought it was what businesses wanted. Clients would ask to sound ‘big’, even though some clients were actually sole traders. As a writer, it’s my purpose to put words on paper; to research the product, business or service that a client wants to showcase. It’s my role to ensure the appropriate language which truly represents their style is featured throughout. Easy, huh? That’s what I thought.

I found that clients wanted to sound like corporations; they wanted words on brochures, websites, pamphlets, and letters which made them portray an image of professionalism and tone, something which made them sound like a CEO of a national bank. Trouble is, they weren’t – they were running small businesses with fewer than 5 people and less than $750,000 in annual turnover. An IT client of mine - with fewer than 3 employees, wanted to ‘sound big’. The client was situated slap-bang in the heart of community life, near a busy road with plenty of run-on traffic. He could offer something which the bigger firms couldn’t: personal service. The client was adamant of the words he wanted and the approach he deemed suitable.

He gave me a document which contained IT babble and techo jargon, something about a flux capacitor, IP provision service, and an accredited service of integrated network solutions. I had no idea what to write. Yet I had my brief. Work needed to be done and a client had to be satisfied.

I researched and wrote away until the early hours. Pleased with my work, I slept on it and awoke fresh and raring to go. I open the word document which contained my words. And guess what? I hated it. It contained the following:

· Frameworks, going forward, leveraging, solution and integration.

Do these words mean anything to you? Chances are they don’t mean much to anyone outside of the IT industry. Corporate rubbish morphed into small business. Worse, it contained too many nouns (“direct return on investment and maximum business efficiency with our integrated IT solutions”). I learnt that business professionals, especially those running a smaller venture, don’t have to pretend. Words are you. The words you use should sum up everything about you.

Too many people get caught up in sounding like someone else. Business people are afraid to write how they speak. They use big words and long sentences. For example, I was presented with the following:

“We are preparing a vigorous review of our financial structure and budgetary constraints and have identified the Research and Development department as a major contributor of growth and innovation for this company which remains vehemently geared towards technology driven solutions.”

Try saying that over a wine with friends. The sentence meant, “We are reviewing our finances.”

I learnt that people should be open, lively, friendly, and convincing. Businesses come to me because of this very reason.

Stuart Evans is a professional copywriter, PR practitioner and freelance journalist and is the director of Vibe Communications.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Diary of a New Business- 3. The Business Model

When you are considering a new business, it is essential to identify your business model. You may be selling widgets, but how are you doing that. Will you sell through your own retail store. Will you be a distributor who sells to retailers? Will you use network marketing? Will you sell online?

Each of these models has its own pros and cons. And this is where your original motivator (see previous article) comes in to assist you in determining which model is best for you.

In my case, my motivation was to actually make more money by working less. Therefore a business model based on selling more coaching hours even at higher prices was not going to satisfy my objective. This business model would always be totally dependent on myself, and would require more and more of my time, spent either in delivering my coaching services, or undertaking marketing which would justify continual price increases. Looking five years from now, that was not what I wanted. I needed a business that I could eventually separate from myself, potentially franchise, and create a passive income. Private coaching was never going to achieve that objective.

So what other models are there? I have been approached by a number of new coaches who wanted me either to hire them, or licence them. In both cases, there was the issue of quality control. I offer a premium service based on my experience and qualifications. This is very hard to replicate with others. If I brought in employees or licensees, I would have to set up a quality assurance process, and a lot of other systems that would create even more work for me. And I had seen a number of coaching franchises fail. It was not that I believed that a good franchise model couldn’t be created, as there are several that appear to be successful, but there will always be that tension between maximising franchise sales and maintaining coach quality.

A model that utilises other coaches to leverage my time, would take even more of my time, and I would also be competing in a territory with some very established competitors, without any particular competitive advantages. When I combined these factors with a mismatch with my motivation, it was clear that this was not the business model for me.

Creating and selling coaching products was another business model I considered. Again, there are a lot of products available in the marketplace and I would need to differentiate my brand. If successful, this would be a great way of providing a passive income. Now I did not reject this model, but I felt it was not viable for me, on its own. It would be something I would want to do, but longer term leveraging off my other activities. I saw this as complimentary to my main business model, not its primary focus.

The other obvious model was a one-to-many coaching model, so that I was selling the same hours many times. This was much more in line with my motivation. But how would I deliver such a service? There are coaches who have regular group coaching sessions at their offices or in a hired room. And while that could have worked for me, and I would be happy to do that, there was another factor to be considered. This time, one where I had a distinct competitive advantage.

A growing percentage of my existing business was coming from the internet. In fact, in most of my keywords I was on the front page of google. eMarketing was a very strong competitive advantage for me. So the logical choice for me was to provide an online coaching resource where clients would get the benefit of my knowledge with a much reduced component of my personal time.

With an online coaching model, I would be able to leverage my time, and also create a business which could over time, run without me. Now this was a business model that was aligned with both my motivation and my competitive advantages.

Does your business model align with your motivation, your competitive advantages and your long term objectives?

The next article in this Diary of a New Business will be: The Reality Check.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Business Insurance – Protect Your Assets

So, you’ve developed the idea, the marketing plan, identified your customer base and raised the capital that will enable you to realize your dream….. running your own business.

One very important aspect of risk management is insurance. Protecting one’s assets from unforeseen events such as fire, theft, storms and other losses, is one of the most important considerations any business owners faces.

After 26 years in the insurance business, I still get those calls from anxious clients who left their risk management strategies to the last minute.

Each business enterprise has its own unique set of risk exposures depending on their scope of activities, products manufactured, imported and sold to customers, geographic location and the list goes on.

Just how an organization protects itself from unforeseen events is a specialized area and an insurance broker is there to assist you identify your risk exposures and minimize loss, through a tailored insurance program.

In this article, I would like to briefly explain a number of products available to you, the business owner.

Business Insurance

Generally provides a tailored package of individual covers including, fire, business interruption, burglary and theft, loss of money, glass breakage, machinery breakdown, accidental damage and general / products liability.

A brief explanation is provided and should be used as a guide only. For complete details of the terms and conditions of this type of insurance contract, refer to the various policy wording available upon request.

Fire and Extraneous Perils

Covers you against loss to your assets resulting from fire, storm, lightning, riots and civil commotion where offered, flood. Many insurers provide benefits in addition to the above.

Business interruption

Losses resulting from the above examples can have a significant impact upon your capacity to trade. This may result in a reduction of revenue derived from selling your goods and or services. A large number of businesses do not have adequate protection in this area.

Burglary and theft

Break, enter and theft is a serious cause of many losses. With these illegal activities on the increase, this cover is most important for the discerning business proprietor.


Provides cover for loss of money and other negotiable instruments against loss from theft or holdup for example. Cover money in transit, at private residence, on the business premises during business hours, outside business hours, in safe or strong room.

Plate Glass

Damage to fixed plate glass both internal and external

General and Products Liability

Provides cover against damage to third party property or damage and or injury to third party persons, resulting from the insured’s negligence. Damage or injury resulting from the use of products may also be covered.

This provides a generalized overview of business insurance. It is important that you seek the professional advice from a qualified insurance broker who can identify your risk exposures and then tailor a product that suits your requirements.

Koert Slik is the National Development Manager of NAS Insurance Brokers.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Golden Rules of Websites - Rule 3 in a series

By Ron Stark

Your sales rep is busy making 20 or 30 sales calls each day. He's working long hours, meeting customers after hours as well at weekends. He's handing out brochures to everybody he meets. He's telling prospects about a fantastic offer that you've got going. His social life is just as frantic - at every opportunity he's networking, handing out business cards and telling everyboody how good your business is. He's even leaving flyers in letter boxes in his neighbourhood. He epitomises enthusiasm and commitment.

But for some reason he rarely gets new customers or makes new sales.

As a responsible business owner you want to find out why. To your dismay you discover that the brochures he's handing out describe products that were replaced two years previously. That special offer expired six months ago. The business cards he's using have got the wrong phone number - it was disconnected a year ago. And you changed your service provider to save some money and the email address on your business cards and flyers is out of date so that emails bounce with the "Unknown Address" error.

You call him into the office, only to discover that he looks like a refugee from the '90s.

It's an intolerable situation, right? Let me guess - you fire him. Or maybe you tell him to improve his appearance, issue him with the proper sales collateral and give him new business cards. Assuming, of course, that you're still in business. Or perhaps you're thinking "That's just plain stupid - it would never happen in my business."

Why, then, do so many businesses let their website do exactly the same things? It's working 24 hours a day, with obsolete information and an "email us" link that goes to the wrong address. It has an outdated design with blinking text and brash colours. The "Contact Details have the wrong phone number, and the "Coming Soon" link should read "Long Gone".

If this applies to you, fire your website by getting rid of it, or urgently bring it into line with your business. While you still are in business.

Golden Rule 3

If you don't accept the discipline of maintaining your website, you're probably better off without one.

This is the third article in a series that exposes the many, yet frequently overlooked fundamental business principles that successful websites should follow. The author Ron Stark is the founder of Snapsite, who take the trouble to understand your business.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Diary of a New Business- 2. My Motivation

As a business coach, my mantra to my clients is that you must make your business to be able to run without you in order for you to have something to sell. In fact, the slogan for Empower Business Solutions is:

Multiplying Your Profits & Making Your Business Run without You.

I have helped a number of businesses do just that. But I always felt guilty when saying this, because my business was still totally dependent on me! How can I preach one thing but do another. But it was more than that. I desired my own business to run without me. I did not start up a business just to end up as a bitter and twisted sole trader. I always had a plan to make my business less dependent on myself. To create an asset that would give me a good income. One which would allow me to work less, not more.

The first step was to have an assistant. The actual step of finding someone who I could trust and depend on, was for me fairly strait forward. I now work with a lady whom I have known for a number of years and have grown to admire for her organisational skills. But the biggest step was making the commitment to bring someone into my business, to see behind the veil, warts and all!

But I did it, and have not regretted it for an instant. My struggle now is on a daily basis to take more off my plate and to transfer it to hers. But every time I sit in front of a client, I am constantly reminding myself I have to do more.

However, even if I was able to reduce my work to pure Brain Surgery, there was a limit to my growth. When I deliver my service, I spend my time directly with my clients. I spend hours per month with each of my clients. And there are only so many hours in the day I can sell. So I needed a way to change my business model.

The obvious ways are firstly to increase my prices, which I was able to do as I was getting a large amount of enquires from people who wanted my services. But at some point, there is price resistance, and you need to spend more effort on marketing. This is when you hit your marketing sweet spot. (Watch out for a future article on that.) You can also look at ways of reducing the hours you spend on each client, but in the end, this is just increasing your effective hourly rate and can compromise your service.

Both of these options were basically just a continuation of the same business model at higher rates. And it was not going to allow me to achieve my objective of making more money by working less. So my search began for different business models that would help me achieve that goal.

When you create a new business, you must have in your mind some motivator, which might at first be very vague. My motivator was to create a business that could run without me. But that motivator allows you to find a direction for your business and a reason to follow it. Once you have identified your direction your motivation will compel you to achieve your objective.

What is your primary motivator?

The next article in this Diary of a New Business will be: The Business Model.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Diary of a New Business- 1. Introduction

Recently I launched a new business, the Australian Business Coaching Club. This is not my first business, but is certainly the most ambitious. Today I have decided to provide on this blog, the steps I took, and why I took them and to share some of the learnings that I have had from the experience. Over the coming months, I will provide some of the insights, the highs and the lows, of putting this business together and the outcomes of the business.

As an experienced business person, I spent a lot of time, thinking and planning this new business. And particularly as a business coach, I was very aware of each step I was making, and that others around me were also interested in what I was doing and how I was doing it. But I knew even though I was experienced, not everything was going to go to plan. It would be harder than I imagined, and take longer. But as I was expecting that, my mindset was always to continue.

While my idea for this business started to crystallise at the beginning of this year, there was a period before then when I was searching for a new way of doing business, a new business model. And in the next blog I will talk about the motivation for my change.

But why am I doing this? In part it is because when I write, I find things become much clearer in my mind. And I very much enjoy writing. And from the feedback I have had, others enjoy what I write as well. But at the beginning of this year, I had made a commitment to creating this blog, which was a major commitment in time for me. But I decided I would take a different approach from many other bloggers, and invite others to contribute.

The original motivation for the blog, if you haven’t figured it out already, was for marketing, not vanity purposes! And it has worked pretty well. But I wanted to take it into a new phase. I will still invite others to contribute to this blog, but I also want to make it a little more personal. I will still post great articles by the experts that are currently contributing, as I have had some great feedback on these articles, but by creating this diary, I will be offering something that will not be available anywhere else. I will also be encouraging the authors to provide a little more of themselves, and anecdotes from their business.

My intention is by creating this more personal focus by myself and my authors, it will give far more insight to those who are following this blog than just a “how to” guide you might get anywhere.

There is one further motivation I have. I want to make a public commitment for next year, as I did last year. Last year, I publicly committed (pre-blog) to creating a business coaching club, although at the time, the concept was rather hazy, but a public commitment is a marvellous motivation to action. (When you stand up in public and say you are going to do something, and then don’t, there is a loss of standing amongst those to whom you made the commitment.)

This is my commitment for 2007, stated publicly. I will publish a book. There, I have said it. So whenever I meet my friends and colleagues in the coming months, they will be asking, how’s the book going?

Its not my only commitment for 2007. I have some fantastic plans for the Australian Business Coaching Club which I will reveal at a later date as well as a number of other projects which will not require a public announcement to provide motivation! I guess the idea of the book has been in my mind really from the time I launched my first business a few years back, but I was not really ready for it at the time. But 2007 will be the time.

Over my years as a Business Coach, I have created a large body of writings, including some earlier articles on this blog. This diary will also provide further raw material for this book. Obviously this will be a way for me to leverage my knowledge which was just not possible until I had sufficient materials prepared to produce my first Opus. This will not be the first time I have been published- my articles are everywhere! But it will be my first book.

Please let me know what you think about my ideas, and thank you to everyone who has supported me, and in the context of this space, those who have supported The Australian Small Business Blog.

In the next article in this Diary of a New Business will be: My Motivation.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Being Ready

I am all in favour of planning. In fact if you don’t plan your business, you are just relying on luck. And we all know how a strategy based on luck tends to work out. So planning is great. But you can overplan.

When you are preparing a new direction for your business, you will do some market research. Undertake some cost analysis. Prepare in detail new procedures. Which is, of course, very good. But at some point, you hit up against the law of diminishing returns. That last piece of optimisation and spit and polish can take as long as the rest of the planning put together. And for what benefit?

When you prepare a new strategy, you may try and plan for every eventuality. But there are some things that are just unknowable, and have to be based on an educated guess. As long as these factors are not showstoppers, you should not stop the show waiting for confirmation where none may be possible.

When you commence the launch, you will find from your first contact with the marketplace, that your customers are often not too interested in the details that you sweated over, and their interest is on other areas you thought were not so significant. You need to get this information quickly. And in many cases, this information will only be available post launch. So create a process where you obtain as much information from your customers as soon as you launch, or even have a pre-launch or pilot, then and have a plan to dot i’s and cross t’s very quickly thereafter.

When you delay a launch because you are not ready, there is a cost. The longer the delay, the higher the cost. So each day or week you delay, ask the question: will my customers value the improvements I am making? Can the incomplete pieces be an upgrade, a premium version, or a phase 2. And if you delay to long, the opportunity may disappear altogether.

Many delay and delay a launch because they feel that they are not ready. They are not sure they are making the right decision, and often look around to see what others are doing. But if what you are doing is new, this may be of little value. At some point, once you have covered all the bases you can cover, and have addressed the showstoppers, you just have to take the plunge.

Whenever you do something new, there will always be a risk. But if you have done your homework, being first can have huge rewards. Its not just about making the right decision. Its about taking a decision and doing everything you can to make it right.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Branding Lesson 5 -- Discover and Overcome Your Brand Barriers

by Richard Gill

When creating your brand strategy for a product or service it is important to perform a careful analysis to determine principal barriers that you may come in contact with. These barriers are also known as market conditions that can keep your product or service from achieving success.
For example they could include the following:

  • Competition
  • Timing
  • Financing
  • Product Location
  • Demand or Lack of Demand

In order to be prepared to face these obstacles or barriers it is important to spend time doing a careful analysis of your product or service. This analysis will assist you not only in the development of your brand, but also in the positioning of your product or service.
A careful analysis will assist you in answering the following questions:

  • Do you have a niche market?
  • What problem does your product or service solve?
  • How should you determine the price of your product or service?
  • Who are your potential customers and where can you find them?
  • Who are your biggest competitors? What can you do better than them?
  • How should you advertise?
  • Where will you find your target market?
  • Will you use new media or traditional media?

Now that you have your questions where do you start your market analysis? Starting your research is actually easier than you think, but it will take time. You will need to dedicate hours to this research in order for it to be useful and effective.

Let's start by visiting some very popular Internet websites that you can use for your market research:Is there a great demand for your product or service? Find out by using Yahoo Search Marketing(

By typing in key terms you can see how often your product or service is searched on the Internet.

Keep informed of competitors, current market conditions and trends in your vertical market by subscribing to trade publications, news alerts, and electronic newsletters. There are several directories available, but you can get started with those listed below:

Who makes up your target market? What are their statistics and economic position? Where are they located? You can find this information by viewing industry surveys and research documents. Get started using the following resources:

Use the resources and questions above to analyze your market and discover any brand barriers you may come up against. I have no doubt that you will find at least one or more barriers. When you've located that barrier develop a plan to overcome it and move it out of your way so that you can move forward towards success in marketing your business.

Conduct Your Informal Market Analysis

The following questions will help you assess your market analysis. Make your study as complete as possible. Use the Internet to conduct research. You can also read news stories, business news, magazines, and others that are related to your target market. This will help you to narrow down your target by interest, demographic, and common trends. So now ……

  • Who is your target audience?
  • Where is your target audience located?
  • What do they think about your current brand?
  • What would you like them to think about your brand?
  • How will you attract them to your products or services?
  • Who else is competing for their loyalty and devotion?
  • Are you targeting business or consumer sectors?

Write Your Target Market Description

Using the questions above write a target market description. Be as specific as you like. The more specific the better. NOW draft a statement on the type of relationship you would like to have with your clients.

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
- T. S. Eliot

Richard Gill is the director of The Banner Lady- Creating Simply Beautiful Banners

The Australian Small Business Blog

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Are You Reluctant to Speak?

Business owners often find the best ways of marketing themselves, is to talk to groups of people.

You will be less nervous and look and sound more confident if you:

  • Firstly, practice the 5ps: Prior practice prevents poor performance.

  • Have your points on a small card and only look at it IN SILENCE. Then look up and fire the point at people.

  • See yourself up in front of the audience.

  • Look at their eyes. It’s not as scary as you may think. And how else are you going to judge if they are listening and looking, unless you look at them.

  • Stand tall and put your head up. Leave your hands at your sides and only let them come up to gesture naturally.

  • Project your voice form your diaphragm and from the front of your mouth.

  • Vary your voice as much as possible.

  • Smile, unless the topic is very serious.

  • Finish with a strong message.

  • Sum up all points briefly at the end (they will have forgotten most of them!)

  • Don’t walk off till you have finished.


Judith Field is the director of Direct Speech and provides advice on Public Speaking.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Monday, September 18, 2006

Finding Your Way through the Maze

As business owners we are constantly bombarded with “opportunities”. Everyone is promising something that is going to transform our business. But, by the time we have evaluated at all the opportunities, we seem to be back where we started from. And we have spent all that time and energy going around in circles in a maze.

In fact, for many owners, it is just like a maze. But here is a tip to help you get out of the maze. Can you remember when you were a kid, and you were given mazes to solve. Some were pretty easy. You could solve them without putting pen to paper. But others were so complex, that it didn’t matter where you started, or which turn you took, you always found yourself in a dead end.

And if you got really frustrated, just before you gave up, you tried starting at the end of the maze, and worked backwards. And in most cases, you were able to find your way to the beginning. The reason why this worked is that mazes are designed to stop you reaching the goal, and so offer you lots of promising opportunities or paths that lead nowhere. But when you start from the goal, you skip the dead ends.

Now as kids, we were discouraged from doing this because it was cheating. Like looking up the answer in the back of the book. But in business, as long as it is legal and ethical, its ok. So this is why it’s so important to start at your goal and work backwards to today. When you do that, all of a sudden, you recognise that most of the opportunities are actually dead ends.

When you have a long term goal, you can better see what you should be doing today to achieve your goals. And just as importantly, you can see what you should not be doing.

So, create a vision of what you want your business to look like in the future. Then put some detail on the vision. Ask yourself some questions like:

· What products and services will I be providing?
· Who will I be providing them to?
· How will I provide these services?
· What are the numerical targets behind these answers?
· When will I achieve them?

When you have answered these questions, you have described the end-point in the maze, and so now, you are over half the way to finding your way out.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Golden Rules of Websites - Rule 2 in a series

By Ron Stark

A fire can hospitalise you or cook your food. Water can sustain you or drown you. A motor car can get you to where you want to go or run over you. Your website can help your business or damage it.

Probably the most commonly overlooked aspect of having a website is its capacity to damage your business. To a visitor it's a window into your business. It tells your potential clients, in a few seconds, the type of business you appear to be - not always what you really are. It's all about initial impressions.

If left unattended, your website goes through three distinct phases. First, when initially built it's an accurate reflection of your business. Second, when your business has moved ahead and your procducts and services have changed but your website hasn't. This is the stage at which your website doesn't help at all, but it doesn't damage your business either.

The third stage is when your content is obviously out of date, products are obsolete, the telephone number is no longer working, links are broken and the email no longer works. The message about your business is then loud and clear - that you've gone out of business.

The key thing to remember is that just because you've forgotten your website and it's long out of date, it still lurks on the Internet, still visible to your potential clients, relentlessly working against your business.

Golden Rule 2

A website has equal capacity to enhance or damage your business. Which one is up to you.

There are other issues, however, unrelated to whether content is up to date, but nonetheless damaging to your business. I will touch on these in a subsequent article, but here are a few:

  • An opening Flash page may gratify your designer, but to your visitor it's an obstacle.
  • Complicated navigation may satisfy a website programmer's ego, but to your visitor it's irritating and makes your business appear messy to deal with.
  • An amateur design may save you some money, but to your visitor it makes your business look unprofessional.

This is the second article in a series that exposes the many, yet frequently overlooked basic business rules that successful websites should follow. The author Ron Stark is the founder of Snapsite, where your business needs come before technology.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Market to Thousands for Next to Nothing through Your Business Networking Group….

by Ben Angel

Not many business owners know how to get to their target market for next to nothing, but by utilising your existing contacts that you have met through your local business networking group, it’s well within reach.


By utilising an alliance strategy called a host beneficiary

A host beneficiary is where you offer another business owner a special gift or discount for your business for them to then pass on to their client base either via email or in person. Instead of marketing through tv, radio or the newspaper, you suddenly start marketing through your business colleagues instead.

It works out a hell of a lot cheaper and more targeted when you align with the right kind of business.

This strategy benefits the three parties involved, the business owner who takes credit for arranging the offer on behalf of your business, the clients themselves as they get a special gift or discount and you as you gain access to a new group of potential customers overnight.
The best way to market your business through a host beneficiary is to come up with a special offer that sparks instant interest from your fellow businesses client base.

This includes three important factors:

The offer must add value to the host businesses client base, ie. be relevant to what their clients are interested in or looking for
The offer must give enough incentive for them to pick up the phone or email you to take the offer up
The offer must be limited to a certain number of people to make it exclusive and engage a faster response

Write an article
If you don’t want to go down the way of making an offer or giving a free gift to get a new lead, you can write an article of relevance to your business contacts database and get them to forward it on with your contact details at the bottom of the article with links back to your website.

This strategy is very effective if you have aligned with a business owner that has the same niche market as yours but with slightly different products/services.

Marketed to 8000 for free once a month
A colleague of mine established a host beneficiary with a video store owner six months ago that was in perfect alignment with her business.

Since then she has been able to advertise to their database of 8000 at absolutely no charge. Normally the client acquisition costs for that kind of database would easily run into the thousands, instead she gave away a few free tickets to an event of hers that cost her next to nothing.

By thinking big like my colleague did, you will open yourself up to a new market and lower your client acquisition costs instantly.

Your business networking group
At business networking events and business networking groups you will get to meet businesses from a wide variety of industries, take advantage of the host beneficiary strategy as it focuses on the 20% of things that will get you the 80% of results.

Until next time happy business networking…

Ben Angel is the Director and Founder of Nationwide Networking a business networking group that meets monthly to share referrals, knowledge, gain business advice from keynote speakers and work together to proactively help each other grow their businesses.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Writing for the media

Many questions are asked about the correct writing style when pitching to the media.
The question that should always be asked is ‘what publication’?

Publications are wide ranging; topics vary and writing styles differ between them all, so it’s vital that you understand the publication and the in-house style guide.

It’s always the little things

Some publications use the sadly moribund semi colon; others chose to omit and opt for something different. Whatever the reason, get to know how your intended publication uses grammar and style. It’s your job to know, feel and study the publication.

Writing for print media is different to on-line. In the on-line domain you’ll see a plethora of abbreviated words and phrases which require the eye minimal study time. The web is there for scanning; print is there to absorb.

The definitive style guide to the correct format for writing media releases and documentation is often dictated by journalists and reporters.

Press Release

A conventional press release, sent via email but produced in word, is a brief document (no more than 2 pages) which must be double spaced and written in an easy to read font. Comic Sans has a time and place but it’s certainly not in a formal document announcing a product or service to experienced media professionals.

Email Release

The electronic age may be upon us, yet it doesn’t excuse poorly written material and badly punctuated sentences. Email, the apparent saviour of marketing, removes the personal touch from many communication practises. Email press releases are usually shorter in length and organised into three succinct paragraphs. Remember to include your company logo in a nice and compact file size. There’s little worse than sending a document to a journalist which takes 5 minutes to download.

Wasted words serve little purpose in all media releases. Check, check and check again.

Remember to include a compelling headline and an opening paragraph which covers the who, what, why, when and where questions. Finish your communication off with a short paragraph about your business and whom to contact.

Stuart Evans is a professional copywriter, PR practitioner and freelance journalist. He runs Vibe Communications, a communication consultancy specialising in helping small to medium sized business.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Your Business’ Most Important Asset

The most important asset in any business is not your high cost equipment, your intellectual property or even your customer base. All these things, with time and money can be replaced, although their loss could have a big impact on your business. But you would protect your business against loss of these assets, wouldn’t you? But there is one asset that is worth much more than any other asset. It can’t be replaced by spending money, and you can insure against its loss. I am talking about your time.

Most business owners poorly value their time. They do jobs that others could do for them, because they would have to pay someone else to do them. In fact, most business owners take out their own trash. Which must mean that their time is worth less than a trash collector.

Owners who glorify in being chief cook and bottle washer never achieve what most people call success. While you are doing your own fetching and carrying, who is talking to your customers? Your competitors? Who is working on your business? Certainly not you!

Often owners don’t delegate mundane work because they think no-one will do it as well as they do. Well that might be true if you don’t take the time to show others how you want a particular task done. And anyway, what business owner wants to be known as the greatest bookkeeper ever, unless they own a bookkeeping business.

Another reason owners don’t delegate is that they know they can complete the task much faster than training someone else to do it. But that just means that you, as the owner, are never free from that task. So if it normally takes you an hour to do a particular job, but it would take 3 hours to train someone to do it for you, and you did this job every week, after three weeks you would be better off and have an extra hour every week you never had before, if you delegated the task.

So look at how you spend your day. Studies show that 30% or more of people’s day is unproductive. How successful would you be if you were able to free up 12 extra hours a week? An extra day and a half?

The first step is to admit that you could be more productive. The second step is to commit the time and money in creating that extra time each week. Time in training others, and money in paying others to do these tasks.

The third step is to use the time you have created to improve your business. If you just use the time to do some other administrative task, you have achieved nothing. At the end of each hour and each day, ask yourself, what have I done to improve my business today. If you can’t think of an answer, look at what you were doing and ask how could I have given this work to someone else?

Value every second of your time. And as you delegate to others, make sure you use the created time to generate a return to your business that not only pays their wages, but adds to your bottom line.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Online PR - It’s all in the headline

As technology speeds up, it’s only natural that small business will try and keep updated with the changes. Whilst many pursue networking and traditional marketing means, Public Relations (PR) remains slightly lagging behind.

A secret behind getting your PR media release (the primary tool of PR) noticed lies in the headline. In fact, a great headline is often the difference between having your business published once and having it published a thousand times – and this could be over a variety of mediums (internet, print media).

Yes, the content and the body of the media release still have to contain factual information and be worthwhile (and not just a tale of propaganda on behalf of the business owner). But if your headline fails to deliver, you’ve probably wasted your time. Look at newspaper headlines and the way they grab attention. The best article in the world will never get read if the headline is substandard.

As communication and marketing messages increase, it’s vital that articles and media release submissions have a good, strong headline. Whilst it’s important to picture the reader when writing, the real focus should be placed on the publisher. For example, when writing for web publication the below should be followed.

List your argument

Most websites are sales tools and are sitting there for a reason. It could be to sell, persuade or inform – but look closely and you’ll always find an angle to approach. Look for what the publisher wants, and make sure your headline lets him know.

Don’t embellish

Remember the facts – there is no need for self-promotion as you’ll end up getting the publisher off-side. A big stand-out headline may work in mainstream media, but on the net it’s a slightly different story. Don’t lead the publisher into a promise when it can’t be backed up. Keep the headline simple but effective. And remember, people generally scan pages of the internet.

Don’t stop at one headline

Put yourself in the publisher’s shoes. Try to list a few headlines and work back. If possible, sleep on it and see how the headline looks the following day. Always aim for around 20 headlines at first.

Think about the readers

Think about the publication’s readers and what they may require. Websites attract a diverse range of visitors, so it’s always best to research the language and style that they are using. Publishers want articles that are interesting and informative to their audience.

As the web provides small businesses with a change to market to thousands of prospects, using PR as an effective tool can have great rewards. The important thing to remember is getting past the on-line editor.

Stuart Evans is a professional copywriter, PR practitioner and freelance journalist. He runs Vibe Communications, a communication consultancy specialising in helping small to medium sized business.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Developing Your Brand Strategy- Lesson 4

by Richard Gill

Focusing on your Target Audience

Your value proposition must be relevant to your target market. This means your target market must be clearly defined. It's not uncommon for a business to have to refocus and revisit their targeting, especially if it was not clearly identified in the beginning stages of business.

It is necessary to find the right balance when defining your target market in a way that causes your audience to recognize that you are talking specifically to them. This often requires companies to narrow down their target market. Be Specific.

Why is Your Target Market Important in Branding?
It does not matter what your Brand mission is, identifying and gaining the devotion of your target audience is the necessary means to reaching those objectives. To achieve your brand marketing goals it is important that you know your target market inside and out.
This requires conducting a market analysis. This market analysis must be as in-depth as possible providing you will all the data you need to reach your target effectively. By knowing your target audience you will be more confident in the steps to take to connect with that audience.

The power of your brand relies on the ability to focus. That is why defining your target market will help to strengthen your brand's effectiveness.

The first is to conduct an informal market analysis of your target market and the second is to write a target audience definition for your organisation. The instructions below will walk you through the process of completing these steps.

"If you want to get somewhere you have to know where you want to go and how to get there. Then never, never, never give up." - Norman Vincent Peale

Richard Gill is the Director of The Banner Lady

The Australian Small Business Blog

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Franchising Code of Conduct under Review

The Australian Government will begin a review of the disclosures section within the Franchising Code of Conduct following a series of red flags raised by certain sectors of the franchising industry.

"Over the past few months, a number of concerns have been raised regarding the adequacy of the disclosures section of the Franchising Code," said Fran Bailey, Minister for Small Business and Tourism.

It’s been almost eight years since the Franchising Code was introduced, and comes just months after a recent CPA Australia report titled, ‘When the Franchisor Fails’.

The study claims forty Australian franchisors have ceased trading over the last fifteen years. As a direct result, affecting some 1,090 franchisees and their families and potentially putting 11,500 Australian’s out of the workforce.

"Most people in the franchising sector do the right thing, but given the level of concern, I have decided to review the disclosures section of the Code," said Fran Bailey.

There is some concern that franchisors are not disclosing enough information relating to Directors experience and history.

The disclosures section includes information requirements that franchisors must disclose to prospective franchisees, before deciding to purchase a franchise. The review will consider all available evidence and make any necessary recommendations to improve the Code.

Bill Lockett of Franchise Systems Group believes franchisees should be taking more care before signing any agreement.

“Consumers should be conducting more due diligence before entering into a franchise agreement and should most definitely be investing in an experienced franchise consultant, like myself, to thoroughly explore the opportunity on behalf of the potential franchisee,” said Lockett.

The mandatory Franchising Code of Conduct was introduced in 1998 to improve fair trading in the franchising sector. The Code is supported by the Office of the Mediation Adviser to ensure speedy resolution of disputes.

"Overall, franchising is growing rapidly and an undoubted small business success story," Fran Bailey said.

Today, franchising is an $80 billion industry that employs more than 600,000 Australians.

“As Minister, my goal is to make franchising even stronger tomorrow than it is today."

Jake Challenor is the Managing Editor of I’m Boss TV, Australia’s first online television channel and magazine all about small business.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Hit Your Target Market with a Well Cooked Cross Promotion

Our society has never been so well connected, so why is it that business owners all around the world still can’t seem to get to their target markets faster?

With the “IT” landscape continuously changing, working out ways to take advantage of all of this new technology has never been so time consuming.

However, business owners and companies have never been in such a prime position to utilise their business connections to reach their target markets easier.

But how do you utilise your business networks to access more customers faster, reduce your marketing costs and create mass awareness in a relatively short amount of time.

IT Based Cross Promotional Strategies

Think for a moment, are there business owners out there that would like access to your existing client base?

Of course there are, there are 1000’s of businesses that would love to have that privilege. And alternatively are there businesses out there that you would like to access their target markets?

Goes without saying!

So what are you going to need to ensure you create a recipe for success for your IT based cross promotional strategy…

1 X Website
Access to email
Solid online strategy that has large emphasis on collecting individuals emails, names and phone numbers
Special offer/free gift that is time and quantity limited with a strong call to action (your offer/gift will be designed to help you convert clients)
A business/businesses that share your same target market and you both offer complimentary services to each other (In other words don’t approach your competitors unless you’re looking for a knuckle sandwich!!!)

Most of these ingredients are readily available online or at business networking events. Ensure you collect all of the above; miss out on one of the ingredients and your sure to come up with a half baked strategy. (Pun intended)

How does it work?

Step 1. Create a landing page on your website that has your special offer/free gift featured and only certain individuals with the required url address can access it. (You will forward this url address on via email)

Step 2. Take your special offer to another business and ask them if they would like to give their existing clients free gifts from your business, in exchange do they have free gifts they would like to give to your existing clients. (Only approach business owners you already know and have a solid relationship with, this strategy is based on trust more than anything)

Step 3. Create an email with your special offer/free gift that your fellow business owner can forward on to his existing database with ease or they can simply add a section to their next newsletter they send out. (The unique url will be placed within the email your business colleague forwards on to send your prospects to your special offer/free gift page)

Step 4. Do the same for your business colleague to your own database and guide them through the same process as mentioned above.

A few things you will need to consider for your strategy to work:

-Is your free offer compelling enough for individuals to hand over their contact details?

-Is it of add value to your business colleagues clients? If not, they won’t even consider forwarding it on, on your behalf.

-Do you have the best intentions? Those who go into this strategy looking to create a solid win/win will always come up trumps.

-Is your promotional offer well written, if you can’t write to save your life, pay a professional copy writer to do the job for you.

There you have it, one recipe for an IT based cross promotional strategy. It can serve you anywhere from 1 – 1000’s of prospective customers. Preparation time includes researching your target market, fellow business owners target market and coming up with a strategy that you will both benefit from greatly.

Remember to test and measure each cross promotional strategy you utilise and refine each time, like any marketing strategy it can take quite a few goes to get it right.

Ben Angel is the Director and Founder of Nationwide Networking an organisation dedicated to connecting the Australian Business Community together for mutual benefit.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Friday, August 04, 2006

Going into Business Part 2

Last month in the first part of this article I discussed some of the planning required to successfully start up a business. This month, I will cover a number of other important issues.

3. Structure

Before you commence business, you will need to consider the most appropriate structure to use. The most common structures to operate a business from, include, Companies, Discretionary Trusts, Partnerships or as Sole Trader.

Things you will need to consider when choosing your structure are Tax Minimisation, Asset Protection, Capital Gains Tax Implications upon sale of your business and who your clients will be.

Once you are making money in your business and want to start accumulating investment assets, it will also be necessary to have these in an appropriate structure, most likely separate from your trading structure.

4. Registrations

Before you commence trading you will need to make sure that you have the necessary registrations in place, such as:

- ABN & TFN, every business will need to make sure they have an Australian Business Number and a Tax File Number.
- GST, you will need to register for GST if your turnover is above $50,000. If it is below $50,000 you have the choice of being registered or not. If you do not register you cannot claim back the GST on your expenses.
- Business Name, If you are concerned about protecting your business name you may need to register it. If you have set up a company it may not be necessary.

If you will be employing staff members (including yourself) there are additional registrations that will need to be attended to.

- Withholding Tax. You will need to register to withhold tax from employee wages.
- Workcover. You will need to register to pay workcover on remuneration paid to staff members.
- Payroll Tax . Currently in Victoria, payroll tax needs to be paid on wages in excess of $550,000. Please note that every state has a different threshold for when payroll tax is imposed.
- Superannuation. You will need to ensure that superannuation is paid in respect of wages paid to employees. Remember, employees must now be offered with a choice as to what fund their superannuation is paid into.

5. Record Keeping

Before you start transacting through your business, you will need to give thought to how you keep your accounting records. There are some simple and cheap accounting programs on the market at the moment, the main ones being MYOB & Quickbooks which will allow you to record your transactions, complete Business Activity Statements and deduct tax from wages. As well, up to date and timely information is essential to monitoring the performance of your business and to compare against goals you have set.

A lot of business owners attend to their own bookkeeping, however if you don’t have the expertise or confidence you can always enlist the services of a bookkeeper. Doing this will not only allow you to spend more time on your business, it will also save you time and money with your accountant at the end of the year.

6. Insurance

Now that you are in business, it is crucial to have the right insurances in place to protect your assets as well as your income stream. Some of the insurances to consider include:
- Income Protection Insurance
- Public Liability Insurance
- Life Insurance

A life insurance policy can also be useful in a business that has multiple owners in protecting one owner against the death of another. It should be noted however that a separate legal agreement would also need to be in place to provide all business owners with a level of security.

7. Use Professionals

In any business you will never be able to do everything yourself so it will be important to make sure you use the services of professionals, such as:
- Accountant
- Business Coach
- Financial Planner
- Solicitor
- Mortgage Broker
- Insurance Broker
- Bookkeeper

In summary, there are many factor to consider when going into business. The above is designed to be used as a brief guide only and does not cover everything you should consider when going into business. Before starting your own business you should ensure that you seek appropriate advice from a professional.

Paul Jenkin is a partner of the accounting firm Andresen McCarthy which specialises in providing support to small to medium sized businesses.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Golden Rules of Websites - Rule 1 in a series

By Ron Stark

I lost a customer a few weeks ago. Here's what happened.

I got an unexpected email from a client, telling me that they no longer wanted to be a Snapsite customer. If this ever happens, I always try to learn why - was it price? Was it service? Did we do something wrong? Did somebody else offer a more attractive alternative? Was it our content management system functionality? Whatever it is, we need to know so that if the problem lies with us, we need to fix it - fast.

When I spoke to the client, they complained that the website was not delivering customers to their business; in any case a relative of the business manager could arrange cheaper hosting. Now this particular client manufactures high-value consumer goods, in the price range of $50,000 to $80,000 each. For them to be missing out on business - even a single enquiry - would presumably be a really serious matter.

This got my alarm bells loudly ringing, so I started to investigate where the problem might be. The amount of site traffic was high, partly because their adverts in glossy magazines always included their web address. But then I discovered that there were 43 serious enquiries still in their website enquiry logs over the preceding 3 months, totalling in excess of $2 Million.

Now I don't know about you, but I wouldn't complain about a website's performance when it delivers that much business in such a short time. I quickly telephoned the client's business manager and told her that I'd discovered all those enquiries that had not been responded to.

I was floored by her answer and, to be honest, now relieved that they are no longer clients. She said "It's not important. If a customer is really serious about wanting to buy from us, they can track us down by some other means and get the information they want that way."

Now, 3 months later, their cheap website is still not operating, they don't have a proper email address, and they're still spending tens of $'000s on glossy magazine adverts that proudly promote this non-existent website and an inoperative email address. And still the business manager confidently proclaims "If a customer is really serious, they'll track us down some other way."

Golden Rule 1

A successful website depends on attitude, not technology.

Marketing problem? Doubtful, judging from the traffic they were getting. Customer demand problem? Not likely, with over $2 Million worth of website enquiries in 3 months. Product quality problems? Not at all - as many enquiries came as a result of referrals as from magazine ads. Website problem? Never!

Their problem is all too common - it is simply that they are ignoring the most fundamental rule of all when it comes to websites. A successful website depends on your attitude, not on technology.

This is the first article in a series that exposes the many, yet frequently overlooked basic business rules that successful websites should follow. The author Ron Stark is the founder of Snapsite, a website company that puts service and your business needs before technology.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Make Sure there is an Exit Door in Your Business

Although it sounds crazy, the right time to consider how you will exit your business is when you start it. But unfortunately, most business owners don’t consider an Exit Strategy until they want to leave.

Why have an exit strategy? Let’s consider what happens to most businesses.

Consider an owner called Joe. Joe has been running the business many years. He knows all the customers, and the customers like doing business there because they like Joe. He is a great bloke. Joe works hard and has had some good years, but is getting tired. Unfortunately, the business is way too dependent on Joe. It might run well, but only when he is there. In fact if Joe is away more than a week, things starts to slide. Joe’s number 2 does a great job, but she just isn’t Joe.

Joe is starting to get to retirement age, and would like to sell the business. Joe originally hoped his son or daughter would want to take over the business. But they have seen how long and hard he works, and don’t want that for themselves. He talks to a business broker and lists the business, but gets little interest. The one offer he gets is a joke. Even his number 2 is not interested in buying the business, and is only interested in making sure she gets her entitlements.

At this point Joe realises, he has nothing to sell. He doesn’t own a business, he owns a job. What should he have done?

When starting his business, or even a long time before he wanted to exit it, he should have created an Exit Strategy. Whether you want to sell the business, franchise it and then sell the franchise it, offer to licence what you do or any one of numerous other business strategies, the first step is to realise your business is not worth anything unless you can make it less dependent on you. That it can operate without you.

So how do you do that? By creating an operating system for your business. By putting in place procedures, processes, checklists, templates etc for every part of your business. When you do this, you can start to bring in others to do the jobs you currently do. And when you create a business reporting system, you can even run the business when you are not there. This is called a business management system.

When you have a business system, a potential buyer can look at the system, understand how your business works, and know that if they follow the system, they will be able to achieve the same results you do. So in Joe’s business, they don’t just come in to visit Joe, they come in because or the service that Joe or anyone of his staff provides. (Today, if Joe leaves, so will his customers.) With a system in place, the customers don’t mind who, in fact, is minding the store.

When a potential buyer can see that they can achieve the same results as Joe, by just following his system, they will be happy to pay several times his annual profit for his business. Its never too early to plan you Exit Strategy, but if you leave it too long, it may well be too late.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and is a Business Coach and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems.

The Australian Small Business Blog


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