The Australian Small Business Blog

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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