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Jul 03, 2016

A Test For Your Small Business Skills

Small business owners are problem solvers. Whether it is how to do more with less, how to fill an unexpected large order on short notice, or how to expand in a shrinking market, the successful small business owner will find a way to get it done.

However, what separates the modestly successful from the uber successful may just be the effectiveness of the problem solving approach and techniques employed.

A recent New York Times post, A Quick Puzzle to Test Your Problem Solving, highlights several common strategic thought pitfalls.

The puzzle begins by providing a sequence of three numbers, and asking you to guess the rule that the list obeys. You can use the tool on the page to test as many three number samples as you like, and the tool will tell you whether it conforms to the rule or not.

The given sequence that obeys the rule is: 2, 4, 8

Can you figure out the rule? Go to the Puzzle to test out your hypothesis, then when you’re sure you’ve got it, enter it in the response box and click the “I think I know it button” to check your answer.

When you’re done, scroll down and read the rest of this post.

 

 

 

 

Did you get the very simple answer right?

If you did, you followed a basic KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) rule, and figured out that the rule was nothing more than each number being larger than the previous one. If not, you probably came up with a more complicated solution (such as each number being twice the previous), and tested several variations in the tool to confirm your hypothesis. Not surprisingly, you were told that each followed the rule, and didn’t bother to test further with a number set that would produce a “no” response.

According to the Times post, “78 percent of people who have played this game so far have guessed the answer without first hearing a single no. A mere 9 percent heard at least three nos — even though there is no penalty or cost for being told no, save the small disappointment that every human being feels when hearing “no. It’s a lot more pleasant to hear “yes.” That, in a nutshell, is why so many people struggle with this problem.”

As the post notes, this is a perfect example of “Confirmation bias,” a theory that posits people are more likely to believe and to seek out information that confirms their existing beliefs. As a result the post explains, “people never even think about asking questions that would produce a negative answer when trying to solve a problem — like this one. They instead restrict the universe of possible questions to those that might potentially yield a “yes.”

The Times post provides examples of how confirmation bias can adversely affect government and business decision making. This Wall Street Journal article uses the story of a magician’s trick to show confirmation bias in action. Interestingly, this highlights research indicating that the most intelligent people are those most likely to fall victim to their cognitive biases.

So what is a smart small business owner to do? It is incredibly difficult to identify your own biases, especially when you’re in the thick of a problem and need to come up with quick, effective solutions. (If you didn’t get the answer to the Times puzzle, you missed it even though your brain was on heightened alert to some kind of “trick.”) But, here are a few suggestions:

  • KISS it. Try not to overthink; sometimes the simplest solution really is the right one, so don’t discount it for being straightforward.
  • Seek out “No” answers. This means surrounding yourself with a smart, thoughtful team; not a bunch of “yes-men.” It also means looking for the answer that disproves the rule, rather than only the one that confirms it.
  • Don’t always go with your first solution. Our minds have a tendency to take shortcuts that don’t always lead to the correct answer. Take a moment to reflect, and then try to logically work through a problem step-by-step before taking action.
  • Remain open to new ideas. The more open and flexible your mind is, the more likely it is to embrace the right solution when it is presented, even if that solution is contrary to your current experience and beliefs. If your first instinct is to dismiss an idea out of hand, force yourself to consider it from all angles before making a decision.

Jul 03, 2016

Growing a Business with Limited Cash

We all know that being on a budget inspires creativity. Growing a business with a limited amount of cash is not impossible and we’ve found a couple ways to do just that! After the recession hit, everyone had to use their imaginations and think outside of the box, because sales were down. With competition being fiercer than ever, the rivalry for clients has heated up. Not only have customers changed their patterns of purchasing, but they have also changed the way they locate and review businesses, prior to taking the last step. No, you don’t need a billboard in Times Square, New York or in Buckhead, Atlanta to generate new leads. However, you do need to advertise strategically. For years, companies have thrown away thousands of dollars in marketing. Who says we have to follow that trend? Let’s check out how we can stop spending and start saving again.

Referrals:  This shows that your customers or other businesses see the value of your work and want to help spread the word. If you have a great product or service, it’s key to let everyone know that you are open to referrals. Also, by referring out, you can build business-to-business camaraderie. This is a powerful way to get your products or services advertised without costing a dime, all while keeping clients in your pipeline!

Website: Initially, it may not seem like it’s a huge savings, but it is a must have. Get a professionally written and designed website so that your customers have a point of reference. How does it actually save you money?

* Your business is open 24/7

* You get paid in your sleep by selling your products online, using an online payment solution

* Save on employee related expenses while your website works for you

* Save time on customer service by having a FAQs page

Shall we continue on about the benefits that a website can bring? Invest in a well-designed website and you will see your Return Grow.

Partnering up: Partner up with other businesses that are supplemental to yours. Ask them if they are interested in adding your products or services to their website, catalogue, newsletter and so forth. In exchange, you will do the same. By doing this you will be creating a mutually beneficial relationship.

Virtual sales: This one goes hand in hand with having your website. Allow your customers the luxury of buying online. Invest in an online merchant account solution that will be easy to use for both you and your customer.

Free Advertising: See where the conversation is happening and join in!

You don’t have to empty your bank account to get the word out about your business, just be creative.

Jul 03, 2016

Your Most Valued Customer

Your most valued customer is not the one who’s a raving fan of your products and services. Believe it or not, your MVP is your most challenging customer! Hold on to your hats, this is going to be a good one. See, although every business owner strives to achieve satisfied customers, it’s actually the ones that are unhappy in some way that allows you to scrutinize your process and improve upon it. Below we will explore a few ways on how to turn those negative comments into positives.

As people want, need and desire different things, satisfying them all is hard to do. When you have succeeded at pleasing a customer, they tend to show it by passing on the word. Perhaps they will talk about how great your products are. This can generate new leads for your business and possibly turn into a sales-score! But what about those that aren’t as convinced? They may be a bit more delicate to deal with, but can also be a great learning source.

Through thorough customer analysis, you can turn those challenging customers into allies. Here’s a few snazzy ways you can do it:

  1.  Ask the right questions: What were they most unhappy with? What could you have done better? What would you like to see in the future? How can you make it better right now?
  2.  Assess your business: What are you missing? What are your current strategies and processes? How can you improve them? How is your staff performing?
  3.  Accept criticism with grace: Greet and thank your customer for their insight. Every bit of information you collect counts.
  4.  Do not take complaints personally: Be genuinely interested in solving their problem and how you can make their experience better. They want their needs met, so meet them.
  5.  Never show fear: Don’t get flustered or emotionally wound up. Be confident, kind in words and patient

By analyzing the data you receive from these customers, the power is now in your hands. Use negative feedback as a motivation to progress. The next time your MVP visits, they should see that their words were not said in vain. Give them something good to talk about.

What have you learned from your Most Valued Customer?

Jul 03, 2016

How to have a Great E-Commerce Website

Electronic commerce, commonly known as e-commerce, is defined as the buying and selling of goods or services online via an electronic system. Many businesses today have converted their websites so that they are able to increase their profit margins virtually. Having a good e-commerce website is a necessity to any business owner looking to provide their customer with the complete buying experience. There are a few elements that all online stores should have without compromise. The very basics would be having a professional website created, ensuring that it is well written, and easy to navigate. As we know, there is always more than what meets the eye. So let’s take a deeper look at what’s needed to create a successful e-commerce store.

 

Search bar:  Allow your customers the luxury of searching for a specific item and expediting their buying process. This adds to the convenience of online shopping. Remember, the easier you make it to buy, the more they will come back.

 

Call-to-action:  Call-to-actions are needed to gently guide your visitors to take immediate action. When used correctly, you will see an increase in leads and, of course, sales. Every e-commerce website should invest the time needed to create catchy and creative call to actions.

 

Customer Care:  Be within reach. Having bad customer service is the same as or worse than having none at all. Decide if you will allow calls, IMs, emails via a contact form, or through social platforms. State it clearly on all pages so it is easily accessible to your visitors.

 

Images:  All product images should be vivid. Be sure to use photos with good resolution to capture a person’s attention with bold colors allowing the images to tell a story and speak for themselves.

 

Product details:  Having truthful and clear details about your product(s) is the key to opening up doors for your customers to walk through. It is important to give all of the specs for what you are selling. Remember to write clearly and communicate the product to your audience.

 

Easy navigation:  Be wary of where you place everything on you page. Your website should be user friendly and it should address your visitors questions within the first few seconds of them entering your website.

 

Reviews:  No brainer! Allow reviews to enhance interaction and also get feedback on your products. By meriting your customers a voice, it gives them the opportunity to praise a product and generate additional sales. If you receive negative feedback for some reason, be sure to deal with it promptly and politely.

 

Fast and easy checkout:  Fast and easy checkout is the key to success here folks! Work with an online merchant service that makes shopping a breeze for your clients. Ensure that the last lap of your customer’s shopping experience is pain free so that they always come back for more!

 

Jul 03, 2016

Should you have an Online Merchant Account

To be successful as a web based or retail merchant, it is a rule of thumb to have a good credit card payment solution that works well for you, your customers and your pockets. By investing in one that is not only affordable, but also easy to use and stress free, you can start seeing an increase in your online sales. Many businesses are not maximizing the use of online merchant accounts and therefore they are loosing money. As we can safely assume, the goal of any business is to increase their profit margins. So why not use every avenue to do so? Merchant Inc wantes to share some very valuable information as to why having an online merchant account is extremely beneficial and can help you save in more ways than you can imagine.

Hassle free: Have your customers complete their payment in the blink of an eye and get paid without having to field calls or go through the trouble of recording their card information. Your merchant account solution does the work for you, allowing you to focus more on other endeavors.

Automatic records: Your records will be automatically managed and you will no longer have to worry about paying for assistance around the office when it comes to organizing processed payments. It’s a breeze and saves you tons of time.

Cost reduction: One of the major benefits of utilizing a merchant account is the overall savings. Not only will you save time but you will be saving in areas you would have spent big bucks in such as costly telephone services, mail and employee related fees.

Easy payment option: Your customers will have the option to browse and purchase at their leisure. The option to purchase online enables them to stop in whenever they choose and not wait in line or on hold for what always seems like an eternity to talk with a representative.

Easy for integration: Some solutions give you the option to integrate with your accounting software. It’s a great tool so use it.

Fast processing: Provide your customers with a speedy checkout process. It always leaves a good impression.

Security: Everyone wants to know that their information is safe, so offer your clients a seamless way to purchase and receive their products without being compromised.

Control: Take back control of what’s yours, your funds.

Accept credit & debit cards online: No longer worry about having to take credit card information over the phone, fax or by email. This more direct approach displays your company’s high standard for customer satisfaction and quick turn around.

When shopping around for an online merchant account, be sure to keep the above points in mind and find out all about what they offer or don’t offer, as services differ per company.

Jul 03, 2016

Small Business a Facelift!

Let’s face it, business means serious competition. Every day, you rival your competitors for sales. But, have you been so focused on the fight that you’ve forgotten the warrior in the suit? I mean, have you been so busy that you’ve sidelined items such as your now out-of-date website, or your daily operating strategies? As time goes by, you see a shift in products being sold, the way they’re being sold, and ultimately, in the business behind that product. Have you been so busy you’ve lagged behind?

The big dogs of your industry continue to evolve from changes such as redesigning their images-website and all, using the latest marketing strategies, keeping their brand fresh and hip, etc. Many of these seemingly easy changes can be harsh on your bank account. In order to offer your clients everything they deserve, you need to remain current and up-to-date. Using archaic methods in a virtual world can be a recipe for disaster. A makeover does not have to be expensive. All you need to do is be armed with an ultimate goal. Move into the present now, it’s waiting for you!

To move forward you need to know where you’re going. By jotting down your ideas, your plan will come to life right before your eyes! Ask yourself these three questions:

 1. What do I need to improve my business image?

 2. What can I do to improve customer service and sales?

 3. What can I do to continue offering great products and increase efficiency?

Change should be gradual:

Positive outcome: Your customers love the new look! They fall in love with your company all over again. They advertise for you through word of mouth and you generate new leads, making even more money!

Negative outcome: Too many changes at once, your customers are resistant, unimpressed, confused… losing sales.

By presenting your changes gradually, you are able to evaluate the reactions of your current customers. Show them that their opinions count. Use this as a platform to interpret what stays, what goes and what’s needed.

Your makeover begins here:

New web store: If you don’t have one, get one. It’s a convenient way for those that prefer shopping online to do so

Virtual office support: Complete more tasks with less effort and gain more time to invest into other aspects of your business

Killer website with your company’s Logo: Create a professional logo and website that represents your business well

Upgrade your hardware/software: Get out of the Stone Age! Upgrade your computers, phones, software etc. This will generate more production

Mange from the clouds: Easy and remote access

What have you done lately to give your business a facelift?

Jul 02, 2016

Cell Phone Shopping Guide

When shopping for a cell phone, making the right choice can be an uphill task. This is because there are so many different models and designs to choose from with new ones coming out every quarter.

Jul 02, 2016

Magazine for Kindle

One feature of the previous Kindle which I didn’t specifically care for is the inability to view magazines and catalogs in the same style found in the print version. Part of the appeal of printed newspapers is definitely the craftsmanship of the magazine design layout. The Kindle Fire addresses this matter featuring its “Page View” option, which offers many magazines in full-color layouts just as the printed editions. Actually, the Amazon kindle fire offers even more than what printed version contains by integrating video, audio, as well as other interactive media.

Jul 02, 2016

Consider Shopping Online vs. In Store for Fine Jewelry

Shopping for fine jewelry is a big deal – it’s quite an investment, and it’s also very personal. While many people go straight to their local mall to shop for these gems, there is a superior alternative: heading online.

Here are several reasons why you may want to consider shopping via Web for all things sparkly.

Jul 02, 2016

Shopping Online with Style and Comfort

Shopping online has become commonplace today. This has mostly to do with the ease and convenience that online shopping offers. You can compare prices, get safety information, research the product and have it delivered right to your door step at the click of a mouse.