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Friday, June 28, 2013

How To Create The Corporation Of Tomorrow

Social entrepreneurship is evolving into a global movement, and it’s rendering the standard nonprofit/for-profit dichotomy obsolete. Now, new legal structures and certifications are being built to accommodate for businesses with embedded social missions. Leading the way in this movement is the B Corporation (B Corp), a new kind of certification created by the nonprofit B Lab that enables companies to “meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.”
(B Corp, it’s important to note, is different than Benefit Corporation, a legal incorporation that allows companies to consider non-financial, social outcomes-based motives when making decisions, a fact that is written into legal documents during incorporation.)
With more than 770 certified entities in 27 countries, the B Corp is giving “business as usual” a socially-focused and sustainable twist.
At the recent Ashoka Future Forum, we sat down with key leaders in this field to get a sense of exactly how B Corps are creating the corporation of the future.
“Businesses are legally obligated to be empathetic”
Jay Coen Gilbert could have gone on for hours about the mission, statistics and societal implications of B Corp and I don’t think anyone in the room would have minded. As co-founder of B Lab—the nonprofit that currently puts all potential B Corps through a rigorous financial and social analysis—Gilbert is full of insights on why this new certification is an important form of corporate branding.
“The last 20 years was about identifying good products through certifications like ‘organic’ or ‘fair trade’, but the next 20 years will be about identifying good companies,” he said. In other words, while capitalism in the 20th century was about maximizing shareholder value, capitalism in the 21st century is about maximizing “shared” value, a kind of collective value that is centered on empathy.
Greyston Bakery CEO Michael Brady explained the perspective shift B Corp has brought about. “We don’t hire people to bake brownies,” he said, “we bake brownies to hire people.” Greyston Bakery, through a partnership with Unilver, is the source of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie—they make that perfect brownie batter ingredient.
Even better than the batter, Greyston creates jobs for people in low-income areas, who make up 80 percent of his staff. That impact is exactly what the B Corp status highlights to the rest of the world. The certification has redefined “social business” to mean that the entirety of the company is functioning with a bottom line of shared value: focusing on people, not just profits or products—in this case, brownies.
“Forget business as usual”
Michael Elsas is the president of the Cooperative Home Care Association, an organization that gives 85 cents of every dollar earned to its workers. “We care about the quality of the product but also about the quality of life of the worker,” he said, adding that CHCA has quadrupled in size in the last few years on tight margins. Businesses will grow when you care about the people that work for you. It’s as simple as that.
Millennial workers (who really think they can make a difference) make up half of the global workforce, so these “better business” efforts are not going unnoticed. Suddenly, there’s been an evolution in expectations in the marketplace—consumers have responded by setting higher standards through their purchasing preferences.
Greyston’s Michael Brady speculated that when consumer behavior change reaches a tipping point, the companies that are still trying to maximize profits will feel a loss of marketshare. Corporations will practically be forced to embed social values into the core of their models.
B Corp-certified companies have proven (and will continue to prove) that they can make a profit while creating meaningful social impact, which gives them a competitive advantage.
“We need to distill the chaos”

This is all fine and good, if it’s actually working. But there still seems to be a disconnect between consumer intent and actual consumer behavior.
As Ashoka Fellow Michelle “Mitch” Hedlund pointed out during the Future Forum session, consumers very much want to do the right thing, but getting the clear, correct information to guide split-second decision-making is the challenge. “We need to distill the chaos,” she said. “The part of the conversation that is missing is the information to allow people to act on their good intentions.” Hedlund, who herself works on demystifying information about “green” products, posits that this will influence real, long-term behavior change on a societal level.
Which states have passed B Corp legislation?
Grant Garrison, as the co-founder and director of GOOD/Corps—set to officially become a B Corp on July 1st—understands how to combat the disconnect between messaging and consumer action. GOOD/Corps, GOOD LLC’s media-for-change consultancy, was created to not only help companies drive meaningful campaigns and position themselves as corporate social responsibility mavens, but also to help nonprofits and causes strengthen their relationships with corporations to create lasting impact.
With campaigns such as the Pepsi Refresh Project, Starbucks’ “Vote.Give.Grow.” campaign, and the Google anti-piracy effort under his belt, Garrison has a unique lens into what actually influences consumer audiences.
“You have to do some gentle hand-holding and provide small amounts of guidance,” he said of directing customers through this cause-related chaos.
Consumers won’t act if pushed; they have to be presented with all the information in order to help them make incremental changes that will lead to new habitual preferences, which can shift profits ever so slightly to favor social outcomes.
Does it matter?
At the end of the day, we have to evaluate how much service and activism matter in our lives as consumers. If the brownie tastes the same, does it matter that it was made by workers who have been given a second chance and are also being treated well on the job? Well, here’s another way to put it: if the brownie is going to taste the same either way, and the price is comparable, why wouldn’t we choose to support a good cause?
The B Corp is “a tool among many tools, not the be-all, end-all of social branding,” Ashoka’s in-house legal counsel Jonathan Ng said. He feels that it’s about making informed choices as a consumer, and using a variety of resources and methods to determine those choices. B Lab’s certification process is yet another helpful way to brand a for-profit company as having a triple bottom line, inside and out.
Be-all, end-all or not, it’s certainly becoming a powerful stamp of approval. Suffice it to say that the more companies that become B Corp-certified in the marketplace, the easier it will be to act on our good intentions.


Monday, June 24, 2013

How To Form Strategic Alliances

By Susan Baka,

Perhaps you’ve mastered the art of networking and realized the importance of relationship building with key contacts. But now, how can you leverage these key contacts in a way that can help you grow your business? The answer—form strong strategic alliances with other companies. Whether your business is small or large, creating such domestic or international partnerships can help gain an edge in today’s marketplace.

What exactly is a strategic alliance? It’s any cooperative agreement where companies come together for a specific duration and/or project and add value to each other through the alliance.  Resources, skills and/or capital are pooled for mutual gain.  Agreements can cover things like:
• Start-ups
• Marketing
• Outsourcing
• Research & development
• Licensing
• Production

A tangible growth trend
A visible growth trend
An encouraging growth trend
Growing trend

According to Industry Canada, international evidence suggests that strategic alliances have been on the rise for several decades, with an estimated annual growth rate of 25%. This makes sense in our increasingly global economy. Consider the many potential benefits for your business:
• Diversifying your product/service lines and markets
• Providing access to new markets and product knowledge
• Reducing or sharing potential risks
• Blocking competition
• Avoiding ‘reinventing the wheel’
• Reducing innovation costs
• Shoring up gaps in your business
• Accessing new resources
• Enhancing your capacity to bid on large contracts
• Strengthening customer, supplier and other relationships
• Increasing your export capabilities

Despite the many potential benefits, strategic alliance partnerships can fail without careful consideration by both parties. Here’s how to begin and ensure success:

1. Select your partners carefully. Look for peers and who are like-minded and share your ethics. Viable sources include networking events, online groups or social networking, industry and trade publications, trade associations, government agencies, and even through your banker, lawyer, or accountant. Make sure the alliance is a win-win situation. For example, if you plan on tackling the global market, your potential partner may be international, but may lack the product knowledge you have.

2. Be clear about your expectations and desired outcome. Identify the kind of alliance you want--marketing, licensing, distribution, technology, R & D, etc Calculate the amount of time you can both realistically commit to the project. Determine how much you can afford to invest and lose, should your alliance fail.  You would be wise to negotiate a formal contractual arrangement for further peace of mind.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Many business relationships fail because of faulty assumptions and poor communication. What’s obvious to you may be unclear to your partner, especially if you are dealing across cultures or in different languages. To avoid failure, take notes, have minutes of meetings recorded, and document all agreements and actions to be taken.

4. Set specific timelines. Set trial timeframes to get an idea of your partner’s work ethic, management style, attention to detail, and true commitment. Be cautious about taking things to the next level before testing the waters. If your partner misses the first deadline, how will he or she ever meet future ones?

5. Establish exit clauses. Decide upfront—before anything goes wrong—on an exit strategy that will suit you both should the alliance fail. It’s better to lose a partner in the early stages of a joint venture than to lose your good name in the marketplace. Brainstorm possible best and worst case scenarios.

6. Celebrate your successes. If the partnership is working well, don’t forget to take a breather now and then and enjoy your mutual accomplishments. To maintain both your motivation, it’s important to celebrate the milestones in your alliance, such as the acquisition of your first big corporate account or receiving an award for exceeding industry standards. A lot of work and a little bit of play go a long way in a maintaining a healthy and successful strategic partnership. 

The possibilities for women business owners and entrepreneurs to create strategic alliances are endless. Do your homework, target a strategic and motivated alliance partner, and be prepared for benefits and potential risks that may come your way. It can be a delicate balancing act to maintain your autonomy and preserve your interests.  By sharing resources, costs and risks, your strategic alliance may catapult your growth in a way you might never achieve on your own.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Benefits of Strategic Partnership

Associations enter into a strategic alliance or partnership with other associations or for-profit entities for many reasons. Typically, the objective is to exchange or publish information, hold joint meetings and/or trade shows, offer education and training programs, sell products and services, promulgate industry standards, and/or monitor policy issues.
Partnerships and strategic alliances can help to make an international program more successful. These partnerships can be informal, such as using the expertise of a counterpart organization or government agency to strengthen your association's own capacities such as attracting international attendees to a meeting you sponsor. Or, they can be more formal (and perhaps on-going) alliances to help distribute, for example, one or more of your association's products on a worldwide basis. Potential partners include counterpart associations, government agencies, publishers, association management companies, universities, or other for-profit entities.
In Global Imperatives: 12 Attributes of Effective Decision Making and 9 Dimensions of Success for U.S.-based Associations published by ASAE in 2011, the author, Mohamadouu Hayatou states that the most common way to grow internationally is through the formation of a strategic partnership network. Strategic alliances can take different forms and have different objectives depending on the nature of the association, its products, services, and resources. The nature of a strategic alliance is also highly influenced by the local market conditions including the state of the competition. By and large strategic partnerships are designed to achieve one, or a combination, of the following goals:
  1. To distribute products or services to a set of customers. This represents a straightforward distribution or licensing deal.
  2. To jointly develop products and services for the local market. In this model, the association will find organizations that have products, services or skills complementary to theirs and join forces to develop products for the local market. Although it is not uncommon to see this model apply to content-based products, it is more often seen in the organization of events such as a tradeshow.
  3. To work with local or regional counterparts to drive a common agenda. This model, also known as co-opetition (collaborating with your competition), is often seen when the two associations are joining forces to push forward an aggressive advocacy or legislative agenda for the benefit of both association’s members.
A partner in another country can offer local contacts, language capabilities and knowledge of the cultures, protocols and business styles. To most effectively form and utilize these alliances, however, the organization should determine some initial goals. Many other ideas for joint ventures are also possible based on your association's interests, contacts and creativity.
In general, here are some of the most common benefits and cautions of strategic alliances and partnerships:
  • Can capitalize on the individual strengths of each participating organization.
  • Can provide local contacts and links to local communities/stakeholders who may be critical to the success of the program you want to launch or implement.
  • Involves shared responsibility for the development and execution of a particular program or service.
  • Limits a participating organization’s liability to the scope of project involved.
  • Provides reduced-cost opportunities and expertise for each participating organization.
Some cautions or challenges that an organization may encounter in pursuing strategic alliances or partnerships include:
  • Usually limited in scope to the objectives of the alliance or partnerships
  • Can become ineffective if one partner doesn’t perform at the expected level or fulfill its obligations to the agreement.
  • Can consume more human and financial resources than were anticipated.
  • Can require a significant time investment to develop an effective alliance or partnership.
  • Can result in a loss of flexibility for the organization to take quick action in another area that may be in the organization’s better interests than the area they are pursuing with a given partner.
Before entering into a strategic alliance or partnership, ask:
  • Does it extend the association’s reach by opening up and developing new markets?
  • Does it help members gain access to additional industry intelligence and knowledge of other markets?
  • Does it increase the association’s revenue? Will it contribute to the bottom line?
  • Will it amplify the association’s resources? Will it leverage or reuse an already existing resource?
  • Does this alliance have relevance for the association and its mission? Will it increase the value of the association within the industry or profession?


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Grow Your Business: Friends & Strategic Partners

Grow Your Business: Friends & Strategic Partners 
Your marketing strategy will be more powerful when you build a network of trusted friends. This is a very different category than personal friends. Many women who get involved with a direct marketing line – as well as many marketing pros – will tell you that the fastest way to grow your business is to make a list of all your friends and family, and then start marketing to them first. But have you noticed that when you try that approach, they rarely seem to want to buy from you? It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
So a trusted friend is different. A trusted friend is someone you hold a business relationship with—and with all the advertising we get every day, this is an important strategy. Think about it! Are you more likely to read that SPAMMED email sent to you anonymously, or an e-mail a trusted friend sent, saying they thought you would be interested? Then imagine your trusted friends forwarding e-mail from you to others. Powerful concept!
Trusted friends are business partners who:
• Know your business and respect what you do
• Understand and value the small business owner
Believe in relationships and referrals
• See potential clients for you in their own daily business
• Will, if the opportunity presents itself, refer business to you
• Are often willing to advertise you on their web site
• Over time, may package and bundle with you
Another way to describe a trusted friend is as a “strategic partner.” Strategic partners are people who are in alignment with your business, and are not in competition; their customers often need what you offer.
Entrepreneurs struggle with this concept. At networking events where I ask, “Who are your strategic partners?” I often hear, “Everyone who wants to be healthy.” Or: “All women are my strategic partners.” No, “everyone” is a lead or someone who might buy from you. A trusted friend mayNEVER buy from you, but is committed to growing your business in alternative ways.
The key is to build a network of trusted friends. How do you do that?
First, determine who they are, and then you will be able to network by asking to meet them.
Once you have met them, it is time to build and nurture a relationship that will turn into a partnership:
Show interest and care about what your trusted friends do. You must remember to give!
Keep in touch on a regular basis. Remember birthdays, and milestones. Don’t forget to send things that they will find informative or interesting.
Be willing to reciprocate. As you meet people, keep them in your mind, can refer to them!
In late 2007, my coaching and speaking business started to feel the effects of the economy. Many clients were canceling business dates, and contracts were not getting renewed. Then, in January 2008, one regular client, who had over 20 days of business already booked in the coming months, slowly started cancelling them all. Suddenly I had no revenue, and I was worried about paying my team – let alone paying myself.
I reached out to my network of trusted friends. Through working my relationships with them, my business is now better than what it was projected to be.
I commonly hear small business owners say, “I just do not have time for it, Ann.” I am glad I took the time to build a network of trusted friends, because the payoff is tremendous! So make time for it, and you too will benefit!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Startup Advice From 7 Successful Entrepreneurs

Starting a business can be exhausting, exciting and exhilarating--all at the same time. This is precisely why it's refreshing to hear words of encouragement from those who have done it before--and succeeded. We spoke with entrepreneurs we admire to cull the single best bit of startup advice they could muster--and the experiences that led to it. They're simple mottoes, to be sure, but their impact can be tremendous.

"Don't think, do."

So said a stranger to Jeff Curran, founder and CEO of Curran Catalog, a high-end home furnishings company in Seattle, more than 20 years ago.
Action hero:Curran Catalog's Jeff Curran.
Action hero: Curran Catalog's Jeff Curran.
Photo© Lindsay Buzzo
The two men were sitting next to each other on a cross-country flight, and Curran, then 25, had just broken into the catalog business. They got to talking, and Curran spilled his idea for a startup while his neighbor interjected with devil's-advocate questions. When the plane landed and the two rose to claim their bags from the overhead bins, the stranger finally opened up his can of insight. Those three words inspired Curran to pour $15,000 of his own cash into launching his company, which has grown into a profitable B2B and B2C brand.
"After that plane flight, I'm sitting in the bathroom at my parents' house and I pick up [a financial] magazine, and this guy was on the cover," remembers Curran, now 47. Turns out the man was mutual-fund maven Mario Gabelli.
Curran still lives by Gabelli's advice. Earlier this year, after learning about profit margins in the high-end car-accessories business, Curran Catalog launched a new product line: designer flooring for collector and European automobiles. "There is such a thing as overthinking a big decision," Curran says. "Sometimes you just have to get it done."

"Let your customers lead the way."

Anupy Singla never intended to build her business around this philosophy, but the more she looks back on the history of Indian as Apple Pie, her Chicago-based Indian food-products business, the more she credits customers with driving her strategy.
Seasoned pro: Anupy Singla of Indian as Apple Pie.
Seasoned pro: Anupy Singla of Indian as Apple Pie.
Photo© Brave New Pictures
Exhibit A: When Facebook followers complained they were having trouble finding certain Indian spices, Singla equipped her company to buy those spices from manufacturers and offer them for sale. Exhibit B: After friends and neighbors asked her to show them around Chicago's Little India, Singla began hosting intimate tours of the shops on Devon Avenue for $50 per person. Even her Spice Tiffin, a modernized version of a traditional Indian storage container for spices, went to market at the behest of customers.
"The point of view for this company is to make Indian food easy and accessible," says Singla, who was born in Chandigarh, India, and immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was a child. "If customers are saying they want certain things, it's up to me to give them what they want."
Singla's ultimate goal is to sell her products in retail stores across the country. Until then, however, she plans to leverage her responsive customer base to test-market products and see what sticks. "If something isn't right," she says, "they'll let me know."
Corey T. Nyman of Labor Wines
Corey T. Nyman of Labor Wines

"It's all about passion."

On some level, especially on the ledger sheets, Corey T. Nyman's fledgling wine label, Labor Wines, is about dollars and cents. But the Las Vegas resident prefers to focus on a more powerful force driving his business: his love for the work.
For Nyman, Labor Wines is the culmination of 20 years in his family's hospitality and food-and-beverage consulting business, and of more than a decade fantasizing about making and selling his own Oregon wine.
"I experienced Oregon wine country on numerous visits in 2002, and the place touched me in a way nothing else ever has," he says. "Since then all I've wanted was to give something back."
"I'm starting an Oregon winery living in Las Vegas. If that doesn't scream passion, I'm not sure what does."
--Corey T. Nyman
To bring his dream to life, Nyman turned the traditional winemaking model on its head. Instead of investing in land--a move that would have required a huge capital investment--he and a business partner work with growers to buy grapes from specific sections of specific vineyards, then pay those same growers to make wine. Production is small, but thanks to Nyman's connections with restaurateurs and distributors nationwide, Labor wine is available in more than 35 states.
"I'm starting an Oregon winery living in Las Vegas," Nyman says. "If that doesn't scream passion, I'm not sure what does."

"No simply isn't a choice."

Above all else, this was the mantra that got Leo Rocco through his toughest times on the way to founding GoPago, a San Francisco-based mobile payment company that last year received millions of dollars in funding from JPMorgan Chase. Before the big deal, Rocco had dumped $500,000 of his own money into the company, maxed out his credit cards, endured three years without a paycheck, fielded numerous eviction notices and pivoted his business three times.
Leo Rocco of GoPago
Leo Rocco of GoPago
"I was on fumes," admits Rocco, who spent years working for IBM's Rational Software group before striking out on his own. "It takes an amazing amount of resolve and mental strength to continue doing what you're doing and fight the self-doubt that inevitably creeps in, but when you truly believe in the business you're creating, there's just no other way to do it."
Rocco boasts that his penchant for perseverance likely came from his parents, Italian immigrants who came to the U.S. with nothing and built a successful tailoring business in Buffalo, N.Y.
"They taught me that if you get knocked down, you get back up; if someone stops you from driving forward, you find another way to get to where you want to go," he says. "When failure isn't an option, you promise yourself you won't fail. It's not crazy. It's hard work."

"Seek fleeting competitive advantages."

Mike Masnick, founder and CEO of Floor 64, an insight and consulting company based in Sunnyvale, Calif., admits this advice might be a bit "wonky" for certain circles. But for Masnick, whose company has nearly a dozen revenue streams, it speaks volumes.
Mike Masnick, founder and CEO of Floor 64
Mike Masnick, founder and CEO of Floor 64
Floor 64 manages two insight platforms: Techdirt, a technology and business analysis blog, and the Insight Community, a marketplace for connecting companies with a diverse community of expertise. Add to the mix competitive market analysis for businesses in a variety of industries and an effort toward improving government policy on privacy and intellectual property, and the firm dabbles in a bit of everything.
"There's no reason why any particular business can't have half a dozen business models all working together simultaneously," he says. "Think of it like an investment portfolio: You wouldn't put all of your money into a single stock, so why on earth would you do that with your own company?"
The crux of Masnick's advice: No matter what, keep innovating. Generally speaking, this requires a fundamental understanding of what benefits your market is seeking, and a commanding grasp of technology and technological change.
"By innovating and providing increasing benefits to your customers," he says, "you no longer have to worry about competitors 'catching up,' since you're always leading."

"Business relationships need work, too."

As founders and CEOs of San Francisco-based Little Passports, an educational monthly subscription company for kids, Amy Norman and Stella Ma remind themselves of this often.
Amy Norman and Stella Ma, founders and CEOs of Little Passports
Amy Norman and Stella Ma, founders and CEOs of Little Passports
Photo courtesy of
The two met in 2004 while working high-powered jobs at eBay and became best friends. When they left to launch Little Passports in 2009, they recognized that they were in for a new challenge--one that could potentially shake the friendship to its core. Since then, however, they have managed to succeed through a commitment to candor.
"We have found it important to be honest with each other and communicate," Ma says.
Adds Norman: "Before we started the company, we talked about how we'd handle certain disagreements; this way, when we have them, we get our perspectives out in the open, talk them through and move on."
Trust also helps, which is why Norman and Ma opted to share the CEO title. Each woman has the power to act on behalf of Little Passports individually; if one needs to tend to her family during an important business meeting, the other can represent the company solo. They like to think of themselves as interchangeable. "Without trust," Norman says, "that would never fly."

"Be open to anything."

Without this line of thinking, it's hard to imagine where Wicked+ would be today. For years, it was a typical marketing and branding agency, operating out of a 500-square-foot storefront on the main drag in Hermosa Beach, Calif.
Up for anything: brothers Brian (left) and Colin Cooley of Wicked+.
Up for anything: brothers Brian (left) and Colin Cooley of Wicked+.
Photo© Marc Royce
Passersby, thinking the space was a shop, often would come in to inquire about buying things they saw through the window. Gradually it occurred to founding brothers Brian and Colin Cooley that they should expand their operations to include retail.
Today the agency's modest store carries a handful of products from local businesses, including commuter bicycles, safety razors, Chemex coffeemakers and T-shirts. At any given moment, the brothers might go from writing a video script to selling a bag of coffee.
"I never imagined we'd evolve Wicked+ into a retail brand," Brian says. "But we saw the opportunity and made it happen."
He describes the strategy as a "small bet," noting that he and Colin could have invested big in tricking out a retail operation but instead opted to test the waters gradually. Now that the duo has seen that the shop can be successful, they're contemplating a bigger wager: expanding to a larger space. "We want to grow," he says, "but we want to do it organically."


Monday, June 10, 2013

The Power of Partnerships: Your Key to Greater Client Satisfaction, Referrals and Retention

by Denise Trifiletti

In my last column, I explained how partnerships in business can be the key to increasing sales, margins and profits. This article takes the next step by discussing how to increase client satisfaction and retention, obtain business referrals, and increase your client revenues through the power of partnerships.
First, you know it is a tough world out there, and you face a lot of competition. Your competition is knocking on your clients' doors and seeking the same returns that you are looking for. In view of this fact, it only makes sense for you to forge as many strategic business partnerships as you possibly can. This is already a strategy of virtually every one of the Fortune 500 companies—why not a strategy for you?
A "Power Partnership" in business is one in which you and your partner leverage each other's talents for the benefit of both. It is a partnership in which you leverage what you each bring to the marketplace in order to add value for your respective clients. Let's explore this from the perspectives of client satisfaction, referral business, and client retention.
  • Client satisfaction: An axiom of business is that a satisfied client is "gold in the attic." Another axiom is that every client has the potential to become dissatisfied with your products and services. Never assume client satisfaction. Remaining client-centric and keeping in close contact with your clients is key. Continuously ask and learn about their changing needs—then meet them, either through your own products and services, or through those of your Power Partners.
Present your value proposition clearly and frequently, and measure your progress with your clients. Do you have an ongoing client feedback process? Do you have a written tool to capture quantitative and qualitative data about how you are addressing your clients' needs? Do you solicit feedback about what they like most about your products or services, and in what areas you can improve your offerings? Do you ask about their greatest challenges and the ways in which their businesses have changed so you can continually and creatively find ways to add value and provide solutions to their problems? Do you satisfy their needs by referring your clients to your Power Partners if you cannot solve those problems on your own?
  • Client referrals: How often do you ask your clients for referrals? Do you have a scheduled process and system for doing so? What if you combine your feedback and referral process? If your clients are highly satisfied with what you do for them, that's surely the time to ask for a referral. How about asking for a referral when you first establish your business relationship, during the "honeymoon period"?
How much is a qualified referral worth to you? If you are maintaining excellent client satisfaction, and continuously assisting your clients in growing their businesses and meeting their objectives, they will be delighted to share the great news of the results they are gaining with you! They will be your champions, your ardent fans—and you will be amazed at just how many referrals you can garner. If you refer your clients to your quality Power Partners, your clients will be even more satisfied, and so will your referral partner, resulting in an "all-win" situation! Here is some food for thought: If you are highly successful in giving and receiving quality referrals, and those referrals in turn become the source of more referrals, how much business could you handle?
  • Client retention and revenues: How much is your average client worth revenue-wise on an annual basis? What is your average retention (i.e., how long does an average client do business with you)?  What if you could double the lifetime of your client relationships? That additional retention could increase your revenues by 10, 20, or even 50%. If your network of Power Partners helps you by providing solutions for your clients, you are differentiated as a "value-added" solution provider in the marketplace.


Friday, June 7, 2013

10 Brilliant Apps Small Businesses Should Use

Ilya Pozin, Contributor

As apps become more prevalent and more powerful, entrepreneurs and small business owners are relying on these savvy tools to help their businesses grow and run more smoothly. These top 10 mobile and web apps can get you organized, connected and visible – and they will likely contribute to your success:

1) Evernote
Ever had a great idea while flying cross-country? Evernote is an app that makes sure users “Remember Everything.” By allowing users to store, organize and share text, photos, and voice notes, entrepreneurs can easily keep track of all of their brilliant ideas. The popular app has secured $166 million in funding and acquired web startups Skitch and Penultimate to add to their growing list of features.
2) Google Drive
Building on Google Docs, Google’s new Drive app lets users seamlessly port and edit files from PC to tablet to smartphone. Not only is it a fully-featured office suite, the software also acts as a full cloud drive, letting you store any file type via a virtual drive app or a web interface. Google apps is already the top choice for small business webmail, and Google is moving to repeat that success in the cloud storage arena. Oh, and you get a nice 5GB of storage, free
3) FormMobi
Called a “virtual clipboard,” the FormMobi app lets professionals in the field easily gather and distribute data on any mobile device. The app has robust functionality and is a solid tool for filling forms on-the-go. Some features include the ability to record audio, take pictures, collect signatures, and create CAD-quality sketches. Built by a team with 26 years of workflow software experience, FormMobi is making the clipboard digital and easy to use.
4) Bump
Bump is a revolutionary networking app that allows entrepreneurs to ditch traditional business cards in favor of virtual ones. Users can trade contact information, photos, and files by simply “bumping” two smartphones together. Since its inception in 2008, the app has garnered over 8 million monthly users and 27 million downloads.
5) Tripit
Anyone who’s had to make three connecting flights and rent a car on the same day can attest to the need for a comprehensive and simple itinerary. Tripit is an app that allows business travelers to do just that by keeping track of trip arrangements in one unified place. The app also gathers weather updates, maps, and directions to make traveling a breeze. After getting their start in 2006, the company was purchased in 2011 for $120 million by Concur Technologies.
6) LocalVox
LocalVox is a web marketing app that allows brick and mortar businesses to build their brands online. The service enables owners to publish news, events and deal announcements with a click-of-a-button across many online channels, including social media, websites, local directories and email newsletters. The service simultaneously optimizes organic search and Google Places listings for its users. In terms of boosting online marketing presence, LocalVox is a great tool.
7) Expensfy
If managing travel is difficult, managing expenses can be nearly impossible. Enter Expensify, an app that keeps track of business expenses and mileage, while letting users scan and upload receipts. Users can even file receipts by trip and submit expense reports to employers with the click of a button. Founded by David Barrett, the app has exploded to almost 1 million users in only 4 years and processes over $2 million in expenses daily.
8) Asana
Billed as a “collaborative information manager,” Asana is a simple and intuitive alternative to complicated work management software. Asana allows users to manage not only work projects, but personal projects and events in one easy-to-navigate interface. Founded by Justin Rosenstein and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, the work management app has raised $10.2 million dollars to date.
9) InDinero
Created in 2010 by two university students, Jessica Mah and Andy Su, InDinero is an easy way to keep track of business cash flow and manage day-to-day finances. The app syncs up to bank accounts and credit cards and helps business predict future cash flows according to past cash flow trends. The popular web app has completed over 2.5 million transactions and received $1.2 million in seed funding.
10) Square
Square is transforming the way we transact by empowering anyone with a smartphone or tablet to easily accept credit card payments. There are no sign-up or monthly fees – rather, the service takes 2.75 percent of each transaction. The wildly popular app was founded by the creator of Twitter in 2010. A key app for small businesses that lowers barriers of entry to accept payments.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Why Your Team Matters More Than You

Ilya Pozin, Contributor

Contrary to popular belief, the success of a business isn’t ensured by an amazing CEO or even the work of a few all-star employees — it’s all about the team. Even without your key players, your business should function without change.
In light of the recent news regarding the health of Google CEO Larry Page, companies everywhere should be considering how their business would function if their CEO stepped out of the picture. Would you “keep calm and carry on” as usual, or would your company take an irreversible stumble? One thing’s for certain: a strong team will keep you afloat in a variety of both foreseen and unforeseen situations.
The future of your company shouldn’t depend on you–whether you’re the manager, CEO, or unanimous company superstar. It depends on a well-rounded, unwavering team. But working for your team, rather than having them work for you, isn’t so simple in the heavily structured, management-focused settings companies have come to thrive in today.
Kick your bad habits and put your team first. Here are seven ways to ensure every employee is able to step up to the plate without a second thought:
1. Build a strong foundation. Set the teamwork bar high from the beginning. If your company culture and mission don’t encompass the power of team-focused efforts, there’s no way to ensure your company’s strength will lie in the team. Your employees need to know that you work for them, and not the other way around.
2. Empower your employees. Every one of your employees has something they can bring to the table. Since you work for your team, it’s your job to find out where your employees excel individually. Highlight their strengths and challenge them to set an example for others. This will not only increase their interest in staying on top of their game, but also motivate them to live up to their reputation. Even when you’re not in the office, they’re still going to want to retain their image.
3. Establish goals. You can’t have a team without a vision. Throw out the idea of your employees acting as task-doers and let them collectively achieve goals within teams. Establish your company’s teams and give each one a goal to accomplish in a short timeframe. This will allow your employees to focus on the big picture, rather than accomplishing smaller tasks. Working toward team goals will benefit your employees sense of ownership and responsibility — positively impacting your company from the inside out.
4. Learn to delegate. Place your trust in your employees. If you’re a micromanaging perfectionist, you can kiss your team-focused culture and project ownership goodbye. Set your teams on the right path by delivering the big picture message and the measurable outcomes — the rest is up to them. Your delegation efforts will allow them to work creatively to get things accomplished, and they may even surprise you in the process.
5. Let them figure it out. If you swoop in every time there’s a problem, how can your employees ever solve things on their own? Giving orders to your employees may seem easy, but it leaves them out of the decision-making process. Stop telling your employees what to do and start asking them how they would do it themselves! You will immediately increase team autonomy, responsibility, motivation, and create a powerful change in the way your employees make decisions.
6. Recognize their efforts. Praise is the key ingredient for boosting motivation and engagement. Want a more inspired team of employees? Tell them what they’re doing right and encourage them to continue onward. Too many employees think of their manager or CEO as the most critical member of the company. Remove this stereotype and be the person to give the necessary pat on the back. This also makes the occasional call for improvement easier to swallow.
7. Remove hierarchy. Your teams don’t need a manager, I promise. “All for one, one for all” should be your employees’ new motto. By removing the project manager or supervisor, your staff will feel empowered to work together as a team and the structure will form naturally. Your employees will want to go the extra mile for the good of the entire team and the accomplishment of a goal. Why? Because there’s nothing worse than letting down your entire team.
If you let the power of your business lie in the hands of one or two people, you’ll be certain to fail in their absence. Build a team-focused business to keep you afloat under any circumstance.