- Learn from your Customers. Negative comments sting but that's where you learn the most. I chose a mechanic based on how he responded to the One Star Reviews he received. He was sincere and laid out plainly how he had offered to resolve the conflict. Google Reviews is a start but don't forget comments on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and any Social Media Channel your customers use.
- Make Customer Service your priority. This is related to point #1. Respond quickly when you hear from a customer with a problem. Thank them for bringing their issue to your attention. Acknowledge their problem and offer to fix it to their satisfaction. This is a person who purchased your product or service...you worked hard to get them. It's cheaper to keep them!
- Stay in your lane. You're a small business owner, not a global conglomerate. You worked hard to find your niche. It's how you differentiate yourself from your competition and why your customers pay for your products and services. Replicating your successful business model is how you maximize profit.
- Be time-efficient. There are 24 hours in a day, 7 days a week. You already work more than the average corporate employee. Don't waste time on unproductive, time wasting tasks. Hire professionals to do the tasks that don't focus on growing your business and taking care of your customers.
- Don't fear larger competitors. The bigger they are, the less agile they can be. Take advantage of your ability to move quickly. If you can deliver the product or service before they respond to the quote, you win!
- Market like a pro. Focus on three things: email marketing, SEO, updates to your website. Email is the underappreciated and underutilized marketing tool for small business. Use MailChimp or Constant Contact to send professional emails to your customers and prospects. Keep on top of what search terms your prospects are using to search for your business to keep your SEO fresh. And...update your website with fresh content based on keyword search results. Add a weekly blog post for more relevance.
- Be flexible. It's important to stay within your niche but be ready to pivot if the market changes...or if an opportunity presents itself.
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
Tuesday, March 16, 2021
One year ago we went into lockdown in Ontario. Businesses shuttered and non-essential workers went home. We were all thrown into uncertainty immediately! At the time I had 3 classes to go in the Winter 2020 Starting A Small Business Continuing Education course at George Brown College. With all schools closed for in-person classes, I immediately opted to move online. It was a scramble but it worked out. My students finished the course successfully!
Fast forward a year and we are now fully online. Again this Spring, starting Thursday, May 13 and running 12 weeks until August 5, Starting A Small Business will be offered online.
This is a practical course that teaches prospective business owners everything they need to identify, evaluate, position, start, operate market and sell their own small business. Full-time bricks and mortar or Online; Gig Economy or side-hustle. We cover what you need to give you a leg up on being a successful small business owner.
You will evaluate your aptitude for running your own business; Complete a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis; Write your own business plan. Within all that you'll hear from a variety of small business owners who will share their experience and offer tips on marketing, financing, operating you own business. Here's the official information from George Brown College:
Register now at this link: Starting a Small Business. See you May 13!
Chris Morales, Instructor
Tuesday, February 9, 2021
You've been itching to start your own business You have an idea that you know will just crush it. You've done your homework: Analyzed your strengths and weakness; Assessed your potential market; Prepared your Business Plan.
You've read all about online marketing. You know you need a website. And you've read all the success stories about how Instagram and Facebook can connect you with your most rabid fans. And of course there are Google AdWords to wrap your head around. Now you're ready to take the leap of faith but...how do you get from concept to market?
After listening to countless first-time business owners over the past 5 years voice their stress over online marketing, I realized that there was a need to help them take their first step. I've put together the Small Business Online Marketing Startup Kit to help first-time small business startups get started. This Kit includes all the basics to set up a professional online presence. Plus, I've included a special bonus to make sure you have the knowledge to grow:
- Brand Logo: Your brand is what your customers will see first. It is important to have a strong brand identity. We will design your Brand Logo and give you all the versions you need across all online platforms
- Google My Business: This is the heart of your online presence. Setting this up properly is the first step in setting up a professional online presence so that you can be found by potential customers when they search for your business (Includes Keywords)
- Website: This is your online home. We set up a simple yet robust presence that tells your customers who you are and what your products or services can do for them. We write content that is relevant to your business...and to the search engines so that you get served up most effectively (Content Marketing)
- Instagram: We set up your Instagram page using your Brand Logo and linking back to your website. We'll show you how to post photos and short videos (Social Media Marketing)
- Facebook: We set up your Facebook page and integrate it with your Instagram page and your website. We'll show you how to leverage these two key Social Media platforms
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
We are in Normal. There is no 'new normal' and we are certainly not going 'back to normal'. COVID-19 has changed business behaviour.
That's the hard truth. The business owners I've spoken to over the past year have worked hard to adjust. The most successful ones adjusted quickly...in some cases, pivoting completely away from their core business system in order to survive. They quickly reset their normal.
What do business owners need to focus on in this pandemic?
- Cashflow: Know your revenue in and expenses out. Pay a very close eye on your forecast sales, look for risks; Know what your fixed and variable expenses are with a focus on what you can cut and what you must have.
- Response: Run multiple scenarios on revenue and expenses. Do the 'worst-case' scenario exercise. Act quickly.
- Reserve: Set up and keep a reserve cash fund to use to fund your business for a period of time...the longer the better.
- Adapt: To your business situation; To your employees; To your customers.
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
When my Grandma was asked the question, 'How are you doing?', she always answered, 'Coping'. This was well before 2020! Now when I ask my business owner friends how they are doing, that's the answer I get.
2020 was a heck of a year. Because we live next door to our largest trading partner, we've been caught up in their political and economic drama. Try as we might, we have to pay attention to what's going on because decisions down there affect us up here.
COVID gave us a reminder that despite what we plan, sometimes we will get punched in the stomach. That has been the reality for many small and mid-size businesses who have had to close or reduce service due to lockdown rules. We can't predict future government policies but it would be a safe bet that we'll be living with rapidly changing and seemingly arbitrary policy changes well into 2022.
We can whine or we can cope...
Here are the things I share with the budding entrepreneurs and small business owners in my Business Class at George Brown College:
- Be prepared. Now more than ever it is important to plan for the absolute worst! Months without revenue, additional months with reduced revenue, increased COVID compliance expenses. I suggest they run multiple cashflow scenarios to show these worst-case outcomes in their gory detail.
- Stay agile. Make your plans, crunch your scenarios. Then be ready to change on a dime. I use the Business Plan Canvas Model in this course. It's a simple one page document to look at new opportunities quickly.
- Keep connected. Talk to your friends, mentors, advisors, partners. Share both your fears and your ideas for coping.
- Look for opportunities to solve problems. This is the heart of every business. The key is to evaluate the idea quickly to see if you can make money from it. I use the tried-and-true SWOT Analysis: Look at the strengths and opportunities; Analyze the weaknesses and threats.
Monday, May 25, 2020
Sunday, May 3, 2020
A recent guest speaker at the Small Business Course I teach at George Brown College shared his strategy for dealing with crisis in his 30 year old prosperous small business:
- Be on top of your cash flow. The most important thing for a small business owner and even more critical in a crisis when revenue slows but expenses don't
- Have a contingency. Cash is best. Build up a reserve that allows for 3 - 6 months of operation without any revenue coming in
- Analyze your receivables. Collect as much as you can now; make deals with those you can't; plan for write offs
Wednesday, April 22, 2020
But there are ways to stay on top of marketing your small business. These are top three things I share with the students in my Small Business Class at George Brown College:
- Set up your website. Optimize it with keywords that help search engines serve you up in relevant consumer searches.
- Set up your Google My Business Page. Google has a step-by-step process to help you. Your Google My Business page works with online searches to help optimize your online performance
- Set up your Facebook Business Page. Facebook marketing has replaced the local newspaper by giving you tools to target by demographic, psychographic and geographic profiles.
Until next time...
Monday, April 13, 2020
Until next time...
Monday, April 6, 2020
Business owners are facing this reality now as they cope with the COVID-19 crisis. Closed businesses wonder if they will be able to re-open; the remaining open businesses are dealing with significantly reduced revenue. There are no easy answers.
I had a conversation with my Cousin in Kingston, Jamaica recently. Jamaica is currently in a heavy lock-down: The International airports are closed to all incoming traffic; All the hotels are closed. In a country heavily dependent on tourism, this is catastrophic across the entire economy.
My cousin is a business consultant and I expected the worst. I was pleasantly surprised when she said that local businesses had already adapted to this new reality: Grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants were now delivering direct to their customers. "They adapted quickly because they knew no help was coming".
Here in North America we are not used to that. We're not used to this sudden change in the business landscape. In Jamaica they are used to frequent upheaval. People have to adapt quickly to the changes. It's a lesson we are now learning here in North America. How do we start?
- Stop referring to this as 'living in challenging times'. Life is always challenging...we've been lulled into complacency.
- Adapt now. Aggressively look for ways to satisfy customer's changed needs
- Move your business online, particularly mobile
- Stop waiting for 'new normal'...this is normal
Until next time...
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
I've been mulling this over the past couple of weeks. I've talked to a number of small business owners who are coping so far. One is able to continue business at a reduced level with all his people working from home. Another had to close her two retail locations; So far she has managed to keep her staff on the payroll and with the recently announced Federal wage subsidy program is optimistic she can ride this out for the next 6 weeks. Finally, a small manufacturer pivoted from his main business into providing a COVID-19 product in high demand. What these business owners all have in common is a calm head. They've all been able to rise above the noise, get above the 'crazy'.
The outcome of this crisis is that we will all learn how to be better at what we do. We'll learn how to cut out the noise and focus on what's really important. Both to our businesses and to ourselves. I'm optimistic that what the world looks like after this crisis has passed will be better.
Until next time...
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
Do the right thing:
- Government leaders: Close the country down for the next 2 weeks. Let's kill this bastard virus once and for all!
- Business leaders: Support your employees. They are with you in good times, now be with them in these bad times! Pay them to stay home!
- People: Take your heads out of the sand! This is not a rehearsal...this is the real thing. Self isolation means exactly that: No group contact!
Do the right thing. Now!
Until next time...
Thursday, January 30, 2020
|Starting Your Small Business|
Here's how you can help: Volunteer to speak in one of the upcoming classes. Share your small business story, how you got started, mistakes you've made, successes you've had, tips on how to get through the typical challenges.
If you are a small business owner and have about 45 minutes on Thursday evening at 6:15 pm, please contact me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, October 3, 2019
Thursday, June 13, 2019
Just about everyone has a 'side hustle'. A part-time job, a web business or consulting gig. Other than the part-time job, success depends on generating qualified leads. Then turning those leads into customers. That takes selling skills.
While teaching over the past 3 years at George Brown College in the Continuing Education Program (Part-time of course), I've observed that no matter the course, Students crave three skills:
- How to think like an Entrepreneur. In this particular GBC course, 'Entrepreneurship', they learn how to look for unfulfilled market opportunities then develop a venture that satisfied that need. They could be inventing something all new but more often it's providing a service just a little bit better than someone else.
- Business Operation skills. How do I set up my business? What's a Balance Sheet? How do use Cash Flow projections? These are the things covered in the Small Business course at GBC.
- Sales skills. Not everyone will have 'Sales' in their job descriptions but these students want to learn how to sell better. Most often, how to sell themselves! In the Professional Selling GBC Course, they learn Trust-based, Relationship Selling strategies and techniques focused on solving their customers problems.
For more information and details on the 4 hour Sales Training Workshop for your Team or Organization, contact me at email@example.com
Monday, May 6, 2019