Archive for the ‘Blog Posts’ Category

Do You Need Online Business Consulting?

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Whether you have an established online presence, or are just beginning to realize you are missing out on market share because you have no real online presence, then it is crucial you partner with someone who specializes in online business consulting.

 

The truth is, a lot of people do not realize that when they start their online business, it’s just as involved as starting a brick and mortar type of business. Many times, it can be even MORE involved. You will need to dedicate a maintenance and marketing budget just like you would with a regular business, and there are a lot of technology and security considerations to think about as well.

 

There is a phrase that has been used in the online community since the frenzied growth of the Internet began. It goes, “it’s not enough to be ON the World Wide Web, you must be IN the World Wide Web”. In other words, the online part of your business is much more than just launching a static website that is nothing more than an electronic brochure or catalog.

 

Your business can benefit from leveraging online business consulting with the power of the web with tools like:

 

  • Ecommerce
  • Online lead generation
  • Search engine marketing/optimization
  • Online marketing strategies
  • Conversion optimization

 

Your business can venture into the vast untapped online side of the market by proactively working in the space with a strategic mission. Just like any other endeavor, there is a planning phase, plus strategic and tactical elements. Most businesses have not invested in their own human capital in this area, as it is still foreign and not understood by most managers. That is where a trusted partner can come in.

 

Interview and select the consultant just like any other professional you would consider hiring. Check out their experience in your particular industry and ask for quantitative results in case studies before you make your decision.

Never Too Small for Small Business Management Consulting

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Small businesses and start-up enterprises are usually led by people with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. They go it alone, and their never say die attitude is inherent in their DNA. However, this can lead to a closed minded management approach, as the leadership only knows their skill set and capabilities.  The result can be devastating to their anticipated return on investment.

 

Large companies and organizations rely on management consultants as a matter of course. They understand that in return for a small capital outlay for their services, the fresh set of eyes, and neutral observer can provide clear paths to new revenues and improved performance. When you decide on small business management consulting for your business, you need to partner with a consultant that can look at your business as an integrated, cohesive whole. The 10,000-foot view will rule the early engagement until a strategic plan is agreed upon. Then, the implementation of the plan is the key to its success. Measurement and metrics should be put in place to monitor milestones and accomplishments.

 

Your goal in hiring a management consultant is to allow them to become an asset, not a liability. The goal is obviously to earn more revenue, but perhaps you can be free to find new avenues for growth and gain the time necessary to focus on your core business.

 

Not only does a management consultant look at your operations and internal functions, they also must look at the marketplace and assess strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT). With better positioning to approach your markets, your company is likely to become more marketable. With redundant functions and bottlenecks eliminated in your business processes, your business will cut costs, increase productivity, and as a result, become more profitable.

 

Consider the small business management consulting services at Connell Curtis Group. Connell Curtis Group provides a full suite of management and technology small business consulting to help people and companies explore extraordinary opportunities, manage and sustain growth, and maximize revenue. Find out more by visiting us on the web at www.connellcurtis.com

New Business Development Strategies: Leveraging Social Media

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

At a recent presentation, a well-informed speaker reminded the attendees of a sales reality that has been a mantra of successful people for some time, and should be kept in mind when it comes to new business development strategies:

 

 “People do not want to be SOLD to, they want to BUY things from you”.

 

Only driven to church by an 80 year old lady…

 

Most of us have bought a car. Sometimes, we buy them from a private owner, but sometimes we have to buy at a dealership. So there we are, walking around the lot looking at cars. However, lurking behind the row of signs and balloons are suited up, commission craving salespeople, circling like wolves around a wounded moose.

 

Our instinct is to flee, but we want to buy a car, and the only way we can is to talk with a salesperson! In most cases though, the salesperson turns out to be very helpful, and the buying experience goes very smoothly. So, why do we have the initial reaction to flee or avoid the salesperson?

 

It is a matter of our perceptions, mis-perceptions, and old-fashioned trust. When we deal with a salesperson that we have a prior relationship with, or that we were referred to, we often are very comfortable.  However, a complete stranger = danger.

 

Social Media by Nature IS Personal Marketing.

 

Unfortunately, many in the C-suite at major brands still don’t get it. Many of them are still mired in the metrics of the past when it comes to Social Media Marketing. Growing their page views, hits, numbers of followers and fans are their focus when they get reports from the marketing department. (Sadly, many marketing departments give them just what they want as well.)

 

In social media, especially social media marketing, it is important that you, the marketer, provide the basis for instant human interaction focused on building trust. Be mindful of the inhibitions and complexities of your audience. In other words, be a decent human being. If you are just a logo that is cold-tweeting (i.e. cold-calling), or a serial-stalking poster on Facebook that is only focused on constantly selling a good or service, you will quickly alienate your audience.

 

Make time: plan time to include a personal interaction strategy with your followers, friends, and prospective customers. For every tweet about your company, you better have had 2 or 3 that were about you, or your personal interests, or about someone in your sphere of influence. For larger corporations, organizations, or governmental strategies, the same premise applies. Delegate the official representation in a particular communications medium, and then empower and personalize them in a way that connects the audience with your brand or mission through your biggest, most valuable asset – your people. It is crucial that your new business development strategies include social media.

 

What Can You Do?

 

There are a few things you can focus on to leverage the power of social media for business development:

 

  • Embrace client websites as an opportunity to engage and build relationships with customers.
  • Make content portable so customers can consume it where they choose, even on mobile platforms.
  • Prioritize search engine optimization. People start their web interactions with search the vast majority of the time.
  • Use social media tools internally to collaborate on projects.
  • Use those same tools to collaborate with your clients, extending the educational experience to them.
  • Read industry blogs and create your own expert blog program.
  • Watch what other brands are doing on the social web.
  • Embrace the enthusiasm of your resident social media advocates by having them teach you social media while you teach them strategic thinking.

 

Begin, however, with a plan. Just as any other endeavor, social media should be part of an integrated marketing plan for your organization and a key part of your new business development strategies. As disjointed and casual as social media seems, it should be taken most seriously in your business.  Planning, maintaining, and engaging your audience can bring new business from sectors you have not imagined. However, you must be ready to exploit it, and grab it when it comes through.

How to Get More Clients by Being Proactive

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

No matter what your business or service is, you likely are in constant need of new business as well as focused on retaining the business you have.  Some companies struggle with this balance of how to get more clients while keeping the ones you have and may focus too much on one or the other. This can lead to a reactionary style of business operation.

 

In the early stages of a business, it is almost all pro-active work. Everyone is selling the business and working to gain market share and revenue. It is easy to stay focused on client satisfaction and new business because it dominates the day-to-day activity. However, somewhere along the way, many businesses reach a saturation point with their resources allocated to customer service, and management loses focus on top line revenue and slowly shifts to cost saving and more bottom line management.

 

A systematic overhaul is required if this is happening on your organization. Top line sales needs to become the focus once again. A pro-active approach to rebuilding the business is based largely on improved client and customer communications. Instead of servicing clients in a reactive manner, use a pro-active approach of reaching out to your customers in a more collaborative way. By sharing and discussing the mission and objectives of your respective firms, you will discover common objectives that you both can work to achieve.

 

Personalize the process of service delivery. Maybe another employee in your organization who is not normally customer facing, is introduced to the client, or simply communicates with the client through a note or card. By doing small ordinary things, you can end up being extraordinary in result.

 

Make sure your business development team is actively working each of their clients and prospects for referral business. Salespeople tend to focus on selling a particular client. However, being aware of this mindset and focusing on clientele as a collective group can be beneficial. Always be thinking about how to get more clients.

 

There is power in relationships and referrals. Harness it.

Why Hire an Information Technology Consulting Firm?

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Many businesses have a tough time making the decision whether to utilize the services of an information technology consulting firm. One reason it is so tough is that there are many mysteries that surround technology and its uses, and if your main business is not technology, you are skeptical and unaware of the potential benefits.

 

You are probably an expert at running your own business, but you likely do not prepare your own income taxes or represent yourself in legal proceedings. You need to think the same way when it comes to planning, implementing, and maintaining your technology infrastructure. Being able to foresee trends in technology and match the strategy with future need is key to the success of the relationship.

 

An information technology consulting firm can translate your goals and mission into an action plan that can live within your growth framework. This allows for the entire organization to know how the technology will evolve and can provide the return on investment and budget accountability along the way.

 

A not-so-new term “automation” has now met the word “convergence” as technology and infrastructures become more inter-related. A key area of service the consulting firm can provide is the impact of technology changes on space planning and building design.

 

The Hiring Process

 

The first step in the hiring process is to clearly outline your objectives in advance of the interview process. These objectives will likely be dynamic in nature as the process continues and engagement gets closer.

 

Interview a variety of firms. Compare their offerings, experience, as well as the attitudes of the consultant towards your particular business or industry. Remember, you will be working with this firm, not in a vacuum, so you need a high degree of compatibility. Additionally, determine if you will be assigned a single point of contact or primary consultant. This will bring a level of consistency, and you will not have to familiarize a new consultant every step of the way.

 

Simple things during the interview process should also be noted. Things like responsiveness, follow up, use of technology, etc. should all be noted as part of the decision making process. Information technology itself is a very broad field, and with many different biases towards particular technology companies, platforms, and logistical design.  Make sure the consultant you hire has experience in projects similar to yours. Make sure they have extensive knowledge in the software and hardware products you use, and plan to use.

 

Testimonials are powerful tools in the selection process. Gather at least three references from their client base that have a business similar in scope to yours. Find out what they would have done differently and ask the tough questions of how they performed during tough or challenging situations. Use these experiences as additional scenario questions for the other consulting firm candidates.

 

Is the consultant well-educated and experienced with security risks? This is one of the most important areas in the entire information technology field. Viruses, hackers, data loss, and sabotage are all risks that need to be proactively protected.  Many firms can monitor, immunize, and correct issues before they affect your organization.

 

Conclusion

 

Hiring an information technology consulting firm in today’s fast paced technology driven world can provide many benefits to you and your organization. They can free you to concentrate on your core business and focus on revenue generation. Choosing the right consulting firm is the key to your success. Treat the process of hiring the consulting firm the same way you would any other major decision.

 

Having information technology support is no longer an option in this technology driven environment.  To stay competitive and remain focused on the core business objectives of your organization, utilizing an experienced, competent information technology consulting firm should be a priority.

How to Get More Clients Using Relationship Selling

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Some of you remember when there were no computers, email, voice mail, fax, double shot skim lattes; then you must remember a time when it was necessary to actually “talk” to your customers (on a rotary dial telephone).  I can’t tell you how many “seasoned” salespeople have told me, “When I started in sales, my manager gave me a desk, a phone book, and told me to start dialing”.  Of course, what they were instructing you to do was to “cold call”. Cold in this sense means that there is no relationship formed in advance, but you initiate the process of building that relationship. For business professionals, the relationship cannot end when the check gets deposited in the bank. Continually nurturing the relationship and staying engaged is a major tactic of how to get more clients.

 

Is Anyone Home?

 

Companies, salespeople and entrepreneurs, have gotten to be pretty good mass marketers. We use email broadcasts, flashy fliers, and brochures that we can even produce at home. We even have a multitude of new advertising outlets to promote our goods and services from the internet, social media, to the posters above the urinal at the sports bar. (Is there no sanctuary anymore?)

 

Just about every one of them directs the targeted audience to the company website for further information. Imagine that…companies spend millions of advertising dollars telling people to contact a computer for further information. But I don’t know what is worse, contacting a computer, or calling in to a company and getting 15 voice mail prompts and then voice mail (if you remember how to spell the person’s last name). Where have all the humans gone? Here’s a challenge; pretend you are a customer and call your own company. Do you get a warm fuzzy from the experience, or do you feel like it was a hassle for them to finally take your call? Did you have to leave a message? How often does this happen? Is there any human interaction at all?

 

Are All of Your Employees Salespeople?

 

The Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Everyone lives by selling something”.  It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO, a salesperson, the receptionist, or the company accountant; you are all selling yourselves and your company with every interaction.  Even when you interviewed for your position, you were selling yourself. More importantly, you were creating a relationship that continued into your employment. If you were a good interviewee, you were asking questions as well, showing your interest in the company and setting the basis for a mutually beneficial relationship.

 

How to get more clients?

 

Keep in mind that you are in a constant state of selling yourself and improving relationships, whether it is with your boss, your customers, your vendors, or your employees and stakeholders. The synergy you create using the relationship-selling model will produce amazing, lasting results that will get more clients as time goes on.

Social Media and Small Business Growth Strategies

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

There is a convergence taking place – a convergence of two populations. One is a huge population of users that have been using social media tools for a while to network, connect, and learn from peers, friends, and followers. The majority in this cohort are individuals that had traditionally used the platforms for mostly “social” reasons. The other growing population of users is made up of professionals, companies, and organizations that realize the role of traditional media marketing is being challenged by a more direct conversation with their customers and clients. Traditional media marketing channel partners are being challenged to change the way they operate as well. Some channel partners and businesses have adapted – some have not.

 

However, the buzz and hype of social media marketing in small business growth strategies should not be analyzed nor implemented because of the buzz and hype. On the contrary, this strategy demands careful consideration and planning. The reality is that social media marketing is more of a contact and interactive buying process. The key words here are “buying process”, in which the customers and prospects are in control, guided by their social media conversations. If your organization is not comfortable or does not have the infrastructure to communicate, respond, and handle feedback in a professional manner, then you need to enlist some professional help.

 

Too many businesses and marketers think that social media marketing is yet another tool for “push” style marketing. The brutal reality is that users of social media are a discerning bunch. They despise being “sold to” and will push back big-time when this occurs. Therefore, this is a case where just doing something for the sake of doing it, without planning, can cause more harm than not being involved at all. Social media marketing can also affect and be subject to corporate communications policies and employee uses therein.

 

A comprehensive social media marketing strategy should be an integral part of any organization’s overall marketing plan and a big part of their small business growth strategies. It is essential that you plan and further work with a trusted partner that can develop, maintain, and integrate a sales strategy with effective interactive marketing programs.

Breakthroughs: Information Technology Consulting Services

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Content:

There are many middle-aged people in the US that probably thought that we would be riding around with jetpacks or flying cars by now. However, things simply have not gotten to the sci-fi level of the future that they once thought. Still, when it comes to breakthroughs in IT in business, there have been the equivalent in astounding changes to how much productivity can be provided by technology. By working closely with your partners that provide your information technology consulting services, you can reap the benefits of these technologies sooner rather than later.

 

We have advanced far beyond our dreams when it comes to innovation and advancement in many aspects of scientific discovery, manufacturing processes, and medical breakthroughs. In business too, we have seen tools developed to make us all more productive and efficient. It is inspirational and reassuring that just when we think we have things figured out, new innovative design or functionality is born in new products that in turn enable new ideas and new opportunities to arise.

 

Two of the latest trends in business process efficiencies are unified communications and server virtualization.  The people you rely on for your information technology consulting services can help you navigate these new technologies and help you transition into receiving their benefits.

 

Unified Communications

 

With the proliferation and wider adoption of voice over IP telephone systems (VoIP), businesses are leveraging the benefits that an integrated communications network can provide. Imagine dialing a 4-digit extension and reaching remote workers here or anywhere in the world; it is now possible anywhere there is a secure broadband connection. Phones that automatically sense whether you have a webcam attached and instantly fire up a videoconference, or that automatically follow you wherever you are through your PDA, laptop, or cell phone, are now readily available.

 

The bottom line is, as connectivity through secure wireless networks proliferate throughout the cities and the countryside, our business world will indeed be a much smaller, more efficient, and connected place.

 

Server Virtualization

 

Virtualization will be a topic of its own in a future column, but for now, you should know it is about the hottest topic in IT.  Virtualization is defined as technologies designed to provide a layer of abstraction between computer hardware systems and the software running on them.

 

Basically, try to imagine a single physical server that is partitioned into multiple logical servers. Once the physical server is divided, you can run multiple operating systems and separate applications independently. Consolidation of servers in virtual settings can provide many benefits. Less power consumption from the servers themselves and from the cooling systems surrounding most data centers can translate into longer life cycles for equipment.

 

Another major benefit of virtualization is the flexibility of facilitating backups, upgrades, and disaster recovery. For instance, if you are using one physical server running many applications, and your operating system needs to be upgraded, the entire server will be affected during the upgrade, whereas in a virtual environment, applications keep humming along without interruption. The industry is all a buzz about virtualization, and you will hear much more about it in the near future.

 

As we march into the future together, innovation and invention will continue to drive the US economy. We have the people, we have the schools, and we have the companies and the opportunities. By working closely with your partners that provide your information technology consulting services, you can reap the benefits of these technologies as they apply to you.

 

At the Connell Curtis Group, we work with companies to hone their competitor, channel, customer strategies, product portfolio optimization, new market assessment, pricing strategy and management, partnering and M&A strategies, distribution channel strategy, and sales force optimization. Intense management challenges to implement this change are becoming critical for business leaders who want to improve the management of technology services.

How to Get More Clients: A Simple Roadmap

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

As business consultants, one of the most common requests we get is how to get more clients. While you may have “built a better mousetrap” or provide a highly valuable service, you cannot stay in business without building awareness of your business or brans and the value it provides. Many businesses associate marketing with sleazy sales techniques and other dirty work, but effective marketing doesn’t have to be a drag. Follow this simple roadmap to have more fun, get more clients, and keep them coming.

 

This process can take as little as five hours a week; it can displace much of your current marketing efforts, and it can be a source of deep satisfaction. In essence, you build awareness, a good reputation, repeat business, and referrals by being remarkably helpful and generous within your niche. Then, you get more clients as a byproduct, without any need for the hard work of advertising and “schmoozing.”

 

The Power of Giving to Get More Clients

 

A retired DEA agent once mentored me, encouraged me, and even lent me money to help me build my business, without my request, and without asking for anything in return. I could not figure out what was in it for him. There was absolutely no way I could ever repay him, and he knew it. I found out over time that he was generous because he liked being generous, and he wanted to honor all the generosity and good fortune that had contributed to his very own success.

 

However, his success not only contributed to his generosity, his generosity also contributed to his success. I noticed his office was overrun with notes of appreciation, plaques, gifts, and unused bottles of wine. It immediately was clear how true generosity—without expectation or quid pro quo—was a substantial driver of this man’s wealth.

 

Even with the help of others, when I recognize a chance to be truly generous myself, I still can’t help but feel like I can’t afford it. In such moments, I have to remind myself that I can’t afford NOT to be generous. As Florence Nightingale said, “no one ever got poor by giving too much.” What you give of yourself does not need to be monetary; you can give with time, your expertise, or in a whole slew of other ways.

 

8 habits you can use right now to Get More Clients

 

These tips are heavily influenced by Michael Port, business consultant and bestselling author of “Book Yourself Solid,” who like us maintains that the best way to get more clients is to enthusiastically and generously provide a high-value service.

 

We have all experienced sleazy generosity, when someone pushes a freebie on us and then hits us with a request to give back. True generosity means you don’t ask for or expect anything in return. Somewhat paradoxically, that is the best way to ensure you actually get something in return.

 

If you still feel that you cannot afford to give away your service for free, consider diverting some of your marketing spending to the following method and seeing over time how much better of an investment it is.

 

You can enact this relationship-building and “referral engine” process in a single afternoon, by setting up recurring events in Google Calendar, iCal, or Outlook.

 

1. Assemble a list of your current network, people you know and are friendly with, and insert their contact information into a relationship management tool, such as Plaxo, Highrise, Google Contacts, or Microsoft Outlook. You may only have a handful, and that is okay. The point of this exercise is to start with a few high quality relationships and build up to no more than 150 high-quality relationships over an extended period of time.

 

2. Designate an hour each business day for relationship-building activities. If you don’t have an hour, make sure you spend at least 15 minutes. Something is far better than nothing.

 

3. Every business day, introduce two people within your network who don’t know each other, based on shared interests.

 

4. Every day, send a helpful article to three people in your network. This is an easy way to let them know you are thinking about them (and their problems – which your business solves).

 

5. Read 1 or 2 books each week to build expertise you can share with others.

 

6. For at least an hour, once or twice a week, liberally share helpful information with people in your network, via meetings, personal emails, and participating in the Answers section of LinkedIn and on Quora.com. Don’t show off or give unsolicited advice and don’t shy away from providing solutions that you don’t offer. True generosity is hard to forget and impossible to fake.

 

7. Once a week, hang out with some colleagues based on shared interests. Check meetup.com and craigslist to get started.

 

8. Create a weekly, biweekly, or monthly event in which you invite people to learn the value of your product or service. Make it fun, something worth inviting a date to, and so inexpensive to participate in that it will be difficult to turn down.

 

For example, a nutritionist teaches weekly classes on cooking a healthy meal with your loved one, in which participants learn by doing and get a cheap dinner date out of the deal. She videotapes the sessions and posts them on her blog.

 

In another example, a small business coach hosts weekly Q&A webinars for free, in which he helps small business owners out of their quandaries. Participants have the opportunity of free advice, and he provides a very clear demonstration of the value of working with him. This free event takes only an hour a week and feeds his business regularly with high-quailty clients and referrals.

 

A group format for your hosted event is necessary to make it worth your while and fun for the participants. Be sure the event is all about them and solving their problems, and that it is fun enough to invite a friend to.

 

9. Talk to people wherever you are. Ask them about their goals and dreams. Be helpful when you can. When you hear a “trigger” that expresses a need for what you do, invite them to your event, no strings attached. Making it really easy to sign up and difficult to turn down will help you get more clients in the door.

 

The result of this everyday habit of being open, generous, passionate, and interested in other people, when it comes to bringing the world the value you provide, will make you memorable, referable, and desirable as a professional in the marketplace. Your network, and your business, will inevitably grow as a result.

 

Also important, you will have more fun running your business, without having to scrape up leads, make cold calls, “work your network,” be a pushy salesman, or any of those other marketing activities that most of us hate, whether on the giving or receiving end.

Small Business Growth Strategies: 8 Sources of Alternative Funding

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Starting a new business presents the classic Catch-22 for entrepreneurs: “You need to have money to make money.” A small business owner must be a good steward of other people’s money, especially when it comes to selecting sources of funding.

 

The common startup method is to think of a business idea, write a business plan, and apply for business loans. Unfortunately, businesses commonly fail, with fewer than 10% surviving for more than five years. Instead of following a script with a 5-10% success rate, consider some smarter alternatives to corporate venture capital when developing your small business growth strategies.

 

Who will be your master?

 

As the ancient wisdom goes, “The borrower is servant to the lender.” (Proverbs 22:7)

 

While angel and Venture Capital funding can be appropriate, it is hardly the heavenly boon that it may seem initially. When someone you don’t know is really keen to give you money without interest, that is a sign that you may be giving up something more valuable in return, such as your business itself. Angel Investors often take substantial ownership stakes, and Venture Capitalists will do their best to take complete control over your business. In the words of one Venture Capitalist, “Business is too important to leave to entrepreneurs.” Also, that is only if you can convince them to fund you in the first place, a process that will take countless hours, lots of pleading, and some inside connections.

 

The sources of business startup funding you choose will depend heavily on the kind of business you will run. For a business person who wants maximized control and freedom over what he or she does with their time, avoiding loans and investing partners is crucial. Called bootstrapping, this form of starting a business generally involves focusing on selling services and then investing the income in adding related products, outsourcing or hiring, and slowly abdicating from work in order to either cash out by selling the business or maintain some sort of passive income.

 

Owners of bootsrapped businesses often run what is called “liestyle businesses,” which place the emphasis on freedom for the owners over profits. While you can become quite wealthy with this method, it is very unlikely to become superrich.

 

In contrast, those who prefer profit and power to freedom seek to build a business with high capitalization very rapidly. In order to do that, they will need high levels of funding invested in high-risk, high-leverage activities. They will also be extremely limited in the types of activities they can afford to go after, as every dime must be invested in activities with a very high return.

 

This is the common understanding of an entrepreneur (even though most entrepreneurs are actually sole proprietors), who works like a dog, is hugely ambitious, and focuses all of his or her energy on maximizing their influence by maximizing the wealth of the shareholders (lenders).

 

Pursing this business model makes for a scrappy existence. This kind of entrepreneur will need to borrow a lot, will have to give up much control over the direction of the business, and work long hours administrating and building the business rather than on directly servicing clients. This is more likely to have a very high payoff, but it is also more stressful and riskier, exposing the entrepreneur to bankruptcy.

 

Looking at business growth strategies, most people who want to start a business favor the lifestyle business model over the max profit business model. In order to make a lot of money very quickly, you will have to borrow and finagle a lot of money and take very big financial risk. However, if you are willing to slow down and defer the time until cash out, you can hugely mitigate the risk, all while slowly but surely building a profitable business that both sustains a great lifestyle and leaves a lasting legacy.

 

Unfortunately, many businesses doom their goals from the start by taking on too many loans, giving up some ownership, and spending too much capital. For max growth/max profit companies, you should take on loans and capital only with the guidance of experts, an experienced team, and lots of business savvy. Even then, you will have to brace for massive failure, which is par for the course.

 

For the rest of us who just want to build a profitable business without high risk, there are many opportunities for startup funding that do not suffocate our dreams in their infancy. The method that maximizes success is to start by minimizing the amount you need to start and getting that amount from people who both care about your business personally and have a vested interest in your success.

 

What most businesses forget is that there are many people who have an interest in your success besides shareholders, who only have a financial interest. Consider the 2008 Obama campaign. Millions of people—both regular citizens and big businesses—invested in the Obama campaign, not because they expected a financial return, but because they were invested in his success, because they would be benefited in some way by participating or by his victory.

 

So think of the people who will be better off in a world where your business thrives. Also think about the people who would love to participate in your business just for the experience of it. These kinds of people make much better masters than banks, angels, VC’s and shareholders. Also, if you are in the right business, they can fully fund your startup and its growth.

 

This list of seven business growth strategies for cash-strapped businesses also applies to times of easy credit. Start at home and expand outward through your network rather than knocking on the doors of rich strangers. Then, build from your strengths and sound principles rather than chasing glory, and your chances of sustainable growth and ultimate success will be greatly enhanced.

 

1. Fund a startup with your job

 

Run your business part-time, on the side. This is one of the most common ways to fund a business. Your business can double as an outlet for a passionate pursuit that you cannot achieve at work and also a source of disposable income. If you already have a job, don’t quit until you have a viable full-time business. Instead, you can fund new business ideas—often very cheaply—by using your job income to build a business on the side.

 

The biggest advantage of this method is that if your business doesn’t get off the ground, you won’t lose your income and you will be able to start a new business right away.

 

2. Start a service business

 

This is the best way to limit start-up costs. A service business can start for less than $100 and become profitable immediately.

 

The downside, of course, is that it requires your effort for your business to exist, and until your business can run without you, you really only have a job, not a business. However, freelancers can make more money than they can as an employee, and by reinvesting this money in building their service into a valuable business, a well-off freelancer can become a wealthy business owner, free and clear of debt and liability, as quickly as possible without subjecting himself to undue risk.

 

3. Optimize costs

 

Our natural propensity is to buy more than we need in a startup, “just in case.” It is easier to imagine a use for stuff than it is to actually use it.

 

Combat spendthrift tendencies by freezing spending until absolutely necessary. You don’t need a fancy logo, a well-designed website, or a fancy office before you start. Instead, start making money as soon as possible, with as little as possible, and you will start to learn how little you really need to run a successful business.

 

Think like a depression-era grandmother, especially when you are flush with cash and times are good. This will enable you to invest liberally in the things that really matter, such as good employees and validated learning, in both lean times and good.

 

4. Go after low-hanging fruit

 

Another of the most important business growth strategies and a big source of financial waste in the startup process is when businesses go after the highest value projects, regardless of their ability to do so.

 

Remember the downfall of many great military powers in history: Imperial Britain in the American colonies and India, the US in Vietnam, Germany in Russia. They drastically underestimated the cost of fighting in faraway places, enabling weak armies to defeat the greater army. No matter what you go after, it will take more effort than you think.

 

Most businesses, large and small, underestimate the competition; most businesses chase the biggest game regardless of accessibility, and therefore, most businesses go hungry. Like the downfall of great armies, many businesses falter by going after the big win instead of amassing small victories at home. The principle of low-hanging fruit helps you avoid this mistake by focusing you on the ease of execution, in addition to the value of winning.

 

Instead of going after the highest-value projects, focus first on those projects that are easiest to execute, and then evaluate value. Focus on the most accessible markets more than the biggest markets, the activities that come easiest to you more than the most profitable activities, the nearest suppliers more than the cheapest suppliers, the people you already know more than the bigwigs you don’t, and existing customers more than prospective customers.

 

By focusing on the low-hanging fruit, you will build an impenetrable presence in your market, instead of watering down your brand and unique advantages by doing what everyone else is doing, chasing the big fish, overestimating your ability, and underestimating costs.

 

5. Identify stakeholders. Ask them to share costs.

 

Many businesses ignore sources of no-strings-attached money, unaware that businesses, customers, and government who can benefit from your success are often willing to give you money so that you can succeed.

 

  • Crowdfunding. People will often pay to be a part of a successful movement or business venture. Whatever your business, if you are creating value, your business is a movement. Find people who are glad to give you money in exchange for exposure, credits, and the opportunity to provide input in something they believe in.

 

  • Share costs with potential suppliers, buyers, complementary businesses, and special interest groups. Think of all the people and entities that can benefit from your success. Let them know what you are doing and start building relationships. At some point you may propose a small joint venture. If it works, you both profit. If not, you divide the risk of failure. It’s a win-win.

 

6 . Outsource non-core activities

 

Any time you can divert from running your business to increasing the value of your business—whether by investing in organizational learning, automation, relationships, streamlining processes, etc.—it will enhance the value, cash-flow, and strength of your business, even if you hire someone that isn’t as effective as you are.

 

If you are the kind of person that can’t stand depending on “idiots,” of which the entire world population is comprised, you probably are familiar with frantically wresting control over routine tasks so they get done “right.” While you may accomplish insignificant tasks better, failing to outsource wisely diverts substantial effort and energy from doing what you do best. By all means, hire people that are better than you whenever possible, but realize that depending on “idiots” is sometimes necessary to help you preserve your extremely valuable time.

 

7. Form strategic partnerships

 

Strategic alliances, not hard work nor good ideas nor talent nor most of the things we associate with entrepreneurial success, are the biggest component of strong, profitable businesses and successful business growth strategies.

 

Other people who believe in you, who like what you do, and who like you personally, can help you in a myriad of unforeseeable ways through all the pitfalls that normally sink a new business venture, and with resources you can’t get from a bank or VC. Therefore, the process of entrepreneurship is more relationship building than “innovation.” It always has been and it always will be, no matter the hot-topic business buzzword-of-the-month that is dominating the collective consciousness at the moment.

 

Spend most of your time building relationships—not just strategic ones, but personal ones as well. Help others when you can, learn from those who have gone before, be kind to everyone you meet, and thankful to everyone who lends you a hand. Do just a little extra to ensure that your partners, clients, suppliers, buyers, and colleagues feel like they got the better end of every relationship (and focus on win-win relationships. Don’t be a martyr).

 

8. Consult Experts for Advice

 

More than likely, your specific business is privy to some specialized sources of funding, including FREE MONEY, whether in the form of a legal or tax advantage, a government program, a membership organization, or any number of things you had never considered.

 

Are you a member of a minority? You can bet there are trade associations and programs interested in your business success. Are you over 55? A tax accountant knows some creative sources of funding and other ways for your business to be more profitable.

 

Small business consultants help you grow your small business by being available to manage unforeseen threats and opportunities, to source experts and service providers that help you build your business, to source temporary staff or virtual assistants to manage fluctuations in demand, and to provide clarity in decision-making that will help you avoid massively expensive missteps.

 

Email us for a free consultation on business startups, business growth strategies, funding sources, IT support, hiring and firing, and decision-making clarity for small businesses.