Cycle Tourism An Opportunity …

 For Local Business

June 26, 2012 by Cris Zimermann

Delhi News Record:

The potential for Norfolk County to host thousands of cycling tourists is here now that the north shore of Lake Erie is part of a 1,400-kilometre long biking trail.

But local businesses need to be ready to serve them, a seminar in Port Dover was told last week.

“We need as many businesses as possible to act as staging areas,” said Marlaine Koehler of the Toronto-based Waterfront Regeneration Trust, the charity that has established a biking route from St. Clair Lake to Quebec that follows the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway.

What’s needed, Koehler said, are such things as secure places for cyclists to lock up their bikes, places for them to sit in the shade on a bench, or spots where they can get their water bottles filled. Also needed is access to bicycle repair kits and air pumps.

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Ideas Aren’t Important, Execution Is

June 13, 2012 by Dane Carlson

Remember, it’s not the idea, it’s the execution that matters:

In fact, execution is probably one of the biggest competitive advantages that startups typically overlook. Investors would always rather have an “A” entrepreneur with a “B” idea than a “B’ entrepreneur with an “A” idea. This is why investors always rate the management team as the key criteria they use to decide where to invest their funds. Ideas don’t make profitable businesses. Management teams that successfully execute their ideas make all the money.

For example, a discount airline is not an innovative concept. Major companies such as United and Delta have tried to execute this many times. Only Southwest has figured out how to make a low-cost, point-to-point airline profitable. While the idea is not unique, the successful execution is rare. This is why “first-mover advantage” may not be an advantage at all. Competition is a valuable thing. Examining the successes and failures other people made with the same idea will always help execution.

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Bootstrap This:

 A Free CRM, Project Manager and Enterprise Network for Small Businesses

June 11, 2012 by Dane Carlson

Activity Stream

Money is always an issue for startups and small businesses. So if you are in the bootstrap mode, take note of Bitrix24.com – new social enterprise network launched by BitrixSoft (the #2 maker of intranet CMS behind Microsoft).

If your company is smaller than 12 employees, Bitrix24 offers you free social intranet, free CRM, free task scheduler and project manager, free calendar and free document storage/sharing. Those with over 12 employees have two monthly plans to choose from – $99/mo and $199/mo. These plans offer extranet integration (handy, if you work with a lot of outside vendors or freelancers), time management module and a variety of reporting tools – from absentee charts to personal performance reports.

Unlike other similar services, Bitrix24 doesn’t have any additional charges for adding extra employees on the two paid plans (other services typically charge $5/mo per employee over the limit). Rather the $99/mo plan comes with a 50 GB space limit and $199/mo plan is limited to 100 GB of cloud-based storage. Additional disk space can be purchased, if necessary.

Both free and paid versions of Bitrix24 are integrated with iPhone and Android based devices and can be accessed via any smartphone or Tablet PC with Internet access.

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Protect Your Biz From Cyber Attacks

June 10, 2012 by Angela Shupe

Mashable:

You may think that cybersecurity is only important for major companies, but think again. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to cyberattacks: Without the big security budgets of Fortune 500 companies, they’re seen as easy prey by digital information thieves and corporate espionage experts. And if you’re hit by an attack, you should be prepared to face a revenue loss of up to $10,000 (or more) if your website goes down in the process. That’s a lot of money for a small business to lose, and it can happen at any time.

How can a small business protect against cyberattacks and information leaks without breaking the bank?

1. Smart Passwords

2. Mobile Device Education

3. Social Media Education

4. Risk Management

Click here for a more thorough description of each tip.

Photo by Santiago Rodríguez

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Franchise Cops Spy on Franchisees

June 7, 2012 by Dane Carlson

Donuts

ABC News:

A cop walks into a donut shop.

Far from a fat-cop joke, that sentence could be the beginning of the end for a Dunkin’ Donuts shop owner who tried to swap out DD-brand munchkins for a cheaper alternative.

“I used to be able to reach in and pull out a donut, and be able to smell and determine whether it was a Dunkin’ Donut,” Michael Mershimer, former head of loss prevention for Dunkin’ Donuts and Quiznos, told ABCNews.com.

Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t just rely on Mershimer’s nose. It has a lab in Canton, Mass., where Dunkin’ investigates fraudulent pastries with the zeal of a forensics team. Donuts are weighed, measured, taken apart by experts in white lab coats. They are tasted, sniffed and mashed to see how they crumble.

Across America’s thousands of franchise restaurants are more than 300,000 undercover food cops, pulling apart donuts, inspecting sub sandwiches, and checking burger patties for authenticity. The mystery shoppers are part of a loss prevention strategy that tries to ensure major brands – Quiznos, Baskin Robbins, Burger King – maintain consistency and don’t lose money to crafty franchise owners.

Photo by Nikola Bilic/ShutterStock.

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A New Domain Gold Rush

June 6, 2012 by Dane Carlson

Domain Names

Business Week:

A new initiative dubbed the “New Generic Top-Level Domains” and organized by ICANN-the nonprofit that has managed Internet names and addresses since 1998-could add more than 1,000 extensions to the roughly two dozen familiar extensions in use now. New extensions are likely to be established in myriad categories: industry terms such as .bank or .hotel; existing brands such as .apple or .bmw; geographic monikors such as .nyc and .london; and new general terms such as .web. The expansion could mean that the owner of a smoothie shop in Miami who couldn’t obtain or afford the domain name “miamismoothieshop.com” could register a different name, for example, “smoothieshop.miami” for less.

The expansion is prompting a swarm of activity by individuals and businesses applying to operate registries for top-level domain names and make money wholesaling them. Theo Hnarakis, chief executive officer of Melbourne IT, calls it the biggest change to the Internet since .com was released 27 years ago. His Digital Brand Services division, based in Santa Clara, Calif., has applied for 146 domain extensions for clients, including large pharmaceutical and media brands. “The Internet’s about to expand in a tenfold way and whether you’re a small business or a big business, you need to start preparing yourself,” he says.

Photo by Mr.X3dart/ShutterStock.

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BedBug Chasers Now Franchising

May 7, 2012 by Dane Carlson

BedBug Chasers provides a 100% green and chemical free system for eliminating bedbugs using heat.  According to a press release they just sent over, they’re franchising.

Franchise info is here.

BedBug Chasers, a World Class provider of heat remediation services and manufacturer of US made bed bug heat remediation equipment is franchising its service business. The business features a low entry cost, is a 100% chemical free and Green enterprise, and will be offered through the BedBug Chaser Franchise Corporation.

The cornerstones of this booming franchise program features exclusive access to the patented BedBug Chaser heaters, the BedBug Chasers nationwide rental fleet and training on the BedBug Chasers propriety process. The BedBug Chaser heaters have proven to show a higher ROI than other brands on the market by substantially decreasing treatment times and the ability to heat a larger square foot area per heater.

More of the release after the jump.

Outbreaks of bed bug infestations have been sweeping across the United States for the past 5 years in epidemic proportions. Bed bugs have gotten so out of control that the 111th Congress introduced bill H.R.2248 — Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite Act where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was tasked to investigate the public health implications of bed bugs on lodging and housing. That study centered around the impacts on mental health from bed bugs, their potential for spreading infectious disease, and their contributing to other diseases such as asthma. All studies thus far have agreed that “heat” is one of, if not the safest and most effective way to kill all stages of bed bugs including nymphs and eggs. This further reinforces the time is now for a business like BedBug Chasers to franchise.

In recent times, the media has reported on stories about “super chemical resistant” bed bugs and the dangers that many chemicals pose to people who are exposed to them.  BedBug Chasers has researched and developed an eco-friendly and cost effective way to put an end to these chemical resistant bed bug infestations and is making that solution available through its franchise program.

We caught up with VP of Operations Larry Smith to discuss the franchise offering, “BedBug Chasers is the only complete franchised business system to kill bed bugs on premises with 100% chemical free Green electric heat remediation. No other company has all the pieces that we have; manufacturing, proprietary equipment, continued product development and scalability through our rental network.  This puts us on Top and in a position to soon be the largest bed bug killing business in the US. Our ROI and Cost per kW is such that BedBug Chasers franchisees can compete dollar for dollar with a properly done chemical treatment, which we all know does not always work. BUT our heat does, every time. BedBug Chasers will become a top rated franchise in a very short time frame because you don’t have to be an exterminator to do this. In many states there is no special license required so this is the perfect opportunity for returning Veterans, middle management caught up in downsizing or tradesman looking to become entrepreneurs!”

Photo by Medill DC.

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Vetting Job Candidates Using Social Media

May 24, 2012 by Angela Shupe

The Washington Post:

The online world has become awash with opportunities to both spread the word about job openings as well as investigate possible candidates before you meet them in the flesh. But how can small businesses avoid information overload? Here are some tips:

●LinkedIn: Every recruiter’s friend and even better than you think. LinkedIn is a great first stop for recruiters. Beyond showing their professional growth in an easy-to-read format, smart candidates request (and get!) insightful recommendations from peers, clients and friends that give an outsider’s view of their performance. These are sometimes more powerful than regular references, since they are publicly displayed.

●Love or hate Facebook, check it out. If an applicant has an open page, this can be a great way to see beyond the resume. You can learn where they volunteer, what kind of music they listen to, what activities they participate in outside of work or what TV shows they like. This information can provide powerful insight into whether a candidate is a good cultural fit.

●To tweet or not to tweet. Twitter can be an awesome way to find out more about candidates. You can determine if they are interested in your business and industry subject matter by the type of news and posts they share.

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What You Can Learn From Google

May 30, 2012 by Angela Shupe

Google is well-known for the way they treat their employees.  While the average business cannot afford to feed their employees three meals a day, among other benefits, USA Today does have some ideas your small business can learn from them.

Launch and iterate. Even the smartest of the hyper-educated Google leaders cannot predict which products and features will attract a sizable user base. Instead, they urge teams to launch quickly and iterate — in other words, stick with, and perfect, what’s working — based on what they learn from their users. Rather than spending time perfecting a product that might not work, get it out there, and let the feedback guide future development.

Fail fast. If you try a lot of stuff by launching early and iterating, you’ll fail at most attempts. This is the secret to innovation. Failure is not a bad thing, but slow failure in the market is. Launch, iterate and declare the failures as quickly as you can. Most importantly, learn from those failures to help guide future efforts.

Ask forgiveness, not permission. This mantra was important to mobilize every Google employee in the company to do the things they felt were right without worrying about what approvals they needed to do it. The idea is to remove barriers and to empower employees to act quickly.

Reward employees for taking initiative, and treat their missteps as any other failure — something to learn from, but not to dwell on. What is most important is they become stewards of your company to make the best decisions without seeking 100 approvals to do so.

Photo by Robert Scoble

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6 Ways To Attract Customers

 And Keep Them Coming Back

by Angela Shupe

No matter what area of business you are in, if you don’t have customers then your business will eventually fail.  That’s why it is so important to present yourself and your product in a way which will not only attract the demographic you seek, but inspire them to come back again.

Here are 6 examples of things you can do to ensure you will not only attract new customers, but create a regular customer base.

1. Location, Location, Location.

Everywhere you go everyone and anyone will tell you that one of the most important thing’s to making a successful business and to keep customers coming back is the location! And I’m not just talking about the correct demographic area, I also mean the exact location whether it’s on the right side of the street or by other store’s and so on. I can’t tell you how many time’s I have passed up going to a store because the side of the busy road it was on would be a pain to make a left turn out of when leaving the store, or making a left turn into the store. I’ve heard many people throughout the year’s complain about loving a certain store or place but they barely ever go there due to the traffic around the location and it being too much of a pain when entering and/or leaving the business.

2. Appearance.

It is very true what everyone say’s in terms of the first impression is a lasting impression! This is not just true in personal aspects but in business situations as well. If someone walk’s into a department store that has great prices but garbage on the floor, a bad smell in the air and items thrown all over the shelves and on the floor, what are the chances that they will return just based on the low prices? Very slim to none unless the prices are almost 100 % discounted which is highly unlikely.

3. Prices.

This is obviously one of the more important aspects of the business world. While you want to make a profit to stay a float in the business world, you also need to make sure you are still fairly competitive with other business of the same kind and maybe a little lower with more product to offer which will offset the lower prices. Nothing is more appealing then knowing if you drive down the road a mile you’ll find the same product for two dollars cheaper. Now this can be accomplished many way’s with specials, sales, coupons, buy one get one at half off or free and so on. And as I mentioned above, you can have lower prices but offer more product and more brands which should off set the lower prices and still bring in the amount of revenue your looking for.

4. Knowledge of the product you are selling.

It is very crucial that all employees have complete knowledge in the product or services being offered in a business. There is nothing worse then when you are asking questions regarding a product or service and the worker has to call someone, run and get someone else from the back, tells you wrong information or ask’s you to return on another day when someone with more knowledge will be there. Now yes there are certain extenuating circumstances such as employees going through training, but all too often in hopes of putting employees on their own quickly so there’s only one employee to pay a day, they are put on their own too early and don’t have full knowledge of what they are talking about. This will create room for people especially perfectionist’s and one’s in a hurry to leave and not want to return thinking that everyone just has poor knowledge of the business.

5. Friendliness.

All to often we hear complaints by word of mouth stating that an employee at a certain business was short, rude, callous, or uptight while servicing a customer. This creates a huge problem for the business. Word of mouth travels extremely fast and we all know that when we hear something, we take it to heart and usually stay clear of the business without even trying it out for ourselves. Talk to your customers, smile, make suggestion’s but don’t be overbearing at the same time. People like to chat, especially stay at home moms who don’t get out often. I recently went to a store to get one thing in particular, I left two hour’s later with something completely different from what I planned on getting. The owner of the store pointed me in a better direction, explained why it would be better and actually chatted with me about everything and anything, it gave me a sense of feeling that she got me, knew what I was about and was truly caring of my needs.

6. Advertising.

It is extremely important to get your business advertised in all the right places. This can be accomplished in so many different way’s, newspapers; magazines; internet; coupons; signs out of front; word of mouth and more. Choose something like a coupon or a two day sale, this will get the customers rolling in the door specifically for the sale but then once they see all the products offered and the prices that are available everyday and the excellent customer service that they will receive, it is almost a sure bet that everyone will be coming back over and over wether there is a sale or not.

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