What’s Really Effective in Sales?

Next Monday I’ll be doing an interview with Morrrie Shechtman, author of Working Without A Net and Fifth Wave Leadership, about this very subject. We’ll discuss a study of over 6000 salespersons in 100 different industries, and the conclusions it draws about different sales styles and their effectiveness. This show will be available Monday, December 5th at 4 PM Pacific Time at www.smallbusinesshour.com.

If you missed my show last week, you can also catch a great interview I did with Lloyd Chapman from the American Small Business League. He is one of the few true small business champions out there that has no political agenda, other than to see the government stop giving our tax dolars to giant corporations, and instead to do business with actual small businesses. His lawsuits have forced the federal government to release data showing that they have never met small business contracting mandates. We discussed why politicians from both major parties talk a good game about small businesses while actively working to make things harder for the little guy, and what you can do about it.

If you have any topics you’d like to hear me discuss on future shows, please let me know. Thank you, and have a terrific weekend!

Co-creator of ACT! to appear on the Small Business Hour

I just wanted to let you know that this coming Monday,
October 24th I’ll be interviewing Mike Muhney, the co-creator of ACT! We’ll
discuss ways to create lasting relationships that go beyond basic on-line
connections.  Tune in at www.smallbusinesshour.com on Monday
at 4 PM to hear this show.
We also recently interviewed Steve Strauss, author of The
Small Business Bible about creative ways to fund your small business. You can
browse our library with highlights from our years on CBS Radio and our last two
years of online exclusive shows on our website at www.smallbusinesshour.com, or find
us on iTunes at http://itunes.apple.com/podcast/the-small-business-hour-as/id332118693
I hope you can tune in, and if you have any suggestions
for future topics for the show, please send me an e-mail to let me know. 

Factoring replacing traditional funding

Today I was quoted in an article in Bloomberg Businessweek on factoring as a method of funding for small businesses.  Unfortunately, many small businesses find themselves forced to turn to factors for funding. Here is my quote from the article:

Mark Deo, Torrance (Calif.)-based executive director of the consulting firm Small Business Advisory Network, says many entrepreneurs he consults with have turned to factoring, not only because they lack access to credit but also because they are having problems getting new business. “Factors are oftentimes the only source of funding for desperately needed cash, but it is very sad that business owners who have worked for years to build their businesses are entertaining factoring just to fund new purchases, equipment, or improvements,” he says.

You can read the full article here.  Leave me your comments on factoring below, or send me an e-mail with your thoughts.

Jobs Bill No Win for Small Business

President Obama recently gave his address on jobs to congress, and it seems the solutions he’s presenting are more of the same that we’ve seen from the Bush and Obama administrations. What the president and congress seem to not understand is that funding, regulations, and taxes are not the biggest problems for small businesses, a lack of customers is! It’s not surprising, considering the fact that the president’s council on job creation is helmed by CEOs and board members of fortune 100 companies, with a token member who runs one of the largest labor unions in the country. There is ZERO representation from small businesses. Large businesses have essentially created zero net new jobs over the past decade- almost all new jobs in this country are being created by small businesses, so why aren’t the president and congress listening to those who actually know something about job creation? If they say that it’s too hard to find small businesses that are qualified to be representatives, that’s a problem that has a solution. Every year the SBA gives out awards to honor the best run small businesses in America- there are regional, state, and national winners for these awards (and in 2003 I was named Small Business Journalist of the Year for California.) Why not tap these business owners as a resource to give input on how the federal government can help small businesses? While I don’t claim to have the answers to the problems our economy faces, I do know what the problem is. Let’s end the focus on tax cuts, regulations, and funding, and focus on the real issue- getting more business!

The Impending Grocery Strike Could Devastate Innocent Businesses

Grocery store workers in Southern California have authorized a strike as part of their labor negotiations with the management at Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons. Whether this leads to an actual strike or if it is just used as a negotiating tactic remains to be seen, but what we need to consider are the ramifications for small businesses that rely on supermarkets as anchor stores and those who service these markets.

Below is a press release I recently issued on this important topic that as of yet has been ignored by the press. 

If your business relies on a supermarket for much of its business or as an achor store driving traffic to your location, please let me know by e-mail. Even if the rest of the media ignores this story, I will do my best to publicize this issue.

Innocent small business owners and employees in Southern California have a lot to lose from an impending grocery store strike, says small business expert Mark Deo.

With a strike authorized by the United Food and Commercial Workers becoming increasingly more likely, it is important that small business owners that have locations in shopping centers anchored by Supermarkets prepare now for the potential drop off in foot traffic.

The last major supermarket strike/lockout in 2003 cost the grocery stores $2 billion in business and many workers lost their life savings. What is often unreported is the drop off in business that the thousands of small businesses that rely on these stores incurred. Businesses that provide products for sale to supermarkets lost hundreds of millions in the last strike, and so did those merchants that have storefronts in areas that rely on supermarkets to drive traffic.

“If negotiations break down between workers and management, a strike could occur at any time” says small business expert and author Mark Deo. “It is important that business owners prepare now for the drop off in business they are likely to suffer”

He offers these five tips for business owners that may face difficulties:

  1. Create an emergency fund. To help you get through unexpected drop offs due to strikes, natural disasters, or other uncontrollable issues, save some money when sales are good. By committing a small amount per week to this fund, you can survive temporary reduced sales.
  2. Get contact information from your customers. At your storefront, obtain as many e-mail addresses as you can from your clients, which will allow you to maintain contact with them in the event of a strike. You can then use this contact information to offer specials or other reasons to get them to your location in case you see reduced foot traffic.
  3. Communicate with picketers. Meet the strike organizers at your location, and make sure that they understand that your business also needs access to the parking lot and driveways that are shared with the supermarket.
  4. Ensure your online presence is ready. In 2003, many small businesses weren’t engaging in e-commerce or had minimal online outreach to their prospects and clients. In 2011, most small businesses have websites, and you should make sure that your website is ready to sell your products online and accept payment in case you have disruptions at your location. You can also use social media such as Facebook and Twitter to reach clients and drive additional sales.
  5. Improve your delivery offers. If practical for your business, offer to deliver your products and services to those customers that don’t wish to show up to a location near picket lines. A modest delivery fee can help to recoup the additional cost. You may also find that this winds up being a valuable addition to your business model.

With the threat of a strike looming large, it is imperative that small business owners prepare for the worst, or they risk being a victim of a situation over which they have no control.

About Mark Deo
Mark Deo is an advocate and expert with over 20 years experience helping small business owners grow their business. He has hosted a show for CBS radio and appeared on the Fox Business channel, and has written articles for and been quoted by Business Week, Entrepreneur, Fortune, CNN/Money, the LA Times, the Hollywood Reporter, and numerous other publications. Mark was the “go to” expert for small business fallout due to the WGA strike in 2007, and has become a media favorite. In 2003 he was named “Small Business Journalist of the Year” by the Small Business Administration, recognizing his work as host of “The Small Business Hour” on CBS radio. His first book, “The Rules of Attraction” was one of Amazon.com’s top 100 business books for 2009, and his next book, “This Isn’t Your Daddy’s Business Anymore” will be published in early 2012.

Real Leaders of the Free World… Unite!

I am sick and tired of hearing about how we need to stimulate funding for small businesses. As if that will have any impact whatsoever! The last thing a small business needs is more debt! On the contrary they are attempting to pay off the debt that they currently have. The problem for small business is NOT lack of funding, scarcity of loans or an inability to participate in the global economy. It is lack of demand. The plain, simple fact is that these businesses just don’t have ENOUGH CUSTOMERS because their customers just don’t have the disposal income that they once had. I am not at all surprised that politicians and economists have misconstrued this for so many years. At first I thought they were just “dim” and unaware of the real challenges facing small businesses. Then I began to realize that I was dim! Of course they are aware of this. After all they are Summa Cum Laude Harvard graduates who spend much of their time sailing, playing golf and attending dinners with bankers, corporate lobbyists and foreign financiers. They could care less about small business. In fact small business just amounts to the fruit fly in their Mouton Rothschild! Don’t you think it’s odd that in order to “save our economy” we used taxpayer’s money to rescue the banks and mega-corporations who were the very villains that brought about the real estate/mortgage debacle that tanked our economy? OK, so now we face the national reported unemployment rate of 9.5% percent. Right? WRONG! Today many experts believe that the true unemployment rate is more like 25% or more! We need to include those people who are looking for work, underemployed, or who have given up looking.  We all know that the government cooks the books to make it look far rosier than it is. There are 28 million small businesses in the U.S. employing 83% of all non-government employees. Of these approximately 600,000 business owners employ 63% of the workforce. Can you imagine what would happen if they united? Can you imagine what would happen if politicians started listening to them? Can you imagine what would happen if we created laws, tax breaks and incentives for these, the real leaders of the free world? I could. It would mean the end of the good days for the political, financial corporate big wigs that got us into this mess and the beginning of prosperity for hard working Americans.

Last on the List

Here’s a great rant, worthy of it’s intent by my friend Chuck Blakeman, gutsy small business advocate. Tune in to my upcoming interview with Chuck. More proof that small business is “last on the list” of the Washington agenda regardless of of partisanship. “Talk to any banker who used to give small business loans, and they will tell you very quietly and in complete anonymity that the reason their lending standards are beyond the reach of most healthy small businesses is because the government regulators are putting such pressure on them that they can’t adopt REASONABLE (not loose) lending standards. The pendulum has swung the other way and guess who’s coming-up short! Seventy three percent of small businesses who need capital haven’t even bothered to apply because they know it’s useless – 43% get rejected – astonishing statistics. The 25 biggest banks control 32 percent more deposits than they did in 2006, but made 30 percent fewer small business loans. This is your small business advocacy in Washington. In case you wondered if anyone is looking out for you, the small business owner, on either side of the aisle or in any of the halls of the giant bureaucracies there, you might think again. I’ve said this in dozens of places on the internet for three years – access to capital is the #1 issue for small business and has been since October 2008. #2 is predictability from our govt., and #3 is regulations that hurt small business and help the big ones. The SBA says the #1 job growth sector is businesses with 1-9 employees and the #2 job growth sector is 10-19 employees. Then they, the rest of the government, and the giant corporations who all got us into this mess, continue to use this crisis to help each other just get bigger. Expect large donations from giant corporations to both sides next year. Small business doesn’t want a bailout. And I personally don’t have time for recessions – I have somewhere I need to be with my business. None of the above make it impossible to succeed, but it does make it harder. And when government proactively kills jobs and small businesses like the State Dept. did on July 15, that is interventionism in commerce that is unacceptable and needs to be addressed, even if the SBA doesn’t have the spine to do it (in case you wondered, the SBA isn’t focused on small businesses under 19 employees). Caveat emptor – for too long we have bought that someone in Washington is looking out for us. Think again. You won’t get help and you don’t need it. You can succeed without their help; just know that they are not in Washington to make it easier for you, but to make it easier for themselves and their giant corporation donors. It’s time to expose the game for what it is, one “big” scratching the back of another “big”, all at the expense of 28 million small businesses and the American economy. This isn’t a lack of courage to act. This is simple self-preservation at work – both bigs (giant government and giant business) will protect their “bigness” at any cost, even the worst recession in history. And certainly without blinking an eye at the demise of small businesses.” Thank you Chuck. Let’s face it we’re last on the list. Mark Deo

Social Media Integration

If a status update is made with no one to read it, did it really happen? 

This is obviously an adaptation of the old “If a tree falls in the woods” parable to modern day, but the sentiment holds true.  Statistics show that the vast majority of status updates and tweets go unread or are ignored.  So that begs the question- if no one is reading it, what’s the point?

While most small businesses have jumped on the social media bandwagon and have established profiles on the major sites (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Google Places, etc.), many utilize these accounts in a vacuum that is completely separate from their actual website.  Doing so limits the chances that any interaction that occurs on these sites will be noticed by those that are most important. It also means that any updates, blog posts, and other website additions will go unseen on the networks that make sharing this content incredibly easy.

The solution to these problems is integration- it is vitally important that you tie your social media profiles into your website, or you end up with content that is only available to a small subset of potential viewers.  Integration also makes it easier to share your content across multiple networks with minimal effort, thus decreasing the amount of time you need to spend managing your accounts.

Integration Tips
There are some easy ways to make all of this happen.  I will assume that you have a website with a blog and that you already have social media accounts with Facebook and Twitter.  If you do not have these already and need help setting them up, please let us know– we can help!

Facebook– make sure that all of your blog posts have Facebook “Like” or “Recommend” buttons.  You can review the code needed to add these to your website at: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/plugins/ These buttons will allow readers of your blog to share your posts with their existing Facebook friends with one click, and is normally a simple copy-paste to get these buttons added.  Many blogging platforms have plugins that will add this code for you without having to even utilize the Facebook code directly.

Twitter– again, make sure that all of your posts have “Tweet” buttons, which allow a visitor to share your content with their Twitter followers with one click.  You can review the code needed to make this happen at: https://twitter.com/about/resources/tweetbutton These buttons will let a user send out a tweet about your blog post quickly and easily.  Many blog platforms have simple plug and play options for sharing that enable this option without using the Twitter code directly.  I also recommend adding a Twitter “badge” to your website, which will let someone view your Twitter feed on your website (so they don’t even need a Twitter account to read it!)  You can find the necessary code to do so at: https://twitter.com/about/resources/widgets

Status updates across platforms– you can share the same status update on multiple networks through various means.  One is to tie your profiles together directly, so that any Tweet you make appears on Facebook as well, and vice versa.  A more useful means of doing so, however, is to use a service such as http://ping.fm.  This site will let you post an update to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Myspace, etc. all at the same time.  This means that when you reply to comments on these networks, you can do so individually, and not have your Twitter response get sent to Facebook users that are only seeing part of the conversation.

Blog syndication– using the RSS feed that your blog has, you can syndicate it to your networks.  You can add an RSS feed on a Linked In profile, and post your content to Facebook, Twitter, etc.  One site that lets you do this is http://www.twitterfeed.com and another that also works is http://www.dlvr.it  These sites both make it so that when you post new content to your blog, the first few sentences are posted to your social media profiles with a link to the full content.

I hope these resources make integrating your social media sites into your website easier for you, and we are available to help you make this happen.

The Importance of Family Businesses in America

Family businesses are the most influential factor in the health of the U.S. economy and they are the ONLY solution to our difficult economic times.

This statement might surprise many people but consider the statistics. According to Family Business Review Magazine (Summer 1996) family businesses comprise 80% of all business enterprises in North America. They account for 60% of total U.S. employment, 78% of all new jobs, 65% of wages paid (Financial Planning Magazine, Nov 1999) and 34% of these companies are listed on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. With those stats as a backdrop, it’s not surprising that nearly 40% of family businesses in America will be passing the reigns to the next generation over the next five years according to Business Week Magazine (August 11, 2003).

Yet the most incredible statistic by far was the one postulated by Robert Avery at Cornell University in his paper, “The Ten Trillion Dollar Question: A Philanthropic Gameplan.” Avery noted that by 2050, virtually all closely held and family owned businesses will lose their primary owner to death or retirement. Approximately $10.4 trillion of net worth will be transferred by the year 2040, with $4.8 trillion in the next 20 years.

The plain fact is that family businesses are in trouble because succession plans are quite obviously less and less effective. This is primarily due to what I call the “motive gap” between generations. According to an article appearing in the Boston Globe on May 4, 2003, only 40% of family owned businesses survive to the second generation, 12% to the third, and 3% to the fourth. It s also a known fact that these companies are most successful when run by a family member. Family members have the passion, drive and purest motives to run the company in a way consistent with the founding member. While some of these companies will be successfully sold to those outside the family, these statistics represent a disturbing trend and concern for the future of family businesses and the American economy in general!

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the root of this problem, simply said, is that sons and daughters are not interested in taking over the family business. Now this may well be attributable to other interests and passions. Certainly this is understandable but it does beg the question of WHY they may not interested or excited about learning the ropes and assuming the reigns? I can tell you that after personally working with thousands of family businesses and in may cases counseling numerous reluctant second or third generation leaders this stems from significant generational differences. These differences can easily be reconciled but often both parties (parents as well as sons and daughters) seem to be completely oblivious as to the differences. The result of generational differences are often mistaken as ineffective work habits, personality flaws or other personal characteristic or attributes. Yet more often than not simply becoming aware of the differences in generational decision making, communication and leadership styles can resolve conflict and restore trust and continued harmony in the business.

This allows the business to thrive even in difficult circumstances.

If you’re in a family business and are interested in succession planning, send me an e-mail and request my free whitepaper on family businesses.