When entrepreneurs are first starting out, they usually are not thinking of “rocking the boat” when it comes to marketing. Yet a very creative promotion can work wonders for a new business, generating a positive buzz that will get it noticed.
To find out which approaches work best, we asked 10 entrepreneurs from YEC Next and Young Entrepreneur Council this question: Q: What is one out-of-the-box promotion that worked wonders for your fledgling business?
Often in life, we wait until a change in circumstances to make a big decision. Exit planning is an example of something so many entrepreneurs put off. In business, our focus is firmly on the here and now decisions: marketing, HR, inventory, cash flow, etc. It doesn’t feel like there is the time or the impetus to create an exit strategy, especially if you don’t plan to sell soon.
But, you can’t be complacent about exiting your business. A study by Securian Financial revealed that 72% of small business owners have no exit strategy at all. The reality is it can take years to execute a successful exit, so the endgame needs to be in your mind from the start.
As a manager or business owner, it is of the utmost importance to stay on top of industry standards and government regulations. If you don’t, you risk costly lawsuits, might miss out on valuable government grants and tax breaks, and could garner a poor reputation with a jaded customer base.
Review Regulations That Apply Now
It can seem daunting to wade through all the required licenses for your industry and to keep track of when they need to be renewed, but fortunately there are lots of sites that list permits you’ll need for your business by industry or by state. Many government websites also explicitly list rules and regulations for industries such as the liquor and nuclear industries.
Retail used to be about shelf space. Own those precious inches, and you controlled the consumer relationships. But the multitude of new buying channels enabled by e-commerce platforms has exponentially widened the shelf. Small brands now have far more control over who sees and has access to their products, as well as where and how.
The decision between two products no longer comes down to how they look side by side in-store, but how well the mission and vision of the companies producing them are communicated through a screen. Consumers are hungry for information on which to base their choices, so it’s imperative that small businesses tell their stories. That’s creating a new class of “craft” brands, which thrive on their uniqueness and connection to their customers.
Sexual harassment is a big problem in the modern workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and state agencies handled a total of 11,364 sexual harassment charges in 2011 (the most recent combined reporting data). Of those cases, 26 percent were decided in favor of complainants, with employers of all sizes paying out $52.3 million in victim settlements in that year alone.
Sexual harassment can happen to, and be committed by, workers of any professional level or gender. It is a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states that it is unlawful to harass a person in the workplace. However, this federal regulation applies only to employers with 15 or more employees, and even businesses that pass that threshold are not legally required to have an official sexual harassment policy.
Studies show that 93 percent of small businesses believe employee health is good for their bottom line. And they’re right. A strategic focus on employee health can help businesses grow.
So why do only 22 percent of small businesses actually have wellness programs? Maybe these programs (and the buzz about crazy-expensive wellness perks) seem like they’re just for big companies with lots of people on the payroll.
Even for the smallest of companies, though, employee wellness programs can improve productivity, help with talent acquisition and retention and increase brand recognition – all of which support business growth and can help small businesses get ahead without sinking too much money into a new initiative.
Albert Einstein once said, “Things should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I agree. These words certainly apply to selling. Here’s how to keep it simple.
Simplify your number of offerings.
Some salespeople have to write proposals to make their sales, and others don’t ever write proposals. Whether you write proposals or not, you need to decide how many choices to present to your customers. Some salespeople think that offering a lot of choices is better to make more sales. They’re wrong. Salespeople should offer fewer choices to simplify their selling.
Here’s why. If you offer too many choices, you overload your customers–it makes it harder for them to make buying decisions. This may have happened to you when you were trying to make a purchase. It recently happened to me.
How can a small business grow sustainably? Greg Crabtree and Beverly Blair Harzog think that in a growing business, staffing costs can quickly balloon out of control. When small businesses are making the transition to medium-sized businesses, it’s possible to fall into a dangerous feedback loop of borrowing and spending. As you scale your business, your costs grow, and it’s tempting to see breaking even—your previous measure of success—as sufficiently safe growth.
However, medium-sized businesses have vastly larger costs, and can’t afford the breakneck growth speed that smaller, more agile operations can attain. As your costs grow, it’s important to retain control over those which you have the power to influence—and the biggest of these is labor costs.
Employee Handbooks are an integral part of every small business’s “CYA” arsenal. They are intended to provide objective standards for employee conduct, expectations, and disciplinary procedures.
However, the overwhelming majority of small businesses tend to rely on publicly available online forms or policies borrowed from fellow business owners to prepare their employee handbooks, whether out of necessity, preference, or convenience.
In states like California where employment and labor laws are constantly being added or amended, it is worthwhile to review your company’s employee handbook from time to time to assess whether they are adequate or create unnecessary risk that, with a few tweaks and modifications, could be mitigated. Complying with labor laws is a lot like keeping good dental hygiene: an unpleasant and frequent annoyance but one for which an once of prevention is worth a thousand pounds of cure. Here is some guidance on the most common errors or mistakes in small business employee handbooks:
A recent report from the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond reveals that the number of community banks dropped by a whopping 41 percent between 2007 and 2013. That’s bad news for small business owners, who rely heavily on financing from small, local banks.
Even more troubling is the potential culprit. Analysis by the Fed suggests that the Dodd-Frank Act is at least partially responsible.
A Harvard University study shows that the rate of decline in the community bank share of commercial banking assets has doubled since the passage of the law in 2010. Moreover, almost all of the decline in the number of community banks in recent years has resulted from a cessation in bank formation during the current economic recovery, the Richmond Fed reports.