Archive for February, 2013

The Seven Stages of Small Business Success

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

small business successWith 28 million small businesses in the U.S., it’s hard to be a member of planet earth and not have a personal connection to small business. Small businesses play a critical role in the economy, making them a hot topic of discussion.

What’s the problem if everyone is talking about small business?

The problem is this: Small business means different things to different people.

Small businesses come in many shapes and sizes. If you’re a solopreneur, you have different needs and challenges than a business with 10 employees. And you have widely different needs and challenges from a 100 person company.

What I’ve discovered in working with thousands of small businesses for the last decade is that there are seven stages of small business success. It’s important to remember you can have success at any of the seven stages. The goal of the seven stages is to help you articulate which stage your small business is in and the success factor you need to focus on. Having this focus helps you make intentional decisions about where you want to be in the future.

7 Stages of Small Business Success

Solopreneur

Of the 28 million small businesses in the U.S., 22 million of them are solopreneurs. In this stage, businesses have one employee and bring in $100,000 or less in annual sales. The success factor for the solopreneur is time. Ask any small business owner and you’ll hear that there isn’t enough time in the day.

Handling every part of the business, from finances to sales and marketing to everything in between, is a dizzying cycle that can ensnare even the best multitaskers. A shortage of time butting up against the ever growing to-do list can detonate the solopreneur’s chance of success.

The key to thriving in this stage is to establish a meticulous time management system. Devote the largest pieces of your time to what actually makes the business grow. Don’t forget to carve out time to take care of yourself, to be with your family and to remember why you actually became an entrepreneur in the first place.

You’ll stretch yourself thin, but you’ll at least stay sane while in this stage.

Partnership

Partnerships comprise 1.7 million businesses across America and make somewhere between $100,000 and $300,000 annually in sales. The solopreneur grows beyond him or herself to two or three employees in this stage, which usually means bringing on a partner. There’s great value in strategic partnerships and they can really ramp up your business’ growth.

But, there’s a flip side to everything. The wrong partner can stunt your company’s growth and cripple its path to success. Start by evaluating your own weaknesses. If you lack financial know-how, find a partner who is passionate about projections and balance sheets. If your instincts are to act as a manager, a visionary entrepreneur that dreams big might be what you need. There’s not always a perfect yin to your yang, but look at each potential partner as an entire package.

Having partners in place allows you time to harness the main success factor at this stage– sales. It’s a bit uncomfortable for many entrepreneurial types to sell, but you have to get new customers to survive. You have to figure out how to talk about your product in a way that speaks to the benefits your customers need.

There’s no one in the world who’s more passionate than you about your product or service. So get over your fears and start selling.

Steady Operation

As your business steadies, you will reach this stage in which 1.9 million businesses also reside. A steady operation has four to 10 employees and annual sales of $300,000 to $1 million. Once your business has the sales operation running, you’ll need to get focused on marketing and service. It’s essential to get a plan in place to make marketing systematic and profitable for the business.

As a small business, you can’t afford to have marketing efforts not generating revenue. Learn to make smart marketing decisions that help you grow sales and keep customers.

Customer service is also something to focus heavily on at this stage. Invest in the people and systems that make your customers feel like VIPs and you’ll end up with a boost in repeat sales, referrals and a higher customer retention rate.

Local Success Story

There are 900,000 businesses nationwide that are local success stories and have between 11 to 25 employees. As your business grows from $1 million in annual sales up to the $5 million mark, the big picture must be at the forefront of your mind.

The success factor at this stage is setting the vision. You face the reality that you won’t always have a hand in hiring and you have to trust the people in charge of these decisions. It’s intimidating for an entrepreneur to relinquish the control he/she had over every detail of the business. But setting your vision and making it known to your team will go a long way. A clear vision will attract the right people to your business.

As your business expands into this phase, you will begin to be viewed as a success story in your local community. The growth of your company will be an inspiration to other small businesses in your area.

Your example of setting the vision and letting go will be an important model that others will follow.

Managed Organization

In this stage, your business has expanded to between 26 and 100 employees and annual sales from $5 million to $20 million. There are 200,000 businesses like this across America and the success factor of hiring in line with your vision will set companies in this stage apart.

Most CEOs feel that when they get to this level, all the focus needs to be on shareholders. If this is true, then you must turn your attention to employees and the company culture. Happy employees make happy customers who make happy shareholders.

Culture is what holds managed organizations together. Culture attracts the right people, ejects the wrong ones and ultimately guides a company’s path to success. Actively including every employee, regardless of rank and title, in the direction of your company will make your entire workforce feel invested in the business.

This can be a difficult stage as you add more layers of management. The wrong leaders will dilute and weaken your culture. Be sure to establish core values and a mission that can be shared among staff and valued from top to bottom. Employees will feel mutual respect and a culture they can’t resist.

This, combined with the processes you’ve already put in place will move your company forward like a machine.

Mature Company

You’ve reached a place of substantial success to the tune of annual sales between $20 million and $40 million. You now have 100 to 200 employees and you’re in the same stage as 60,000 other businesses. You’ve become a stronghold in your industry. It’s time to unleash the success factor of strategic planning and mix in concrete performance measuring tactics. Without solid planning, your company will become stagnant and that’s when it becomes vulnerable.

Revisit your strategic direction and gauge its effectiveness often. If you notice a dip in progress, it may be time to reevaluate your strategy. The pulse of a mature company should be checked regularly.

A healthy culture combined with a strong strategic planning process will allow you to move into the rare space of corporate player.

Corporate Player

As the business escalates to annual sales between $40 million and $100 million and anywhere from 201 to 500 employees, entrepreneurs must make the terrifying decision to surrender even more control. There are 30,000 companies in the nation at this stage and the leaders of these companies have to make some tough choices. The vision is still yours (mostly), and the company is still yours (maybe), but the time comes to handpick a leadership team you can trust.

The success factor for this stage is leadership development and you must choose and develop leaders who share your vision and are every bit as determined to preserve your culture as you are. These leaders should be ethical beyond reproach, treat every member of your team with respect and exude their commitment to the business and its core values in their daily actions.

You want to trust the business is in good hands.

Every one of these seven stages is incredibly distinct and it is possible to achieve success in each one. Stop where you’re comfortable. Keep in mind that people are what make or break your business. Small businesses have needs of their own that cannot be sated in the same ways those of large corporations can. Small business owners must take the time to recognize which stage of success their business is situated in and act accordingly.

Success is in the eye of the beholder, but success factors can take you there.

7 Stage Photo via Shutterstock

The post The Seven Stages of Small Business Success appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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Benedict XVI Steps Down from Papacy, Becomes ‘Pilgrim’

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI has officially resigned, saying that he now “will simply be a pilgrim” starting his last journey on earth.

Pope Benedict XVI left Vatican City Thursday for the last time as leader of the billion-member Roman Catholic Church, heading by helicopter to his summer residence where he spent the last hours of his pontificate before stepping down.

When he arrives at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer palace overlooking Lake Albano south of Rome, the pope is expected to greet a crowd of faithful and the local parish priest.

Then, at 8 p.m., the pope’s resignation – the first of its kind in six centuries – took effect.

Earlier in the day Pope Benedict XVI vowed “unconditional obedience and reverence” to his eventual successor.

He was speaking on his final day in office at the Vatican to his cardinals, one of whom will be elected next month to replace him.

“I will continue to serve you in prayer, in particular in the coming days” as the cardinals work to select a new pontiff, he said.

Benedict told the cardinals it was a “joy to walk with you” during his eight years as pope.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Thomas Roscia said 144 cardinals had attended Benedict XVI’s farewell to them as pope.

That includes both cardinal-electors, who are under the age of 80, and cardinals who are not eligible to vote for the next pope.

Not all those eligible to vote were present, said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

The final number of cardinal-electors has not been confirmed but is thought to be 115.

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Benedict XVI on His Last Day: Thank You for Your Friendship

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI arrived at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer palace overlooking Lake Albano south of Rome, and greeted a crowd of faithful and the local parish priest.

The Pope appeared at a window overlooking the public square in Castel Gandolfo to bless a cheering crowd.

“Thank you very much for your friendship,” Benedict said.

“As of 20:00 (19:00 GMT) I’ll no longer be a pontiff – I’m going to become a pilgrim about to start his last journey on this earth.

“Let’s go forward with God for the good of the Church and the world.”

In his final tweet, Benedict wrote: “Thank you for your love and support. May you always experience the joy that comes from putting Christ at the centre of your lives.”

Benedict’s formal resignation as pope will be marked when the Swiss Guards at the gate of Castel Gandolfo march off for their return to the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI will cease to be the Pope at 19:00 GMT and his deputy, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, will be in charge until a new pope is elected next month.

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5 Surprising Mobile Search Statistics and Facts

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

mobile search statisticsThere’s a revolution taking place – a mobile one.

Today, everyone knows and understands that people continue to be more reliant on mobile devices for their immediate needs now more than ever. Mobile search is even expected to overtake desktop search in volume within the next year.

It’s immediately clear that mobile search is fast growing in popularity and value.

But how much?

You’re about to find out.

5 Mobile Search Statistics and Facts

Google Conducts 30 Million Click-to-Calls Per Month

Click-to-call is among one of Google’s new or improved ad extensions, letting advertisers attach clickable “click to call” links that automatically generate the business’s phone number on a user’s mobile device. Click-to-calls make it super easy for searchers to get in contact with a business in the least amount of time possible.

According to Google, click-to-call is such a popular ad format that Google generates 30 million calls every month as of right now. If your small business relies on getting the phone to ring for orders and inquiries, consider looking into click-to-call extensions in AdWords now.

One in Three Mobile Searches Have Local Intent (Versus 1 in 5 on Desktop)

Searches on mobile devices are 66% more likely to have local intent than a desktop search. Meaning people searching on mobile phones are usually looking for something around them. For example, directions to a business or a phone number to call.

Capitalize on strong local search intent by creating ads and landing pages that make it easier for searchers to call or find your business (see #4 below).

Commercial Intent is Significantly Stronger on Mobile

In a recent interview with Surojit Chatterjee, the head of global mobile search ads at Google, Chatterjee said:

“The time between intent and action is shorter on mobile actions.”

Since mobile searchers are often trying to find a quick answer to a present problem, they have stronger intent and are much closer to making a purchase than a desktop searcher. If a mobile user is searching for emergency road side car service, then the user is probably in need of service right away. A user executing the same search at home, in the evening, is probably in no rush.

So, depending on your business, mobile clicks may actually be more valuable than desktop clicks. Even though, historically, they’ve been cheaper.

Advertisers See a 6-8% Lift in CTR with Click-to-Call Extension

Click-to-call extensions are a tremendous benefit for both users and advertisers. Mobile users can get in contact with businesses quickly and easily, without writing down numbers or navigating cumbersome mobile sites.

Advertisers get better performing ads. Ads featuring the click-to-call extensions along with location extensions can see a 6-8% increase for click-through rates (which can subsequently raise your quality score, lower your costs and improve ad exposure).

Call Reporting Costs 100% Less Than it Used to

Okay, so I forced the “statistic” a little on this last one. But this is great news: Google recently began offering extensive call reporting free of charge. This granular call data was previously available for a fee of $1 per call. But Google has since decided to start providing this data for free.

Ultimately, the only mobile search statistic that matters is the ROI (return on investment) for your small business. New detailed call reports show advertisers the phone numbers of various calls to the business, how long the phone calls lasted and what time the calls occurred. It’s as simple as looking at a phone bill.

This data can help businesses decide what time of day is most valuable for enabling click-to-call extensions, when to have more staff available to answer phones, etc. Measuring the ROI from mobile search is easier than ever.

The Mobile Revolution

Everyone knows there’s a mobile revolution happening. Mobile search is expected to overtake desktop search in volume within the next year and mobile advertising is getting both easier and better.

The great news is that with Google’s recently released Enhanced Campaigns, developing a mobile search strategy for your small business is easier than ever.

Mobile Device Photo via Shutterstock

The post 5 Surprising Mobile Search Statistics and Facts appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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Pope Benedict XVI Leaves Vatican City

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI left Vatican City Thursday for the last time as leader of the billion-member Roman Catholic Church, heading by helicopter to his summer residence where he is due to spend the last hours of his pontificate before stepping down.

When he arrives at Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer palace overlooking Lake Albano south of Rome, the pope is expected to greet a crowd of faithful and the local parish priest.

Then, at 8 p.m., the pope’s resignation—the first of its kind in six centuries—will take effect.

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Software Company Proxiad Bulgaria Changes Ownership

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Leading European private equity firm Gimv has acquired software company Proxiad Bulgaria, the company announced.

Proxiad Group is a French French computer engineering services specializing in new technologies and information systems. Proxiad Bulgaria with offices in Sofia and Plovdiv is nearshore facility of Proxiad Group with over 160 IT professionals.

With this investment achieved through the departure of two of the three founding directors, Gimv became the main shareholder of the company, along with Eric Rozanes and St?phane L?vy.

They will take over the operational management of the Group and also be investors.

Founded in 1997, Proxiad is a software specialist in new technologies and information systems, and well established in the areas of retail banking, insurance and electronic invoicing. The company achieved a turnover in 2012 of ? 31 million. It employs over 600 people and offers one of the best returns in the industry.

Proxiad Bulgaria was founded in 2004 as the Bulgarian subsidiary of the Proxiad Group and is an IT services provider, focused on cost-efficient offshore/nearshore IT engineering and software development.

Proxiad Bulgaria offers a wide range of IT services covering the entire software life cycle. Proxiad Bulgaria offers clients such as Ariba, B-Process, Boursorama & BNP Paribas, the opportunity to successfully design, implement and maintain their IT systems, by externalizing these processes offshore at the Proxiad Bulgaria IT Facility.

Proxiad says its major competitive advantage lies with its service centers in the North West of France and nearshore facility in Bulgaria, which enable it to offer outsourced technical assistance.

Arnaud Leclercq, head of Gimv activities in France, commented:

“Through its platform ‘Smart Industries’, Gimv will invest in growth companies that create value by improving the productivity of innovative products and services, making them become a leader in their sector.”

St?phane L?vy, Chairman of Proxiad says:

“Our strategy for the coming years revolves around three major axes. One, grow the Paris region, two, further develop the service centers of Lille, Rouen and Bulgaria and expand the infrastructure division systems and networks. Our ambition in 5 years is at least double the turnover and the number of IT professionals. We are confident in achieving this goal.”

Gimv is a European investment company with over three decades of experience in private equity and venture capital. Gimv is listed on NYSE Euronext Brussels. Gimv currently manages around 1.8 billion EUR (including third party funds) of investments in 85 portfolio companies, which jointly realise a turnover of more than EUR 6 billion and employ over 28,000 professionals.

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Politics this week

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Business this week

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

KAL’s cartoon

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Tenerife Behead Maniac Sentenced to 20 Years in Psychiatric Unit

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Bulgarian national Deyan Deyanov, who committed the shocking murder of 60-year-old Jennifer Mills-Westley in Tenerife back in 2011, has been sentenced to 20 years in a psychiatric unit.

Deyanov’s defence had argued that he was not criminally responsible for his actions due to paranoid schizophrenia, but he was found guilty by a jury of nine last week.

When asked by the magistrate if he had anything he wanted to say, Deyanov answered through his interpreter: “I am the second reincarnation of Jesus Christ and I will bring the fire of the Holy Spirit to bear against this court,” according to Sky News.

Deyanov killed 60-year-old Jennifer Mills-Westley in a shop in the popular resort of Los Cristianos back in May 2011. He stabbed her 14 times before decapitating her in public.

The mentally ill man had pursued the victim for some time before the horrifying act.

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