Starting A Business
We at The WIN Companies are pleased that our “Small Business Town Hall Open Forums” have brought about solutions for owners, entrepreneurs, and CEOs of small business about which they were previously unaware. Many of the participants were concerned with increasing current sales, the rising costs of doing business (especially health insurance), effective use of resources, business structure for tax purposes, increasing the value of their business for future sale and more.
It was a pleasure to be able to introduce successful strategies to help these professional get solutions. One solution that has been well received is WINs Business Acceleration program. WIN Business Acceleration, Inc. (found under our Services tab) offers premium, affordable and comprehensive payroll, workers’ compensation, medical, dental, vision, supplemental and commercial insurance coverage to those employers of one or more who have previously been able to only obtain the poorest coverage at the highest rates. By working collaborative to mitigate the risk for insurers and negotiating economies of scale with large volume and premium partners WIN has been able to create this program to level the playing field for small businesses with their larger competitors.
If you have already attended a Town Hall and would like more information, a downloadable .pdf, or to learn about the affiliates program, visit us at WINcompanies.com/Services/WIN Business Accelerator or call us at 949.502.4200. If you would like to attend a Town Hall and find solutions for your business, register at WINcompanies.com or eventbrite.com. Due to popular demand, additional dates will be added at lunchtime and specifically for referral partners.
What is the easiest way to attract great interns, employees, vendor partners, clients and investors with limited resources? There is a simple key to unlocking the treasure trove of resources: collaboration! The key is pooling resources with like minded professionals and sharing resources to gain economies of scale. There are many ways that this can be done (and some that should be used with extreme caution!) Today’s brief article will cover only sharing space as in an executive suite, a shared common space, an incubator, or an accelerator.
First, what’s the difference?
Executive Suites: rent space, generally under long term contract, have a low base rent and from there include significant additional fees for services (often whether you utilize them or not). They are difficult to budget and often times disproportionately expensive to their alternatives. They offer no shared expertise or collaboration. For entrepreneurs and start-ups these are probably best used for mailing addresses only.
Shared Space: again rent space. Their space is generally more utilitarian in design but much less expensive than executive suites. It does allow for collaboration with specific design (i.e. there may be access to peers, but not experts), but has no other amenities to enable you to capture efficiencies in your fledgling business. This space may be good for performing tasks, but will not impress prospective interns, employees, clients or investors.
Incubators: share space as well as provide guidance and/or a structure program for entrepreneurs to help them in key areas that will drive their success. While not all incubators are created equally, they are a step above your first two options by adding in the elements of expert collaboration, feedback, and structure. Be certain to interview the management team and ensure that they understand your vision. Most importantly, be certain that they are there to nurture and support your vision.
Accelerators: accelerators are incubator with funding available. Again, proceed cautiously! Taking on funding too early, marrying only the accelerator’s funding source, being forced to march through a program on a specified timely are all red flags. The best accelerators are working in the best interest of the clients we service. Yes, we have funding available and partnerships with others who may be better suited for your vision. Every business matures on its own timeline – generally 2 to 5 years. Those accelerators with programs that force you out in a short period of time or proffer only the sponsors funding should be used cautiously. Are they acting in your best interest or theirs?
After you’ve found Your Space!
The International Labor Organization (ILO) defined Community’s of Practice (CoP) or co-op’s [collaborative workspace] pursuant to the Asia Decent Work Decade targets in April of 2010. According to the ILO, CoPs:
• Are one of the most cost efficient ways of working
• Improve service delivery and enhance individual and organizational learning
• Increase ownership and help shape policy through sharing knowledge and experiences
• Concentrate energies and resources around niche areas of work
That is to say that the ILO agrees that you can be 40-50% more effective in growing your business if you work collaboratively. It is less expensive, you learn from the expertise of others, and I know you don’t care about this – but it is more fun! We spend a lot of time building our empires as entrepreneurs, it is a marathon, not a sprint…we need to remember every day to live life to its fullest and enjoy the ride. Happiness breeds happy teammates whether they be interns, employees, vendor partners, clients or investors. Happiness will make your business grow exponentially faster.
Researching Your Options
My recommendation when looking for collaborative workspaces is to try to select one with as many of the following key attributes as possible:
• Record of success.
• Strong leadership.
• Interview process for new members.
• Strong positive culture.
• Professional image.
• Expert peers.
• Knowledge of resources.
• Ability to grow with your business.
• Customized Options.
• Flexible pricing.
• No hidden fees.
Cheers to your success!
Virginia Lorimor, Founder, The WIN Companies
WIN Success Centers | WIN Business Accelerator | WIN Innovative Funding | WIN Opportunities
Contact Us: WINopp.com 949.502.4200
Many new business owners who provide professional services and have children, dogs, get door to door salesmen and/or have busy households (or just prefer to have a separate place to work) opt for Executive Suites. They sound as though they are reasonable priced. When I started WIN Opportunities in an executive suite, my rent, I was told, would be just $800 a month. My first bill was well over $2k. I was charged for use of the Internet, conference rooms, kitchen service fees, cleaning fees (4 of them actually - because even though I was the only one occupying my office, I was told that it had the capacity to seat 4, I later learned); The only line item I couldn’t find on the invoice was toilet paper (which I’m sure was part of the administrative fee).
Executive suites are designed to nickel and dime (or should I say hundred and thousand dollar) businesses out of business! That is why 95% of small businesses FAIL. That is not acceptable! Today’s businesses are bootstrapping. They are self funded and struggling to make ever penny count. They need a better option and WIN Opportunities (WINopp.com) has that. No long term contracts, flat fees w/no hidden costs. Reimburse only your direct costs (long distance and copies). Work together with other smart professionals cooperatively. Turn your rent cost into a revenue center whether you are looking for an executive office, a virtual office, conference center, or day use offices – WIN is the solution. Give us a call at 949.502.4200 to find out how.
Virginia Lorimor, CPA*
Chief Excellence Officer
What is the one thing that small businesses never have enough of? Money? Partially True. According to Andy Paul, author of Zero-Time Selling, 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales, “If you don’t have enough money, then the one thing you wish you had more of is TIME.” When analyzing your company’s needs versus your resource constraints, business owners are often left in a difficult position. They need a team to support them, but cannot yet afford one.
To solve the underlying problem of overwhelming amounts of work and no (or little) support, business owners begin to take on more and more hats. Some hats may fit them well, generally those directly related to their product or service. Other hats, may not fit well at all. So how can owners of the new “lean start-up” find time to focus on the areas of business that will generate money? One way is by outsourcing your “front desk” functions.
In our last blog we spoke about the benefits of selecting a quality “reception service.” When an owner is handling the front desk, many calls are going to voicemail or to an automated system instead of your customers being greeted by a knowledgeable, welcoming, person who is able to immediately address product or service related questions and route their call to the proper associate. This can be catastrophic to sales conversion and customer support. In this blog, I want to address the opportunity cost of two other hats: scheduling and the use of (or lack of use) of customer relationship management (CRM) software.
By engaging with an outsourced executive assistant (as opposed to just a “reception service”), that service can enable shared scheduling on-line to enhance your customers’ experience, increase your conversion rate, and to free up time for the owner. The business’ calendar can be shared online and appointments can be booked directly for anything from a consultation, to an estimate or a service without the business’ owner or its employees being involved. Better yet, clients’ expectations are exceeded by the prompt service. The business owner can then use that time to build their business, see more clients, work on your business instead of in it (as the esteemed Michael Gerber advocates) and yes – make more money!
Now you may be thinking, there is nothing else that my outsourced executive assistant can take care of for me. There is no more time that can be created. Not true! Every company must have and fully utilize a CRM system…but in reality less than 20% of small business clients even own a CRM system and less than half actually use the one they have. Again, by engaging with an outsourced executive assistant all incoming leads are input timely, customer interactions are recorded, and emails are attached into the CRM system leaving a complete record for each prospect and/or customer. Follow ups and reminders related to each prospect and customer are assigned and scheduled in the CRM system and 100% lead follow up and customer satisfaction can be targeted and ultimately attained. Having a comprehensive file on communications with each relationship is PRICELESS. Should your business experience any turnover – or your memory fails you – you have a comprehensive history to refer back to. Your ability to exceed your customers’ expectations will again gain you both new clients and referrals from existing clients.
The ultimate benefit is, as I always say, that by engaging in professional behaviors your company instantly gains trust and credibility within its marketplace. That trust and credibility can ultimately be the difference between someone buying from you, or buying from your competition.
“Not Just a Receptionist – an Executive Assistant”
Zero-Time Selling by Andy Paul suggests that prompt follow up – that is, the first business to get its prospective clients (even leads), the information they need, has the highest likelihood of winning the client even with the same functions or service and yes – even at a higher price!
Key, according to Mr. Paul is to “Provide the Human Touch:” meaning that every time the phone rings it is answered by a person, not a voicemail greeting, and not an auto-attendant. It means you must have a receptionist or administrative assistant who assigned to answer the phones. Each call must be answered promptly, competently, and personably, even when the business owner, the sales representative or the customer support representatives are at lunch or in meetings: networking, with clients or with their families.
Zero-Time Selling also endorses in the “Practice [of] Unconditional [Customer] Support”: meaning a live person must always answer the support line. Why? Because all customer-support inquiries have to be responded to in less than 30 minutes. Why 30 minutes? Because a response in 30 minutes or less will feel like instantaneous responsiveness to a customer. It is that “instantaneous responsiveness” that will, as Mr. Paul dubs it – allow your business to “hunt with the sharp end of the stick.”
This means that if a competent person, thoroughly knowledgeable about your product or service answers your phones and is authentically engaging with your clients and prospective clients you increase your responsiveness and hence your rate of CONVERSION. By routing each call to the correct employee, a good front line receptionist is not a “gate keeper” they are a salesperson. They can expedite calls such than important calls are even received during other meetings and ensure that an opportunity is never lost.
The moral of the story is, if you do not have a dedicated person answering your phone – get one. One who is trained in your product and acts as an extension of your business. Not any phone assistance service will do. Interview services, ask for recommendations, and look for ways that they can further integrate with your business like scheduling appointments with your clients using a shared calendar and facilitating your CRM (customer relationship management software) by entering leads, conversations, and follow up prompts. For a very small monthly investment, you will find that it is not leads that you lack, but follow through to conversion.