Make Good Plans Before You Shake Hands

Whether it’s a contract with a supplier or a deal with an important partner, negotiating is essential to small business success. But if you’re negotiating with someone you want to have a lasting relationship with, a vendor, a client or other business owners, you shouldn’t negotiate to get only what you want out of the deal. You have to consider the other person’s concerns, also, so they’ll want to keep doing business with you. Here are some tips to help you ensure a “win-win” outcome that leaves everybody happy.

Make sure you have done your homework. Plan and prepare for your upcoming meeting just like you would any other important event. If you find yourself about to start negotiations that you didn’t plan for, like over dinner, try to be polite but schedule a future meeting to give yourself time to prepare.

Start your planning by considering all of the possible outcomes. Try to envision what might happen, what objections the other party may have and what offers or counter-offers they may make. The better you know the folks you’re negotiating with, the easier this will be because you will know their attitudes, history, and goals better.

Decide what it is you want. You can’t come out with a win/win if your goals keep changing or you don’t have a firm idea of what a win for you is. Consider what you’re willing to give a little on and what is non-negotiable. Never enter into any negotiations without considering what you are and are not willing to give up. And what, if anything, the other side must give up, for everyone to be happy.

When the big day arrives, listen more than you talk. We all tend to talk too much in stressful situations. Our mind starts to plan and strategize so much that we don’t let the other person finish a sentence. Make it a point to listen to the other person and consider what they are saying before rushing in with a response.

Also, if the other party happens to be the offender, don’t let them make you lose your temper. If you feel you can’t continue in a productive fashion, see if you can table the talks and continue at another time. Don’t give up more than you want just to “get it over with” or because you’re worn down and tired.

A handshake should still be your bond but, make sure someone is taking notes or otherwise recording decisions. At the end of the negotiation, clarify the provisions made verbally and give a good handshake. As soon as possible after the meeting, while everyone is still happy, put the agreement in writing.

How Can Telling Your Story Establish Your Brand?

Brand storytelling is known by a different name, today. These days it goes by the name of Content Marketing. Many consumers have stopped falling for the traditional world of marketing. Consumers need consistently creative, relevant and valuable content delivered on new media with the intention of explaining or enhancing the customer’s beliefs or purchasing practices. Content marketing is the art of communicating on multiple levels with clients while, at the same time, confirming any potential customer’s idea of what your brand is.

To get the most from your marketing campaign, create unique content to tell customers about your company’s expertise. Customer testimonials, case studies, how to guides for self-help, press releases, social media posts, prolific blogging and more. Do your best to become a thought leader in your industry by sharing your content freely and frequently.

Contributing original content to targeted, well-defined online media and providing important educational resources will solidify your business an expert in its field. Blogging and staying in touch with past customers are two tried and true ways to boost a company’s reputation and outreach, supporting your branding efforts as it drives attention and traffic to your business, its services and its ability to forecast critical trends.

How Can I Plan for My Business's Future?

Entrepreneurs and small business owners hear a lot of talk about preparing for the future, or “looking at the road ahead.” Even here at Wise Business Plans, we’re always telling clients to make sure they have a map to guide them through the twists and turns of starting and running their own company.

But what twists are we talking about? And how will you recognize the dips and turns ahead? What will they look like? That’s where the experts we employ come in. They know the landscape and have done the market research that shows what future trends and technology may look like. Here are a few examples of what the map of the future may hold.

People may find that they are “online” all the time. There will be a constant connection to customers via wearable technology and touch sensors in the home, office and vehicles, even mass transit. Things like glasses and smart watches are already here and will become cheaper and more common. Quickly on their heels will be new products such as facial recognition, iris scans, even contacts for your irises and brain implants.

Your data will be the most valuable currency. As the struggle between more data/more resistance toward it, continues, consumer information will be more precious. Businesses that know a lot about their consumers and what they like can offer that knowledge to those that don’t have or can’t get the data. They will pay a premium for it because they can’t operate without it.

Along those same lines, privacy issues will become bigger than ever. As more data is collected from every aspect of a person’s life, consumers will put up bigger walls protecting privacy. Customers will be less likely to freely hand over their email, online credentials and especially their actual address and phone number.

All of this will make trust more important than ever. As customers become tired of more and more intrusion, they will look for companies that feel real and authentic. Content will have to be less about sales and marketing and more about what customer entertainment and information.

Happy customers will be the new billboard. The customer will rely heavily on user ratings and recommendations, products will live or die by word-of-mouth feedback. Successful companies will do less marketing and more development of products that have value. The frontrunners will also develop easy ways for people to talk about them.

Is Your Website Just a Website?

Running an online website can be challenging, but once you know a few guidelines, you’ll be ready to decide on a plan and set up an online store that brings in sales and custom caters to your customers’ needs. Businesses large and small have discovered that e-commerce is the answer to reaching all of their prospective customers. Miss out, and you’re giving up potential profits. Just like any brick and mortar store, your web store needs a solid foundation, here are some essential features that can help your customers smooth shopping experience.

Highlight your company’s contact information Customers need to know how to contact you without looking all over for it. You can build credibility by putting a phone number and email in the footer on every page where they can be easily found.

Always show related products. Your customers are likely to purchase additional items when they see related or recommended products. For example, when a customer orders that new kitchen sink, give them your choices of faucets, also.

Make sure your company instills trust. Many would-be online shoppers feel unsafe submitting credit card information over the web. Make your e-commerce site easy to trust with encryption and state of the art, up to date security measures.

Last but not least, build a mobile-friendly site. As technology evolves so does internet access. Having a mobile adaptive site creates the answer to the variety of mobile devices your consumers use to connect to your website. Statistics show mobile web shopping is growing 8 times faster than 10 years ago.

Don't Start Working From Home Without These Three Things

A lot of successful entrepreneurs start off as home-based businesses. Working from home can be rewarding and exciting, but it is often filled with distractions and new challenges to master. So before you pull a chair up to that desk and shut the door, make sure you have these three items handy.

A family that supports what you’re doing: When you start working from home it is important that you have the support of your family or anyone else who spends time in your home. You have to have a meeting with those you are close to about your working hours, level of daily involvement with family distractions and why these are important to ensure you are successful. You need your family to support you, but it is you who must set the rules and demonstrate how they will work. Creating the right attitude from the beginning will help you to be successful working, and keep a strong happy support structure with those you care about most.

Accountability: Whether you are reporting to yourself, or to a larger company you are employed by, you have to be accountable. This means keeping reports or records of how you are spending your time, communication with your boss, coworkers, or clients that demonstrate you are using your time effectively. Not doing so will not only create issues with those you work for but will result in people underestimating your value and your contributions to the overall success of the organization. Keeping detailed records will also provide you with a scorecard that you can use as a reference to stay on track or make improvements to your schedule.

Discipline: Make sure you have the discipline to stay the course before you take on any home-based business. This might seem obvious, but often people quickly lose discipline when working from home. With no boss watching you, no set schedule and none of the other controls that come from working in an office environment, it is only you who provide the structure. Work set hours, have a designated workplace that is all business and hold yourself accountable for deadlines and schedules. If you don’t, you can quickly find yourself not being effective at all. Don’t get in the habit of putting other household tasks into your workday, the lack of focus will be detrimental to your work. It is ok to have break times, but stay on a tight schedule, and do not allow the bulk of your work day to stray into other things.

Make sure to have set work hours, a dedicated workplace, and plan how you will utilize, manage your time spent working. Simply sitting down and writing this all out is a great way to get off to a good start that will help stop bad habits from getting started in the first place. Obviously, one of the most attractive reasons for working at home is the flexibility, and when appropriate, it is ok to take a little time off for family and personal matters. But make sure you plan ahead for it rather than just taking time off whenever you feel like it.

How Can I Show My Company's 'True Colors' to the World?

Your company and you as a person are linked together in many ways. One of the most important ways is personality. When you have to show how you feel or what you believe in without words, that’s when your “true colors” show through. This means character traits… but in some ways, it also means the actual colors you pick for your branding. Colors are known to make people feel certain ways. So the hues you choose to represent your business are as important as anything else.

You want your message to stand out and grab your audience’s attention, but there’s also the risk that you could be going overboard. So how do you make sure everything is right?

You don’t have to be an expert designer to find the colors that look great and define your products or services. With a few simple design rules in mind, you’ll be able to understand what looks professional and will grab the attention of any customers.

Finding the colors that fit your brand isn’t hard but it should be well researched and implemented with care. Colors are an important part of your company because they can carry meaning, trigger memories, and evoke emotion. In fact, colors have been found to increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent. And studies have shown that 85 percent of shoppers buy a product because of its color.

Colors can trigger different emotions and associations. Think about how color conveys meaning in your daily life, stop signs are painted red to get the attention of drivers, but it’s unlikely you’d want to paint your business’s walls the same shade. Here are some common color associations to consider.

Blue equals trust and security. It is the most often seen color used by banks and businesses.

Green stands for wealth and relaxation. It is one of the easiest colors for our eyes to see and focus on.

Red promotes high energy. It is used for urgency and attention. If you want your sale items to be seen, use a red tag or sign.

Yellow is the color of optimism and youthful enthusiasm. It is used to turn your head and promote something as new or improved.

Find the colors that match your brand and use them sparingly. Two to three main colors will be all you need to make your logo or signage stand out.

Be sure to match the colors with those found in your emails, newsletters and on your website. Additionally, find ways to identify color harmonies to come up with a pleasing palette of colors to draw from.

Here at Wise Business Plans, we have a full staff of writers and designers who can help you find the perfect splash of colors to show off your company’s personality and brand.

When Should I Review My Business Plan?

Almost all entrepreneurs should consider updating the strategies and tactics section of their business plan to meet constantly changing market realities.

Creating your business plan may have been a pain, but updating a plan is easier because you already have a framework. During your business launch, you probably had little experience, and many of your marketing and operational forecasts were just educated guesses. Now that you have some experience and a proven track record, you know what works and what doesn’t.

Recognizing the important events and changes that may require you to update your tactics is an important skill to acquire. Here are some pointers on how to recognize those times.

You are ready to take your business to the next level. Getting funds from a bank or investors requires a more sophisticated plan. Even if you don’t need additional funding, a business plan based on a certain size of business might not be adequate to support a much larger one, which may need additional employees, square footage, etc.

Uncle Sam throws you a curveball, in other words, regulatory changes impact your business. One potential change in many states is the imposition of sales tax on all internet purchases. The result could be a leveling of the playing field that will make online and brick and mortar stores more competitive with each other.

The economy has changed inflation, recession, unemployment rates, all impact your customers’ ability to buy your product or service. This will impact your revenues in a bad way, and depending on your staffing, adjustments may be needed there as well.

Also, consider making a business plan update when you gain a major new customer or lose one. And don’t forget about your suppliers. When a main vendor changed their terms and conditions, it can really throw your small business for a loop. Imagine a vendor changing from giving a grace period to requiring cash in advance.

Whether one of these reasons indicates the need for an update or not, always try to make it a practice to review your business plan at least annually to plot your course for the coming year. But consider this, your competition may be conducting business plan reviews quarterly…or even monthly.

Looking to the Future: Understanding the Millennial Entrepreneur

By now, most folks are very familiar with the term “Millennial.” Said in casual conversation, it typically applies to those people who are 30 years old or younger. By 2025, this group is set to make up 75% of the global workforce. Understanding the Millennial entrepreneur is crucial for the future of business.

As a business owner with an eye on your future goals, you should make sure you are preparing your strategies and business for the rise of the Millennial. The data is just now beginning to come in but here are a few facts about Millenials that you should know.

It might go without saying but, Millennials are the best at using social media for business purposes. They are more than twice as likely to use social media for hiring, recruitment and internal communication than any other age group.

As entrepreneurs and business owners, they worry more than any other age group. This seems natural, since the older you get the more you learn not to worry, hopefully. Millenial business owners worry the most about their reputation being damaged, copyright infringement, and being sued by a client or customer.

Along with their worries, Millennials also had the most insurance coverage for public liability, employers liability, office insurance, and e-risks insurance than any other age group.

Also, less than 20% of Millennial-aged business owners reported being happier, compared to nearly 50% of business owners in the other groups.

What do these trends tell us? They seem to say Millennials in business care about:

Being well trained and investing in the cultivation of professional development in their business. In other words, their professional development. They, like their predecessors, want to make sure they have dotted all the I’s and crossed all the T’s.
Protecting their brand and their properties, intellectual and otherwise. They take the time to research and implement policies that can impact their business and make the investments to build a strong foundation for their business more than any other age group.

The bottom line is, if you want to do business with the future, you will probably be doing business with a Millenial, and so it pays to understand not only what they get out of working with you, but the ways they are building the busionesses of the future.

How Can I Beat the Competition? The Four Pillars Of The Unbeatable Deal

It doesn’t matter if you sell goods or services. It doesn’t even matter if the economy is up or down right now. What does matter is if your business can swim when others are sinking.

If you want to make sure your company stays in for the long haul, build your business on these four pillars of the unbeatable business deal.

Offer an unbeatable deal. Make sure you have a product that is worthwhile in the current market, then create a sense of urgency. Buyers are more likely to jump on the sale if they are worried it will end soon. Make sure it is a stand-out deal, customers may be impulsive but they’re still very good at comparison shopping. And don’t forget “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” or “Buy 1, Get the Second Half-Price.”

Always group complimentary items together. Placing items that go well together can often seduce a customer into buying the whole grouping. For example: placing jelly next to peanut butter, socks with shoes, or rakes next to shovels. This often triggers a thought in the buyer’s mind to consider purchasing the complimentary item.

If you are trying to sell a certain promoted item, make sure the customers can access it easily. Display it at the front of the store so that the buyers can see it when they come in. Other “grab and go” areas for placement might be at the cash register, displayed between eye and knee level, or at the beginning or end of each aisle. Spread the product out so that it is easy to grab.

Make paying for the items as easy as possible. When customers notice that buying the product is hassle free, they are more likely to do so. A 5-minute wait in line might be enough to turn a customer away. Making sure there are enough checkout counters and staff to avoid long lines, the option of paying via credit card or cash, even self-checkouts may be the way to go. In any case, make sure there is enough staff on the floor to answer any customer questions are a few ideas that can avoid this potential problem.

Remember, paying attention to details can really make a difference. Take a look at your business; identify the areas that you can change so that you can ramp up and sustain sales.

Your Road Map to Business Success Starts With, Well, A Map

Business owners rarely have a problem coming up with ideas. The problem is deciding on the best ideas and then saying no to the others. Many veteran small business owners believe the following business plan road map can help prospective entrepreneurs quickly weed out the bad ideas and get to the best growth initiatives faster.
First, assemble your team. This should include you, other business leaders, at least one customer-facing employee, and possibly a knowledgeable outsider who can bring in fresh ideas.
Now, start brainstorming business ideas. Let nothing be too nit-picky or too outrageous. Try to keep everyone quiet for a while and let your team percolate. When everybody is ready, consolidate your ideas and put them up on something so they can be seen by all. Now take a few minutes to group those that naturally clump together.

These are the nuggets of gold that you can use to map your ideas.

What is the potential impact on the business?
Will it bring in revenue, cut costs, or reduce risks?
What is the cost in terms of time and money?

Now is the time that being the boss gets a little tricky. The task of picking out the best of the bunch falls to you.

Some of the hardest to distinguish are ideas that seem like a good project but really just distract you from building your business. Your priorities should be on finding the ideas that show real impact with not too much cost to the business. Most of your final best initiatives will come from here.

But don’t just throw away good ideas because they seem too big or expensive. While these initiatives may be expensive and difficult, they can also be the great ideas that set your business apart from your competition.

Now that you have the best growth projects for your business narrowed down, without losing all your great ideas, make sure to plan for your business growth with a professionally written business plan from Wise Business Plans.