Keys To Success – Business Networking

One of the primary reasons to invest time and effort into business networking is to get more business. Yet, for many the outcome of greater business remains elusive.

Business Networking – How To Get More Business

As a personal business coach one of the first things I ask a potential client, whether it be a self – employed small business owner or a corporate manager or executive, is if they are doing any business networking. Most of them will tell me that they do some business networking.

The main reason they do business networking is to get more business. When I ask how successful it has been the answers range from very successful to virtually no success at all.

How come one person has great success and another doesn’t. Is one’s product or service in greater demand? Possibly, but very often it has nothing to do with that.

Business Networking – Success Is About How You Fish

For a moment visualize a business networking event as a big pond with many fish. You have come together with a group of other people and all of you are fishing in the same pond. Some of you will catch fish, prospects, referrals and customers. And most of you will put your bait on a hook and come up with nothing.

What’s causing the difference in results? It could be the pond you are in. Maybe the fish you are swimming with aren’t ideal for you or your business. But, more often than not it is not the fish in the pond that is the problem.

The problem is how you are choosing to fish in that pond. Especially for small business owners seeking more small business growth and success how you fish is a critical determinant in your results.

Running a small business is a big enough challenge to your time and energy without engaging in business networking that is not producing positive results. So if the pond of your business networking is not yielding the results you desire, yet appears to be a good pond, then you must change the way you fish in the pond.

Business Networking – It’s About The Human Being And Not The Human Doing

How do you catch a fish? It’s easy. You give him some bait where he wants to bite on your hook. The best hook you have is you. It’s not your business. It’s not your service. It is who you are. Most people when you engage them do not need your product or service.

The key is that they certainly may need it at some point in time in the future. The goal is to start building a relationship with them based on who you are, not what you do. In the end they will do business with someone they know, like and trust.

The key to successful business networking is to get beyond the human doing, your business, and let others get to know the human being. Focus on learning about who someone else is. Reveal to them more about yourself. It will give you and them many more reasons to build a solid relationship.

Focus on the human being, not getting business. And, the last part is the most important. If you have business networking functions every month attend them regularly. Even if business is good and you feel too busy attend them regularly.

Great relationships aren’t built with intensity but with regular contact over a period of time. Be consistent in showing up and persistent in building your relationships. When you approach business networking as an essential marketing activity focusing on human beings instead of human doings you will start catching a lot more fish in your pond and even greater small business, large business and personal success.

Turning Green Businesses Into Real Businesses

Everyone knows that green is the way to go in business ventures these days. The problem is that many of these green business startups are struggling. Given the headline making government tax credits and subsidies for these products, how can they continue to struggle and fail? I live in an area of the country that exhibits above average support for all things eco-friendly. These eco-warriors provide enough of a market to sustain most green businesses, but not enough to allow it to thrive. How does a green business grow beyond just a grassroots movement?

I have had the pleasure of consulting for a couple of these types of companies and have seen consistency in the issues they are facing. Like many small businesses, many of these startups begin with a personal passion. I have read numerous articles that suggest building on that passion for environmentally friendly solutions by educating the public, becoming a champion for the cause, and building your company through word of mouth and networking. All of these are good points for sure, but they stop short of a few key recommendations:

  1. Maximize your target market
  2. Be innovative in business models as well as in business technology
  3. Don’t assume everyone shares your passion
  4. Make sure the business works as well as the product

It is true that in any business you need to be networking with like-minded individuals and customers. Social networking is here to stay, and there is most definitely an opportunity to build customer loyalty by make them feel included in the green movement. There is however a very large segment of the population that could care less. You should not ignore this population. In many cases this group will use your product or a competitive product just because it is the cheapest, most convenient, prettiest package or whatever.

This strategy has been employed in the fuel industry for years now. Ethanol is blended in at 10% levels and people purchase it without even thinking twice. Currently cellulosic ethanol producers are taking advantage of this blending requirement to expand their businesses and prove cellulosic ethanol as a viable fuel alternative. Don’t just focus on the customers that are willing to go out of their way to find you, target the customers that won’t even know who you are. Both segments are needed for a successful business.

Some green technologies just don’t lend themselves to drop in replacements for current technology. Solar energy has aspects of this problem. Solar panels in a large array tied to the grid can substitute for fossil, wind or nuclear power generation without the end-user noticing. However, in smaller installations like hotels and industrial facilities the end-user is often faced with a large upfront cost, and has to plan and design accordingly. There are a myriad of tax rebates, loan financing, and producer credit offers from the government that have to be managed as well.

A few intrepid installers of solar systems are providing bundled solutions in which they design the system and wade through all of the bureaucratic paperwork and provide the client with a long-term contract for power. The client gets electricity at a known rate schedule and a green image. By handling all paperwork the installer has removed a barrier for adoption of the technology and expanded their market. The installer gets a cash flow stream that is stable and reliable with backing from the government in many cases. Most entrepreneurs in green technology must be prepared to guide customers through the process of selecting green solutions. Examine this process and look for areas where you can possibly create innovative new business models that make it easier for the consumer to select your product.

Startup businesses without passionate owners stand little chance of success. In the green technology sector, passions can run deep. Many of the choices in this area can take on a moral feel. It is natural to feel that you are doing something good, and to feel frustrated when people don’t side with you just because it is the “right thing to do.” Try to avoid turning your business into the moral crusader. A green entrepreneur must walk the fine line between making people feel good about their choice and making them feel resentful of your message. To do this, you must find other ways to appeal to people beyond just the green message. Focus on quality, reliability, ease of use, and price as well as environmental impact if you want to maximize the reach of your message.

There is good evidence that biodiesel performs better than petro-diesel in lubrication or engine longevity and noise generation. These are points of differentiation that any consumer of diesel can appreciate. Look for similar opportunities in your green business. Combine these with your products stance on sustainability and you have a powerful marketing message with broad appeal.

The last, and perhaps most important, component of a green business is to make sure the business works as well as the product. Green businesses are, after all, businesses and must abide by the same rules of inventory control, profitability, cash flow, and wealth creation. You did start your business to make money right? Remember, according the SBA, 30% of small businesses fail in the first two years, and nearly half in the first five. To avoid being one of those, do the work on the financial management of the business. The business landscape is littered with the remains of great product ideas that were coupled with poor business execution. Do the marketing research, build in safety factors or cushions whenever possible, and have more than one plan. You should assemble plans for your expected outcome, a wildly successful scenario, and an underperforming scenario as well. I am sure your product is the best thing since sliced bread, but remember it took four years for sliced bread to catch on.

Green entrepreneurs would do well to remember that green businesses must still abide by the same rules as normal businesses. Having a green product does not substitute for having a solid business plan. While there are customers that will search out green products, and there are opportunities to educate people on the advantages of green products, these should only be used to augment an already sound business plan. By combining a solid business foundation with the unique marketing advantages of a green product you can produce outstanding results for your business venture.

How to Set Up an Online Business – Structure and Legal Aspects

Setting up your own business will always give you some important matters to think and study about. Businesses have different structures that you must be familiar with. This applies to both putting up your business in your actual community and having it on the internet world. Along with business structures come legal issues that you have to deal with at the present time or in the future. So this is one fundamental truth in knowing how to set up an online business.

First, let us talk about business structures.

1. Sole-Proprietorship. A very common business structure. This simply means that you own the business and nobody else does. All the assets and responsibilities came from you.

2. Partnership. Just from the name itself it tells you that a business is owned by two or more people. These people who agreed to be partners will share profits, losses and liabilities etc at all times.

3. Corporation or Limited Liability Company (LCC). It is a fresh concept of business and a much more complex structure. Amazingly, this is recognized by the law as having the same rights and responsibilities of a real person. Therefore, this kind of business has its own tax to pay and complexities to handle. Especially, there’s the double taxation problem. If you are wondering what’s with double taxation, it means that you have to pay tax on both the profits earned by your corporation and the income you gained as an individual. Aside from this, your corporation needs to pay a yearly tax on all outstanding shares of stock.

4. S Corporation. It is similar to LCC but doesn’t have double taxation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows this kind of corporation to be taxed as a “partnership” and not as a corporation. But, for you to have the S status, your business must achieve the 3 prerequisites proposed by the IRS. Number 1: limited number and type of shareholders in the business. Number 2: limited stock issued. Number 3: limited sources of revenue.

The aforementioned different structures hopefully give you an idea on what business concept suits you best.

Next, let us talk about legal issues concerning how to set up an online business. Frequently asked questions when it comes to putting up an online business are: “When do I need a lawyer?”or “Are the legal aspects still the same for old-fashioned businesses and online businesses?”. Let us find out.

As mentioned earlier, there are different structures you can choose for your business, and when it comes to deciding what structure you want certain legal matters need to be addressed. Say for example, you decide to have a corporation. In this case, you have to know the legal benefits as well as tax implications of your business. Remember the difference between LCC and S Corporation? Well, that’s what we’re talking about.

There are also other factors you should consider, like patents, trademarks, and copyrights. You have to be careful because intellectual property is a domain you should be aware of when building a business, and it’s even more important when you want to learn how to set up an online business. For instance, you have to be careful while choosing a website address for your business’ online presence. Make sure not to use a copyrighted or trademarked phrase. Always aim for originality!

Next are licenses and contracts. If, by any chance, you are about to sign a contract or other physical document never sign without reading it. I know that it might sound like an obvious advice, but tell me, when was the last time you read the iTunes license agreement before hitting the “I Agree” button? Exactly. If you do not clearly understand what the terms and conditions are regarding the contract, or if you have any doubts whatsoever, then you have to call your lawyer and ask for assistance.

Last but not least, it’s good to get some knowledge regarding internet specific law. You can find lawyers specializing in such a field widely in your state. But just to give you an idea on what this is about, internet specific law is a field that covers not only the issues of intellectual property, but also legal matters that deal with domain name licensing, trademark violation or infringement of such right, “cybersquatting” (which means the illegal registration and use of a domain name based upon another registered trademark) and all other legal problems that are found online.

Now you know some facts and important considerations that you have to remember when you want to learn how to set up an online business. After you make the decision on what business structure suits you best you can start working on the business itself, which is the real fun part.