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201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business

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Five Things to Boost Small Business Success and Profits


 No matter how busy you are, you can always to do more to attract new business. Here are some business-boosting tips for July and August:

1. Create a summer promotion. Offer a two-for-one discount on your best-selling product or service. Give coupons to your best customers and ask them to give them away to people they know.

2. Do something good for the community. Set an example as a company that cares about community service. Collect and distribute school supplies to needy children before school starts. Put them in a bag or backpack featuring your company logo and contact information.

3. Give your employees a half day off to do something good for the community. There are all sorts of summer clean-up and public gardening projects. Call the United Way or your city council to find a good one.

4. There's still time to hire a summer intern for a few hours a day. Students need experience and cash. I'm sure you have projects that a student could help you with, including updating your data base or backing up your computer files.

5. Join a professional or trade association and sign up to attend a national or regional meeting. Successful business owners are always scanning the competitive landscape. Don't operate your business in a vacuum.

For more great ideas, visit: www201greatideas.com

Jane Applegate


Summer Business Boosting Tips



Summer is a great time to do all those things that you don't have time to do during the rest of the year. Consider hiring a student or summer intern to dig into a few of these projects:

  • Conduct a short customer survey. Call your top clients and customers and ask them what they like and don't like about doing business with your company. Find out if they plan to expand their product lines or make an substantial changes.
  • Review all your accounts receivable. If people owe you money, send them a cordial, but firm letter requesting payment. If you don't get a response, stop doing business with them or require cash up front.
  • Check out your competition. Successful small businesses never operate in a vacuum. Go shopping--in person or online. Order products, check them out and return them.
  • Review your staff. Create a new organizational chart and ask everyone to submit a written job description. You may be surprised at the gap between what you hired people to do and what they actually do all day. Think objectively about the mix of talent and personalities. If someone is affecting morale, schedule a performance review and start documenting, in writing, areas that need improvement. Don't be afraid to fire people. There are millions of talented people who need jobs.
  • Update your website and dream up some new marketing angles. Do what you can to bring in new customers.
  Submit your own Great Ideas: www.201greatideas.com/contest
  We post the best one on a regular basis.

The Power of Personal Connections for Achieving Success



After a whirlwind book tour which took me from coast to coast, I am catching my breath. Although the purpose of the tour was to promote the new edition of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, I realized my true goal was to make a personal connection with hundreds of creative, energetic and successful business owners.

While it's great to connect via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, there is noting better than looking someone in the eye and shaking their hand. Remember, we do business with people, not businesses. Every good thing in my life, both personal and professional has come from a personal connection.

My mission this summer is to share more great ideas I've collected in my travels. Here a great idea from a woman attending a dinner in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida this week:

Try the WIN system.. focus on what's important NOW. This helps you prioritize your day and minimize the feeling of being out of control. It's an easy acronym to remember and makes sense.

I also met an attorney who specializes in "business divorces." Since my motto is to never work with anyone who gives you a headache or a stomacheache, her work makes great sense.

If you focus on getting all the toxic people out of your life, you will make space for wonderful clients and customers who support and appreciate you.

On the Road Again By Jane Applegate

It feels SO good to finally be on the road and meeting with business owners to promote the new edition of '201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business.'

The first TeXchange event in Irving, Texas was great. Met some super smart business owners. Thanks to Lea Nesbit and Carol Nichols for making it such a success.

Flying from Dallas to California was easy. I made it out West with no problems, but my books were grounded by a storm in Kentucky. So, there were no books at my first official book signing at Book Passage in San Francisco! Got to keep your sense of humor.

Luckily, I was able to sign a box of books the next day at the Book Passage store in Corte Madera. If you are in the area, check out their store. It is book heaven. Thanks to Elaine Petrocelli, the owner of Book Passage, and Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance.com for their support of my Northern California events.

The Business Edge Breakfast at Dominican University was terrrific. Met some wonderful business owners and collected more great ideas which I will share soon. Looking forward to doing more events at Dominican. The campus is gorgeous and everyone made me feel right at home. Thanks to Dr. Denise Lucy for creating a wonderful event.

Heading back to New England on Monday for my book party and book signing in Hanover on Tuesday, April 26. Then, down to Brookline, MA for a luncheon on Wed. at the Finale cafe in Brookline. There is still time to register on the Events page.

On Friday, April 29, at 4 p.m. please log on to a live webcast on HubSpot TV. We'll be sharing some great marketing tips.

More soon!

Happily Working in a Virtual World


By Jane Applegate 

Living in rural Vermont has its challenges, including the four-foot high wall of snow and ice surrounding my house while flowers are blooming elsewhere in early April. Given where I live, finding skilled help for my multimedia communications company is also a challenge. Luckily,I have embraced the benefits of working virtually and you can, too.

My virtual team is talented and terrific. It includes Michelle Massman, a marketing consultant and her husband, Gary, who helps me update this site. They live in Minnesota. Although I only met with Michelle in person once last year, she stays in close touch via phone and email. She also participates in conference calls with clients and we are both being trained to update my new HubSpot.com-powered website via GoToMeeting.com.

My research assistant is based in Virginia. A Romanian-based designer designed this new website. My customized social media pages were designed by a guy who lives in Indiana--all in real time via Skype.  

My research assistant scheduled most of my interviews and fact-checked the new edition of my best-selling book, 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business.  From her office in Virginia, she  built Excel spreadsheets to track my contacts and interview schedule. She re-confirmed appointments via email and phone. With her help, I kept on schedule throughout the project and met all my editorial deadlines. (John Wiley & Sons is publishing my book in paperback and in all eBook formats on April 18, 2011).

My most rewarding virtual experience was working with Lucian, a talented web designer who works for HubSpot.com, the online, inbound marketing company that is sponsoring my site and national book tour. Lucian lives in Bucharest, Romania. Despite the distance, we managed to design an attractive and dynamic site that features video clips, interviews and detailed information about my national book tour. Check out the Events page for all the details. 

First, the HubSpot team asked me to visit a bunch of HubSpot-powered websites. I picked a few favorites and sent them to Lucian. A few days later, he sent initial page designs  as PDFs and later posted pages online for my review. I was skeptical at first, but the process went smoothly and the site launched on time to positive reviews.

To create customized Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.com pages, I was referred to Brian Hanson of www.customtwit.com. Brian has one firm rule: he only works via Skype. Skeptical at first, I was completely convinced by the results. We scheduled two, two-hour sessions. Then, using the “chat and share” function, Brian instructed me to upload images and text while he designed the pages in real time. Four hours and about $200 later, my cool customized pages went live.

So, if you have any doubts about finding fabulous virtual talent, relax. Here's another great idea: if you don't want to find talent on your own, check out Elance.com, a terrific virtual talent agency. They not only match you to the best talent in the country, but handle all the billing and paperwork.

Remember, all the help you need is just a few clicks away! 

Jane Applegate is the author of four books on small business management and a popular keynote speaker. A former syndicated small business columnist for the Los Angeles Times, Applegate is the founder and executive producer at The Applegate Group Inc. TAG produces original small business web and video content for American Express, Pitney Bowes, Bloomberg Television and Cox Business. Applegate also writes, directs and produces promotional videos, independent films and documentaries. To contact Jane email: jane@theapplegategroup.com.



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