3 Keys to a Profitable Business

During a recent call, a client asked me what, in the most basic of terms, did I think it took to be successful with an online-based business.

Hmm…

After taking a few seconds to prepare my thoughts, here are what I consider to be the 3 keys to a successful online-based business. Please note that while there are several definitions of “successful” and we all define what it means for us, I’m using the simple definition of “business success = positive profits”, hence the title of this article.

What are the 3 keys to a successful, a.k.a. profitable, business?

1 Become an expert or a reporter. Pick the field, it could be anything from making homemade dog food to gardening to coaching to caring for koi or making smoothies and knowing how to find the best fishing holes in local lakes. Things will be much easier and success will come much quicker if you choose something you already know and love.

When it comes to becoming a “reporter”, think of Napoleon Hill. He interviewed a specific group of individuals and then reported on his findings and that book is one of the best books in the business/self-help genres.

2. Have something to sell. Sounds simple right? You’d be surprised, shocked even, at the number of business owners who complain they’re not making any money and when you look at their website, they’re not actually selling anything. Create products or programs, offer services. If these things scare you, consider becoming a resource for affiliate products (just be sure to test them yourself first) or changing your plans.

3. Create engagement and campaigns and have the tools to manage them. Build relationships by offering information on your topic and following up using the principles of Extreme Client Careā„¢. Get to know your community, interact with them, listen to them and create programs, products or services they want and need. Once you have those, plan regular campaigns to offer those programs, products and services.

A “campaign” is not a single email or a few posts on social media. It’s a strategic, integrated plan involving both online and offline media tools and can often take several weeks to fully implement.

In order to do the above, you need the right tools. If you try and piecemeal together a hodgepodge of “this and that”, you’ll spend more time, money and energy trying to make everything work together and filling holes (or paying your team to do it for you) than you would have if you’d done it right the first time. Successful businesses cost money to create. You have to invest, and invest smartly, to profit.

If your business is lacking and not bringing in the revenue, and profits, you’d like it to, chances are you’re missing one of the above three items and/or your mindset around your business and why you’re doing it isn’t congruent with who you are and what you really want.

MY REQUEST TO YOU

Do a quick business check-in. Are you happy with where your profits are right now? If not, why not? This is the hard question. Be honest with yourself.

Basics of Creating a Web Presence for Your Business

Unless specifically a web based business, a fairly large number of new startup businesses tend to ignore this aspect of branding and building a business. And though it is probably still possible to be successful without having a web presence, the importance of having a presence online is increasing so fast that not being there will essentially prove to be suicide for your business. If nothing else, not being online will no doubt stunt your growth and longer term survival significantly.

The amazing thing about this is that it is really much easier than you think. A few suggestions of how to achieve the best possible results include:

  • Online telephone directories. There are numerous out there including Yellow Pages, and several others that may be more local to you. Make sure to submit your basic business information including contact information to as many of these as you can find. People are using online searches to find even telephone numbers. Phone books are definitely the past.
  • Blog. This is simply one of the easiest ways to start building your business and brand online. There are loads of free options out there with simple submission capability that will allow you to establish your business as the go to business. Write articles, add photos and videos of completed jobs or just showcase anything you think your customers may be interested in. If you do not know how to do it, search for the answers on Google. Search for “how to blog”, “blog hosts” and run from there. Then start creating your masterpiece. Sooner or later the search engines will find it, and before you know it your name will start popping up everywhere. One of my favorite blogging hosts for doing this would be WordPress. It is easy to use and works like a charm. It could also easily serve as a website if you do not intend to set one up, for the time being.
  • Social media. Make sure to get a profile on as many of the social media sites as you have time for and create company and profile pages on each. A few that come to mind are Facebook, Google+ and Linked In. You can also use these to connect with customers and not just friends and family. And I would urge you to do so vigorously.
  • Profiles. Most of the places where you are able to submit articles, blog or just add things about yourself, will provide an opportunity to do a profile write up. Make sure to use this to properly showcase your business and who you are. This will all add to credibility, which will grow with the age of your submissions.
  • Expert forums. There are simply loads of forums out there for every possible topic under the sun. This means you can simply join a few of these and start answering questions about your field. Do make sure to participate in the forums that are related to what you are selling. And remember to have a proper profile on each of the forums where you participate. People do read profiles of people that seem to have some idea.
  • Article submission. If you are so inclined, write a few articles and submit them to article submission sites like EzineArticles. There are several, and they also allow for a profile that enables you to promote your business, and contact information.
  • Your own web page. Although this could be an expensive endeavor if you decide to hire someone to do it for you, for the most part it is not difficult to do. This so since more often than not web hosting companies offer free web creation software with their packages, making it possible for you to create spectacular pages yourself without knowing a single word of code. If you have any experience with some of the Microsoft packages, most of them will allow you to create a decent presentation and then save it is a webpage file, which you can then simply upload. I would most certainly recommend that you have something. Not having a website will give advantage to your competition and quite possible lose you a lot of business. And do not worry about keeping it simple. A few pictures, some basic information about your business and clearly marked contact information will often do the trick for a start.

Notably there are several more things that you could do to get your business established online, however starting with this will likely have a significant impact on the success of your business forward.

I wish you all the best with your ventures and invite you to share comments and stories here.

Cheers!

Small Business Advice – Success Is Messy

Many, many people have a goal in mind to start their own business. Running a business, managing operations, making profits, and controlling one’s daily life – sounds pretty attractive. And there is good reason for it. But running a business isn’t the easiest way to go. I remember hearing some wise small business advice a few years ago, and over the years found it to be profoundly accurate:

Success is messy.

If you are running an active business and making lots of deals and building lots of relationships you are going to be immersed in disorder. Sometimes, it will be frequent. Success carries with it some pretty consistent attributes, and one of the most prominent is disorder.

Call it disorder, or loose ends, or chaos, or whatever else you might name the condition, it is a characteristic of a business that is always progressing, always advancing, always chartering new waters in search of the next horizon. When your business does these things, there are always situations where you are not sure how to steer the ship, where to pause, when to shoot forward, or what to do because you cannot see the future and you cannot always know the best course of action.

Progress means messy; success means messy.

If a business doesn’t progress, the business will go down, and eventually away. No business can survive doing the same ol’ things the same ol’ way forever. Our world changes daily. Our markets change, our suppliers change, our operations change. When existing in a world of constant change, a business must change with it or become obsolete, in short order.

Most people become comfortable once they hit a certain level in profits or income. They have a tendency to “settle in” at that point, and start enjoying the level to which they’ve risen. But many people don’t take to heart the reality that nothing remains the same for very long. Things have to be reevaluated, employees have to be let go, new people hired, old relationships replaced with new, and so on. And this is precisely where business, and success, gets messy.

Because this world in which we live is riddled with problems of every kind, all the time, it stands to reason we must constantly be willing to face new challenges and find a way to address them. We do this by advancing toward the problems, before they come to us. Ask yourself these questions as you think about how your business might be messy (and thus possibly successful):

1. Does my desk (or truck seat, or station, etc) have much more on it than I could possibly do today?

If your answer is yes, that is most likely a very good thing. In business, you can rarely say every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed and you can now go home and forget about everything. Usually, in your best condition you can accomplish only a small portion of your goals for each day, because you have to have so much ready for the unforeseen, the unexpected. An overload of work is not a problem to a small business; it is a sign of progress.

2. Am I able to handle every phone call and every appointment that comes to me?

There is a tendency to think that as business owners, if we are completely on top of our game, then every phone call is returned and every appointment is scheduled… and met. This, however, is not a sign of success. Success means choosing between good opportunities and great opportunities and clearing your schedule of time wasters. In a normal day, if you have 25 people to call and 5 appointments to make, chances are 5 of those phone calls have low or possibly zero potential and one or two of your appointments will be an exercise in futility. As a successful business owner, you must force yourself to spend time only on the profitable ones. Success is messy, and it will fill your calendar with unnecessary fluff, which you must learn to get rid of.

3. Are there conflicts of interest between the people I work with each day?

There is no shortage of conflicts among people; it’s a fact of life everyone has to deal with. But the business owner of a successful business will get more than his or her own share of it. Conflict is a ready partner of success of any kind. When a business is progressing, and successful, there will be employees who are climbing over each other for position, and power. There will be co-workers and independent contractors who are not happy with you success, and they will want to take it from you. You might have distributors and suppliers who “accidentally” overcharge you and go around you and create headache for you. This is a cost of success. Expect it. People are flawed (including you) and will create problems. And the more successful you are, the more it seems to happen. The real measure of success is not whether someone can make money, it is whether they can properly handle the issues that arise from it.

Operating a small business is a lofty goal, and not many people make it a reality. But for those who do, they must learn to expect and address that success is not easy, nor will it ever be. Success is messy, and the small business advice I offer you is simply this:

Don’t try to clean up the mess. Learn that messiness is a necessary part of progress, and progress is a necessary part of success.