Friday, August 29, 2014

President vs. CEO: Choose Your Title Correctly

by Geraud Staton

I haven't reviewed your company. I don't know how many employees you have. I don't know what you do with yourself all day. But I can tell you this: odds are good that you do NOT need to be called the "CEO."

What Does the CEO Do?
The CEO is responsible for quite a bit within your company. And no matter if you have a 1000-person company or a 3-person company, these tasks need to be done if you want to continue being a company in the next few years. In essence, your job is to see into the future.

1. Look at the Physical
You are operating your business in a warehouse, a storefront, or out of your bedroom. How long will that suffice? Where should you be if your company is to grow? What facility do you need next year? The year after? Five years from now? It's your job to answer those questions and to ensure that your company is ready when the time comes.

2. Look to your People
Your customers are why you get up every morning. You are helping hundreds or thousands of people. You want to help millions of people. Will your customer be the same 5 years from now as they are right now? What changes? What do you need to change in order to reach them?

But your customers aren't the only people you care about. What about your employees? How many of them will you need in order to keep helping your customers? What skills will they need to have? When do you need them? It's your job to be ready for them.

3. Look at your Technology
One day your laptop will become obsolete. So will your phone. So will the tool you're using for your company. The question is: did you see it coming? And if you did, did you prepare for it? It's your job to see it coming.

4. Look at your Money
You need to know where you're going to be, who you're going to hire, who you're going to serve, and what technology you need in order to continue your mission. All of that is going to cost your company money. And it's your job to know how you're going to get that money. Will you borrow it, or find investors? Will you earn it through your current operations or will you look at other revenue sources?

As CEO, you live in the future. But, let me repeat this because it it important. You SHOULD be doing these tasks regardless of how large or small your company is. But, as CEO, this is the bulk of your job. You have the time and income to do so. That means that someone else is doing the every day work that keeps your company running while you get to live in the future.

Some people's favorite president. Check him out at Soul Pancake

What Does the President Do?
To put it simply, your President's job is to lead your company and its employees toward the company goals. The President is the commander of the troops, and the cheerleader, and the dispatcher. The President of your company needs to keep his or her finger on the pulse of the entire company, and if that person were to leave it is possible that everything would grind to a halt!

If you are the one ensuring your company's daily survival, you are more likely to be President than CEO. You are living in the here and now. You know what is happening in every department and with every employee. Again, you SHOULD be taking some time, at least quarterly, to do the job of the CEO, but maybe you aren't at a place where you can do this every day, or even every week.

And that's ok.

By working your business, growing respectfully, and being certain to take time out to put on the CEO hat, you will eventually get to a point where you actually need someone to handle CEO duties regularly. That's the goal. Once that happens, feel free to promote yourself. Or, hire someone from the outside to be your company's CEO.

The important thing to remember is that you are doing what's important for your company and for you customers. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Simple Marketing: Pay Attention to the Signs

By Jenny Tracy

There are many common characteristics of successful businesses; one of these characteristics is a well-placed, quality-made, creative, and attractive sign. Signs are an essential part of a business’ overall marketing strategy; they serve as a 24/7 advertisement that draws attention to their business and helps differentiate it from their competitors.

Exterior Signs: Exterior signs help to draw attention to a business; they can be ground-mounted, typically near a road to attract the attention of passing motorists and pedestrians, or they can be building-mounted on the rooftop, walls, or awnings. 

Interior Signs: Interior signs are usually hung from the ceiling or attached to the walls; they help customers locate merchandise, and, when added to special displays or to advertise sales, can lead to impulse sales.

The costs for signage is much lower than the other types of advertising, such as radio, television, and newspaper. In fact, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, signs are the most effective, yet least expensive, form of advertising for a small business. 

Great example of a ground-mounted exterior sign

Three things to consider when purchasing a sign:

Zoning Regulations: Many cities have specific regulations for outdoor signs, concerning the size, type, and location. It is important to know these local regulations before designing and purchasing your sign.

Design: The design of a sign should appeal to the business’ target audience. If you own a yarn business and would like to attract motorists passing by your store that knit and crochet, the ideal sign would be a ground-mounted sign near a busy road, or a building-mounted sign that is high enough to be seen by passing motorist. The sign should include your business’ logo and possibly an eye-catching relevant image, in this case, a yarn ball would work. If the sign is not building-mounted or ground-mounted near the store, an address and phone number may be needed to direct the customers to the business’ location.  You want your sign to be visually appealing, have all the necessary information for the customer, yet not look cluttered. The larger your sign, the more information and visuals you can add; the smaller the sign, the more you should focus on adding only necessary content, like the business name and phone number. 

Nice and simple, but still effective!

Picking a Company:  Once you decide where you would like to place your sign and draft a design, get quotes from several companies; remember to calculate and add any design, set-up, and delivery fees. Sign costs vary depending on the size, material, color, and content. Some companies specialize in certain types of signs (neon, wall-mounted, etc.), so it may be less expensive to work with a company that specializes in making the type of sign that you desire.

Even better, use your own experiences.  If you see a business sign that you like, don’t be afraid to ask the business’ owner who they ordered it from and if they would recommend working with that company. And always remember to read reviews before deciding which company you are going to work with. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Does Your Small Business Need a CFO?

by Lisa Maida

I read an interesting article recently about whether or not your company ACTUALLY needs an official CFO…or if your company just needs a really good cash manager. The article suggests that most start ups (and I agree) don’t need a CFO until they get large enough to be considering major strategic scale-ups like IPOs, mergers or acquisitions, or taking on huge amounts of investor funds in order to achieve an objective. It’s all true!

Cash really is king. You hear it everywhere from the dusty roads of Kansas to the high flying neon dream world of Las Vegas. Cash makes the world go ‘round, whether we like it or not.

Most start ups are self funded. Family and friends empty their savings accounts or a few 401K loans, throw all their spare pennies into a bowl and suddenly you find yourself the owner of a shiny new business. You’re on top of the world, imagining what it’s going to be like to take weekends off, be your own boss, and really make a difference in the world of XYZ...and then…. BOOM! You’re bankrupt.

Why? What happened to all that money you gathered up to make your dreams come true? If you’re like most start up owners, you grossly underestimated how much money you actually could make, would make, and did make. You probably didn't take the time to create a solid business plan, analyze the market you were entering, or create any cash forecasting or budget plans. Maybe you didn't know you needed to. It’s ok- it happens to the best of us- bet you won’t do it again.

Imagine how different it could have been if you’d taken the time and used the knowledge of people around you who have done this a few time. Helius can help. It’s what we do! Our classes are designed to help you identify, address, and tackle just these types of hurdles. We want you to be successful- so give us a call and let us illuminate YOUR entrepreneurial development! 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Discovery: The First Step in Any Negotiation

In business as in life, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate." 
                              ----- Chester L. Karrass

Negotiation is often given a negative connotation. Negotiation is the realm of the shady salesman, the person trying to trick you into joining his or her multi-level marketing company, or the spouse that just wants to be difficult. However, if you pay attention you will notice that people negotiate almost everything that happens to them. The ones that go smoothly often happen because the groundwork has been laid out already, possibly without the negotiating parties even realizing!

So, how can you make your upcoming negotiations easier? One word: Discovery.

Every attorney knows what the discovery phase is. It's the pre-trial phase where the attorneys for both sides of a dispute may gather evidence. In sales, it's the phase where the salesperson will qualify a prospect in order to determine whether she can resolve that prospect's issue. In other words, you get to know the person you will be negotiating with. Some people do this naturally. For those that don't, here's a few steps that will help make this more natural.

1) What is the person's current situation?
This is important to know because people naturally do what moves their own needs or desires forward. If you are trying to convince your friend to go to a particular restaurant, it would help to know if they are actually hungry. Or, if they like a particular food. Or have the money to even go to the restaurant in question. Knowing that your wife hates action movies allows you know for a fact that she is not dying to see "The Expendables 3."  And if you plan on asking your boss for a raise, knowing what skill set they need will let you know where you stand and what you need to do in order to solve their problem. Ask a few questions. Probe. Find out what your prospect is thinking.

One of the reasons this is so important BEFORE negotiations is because when you get around the table, they may not reveal this information. If you want poker advice from a pro, never ask him while he's playing cards against you.

2) What does the person want the situation to be?
If your prospect is incredibly happy with their current situation, there may be nothing you can offer to change their point of view. But, if you know you're husband wants something to do this weekend, or that your boss needs someone to take over a particular task, or that your friend would like to be fed, you will be able to negotiate whatever you want with greater ease.

Negotiations aren't based on what you want. They are based on what your prospect wants! So, ask a few questions. Have them clarify how they see their solution looking.

3) What would they do if you could solve their problem?
Remember, this is pre-negotiation. You aren't solving their problem yet. All you're doing is making sure you CAN solve their problem and that what you want fits in with what they want. If you can get what you want while solving their problem, most of your work is done before you even begin negotiating.

Let's use a very simple example. Let's say you want a raise at work. Don't just go into her office and start talking to your boss about the raise, like most people would do. Instead, go into the Discovery phase. Talk to your boss about the current situation at work. You can do this at lunch, or in a meeting, or just schedule some time to speak with her. Ask questions about the company, and the department, and even about projects your boss is working on.

You next need to find out what your boss wants. Whatever the situation is, there is probably some change that she would like to make. Perhaps the department needs more billable hours. Maybe she just needs a particular client appeased regularly. It's your job to find out.

Finally, you will determine if you can solve this problem or set of problems for her. If you can't solve it, then learn how to. How would it change the company, department or project if this problem could be gotten around?

By being armed with this information, you are ready to negotiate your pay raise. You are armed with more information than the guy in the next cubicle who will also be looking for a pay raise!

Do you have any other tips for negotiation? We would love to hear them.