Tag Archives: small-business

How to Stay Productive in Small Business

Seth David has put together a fantastic eBook of 140 tips and tricks to help keep you on track each and every day. Productivity fluctuates based on our outer – and inner – distractions. Anything from our body temperature to crowd noise to having too much to do can – and WILL – change how our day goes. Seth has put together a list of things that you should be doing on a regular basis in order to help you stay focused.

You’ll find some basic health tips in this eBook, along with some seriously important business gems. One of my favorites has to be:

When a customer complains, correct the mistake — they care more about how you handle the complaint than what they are complaining about.

Look for a guest blog post from Seth about the above gem in the near future. He will be explaining this idea more in depth to help you understand why this is absolutely critical if you are going to succeed.

I feel that this eBook is well worth your time and money… to the point that I am happily endorsing it with my branding and name. Seth’s advice is right-on and will help give you a leg up in a world where every move you make can have a huge impact on your business.

Starting a Small Business


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TechnTux is planning to start a small multimedia company in the near future, and asked the community for some tips. He wondered what pitfalls he should avoid, and what types of problems he can cut off at the pass before they can happen. I started my small business in 1996 and I’ve been at it for over ten years. I have a small amount of experience, and have picked up a few tips and tricks. The bottom line, though, is that no one will know your business better than you. The onus is on you to make others understand it properly.

If people don’t understand what it is you’re trying to do, your business isn’t likely to succeed. If you cannot communicate your ideals, you’re not going to have customers who will understand what it is you’re going to provide them with.

You can take shortcuts, but you also have to know that you need to spend money. You can’t just float around for free. You may be able to get a few grants or small business loans. You have to face reality and make hard decisions about how much money you’re going to need. You’ll have to understand your own business model, and know what you’ll have to do to make it into a reality. Make the investment on yourself.

It’s not about the idea – it’s about the implementation. People may love what you say you’ll do, but you have to be able to DO it.

You need to be able to yield control. I struggled with this myself. I’ve gotten better in recent years, and am more easily able to task certain things to others to accomplish. Know when it’s time to hand over some of the reigns. Nobody will protect the business like you will, but you’ll still need help.

To those of you who started a small business, feel free to post your stories and tips for TechnTux and others who may be getting ready to take that plunge.

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Seattle Small Business Owners in a Multicultural Society

I am honored to be speaking at the Multicultural Biz Wiz Conference here in Seattle on September 9th. During this one day event, you will learn how to navigate your way through the diverse multicultural business community in the Pacific Northwest. You will be able to connect with other small business leaders and discover local resources to help grow your business.

According to conference chair Lourdes Sampera Tsukada: “When one is doing business or interacting with small business owners from another culture, communication styles vary. We are no longer doing business with the same culture and the same generations – we are doing business with many different cultures, generations, and forms of communications. The awareness of these key components is the key to future continued success!”

Multicultural Biz Wiz is being held at the Renaissance Seattle hotel from 8 AM – 5 PM. Breakfast, lunch and snacks are provided and the ticket cost is only $99.00 from now until August 27th. After this date, passes will run $129.00. Tickets can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets.

You Had Me at Poop

During my talk with small-business owners in Spokane recently, I managed to capture audience attention with the word poop. I told the story of @poopertrooper – no, that isn’t a typo. This is a Seattle small business whose sole purpose in life is to come to your home once a week and clean up the dog crap in your yard.

This company is on Twitter. They are on YouTube. They’ve figured social media out and use it to build their business. I figure that if they can do it, so can virtually any small business owner on the planet.

Bill Kalivas is the co-founder of LaunchPad INW. He was silent during my little speech about dogs and their doodoo. I admit that I was beginning to worry I had gone off on the wrong tangent. That is, until Bill calmly announced that I had him at the word poop.

Does your small business have a social media success story? I’d love to hear about it! Keep in mind that I’m also available for presentations and talks about technology, communities and social media.

Social Media Meets Small Business

Even if you know nothing about the Internet, your small business could depend on how quickly you learn your way around the social media scene. The role it can play in your immediate and ongoing success is pivotal. Your customers are already looking for you on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Are you there to answer them? If the answer is no, you should have attended the Social Media Answers to Your Small Business Questions event that I spoke at on Monday.

It seems as though everyone is a member of one social media site or another these days. Each of those bajillions of people is a current or potential customer. Every one of them buys goods and services. Increasingly, they are turning to their favorite sites (Twitter, Facebook, etc) to get the information they need on whatever it is you’re selling. Why would you want them to find your competitor instead of your company?

The message I brought to this event is that you cannot be afraid to just dive right in when it comes to having a social media presence. You may feel as though you “don’t know where to start.” There is nowhere better than at the beginning. Establishing a presence and saying hello will go a long way toward getting your name – and your brand – out there.

@melissatizon is the Communications Director for Swedish Medical Center, a nonprofit health system serving the Seattle area. The event was held on their campus, and she was kind enough to tweet out some of the more important points of my talk.

  • A great example of small local biz on social media is @poopertrooper
  • Where do you start in social media? Just start somewhere.
  • A mobile device is not just phone. It’s a gateway to content.
  • Business owners who are not paying attention to the conversation on social media are doing themselves a disservice.
  • Small biz owners may think they don’t have time for social media. But how much time do they have for their customers?
  • Small businesses: If you’re not getting started in social media, you’re letting customers slip through your fingers.
  • Show up higher on Google: Think about keywords you use to search in Google & build those words into your tweets.
  • Give your community the tools to talk about your brand.
  • On social media what’s more important than claiming to be an expert? Having experience.

During the presentation, I demonstrated how quickly ping.fm can populate Google with your updates. At 9:32pm, I sent out a test tweet through Ping. At 10:12pm, I showed off the search results. Pretty impressive, eh? It’s something you really need to be thinking about. You will find no easier (and faster!) way to get your business into Google than by making good use of social media.

Thank you to Melissa and the entire team at Swedish for having me and hosting this fantastic event. I believe that several people – noobs and experts alike – walked away with renewed enthusiasm and outlooks. At the end of the day, that’s what keeps driving us forward.

Software Taxes


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If you didn’t already know, I live in Seattle. There’s a bill that’s currently in the Washington State Legislature that, if passed, will levy a tax on all software customizations done by businesses (at least, for now, those businesses residing in the state of Washington).

You may not think this impacts you directly, but if other states (or governments in other countries) see it as a viable option, they may consider doing the same thing where you live.

Check out the legislature’s proposed HB 3191. Page 90, Part XV, Point 2, as put forth by Representatives Hunter, Conway, and Hasegawa:

In order to preserve funding for higher education, it is the legislature’s intent to use revenue generated from assessing a sales and use tax on custom software to support the state’s institutions of higher education and financial aid programs including the state need grant.

What the hell does THAT mean? Well, if you’re a business in the state of Washington, you’ll be subject to a state sales tax (currently 6.5%) on any “custom software” or customization thereof.

As Übermind points out, there are two likely scenarios:

  • Scenario 1. If [a Washington company] hires an in-state consultant or consulting company, the in-state consultant or consulting company will have to collect the sales tax and pay it to the state.
  • Scenario 2. If [a Washington company] hires an out-of-state consultant, they will have to pay use tax (paid in lieu of sales tax) on their next tax bill. Again, ANY company in Washington will suddenly have to pay at least 6.5% more for these services.

I spoke with Ken Myer, President and CEO of the WTIA, to find out more about this bill – and why it’s probably not the smartest thing for small businesses here. The Washington Technology Industry Association has been fighting hard against this change.

According to Ken, approximately 2,000 Washington companies that do custom work on software will be directly impacted by this bill if it is passed. Yes, that would include the giants such as Microsoft. However, it’s also going to hit the small startup down the street… and hit it hard.

In order for small businesses to set themselves up to charge sales tax for their services and goods, they will have to raise their prices by 8% or more, just to continue breaking even. Therefore, the tax isn’t only impacting the business owners… it also just impacted YOU, the potential consumer.

As Ken says, this is the first time that a professional service is being turned into a product (and being taxed as such). As we discussed this point, a regular user in my live chat room couldn’t help but ask how a government could possibly tax something that isn’t technically “tangible,” which is a good point. A physical disc is tangible, yes. However, the services provided by businesses who are doing custom code work are not truly something tangible. Where do we draw the line here?

Pardon me, but I thought marijuana was outlawed? How else could Representatives Hunter, Conway, and Hasegawa come up with such an asinine idea? More politics behind the bill are outlined by Todd over at TechFlash.

Why sock it to small business owners who are struggling enough in a challenging economy?

It’s getting to the point where owning a small business in the state of Washington is no longer viable. There are very few incentives for me to stay here (as an operating business entity). I love the weather, I love the people, but these f*ckwits in the House have got to go.

There’s not a state in the Union that’s truly friendly to small business owners anymore.

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Small Business Security

Among our readers are those individuals who run small businesses and have the responsibility for many computers. A common complaint that is heard is that it is very time consuming to protect and restore data for all those machines. To make it easier to manage workstations, we are recommending Acronis Backup & Recovery.

“Built to protect the intellectual property in desktops and laptops in small enterprises, Acronis Backup & Recovery 10 Workstation provides optimized data protection and ease of operation. It creates an exact disk image of your office desktop and allows you to back up key data files and folders. Designed to simplify system restores, users can perform self-service recovery for files and folders in moments without administrator intervention. Even an entire Windows system can be restored in minutes using an Acronis one-click restore feature.”

This programs offers a multitude of features. One that bears mentioning is encryption which is included. Using this security procedure should be part of everyday policy. This Acronis program supports operating systems from Windows 2000 to Windows 7.

For a limited time, Acronis is offering our readers over a twelve percent discount (12%+). This offer is effective from February 2 to February 10, 2010.

Now it is possible to free the tech person from doing repetitive tasks. And just saving that tech person a few hours more than justifies the cost of this Acronis backup and restoration program.

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What is SMB – Small Business?

Ramon Ray and Me

When I first heard the term “small business,” I was a bit confused. “Small” doesn’t always mean small – because a group with hundreds of individuals could be considered small in respect to larger organizations. I’m not a small business, I’m dinky.

Ramon Ray introduced himself to me last week, and we recorded this SMB interview (MP3). Take a listen; I tried to share a few ideas about building one’s own Internet audience. I asked a few of my LinkedIn contacts how they define Small Business and received the following responses.

Subhas C. Biswas:

Usually directed by one or a few persons at the top. Chain of command is short, usually direct. Number of processes are a few. Serving a few customers and suppliers are few. Employees are few, may be below 20 for small and below 200 for medium enterprises. Most SMEs are single location with some branch office for distribution network.

Steve Jenkins:

Like most things, it’s all relative. But I tend to make the distinction in the same way the UK Govt does: that the size adjective should be based on head-count. You can’t base it on revenue or earnings; I know plenty of “small” businesses that make piles of money, and we all know plenty of “big” businesses that lose insane amounts of money. You can’t do it based on number of offices – one of my small businesses has three offices (three partners who all work from home). You can’t do it based on number of suppliers and customers – some of the biggest companies I know only have one customer (the Govt). It’s all about the headcount, baby.

Listen and decide for yourself.

How to Build a Small Business Technology Web Site

Last week, I was in San Francisco for a day to attend a Small Business event produced by HP. There, I met a handful of small business experts – including one Ramon Ray:

Ramon is not “just” a technology writer, but as a former small business technology consultant, he has years of hands on experience in building networks, installing software, upgrading computers and supporting the technology small businesses use on a daily basis. Ramon co-produced the Small Business Summit 2006 (sponsored by Intel, Microsoft, Intuit and other companies), Small Business Summit 2007 (sponsored by Symantec, Homestead.com, Intuit and other companies) and Taste of Technology @ Lunchtime (in partnership with Best Buy, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce and Microsoft).

Ramon has been following my efforts for years, but I had to dig a little deeper to discover more about his arena. Through that process, Ramon had a few questions for me – how to grow a site, how to expand an audience, how to double the amount of people who follow what you do. I didn’t have all the answers, but we certainly talked our way through a few interesting possibilities.