Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to Do Business in China

Looking to expand your business? You might want to look to the Far East - as in China. There is a groundswell of eager Chinese consumers with money to spend. As the middle class expands they'll be looking for the same types of products and services as every other group of middle class workers around the globe.

How can you break into the Chinese market? It's going to take a little groundwork and investment.

Here's what you need to think about to do business in China:

Get the Lay of the Land

You really can't just drop your products into China and expect them to sell. You'll first want to explore the country.

Don't worry about seeing it all. Stay focused on the urban centers where people are spending their money. The language barrier could be a huge hurdle but it is easy to overcome. There are many locals who are happy to act as an interpreter. Try going through a reputable service to find someone to take you around. For a few bucks you can also download the iTranslate app on your Smartphone which will get you through the basics in a pinch. If you're really serious about doing business in China you might take a language course. That will show your Chinese counterparts that you're respectful of their culture.

Keep in mind that you're not guaranteed to make a quick buck in China. Build a long-term strategy, with a network of employees, business professionals and consultants.

Find a Trade Show

Just like there are trade shows and expos happening all the time on this side of the Pacific, there will be the same kind of opportunities in China. Depending on your business these could be a perfect way to start building up your new Chinese network of business associates.

Retain a Qualified Lawyer

The Chinese have a different way of doing business. Once you embrace that you should be able to navigate the intricacies of the Chinese marketplace. For instance, the Chinese don't embrace contracts as a legally binding agreement but more of a show of good faith. Does this mean you could get ripped off? Perhaps which is why you want to do your homework before setting up shop in Shanghai. A good lawyer will provide you with the legal backing and advice to help you navigate the business culture.

Work With a Consultant

You might find that a solid business consultant on this side of things can be the best introduction into Chinese business and culture. Once again, because of the many business opportunities happening in China you should be able to find a qualified consultant to help you set up your business. Look for a consulting company with many resources as opposed to an individual. You'll get more bang for your buck that way.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lessons for the Entrepreneur

As the old adage goes, "Those who can, do; and those who can't, teach."

This isn't a slam against your professor but, when it comes to business, nothing beats real life experience. There is a lot you can learn by diving into an entrepreneurship that you could never get from a classroom. 

Consider these lessons:

You Are Your Schedule

Show of hands: who has ditched a college class? Everybody, right? It's hard to imagine getting through four years of business school without sleeping in at least once a semester. Out in the real world you won't have that luxury. You'll learn very fast that your work schedule is what will dictate your potential for success. This might mean taking a meeting on a Saturday morning or working into the wee hours to get a project done. You don't have a lot of options because running a business doesn't mean you can get a "do over" test or hand in a paper late.

Say Goodbye to Down Time

There's a reason why Spring Break is so vital to college students: It's an official break. A week without worrying about tests or papers or classes. In your business you can take a vacation, but chances are during that first year of the startup you'll be putting in some serious work hours and vacations will be on hold. This doesn't mean you'll be working around the clock (not all the time at least) but you'll come to value that time you can take off a lot more.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

A typical college semester could be filled with a variety of classes. Yes, they're all going for the same degree but you'll be multitasking up a storm as you juggle multiple classes, homework, projects and tests. For your business you'll benefit from those multitasking skills you developed but you'll also learn the value of laser-like focus. Always keep the big goal front and center and learn to delegate.

Go Beyond the Books

As a business major you'll be required to take some basic accounting courses. The key word here is "basic." In your business, you'll be getting a crash course in whole new level of accounting with regard to taxes, payroll, insurance and shelters not to mention maximizing profits and adjusting for losses. That's a lot of numbers to keep track of and no, you won't be graded on a curve.

Business Relationships Trump Frat Buddies

College is a time for fun. It's the first change students have to live on their own and make decisions. Usually that means a lot of parties. Once you've graduated, you'll need to start building business relationships. Some of your fellow classmates might be a benefit in terms of networking connections but it's vital to strike out on your own and create forge new friendships with people who can help your company.

If you're in college now, embrace the good times because it's an upwards climb from here on out! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Investors Have Given You Money For Your Business. What's Next?

After working diligently on your business plan and targeting potential investors, you’ve managed to snag some much-needed capital.

Good work. Now what?

Essentially, you have to live up to the promise of your pitch and deliver the goods. How you involve your investors in the early phase of your startup will set the tone for the rest of your relationship.

The goal is to make sure you can remain on solid ground with the money people. This will help improve your relationships throughout the business community and open up the possibility to return to those investors for expansion down the road. Before you get there, consider these proactive steps for involving your investors:

Set a board meeting calendar. By setting a board-meeting calendar you're letting your investors know that you're serious about the business and about getting their input. You should actually set the schedule for the entire year. You might have to rearrange some future meetings but at least your calendar will be a start for this process.

Have an investor dinner. Before the first official board meeting, you might want to think about having an informal gathering over dinner for all of your investors and board members. This is a great opportunity for everyone to get to know each other. Then when you head into those board meetings you can dispense with the small talk and introductions and get right down to business.

Plan an offsite meeting. This should be a full-day affair. You can break up the day with some recreation like playing golf at a hotel but most of the time you'll be in conference to discuss all the matters pertaining to the company and the direction it is headed. You should save this marathon meeting for the third or fourth meeting of the year. During this meeting you can also have members of your staff come by to make reports or presentations about the growth of the company and problem areas to work through.

Schedule one-on-one meetings. Hopefully your board of investors will be frank and honest at all of the company meetings. However, there might be a huge benefit from maintaining these relationships outside of the boardroom. The occasional one-on-one lunch or dinner meeting is the perfect opportunity to keep those lines of communication open and uncover any "hidden agenda" issues.

Stay out in front of bad news. It's not all going to be "rainbows and unicorns." You'll have some dark days ahead. When trouble happens don't try to bury it in a company report. Get out in front of the bad news and let your investors know you're in top of things. No matter how bad it might be they would rather hear it from you then from Twitter!

Overall you want your investors to feel that are a vital part of your company's success. That's not a stretch. All you have to do is honor their commitment with honest communication. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Is Alternative Lending a Good Option for Your Business?

Every business needs working cash. What if you need to get that cash before you open your doors? Suppose you need extra capital to expand your business? There was a time when the only game in town was to go to a bank to secure a business loans. However, with the roller-coaster ride that is the economy, banks have grown skittish when it comes to lending. Luckily, there are alternative lending options available. 

Can your business benefit from these?

The Alternative Lenders

There are various types of alternative lenders that you can research to see who might be a good fit for your company. Depending on your credit history and earning potential, your selections might be narrowed down but that doesn't mean you can't ask. 

Here are some alternative lenders to consider:

Credit Unions: A credit union is controlled by its members. It's also a not-for-profit type of institution so you are sure to get some decent rates. You'll find credit unions based out of your community and supported by various trades people, thus the "union" part of the credit union.

Micro Lenders: These are organizations that are charged with lending funds to economically disadvantaged communities. The goal is to spur business and you might be able to ride that wave into some serious cash flow.

Factors Lenders: Sometimes referred to as Accounts Receivable Lenders, these are alternative lenders who buy up a business's accounts receivable and provides a kind of cash advance to the company. You still have to stay in business and pay back the loan but it's a good way to get quick funds.

The Advantages of Alternative Lending

One of the biggest advantages of alternative lending is the flexibility. Unlike the mountains of paperwork and guidelines you have to follow with a big bank, an alternative lender will often have a streamline process for putting money into your account. They strive to make things less complicated.

Getting approved quickly is another benefit. You won't be wasting time with alternative lenders and that can make all the difference when it comes to keeping your business up and running. Best of all, alternative lending is a smart way to go when you consider the minimal risk. Often you won't have to put up collateral so no need to take out a mortgage on your home. Shop around and see what alternative lending sources can do for your business. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

How to Find a Job Candidate's Social Media Profile

When a potential employee applies for a job they are hoping to present themselves in the best light possible. They are in charge of their own CV and behavior during an interview. However, if they will be hired to have a public role representing your company, you're well within your rights to do a deeper investigation into their online presence.

The thing about social media is that it's out there for the public to see. When it comes to tweets, comments and other types of public postings that job candidate can't expect those to remain secret. If you want to find out more about a prospective employee you can start with their profile picture.

Search By Image

A person who posts a profile will often use the same profile picture. You can find out where all those pictures have been used by installing Google Chrome. There is a easy to use extension plug-in called "Search by Image." You'll need to ad that app to your Chrome and you'll be good to go.

Once it is installed, all you need to do is right click the photo and use the "Search Google with this image" option. You should be directed to a page of duplicate photos. Each one of those photos can link to a different social media account where that profile picture was used. You'll be able to follow that person onto Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. If they have a blog or YouTube Channel you can also find a pathway to those accounts with the Google Image Search.

Keep in mind that this isn't an invasion of privacy. If someone posts pictures of themselves going wild at a bachelor party or hurling slurs in a comment section then they are being their own worst enemy. Just because you can post something doesn't mean you have to post everything! A person's discretion with their public profile says a lot about their character.

Expanding Your Search

Once you've found links to their social media accounts you can get a sense of how they interact in various forums. You can use this same tool to track information about your own company. If you have a product picture on your website that might have been snagged by someone to post in their own blog. Do they have permission for that? Are they saying disparaging things about your brand? If you discover something like that hopefully you can bring a quick end to the negativity.  

Thursday, June 13, 2013

5 Myths About Small Business Law

There is a familiar courtroom saying that goes, "A person who decides to represent themselves has a fool for a client."

What that means is that you shouldn't cut corners when it comes to legal matters especially in your business. There is just too much at stake. That same idea can apply to what you think you know about the law.

There are many myths about small business law that can fall under the category of "They say" or "I heard." Neither one of those ideas should be trust. Case in point: These five myths about small business law:

Myth One: Patents keep your intellectual property protected.

There are many variables that go into filing a patent. One tiny slip-up could open the door for someone to swoop in and make a clone of your idea incorporating a variable that allows them to score their own patent. Although it might not be fair, a bigger corporation could also "borrow" your design and make its own modifications. You can take them to court but they can also crush you with their legions of lawyers. And if there is patent infringement overseas, good luck! This doesn't mean you shouldn't file that patent. Just know it's not a complete shield.

Myth Two: A contract has to be thick to be any good.

Wrong. The best contracts are the ones that are easy to assimilate and understand. One of the reasons that contracts become complicated, is because lawyers like to bill for any ongoing changes.  If you can get a contract boiled down to a few pages then you'll be ahead of the game. Just because lawyers like to throw around a bunch of legalese doesn't mean they have to. That isn't the law!

Myth Three: You can't be sued if you did nothing wrong.

Actually, you can. Anyone can sue you for anything. That doesn't mean the case won't be tossed out be a judge, but before that happens you'll still have to hire a lawyer and defend your company's interest. It could be that the litigant is just trolling for a settlement. Tort reform is a big issue in many countries. There are some places where the loser has to pay all court costs. That could curtail frivolous lawsuits but until that becomes a universal law brace yourself.

Myth Four: All you need is a trademark to protect your brand.

Not so much. First of all, getting a proper trademark can be a very complicated affair. Even when you do get a trademark issued it can only apply to certain territories. That means you have to go multiple places to be truly protected. On many levels, getting the right URL is way more important than a global trademark. Remember, that URL could also be many variations of the same word or phrase related to your company or product. Try to snag them all.

Myth Five: You only need a lawyer if you're sued.

We could spend hours telling lawyer jokes. Yes, they can be a hindrance especially if they are coming after you and your business. However, the best time to retain a lawyer is long before you ever set foot inside a courtroom. If you're not sure about an issue whether it has to do with taxes, R&D or even real estate spend the money to consult with the right attorney. This can pay off in the long run. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Free NUANS Report with Incorporation

Incorporate within 48 hours of ordering a NUANS report to get your money back on your NUANS with!

In order for you to register or incorporate your business, a corporate name search report is required by the Federal and the provincial governments to determine the availability of a corporate/business name. You need to make sure that no one else has registered the corporate or business name you would like to use for your business.

NUANS Reports are required for Canada (Federal), Ontario, Alberta, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and PEI and are an extra cost on top of the fees to incorporate in these jurisdictions.

To save you money, we are offering you a coupon code for your money back on your NUANS report if you incorporate with us.

After you order your NUANS report for any of the jurisdictions listed above, we’ll email you a coupon code to get your money back on your NUANS if you incorporate your business within 48 hours! Simply input the coupon code before placing your incorporation order on our website and we’ll automatically refund $25 from your order.

For more information on NUANS Reports and to place your order, please click here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Finding the Right Small Business Lawyer

You need a lawyer. By now you've already embraced that fact as a way of moving your company forward. However, you don’t know how to find the right small business lawyer for your needs. Obviously, asking a friend or business associate for a referral is the best first step you can take. Just because someone you trust recommends an attorney, doesn't automatically mean that attorney will be a perfect fit. Here's what you need to think about when interviewing potential business lawyers:

Fees: Clearly, you need to know how much your new lawyer is going to cost you. Will there be a fixed retainer or will they bill you by the hour? Is every quick phone call going to cost you big bucks? Yes, you should look for fair rates but keep in mind that a lawyer with a hefty hourly billing rate might be a better investment. That's because with experience comes higher fees. That experienced lawyer can finish an assignment in a couple of hours while the new lawyer might take several days. What would you be saving then?

Attention: As a small company you might have small issues to deal with at first. Will your new lawyer devote the same level of attention to your concerns as they would to a bigger company? They'll probably tell you that won't be a problem. Yet, if you discover you're not getting the attention you need then it might be time to change it up.

Return Call Rate: Coinciding with the amount of attention you'll receive will be the return call rate. How fast will your lawyer get back to you? If you're waiting a day or more then there are some problems you need to work out.

Patience: You're not a lawyer otherwise you could handle your own matters. Will your new lawyer have the patience to explain the legalese to you? You should never feel like you're asking silly questions and your lawyer should have the ability to walk you through complicated contract issues.

Focus: You'll be able to tell a lot about your new lawyer by the way they handle that first interview meeting. Are they constantly being interrupted by calls? Are they checking their Blackberry for emails? If they can't focus on a simple meeting how do you think they can handle the big stuff? Are you being too demanding asking for their undivided attention? Absolutely not. That's what you're paying for.

Excitement: You're not going into business with your lawyer but that doesn't mean they can't be passionate about what you're trying to accomplish. Are they excited to work with you? They should be! 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to Improve a Call to Action on Your Website

Are you getting the traffic to your website you deserve? You might have terrific visuals and engaging content but there is a key element that could be affecting your conversions. That would be the call-to-action.

This is where you encourage your potential customer to do what you want them to do – either to buy something, signup for an email newsletter or ask for more information.  It doesn't matter if you're selling goods or services a potential buyer always needs that extra little push.

You can improve your call to action by following these helpful tips:

Have an action button: Instead of burying your call to action within an article, why not have a separate free-floating button? Click here for more information. Buy now. Add to cart. Order today. Those are all wonderful examples of action buttons. Even something as simple as "Get a Free Quote" can provoke your customer into action. Besides, we all like pushing buttons!

Have the right color: You don't have time to test several shades of a color for an action button so you'll just have to rely on what has worked in the past. Orange, red and green have been shown to boost conversion rates. Don't ask for an explanation; just use them!

Have your CTA appear at the right time: Nobody wants to be hit over the head with a hard sale right out of the box. That's why your call to action needs to be properly placed within the customer’s buying cycle. Let your customer get some information before asking them to act.

Have a clear design: This is obviously more important with selling a product then a service. When you've got a tangible good to sell make sure the graphics lets everyone see exactly what they are getting. For instance, suppose you're selling a program that includes a DVD and a booklet. Show a picture of the box, the DVD and the booklet. The more visuals you can show, the stronger position you'll be into close the sale.

Give a freebie: Provide something for the new prospect free of charge so that they get a taste of what you offer. Remember, reduce the risk for your prospect to purchase.  

Have some whitespace: You don't need to clutter up your website with copy and graphics to get your point across. Perhaps placing your call to action in some open whitespace will actually draw more attention to it.

All of these tips are meant to be experimented with. Mix it up and track your analytics. The more you test, the better off you'll be to find the right call to action that converts well for your business. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Email Subject Lines That Get the Most Open Rates

How many emails do you get in a day? More importantly, how many of those emails do you delete or read?

That is the same issue facing your customers when you send out an email blast. You want to entice them to open up that email and get at the contents. It all comes down to your subject lines. Are you doing what you can to get the most open rates? 

Try these steps to improve your subject line:

Step One: Use Your Company Name

This should appear in the "From" portion of the email. This approach can work both ways. If your company is new then the recipient might click on to see what this is all about. If you've already built up a relationship then you want your customer to know what you're sending has value. Remember you're in fierce competition when it comes to breaking through the average email inbox.

Step Two: Use Capitals

By now anyone who is familiar with online etiquette knows that when you type in capitols you are essentially using "exclamation." This doesn't mean you have to "scream" your entire subject line but break it up with capitals. For instance:

YOUR COMPANY NAME: Special offer for an amazing product

Step Three: Use a Follow Up

Often it will be helpful to follow-up an email with another email within the same week. The body can be the same but the subject line can change to reflect something current. Make it fresh and applicable to your customer's needs. Tell them upfront what you're offering in as few words as possible.

Step Four: Use an Invite

"Time is running out." Nobody likes to read that especially if it means we'll be missing out on a good deal. Your subject line can incorporate an invitation that makes it seem like a special arrangement just for that viewer. In many ways this can be an indirect call to action as you are setting a time limit on a response. That's a very clever and proactive way to increase sales.

Step Five: Use Spell Check

The worst thing you can do is send out a sloppy subject line. Make sure you've checked and double-checked for proper spelling and grammar. Let someone else check it before you sent it out. Once you hit that send button it's gone and can't be taken back.

You might find that a particular subject line works wonders for your conversion rates. That's great and you can certainly use a variation on that theme but always try to keep your messages fresh. If there is a way you can capitalize on what is trending on Google or Twitter all the better because you know that's what everyone is talking about for that day. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to Avoid Facing Burnout

Burning the candle at both ends. Burning the midnight oil. Burnout.

It's easy to find yourself working extreme hours and putting yourself under a lot of pressure as you get your new business up and running. Even though that hard work might be paying off in terms of your bottom line, that doesn't mean you'll be insulated from suffering burnout. As much focus as you have been pouring into your business you also have to pour into your personal life to avoid facing burnout. Here's how you can avoid the burnout syndrome:

Early Morning Workout

As you dive into your new business, one of the first things that get shot out the window is your health. Don't skimp on the workouts. If you find that the end of the day has you too wiped out than squeeze in an early morning workout. This doesn't have to be a marathon at 4:00 a.m., but just something that will get the blood pumping and allow you to plot out your day. FYI: the morning is the time when our body produces the most testosterone, so it's a good time to get pumping.

Take a Walk at Night

Just as you should fire up your mornings with a workout, you should cool down your day with a night stroll. If you have a dog this is easy and it kills two birds with one stone. Even without the dog, take the time for a leisurely stroll, maybe after dinner. This is the perfect way to decompress after a day of being in demand.

Read Best Sellers

Or any other type of fiction. Give your mind a rest from the pressures of your business by escaping into a good book. Taking in a couple of chapters before falling to sleep each night could actually help your brain shut down and reboot like it does. It can also put you in the mood for sleep if you're not constantly going over in your mind all the stuff related to your business.

Take Up a Hobby

"I don't have time for pottery class!" Make time to try something new that piques your interest. Perhaps there is a hobby you've always wanted to start. Throwing yourself into that kind of project allows for a very Zen-like approach to relaxing. Even if all you're doing is building a jigsaw puzzle, it's still a way to accomplish something that isn't related to your business.

A Real Day Off

The late actor Larry Hagman made it a rule not to talk on Sundays. Literally. Everyone around him knew he wasn't going to be saying a word. For him, that was a way to re-energize for the week to come. You should take one day when there will be no business calls, no business emails, no business meetings. Hopefully, you can do that once a week. Be sure to let your staff know you're off limits!