Category Archives: English

Do you believe in your product?

I am writing this article today, after a conversation I recently had with an internet entrepreneur I met. This entrepreneur actually succeeded in selling one of her internet ventures to a big company for a lot of money about 10 years ago. But, since then, however hard she tried, she could not replicate her first success.
About two years ago, she launched a new venture , she managed to get investors’ money, she went out publicly in a vast media campaign including special features in prime-time television. It was looking great,there was a lot of money behind venture to drive it forward, but, it failed, and not just failed, it failed miserably.

The investors were furious,the small start up company with its employees had to shut its’ doors, the website got blocked and many users who started using the product were very disappointed for the time and effort wasted. Following this disappointing failure, she tried two more smaller ventures that failed as well.

And then I was asking myself, what was the thing that made the difference between the very successful venture which was sold and is still active, to the other ones which failed? initially, I thought maybe it had to do with timing? 10 years ago the market was not very saturated as it is now. But then I ruled this out, because we still see good internet successes very day. Then, I thought maybe it was a better product? but, I realized it had nothing to do with the product, because the other ventures that failed seemed like very good products as well. And then I thought , maybe luck? but , I think that you will agree with me, if you have been running your business for a few years already, you’d know by now, that luck has little to do with success, it is hard work and determination that eventually make it work .
Then it hit me, I knew exactly what made the difference between the enormous success of the first venture to the enormous failure of the ones that succeeded it.

When she set up her first event planning business, it was after she had worked in the field for several years. She knew the business inside out, she knew what the customers wanted and needed. She was confident about the business success because she knew what she was talking about. After all, she started out as an event planner herself. She believed in the business and believed in giving genuine value to customers around the world.
After she sold her first business, she was eager to replicate her first success, she was hungry to succeed, but she never really cared about the new products, all she wanted was to make a “killing” and get out quickly. The other ventures were related to the entertainment industry which she knew very little about. She never studied the market inside out. She never had any experience in this field and she started “big” instead of “small” . She was after the money and not the business. Her motivation changed from giving value to customers, to making a quick ‘Exit’. The biggest problem in my opinion was that she never knew her business inside out. The way she chose the new ventures was after she searched the internet, thought that she found “the next big thing” and went for it forcefully. Without having any real substance behind it, her business never had a chance to grow roots.

I think every entrepreneur need to ask himself or herself these questions:

Do I believe in my product?
Do I know my business inside out?
What is my true motivation in my business?

Added by iQDesk Ltd.

Why is it always better to sell a solution ?

What most small businesses struggle with is putting the right price tag on their services or product.
The problem with selling your products, is that you are very limited with your own resources. For example if you are a consultant, you can only charge so much for your time, and there is also a limited time you can sell, as we are all limited to x hours of work a day that can’t exceed 24 hours of course. If you are selling a product you are pretty much limited to the market value of this product, so you can’t really significantly increase your income by pure selling of these core products of your business.
So, when can you really charge more? Where is the loophole that can change the whole idea of selling your products?
Selling a solution rather than a product, means you can now sell your product plus extra services for which you can of course charge extra.
When you position yourself as a solution provider for a more general problem that the client faces, you can proportionally increase the amount of services you give the client.
For example, if you are selling cakes, you can offer a more comprehensive solution to the client’s problem, in this case, the need for a birthday cake. You can do this, by giving baking workshops, baking tips, selling related items. You can also build an online course and sell it, you can create packages combining all your services for different price tags. When you sell a solution, you can be a lot more creative and you are able to stretch your income upwards in many ways. When you are just selling your product, you are limited to a certain amount of income. From the client’s perspective, when a client feels that he is provided with a solution, clients will be willing to pay extra as they are getting a better and a bigger value for their money.
Going back to our example, instead of selling a birthday cake for $30, you can increase your income significantly, from the same client, by providing a more comprehensive solution.
As you have probably noticed, many successful businesses offer extras on their original products. If you think about it, it can be applied to many other small businesses as well.

Can you be a solution provider as well?

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How to survive during challenging financial times?

Small businesses are at the highest risk at difficult times. Sales are shrinking rapidly and clients are postponing payments. While the big businesses can still offer discounts and keep their sales level at a more or less regular cycle, the small business often, find themselves struggling to survive. A small business that deals with luxury or lifestyle products, can find itself completely frozen during bad financial times.

Small business owners, have to be very much in touch with the finances. Business finances need to be the first priority of your business. We realise many people don’t like dealing with it or “talking numbers”, but things like quoting right, balancing cash-flow and financial forecasts are crucial no less.

But what happens if you have in fact done all this, but the economic climate is tough and the volatility of your income is threatening your business?

The best way to tackle the situation, is to prepare for it. Any small business, in our opinion need to conduct something called “Scenario Analysis” also known as a “What-if” analysis. If conducted properly and timely, it will give you a good idea in anticipating the changes in the business profit in case sales drop or, the business is facing a big expense. It will also eliminate the element of surprise.

This type of analysis, is a very useful tool that is not very difficult to do. The idea is , that the less room for surprises the better. Psychologically, if you are well prepared and know what to expect even if the sales drop drastically, you will still be in a better situation and state of mind than your competitors.

Scenario analysis, forces the business owner to be proactive , it enables the owner to think clearly and calmly and come up with creative and preemptive measures to tackle any future financial hardships.

Any small business has faced changing conditions. Suppliers raising prices of a main product for your business, a big client that stopped doing business with you,a bank loan that didn’t clear.

The idea is to create 3 scenarios. Pessimistic, Base and Optimistic. These scenraios will be the indicators of your business financial health especially during volatile times.

Here is a link to a you-tube video that explains how to do the sensitivity analysis using Excel.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB-PJ3Sqtac

 

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Take the Time to do your…SWOT

Do you remember what a SWOT is? Most people have come across this term sometime during their school days or maybe during a business course of some kind. Personally, I remember learning this model a few times , I remember thinking it was nice and easy , but I wasn’t sure it was useful enough to practice in my day to day life.

Years have gone by and school days are long behind me. My employee days are long gone too, and the memory of learning or even using the SWOT model has faded away. Last week, during one of our staff meetings, I found myself instinctively scribbling this model on a piece of paper. At the end of this meeting, the SWOT model all over again, proved to be a very useful and easy to use tool. A model that doesn’t take a long time to do, and that stimulates you to actually stop what you are currently doing, and think about it.

As business owners , we work at different levels. The basic level is to actually do the work itself for your clients. Work at this level, is one which we all hopefully do. The second level, is to manage the day to day work with tasks such as keeping deadlines, managing cash-flow and projects. Work at this level only some of us do, fully or partially, to some extend. And the third level, is managing the business at a strategic level, which let’s be honest, only a few of the small business owners get to do on a regular basis, if at all.

This strategic planning often gets left out. Many people believe that you need to be an MBA graduate or a senior manager in a blue-chip company, to be able to do this. Another reason for not doing it, is the ever worn-out excuse of not having enough time. As small business owners, the strategic planning is vital for the life of our business. While a big company normally has enough capital to survive new market threats and weaknesses , a small company can close it’s doors for good, just because a new tiny competitor came into the market. As a small business owner, performing a reality check from time to time, is literally a question of life or death for your business.

The SWOT model gives you the opportunity to do this strategic planning in a simple, structured way, that doesn’t take weeks or a huge effort to complete .

It was originally developed by Robert Humphrey ,and is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. The idea behind it, is that you can build a matrix of the internal factors in your business (Strengths, Weaknesses) and see how they compare with the external factors in your market (Opportunities, Threats).

It sounds like stating the obvious, but once you put it on paper like this ;

 

Swot Analysis Matrix source: Wikipedia

 

it gives you a much clearer picture of your business and the actions you need to take, to make sure your business is and continue to be viable and successful.

There are many intricate ways to use this SWOT model ,but the way we used it at iQDesk, was very simple and intuitive. We listed the Strengths and Weaknesses of our company. At this point you need to see the business as it is, and be brutally honest about it. And then we brain stormed the Opportunities and Threats in our market. This gave us a very clear picture of the current state of our business which was great as a point of reference too.

The idea is not to stop here, but to take some serious action. Once you have the complete picture, you can build a strategic plan of how to use your strengths combined with the opportunities and resolve the weaknesses and the threats you are facing.

As business owners, we tend to invest the majority of the time on actually working in the business, but taking the time to work on the business, at a strategic level is often neglected.

 

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The Art of Quoting a Job

I am sure you have been in this situation before. A client calls you about a job and asks for a quote. You want to give this client a good service and also nail that job. You know that the provider who gives the first quote has the highest chances to be hired and you quickly calculate in your head, the scale of the job and the hours it will take you to finish it. You multiply with your hourly rate and give this client your quote. The client seems happy enough with it and you are hired on the spot.

You are jumping for joy, and you start working on the project. When you are finished with the job, you get paid and the deal is done.

At the end of the month when you go over your cash-flow you realize that you spent so much time on this project, in fact, a lot more hours that you had initially thought it would take, and that’s not even including the endless telephone calls, the adjustments you had to do, and all the add-ons the client requested you to put. To your horror, you come to the understanding, that you actually ended up losing money and have not earned a thing this month.

This happens more often than you think, and this especially happens to freelancers or small businesses which are constantly hungry to get more work.

Let’s look at the obvious mistakes in the situation ahead.

First, when a client calls about a job and gives you a brief general description, the best quote you can give at this point is a general estimate only. This is the case, until you get the detailed specification of the job from the client in writing.

Once you get the detailed specification document, you can actually sit down and calculate calmly the amount of time it will take to deliver this job, multiplied by your hourly rate. The best way to do this is to go through the specifications and break down each task to mini-tasks, then write down the amount of hours it will take to execute each one of them. At this point most freelancers that have gone through this process stop, and hand over their quote to the client.

What most people neglect to add to the quote, may actually sum up to a substantial number. The cost of meetings hours, support time, testing hours, adjustments to the project, add- ons the client requested, research time, traveling cost. Even things like shipping and handling or storing when you are dealing with physical goods, often get left out.

In addition, always charge a markup percentage to cover the operating costs of running your business. Things such as administrative costs, materials, phone calls, and other overhead expenses. These should all be proportionally factored in the price you give to the client.

The worst thing to do to a client and to the reliability of your business, is to keep changing the quote and ask the client to pay extra to accommodate these extra costs.

It is also important to research the market standard for a similar job proposal. This way you will never be way off the mark. In case you have done all the above, and you came up with a price that is significantly lower or higher than your competitors, you need to thoroughly check your costs as they may be too high which in this case you will need to find ways to be more cost effective and competitive. Or worse, your costs may be undervalued or missed entirely.

It’s always better to turn down a job or to be turned down for a job, than spend your time losing money and damaging your cash-flow. In our experience, clients who have been around for some time, will not naturally turn to the cheapest provider, but to the more professional and reliable one. They will prefer the one who gives them realistic quotation for the work and stand by his or her word. Most have already done their due diligence and know what to expect.

As a business owner, you know best which costs you need to add to the quote. Hours worked multiplied by hourly rate is only the basis of the quote on which you need to build up the other costs, in order to get a final and accurate quote for the job, that will not dwindle your cash flow, and will enable your business to remain profitable and viable.

Another advantage you get by giving proper quotes time after time, is that you are building an honest reputation for your business. Clients will perceive you as a hassle-free and professional business and will keep coming back to you.

We, at iQdesk will soon be launching a new version of our free iQDesk Business Management Software for small businesses with a new detailed Quote Tool module, which any business owner will be able to use. The tool is designed to help the user to calculate the best quote for a job and will also generate the expected profit for the project, so you will always know where you stand financially.

Try to avoid “ off the top of your head” quotes, take your time to do it right and don’t undersell. If you treat your business with respect, others will do the same.

 

 

 

 

 

Added by iQDesk Ltd.

Why you need to read this if you are about to hit 40

When you are in your 20s you are a hot commodity in the business market. If you are smart, hard working, university graduate, and if market conditions are good , you will probably be snapped up for jobs. You will most likely have a few offers on the table and all you need to do, is choose one.

During the interview, you promise the world to your employer. You happily agree to work during weekends and public holidays if necessary, and you also have no problems agreeing to get a global pay regardless of how many hours you spend in the office. Employers like these young employees because they have no family obligations, no problem working into the night and the main thing is, most will take an entry level salary for the benefit of getting work experience.

You spend 10 years working for the company and quickly enough, you are well into your 30s. Your salary and benefits grew significantly, unfortunately well in line with your financial commitments. You are probably mortgaged up to your neck and you have two little ones in private nurseries that cost the earth. At this point, you are still putting in as many hours as you can, but then again, you are a parent too and you do want to see your children at least once a week before they are in bed. Your work experience can also play against you, if you are not in a leading management role by this point, you are most likely too expensive for your employers and they will probably look to replace you for someone younger and cheaper sooner or later.

You are now in your 40s and you find yourself working with eager -to- please 20 something colleagues, who have the energy to work 12 hour days and then go out for drinks every night. But all you are hoping to do , is finish your day and go home as quickly as you can to get some rest. You may find yourself with little or no common interests with your ever changing colleagues and you have no energy to socialize as before. Your salary and benefits are now almost as twice as your colleagues.

If you are currently employed in a company do a quick check and look around you. How many gray heads not in senior management positions do you see? If none or very few, then you are advised to continue reading this post.

Finding work after 50 in today’s market place is hard and some people will say impossible. Even though, it is now illegal to ask for your age when you are sending your CV due to age discrimination, any employer can easily deduce this from your work experience and the year you graduated from high school. Most, will never hear back from these potential employers and if you are not lucky enough to have strong personal connections somewhere that may help you find a new job, you find yourself competing against hundreds of young, eager, fresh, equipped with the latest technology and much much cheaper applicants. Recent studies show that the minimum time for people over 5o to find new work is over a year!

But, there is another option for people who are headed in this direction. The option to plan their career path carefully, while still in their early 40s. Thankfully, people can start they own businesses and take their destiny in their own hands. Starting 10 years ahead of what’s bound to happen gives you the chance and time to grow into a prosperous business when you are in your 50s. Starting a frantic business in a mad rush when you are 50 and freshly made redundant ,without giving the business the time to grow organically, will eventually end up in a disaster.

There is a clever old saying “Who is wise?” The one who sees the future.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Added by iQDesk Ltd.

What is the first thing you need to know in order to achieve business success?

Success can be quite elusive. Many people for some reason were brought up to believe that you have to show success immediately and appear successful at all times. Admitting that you are having a difficult time is some sort of a social taboo. People want to hear success stories, people want to be around the winners of this world, people want to bask in success, even if it someone else’s. But not just any success , the fast track success . People dream about multi million dollars exits. People are constantly searching online to find an easy way to make a huge pile of cash, but usually end up falling for the ‘get rich quick’ scams. The media doesn’t help with the endless TV shows that go out of their way to show you the rich and successful lifestyle. Everyone wants a taste of success, but the funny thing is, not many are ready to invest the effort to achieve it.
In reality, very few people actually make it the first time. Behind the rich and famous are many years of failures and hard work. Countless rejections accompanied by numerous ups and downs. Very few businesses invent a product and sell to a major company the next year. What it comes down to , is the simple truth, slow and steady will get you there. Hard work and dedication, however mundane they sound, are still the best kept secret of success.
Have you heard about the 10,000 hour rule? What it basically claims, is that in order to be an expert in something, anything, you need to invest 10,000 hours of focused practice. 10,000 hours, no less. Success doesn’t come over night (in most cases) so why do you expect your business to be a major success in its first year? Why do people give up so quickly, unless they had unrealistic expectations regarding the success of their business?
When we are talking about setting up your business, be prepared for a long period of trial and error. You will need this time to actually test the waters, check which product is working and which one isn’t, check the right marketing method that works best. Test and change the business plan until it is just right, work hard and be prepared to lose some money.
The secret is simple, just keep working at it, learn from your mistakes and don’t let the occasional glitch discourage you so much that you end up losing your business. The best method to deal with it is to look at what happened, learn and improve for the next time.
The idea is, that every entrepreneur needs to change his or her perception about business success. Success doesn’t come in a linear line but it has many twists, curves and set backs until you get there.
If you manage your expectations right, and prepare yourself both financially and mentally for the hardships that may occur in the first few years of the life your business., you will be much more likely to succeed in it.

Added by iQDesk Ltd.

How can bitcoins make the life of a small business owner much easier?

It is not always easy for a small business owner to get payments from clients online.
If you own an online business with an integrated payment gateway, most chances are, that you have gone through a lengthy way to get the payments processed smoothly online, although payment gateways are an excellent way to process money, there are a few hurdles you need to go through before you have your online business working properly and processing payments smoothly.

I am not going to detail the entire set up process, the agreements you need to sign with credit companies, banks, payment gateway providers, the checks and sometimes refusals, the time banks take to process your merchant account. I am just going to remind you of the fees, all of us who own an online business pay for each payment we get from our clients.

When you are currently processing payments online you share your profits with
1. Credit card companies
2. Merchant account providers
3. Payment gateway providers
For every payment your client pays you, there is a commission paid to each of the parties above. On top of that you need to pay monthly fees, flat fees per each transaction, set up fees to set up your payment gateway and merchant accounts.

Some banks also take management fees to run your accounts.
From personal experience we can attest that, payment gateways don’t always accept all currencies or work in all countries. We have clients who can’t currently process payments through a payment gateway.

And just in general if you wish to transfer money today to someone else ,you need to pay hefty fees for every payment you make to your beneficiaries.

How is it different when opting to use bitcoins?
Let’s go through the hurdles we mentioned before, when you are using bitcoins;
There is no need for a merchant account,. No need to pay any set up fees. No need to pay commissions per transaction for multiple parties. There are no monthly fees. No transactions flat fees.No need to deal with your bank or credit company.

It is Truly international currency, all countries welcome.

All you actually need to do is to add a bitcoin checkout button to your website.
Today, using bitcoins is the only way where you get your clients payments in FULL.

In the next article I will discuss what you need to know or pay attention to when opting to use bitcoins for your business.

Added by iQDesk Ltd.

What is a Payment Gateway?

A Payment gateway is an electronic way to process payments between two parties, it can be between businesses, organizations, banks , customers, individuals, virtually anyone who wants to send money through the web, can do it via the payment gateway application. Basically it is a way to transfer money online for whatever reason. Payment gateway is a secure and easy way to transfer money, usually it involved an encryption of personal data and payment data and a tool to authorize payments.So how does it work in practice?

Let’s say that you are a customer and you want to buy a t-shirt online.

  1. You make the purchase via the website which sells the t-shirt.
  2. Your details are registered in the website which you are buying from and then via SSL tool encrypts the details to prevent fraud.
  3. The website now transfers your details to the payment gateway application.
  4. The transaction details are transferred from the payment gateway to the bank for processing.
  5. The bank is processing the payment by checking the balance on your credit card, once the bank checks that there are sufficient funds in your card balance , the bank sends an authorization code.
  6. The authorization code is now sent to the payment gateway.
  7. The payment gateway then sends the code on to the business.
  8. Transaction is complete.

Using a payment gateway, by now, it the most popular way to transfer money online and process purchases.
From the business owner point of view, this means processing payments on auto-pilot and not having to deal with multiple calls and verifications with the various card providers. At the end of the day the business owner only needs to send all authorization codes from the business day and send them on to his bank where they process all incoming payments.

http://www.iqdesk.co.uk/landing/

Why turn your website into an e-commerce business?

Just imagine a beautiful store with lovely products all laid out for you on display. When you want to buy them, you realize that they are all chained to the shelves and that you cannot pick them up let alone purchase them.

Now use the same image and think about your website. Many websites today, offer just that, they show you a beautiful catalogue of products, when you are just ready to click, you realize that the images are not clickable and there is no way to purchase online. The website is nothing more than a brochure website. What you do get is a message directing you to the store itself or sending you to find your nearest branch.

The amount of clients you are losing out on is astounding. Last year online Christmas shopping revenues surpassed the standard retail revenues. This means that most customers nowadays opt to buy online and if your shop is not in the online business that your competitor will probably gain that customer.

If you are in the business of selling products and you have a store but no e-commerce website, well it’s time to think of developing one.

So, what does a good e-commerce website need?

 

  1. First and foremost, secure a domain name and buy it. A good catchy name sometimes makes a big difference. It’s exactly like branding a retail business only online.
  2. Use a good shopping cart that allows multi user access and keeps complete financial cost data.
  3. Have a robust database that includes: logs of all customer and transaction data, all product data, allow both admin and customer interface , allow for customer personal accounts.
  4. Allow for various ways of payment. (Payment gateways such as PayPal, credit cards.
  5. Make sure your website is secure, use an encryption tool such as a secure socket layer.
  6. Get a merchant account. You will have to sign an agreement with your bank. This is done to allow you to clear credit cards on your website.