Book Review: Business Stripped Bare – Richard Branson

Written by Steve Winduss on January 18, 2009 – 10:37 pm -

Business Stripped Bare – Richard Branson

How did Virgin Mobile become the fastest business in United States history to reach a $1 billion turnover? (Yes, Faster even than Microsoft or Google)

How did a man who set out to sell records in the 70’s become one of the world’s most influential social entrepreneurs with friends to count on such as Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton and the Dalai Lama to name just a few?  Business Stripped Bare provides the answers.

Before you even make it to the opening credits you get a flavour of what being a truly global entrepreneur looks like. On the inside cover in rough handwriting (presumably Branson’s) are notes detailing some of the things he managed to achieve last year: Ordered 6 new 747 400’s; Opened a game reserve in Africa; Bought 5 miles of Majorcan coastline for new hotel; Secured site for largest cinema in the world in Tokyo;Opened first megastore in Beirut; Richard Branson is without question a truly global entrepreneur. Read more »

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Small Business Myth #4: I Don’t Need A Business Plan

Written by Steve Winduss on January 14, 2009 – 1:05 am -

How many times have I heard small business management tell me “I don’t need a business plan”?

Let’s get this straight. All businesses plan. Whether they like to think they do or not. As soon as you order additional inventory or take on new staff in expectation of a greater workload, then you’re planning. So the issue is not whether you should plan or not, you can’t help but plan. The issue is how do you go about business planning ?

The only businesses who may legitimately say ”I don’t need a business plan” would be small scale and steady state – in other words not growing in turnover or contracting. In such a case everything stays more or less the same week in week out. Thus all the information is probably in the proprietor’s head anyway and that’s fine.

But as soon as growth or contraction is imminent, you can no longer say that you don’t need a business plan.  It becomes critical to make assumptions about how that growth is going to look and that means, you guessed it, planning.

Let me put it this way. Let us suppose that I have in my possession a piece of software that allows me to input your personal details. And from that I am able to map out a model of the next ten years of your life. Wouldn’t you at least be a little curious?

What if you could see that at the age of 39 you were going to die of sclerosis of the liver from excess alcohol intake. Wouldn’t you like to know that? Wouldn’t you like the chance to do something about it now and avert such a calamity? Read more »

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Target Customers To Maximise Sales In 10 Steps

Written by Steve Winduss on January 6, 2009 – 12:19 am -

How strange that we small businesses so often forget to target customers as a priority when hunting for that elusive increase in sales turnover.

Yet statistics consistently show that the cost of gaining business through prospecting is anywhere between 3 and 10 times as expensive as increasing sales through current customers.

Armed with that snippet of information it would be odd not to address the issue of how to target customers to maximise sales.

Target Customers To Maximise Sales In 10 Steps:

Make sure that you work through these steps in sequence. It’s important.

1- 80:20…Prioritise. Always remember that 20% of your customers will provide 80% of your profit. Work out who they are and focus on them. Now target customers who are in your bottom 20%. Ditch them.

2- Customer service.  I’m not just talking good customer service. I’m talking mind busting customer service. Good won’t differentiate you from the competition. 80% of customer service is giving the customer what they want when they want it. 20% is the personal relation building, touchy feely bit. Get the 80% right first without fail. Then worry about the 20%.  And don’t forget to give your customer some fun while you’re about it. Read more »

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Small Business Christmas Wish

Written by Steve Winduss on December 24, 2008 – 1:45 am -

Christmas is a great time to pause for breath and that’s something that we small business people find difficult to do.

So in this enforced pause for breath let me use it as an opportunity to wish great things in 2009 to all people who’s business is business.

To those full of hope incubating an idea that has yet to blossom into a successful business: I wish that you ask yourself two questions: 1. Is your idea going to change the world and 2. Has it been done before? If your answers are yes and no then it is only you that lies between its success and failure.

To those in business for whom business has become a metaphor for pain, hardship, suffocation; for whom the promise of eternal financial and social freedom has become a distant footnote: I wish that your 2009 resolution be that you break out at all cost, whatever it takes. Visualise your exit with a renewed gusto and plan that you succeed without fail. Read more »

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Intrapreneur – Work Smarter Not Harder

Written by Steve Winduss on December 19, 2008 – 12:37 am -

As an intrapreneur, it’s easy to get stuck between the dual roles of corporate visionary and day to day manager. You’re told to “work smarter not harder” and to “work on the business, not in the business”. But how?

The business needs you down there at the coal face right now. There’s not enough staff, you haven’t got time to train anyone else right now and, hell, you can do the job quicker anyway.

The problem with this mindset for the intrapreneur is that it’s not scaleable. You are not creating a framework for your business to grow.

Work smarter not harder. You are simply rushing from one crisis to another like an entertainer spinning plates hazardously on the end of bamboo poles.

With each stage of growth the crises are getting harder for you to manage. You are losing site of the horizon. The plates are about to come crashing down. You need help. Read more »

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13 Ways To Spot Your Customer’s Business Failing

Written by Steve Winduss on December 15, 2008 – 12:07 am -

Someone else’s business failing can be bad news for you – if they are a customer. A bad debt of £1,000 can mean having to increase your turnover by perhaps £10,000 to claw back the profit.

So wouldn’t it make sense to spot your customer’s business failing before it’s too late?

There are broad indicators that can help you identify when a customer might be heading for trouble. For instance market conditions might change – a rise in the price of steel, exchange rates, new technology making current products obsolete and so on.

It is also helpful to understand why small businesses fail. However, there are some more specific and immediate indicators that can save you from unwelcome bad debts.

1. Visual check.  Keep a close visual check on all your customers. Regular visits are great for customer relations but also a chance to soak up any visual signals of your customer’s business failing. Signals could be external property looking shabby, less staff with even less work to do, stock and inventory levels looking low, a quiet goods-in bay and most potent of all a ‘sense’ of gloom, a lack of a buzz. Almost tangible. But you have to visit. You can’t sense it over the phone.

2. Falling orders. A bit obvious but the process can be gradual so keep on top of customer trends. (Of course, it might be that you are being phased out in favour of another customer so you ought to know that too.)

3. Rising orders. No that’s not a typo. Watch out for rapidly rising orders. Your order of two widgets per week suddenly goes up to six widgets per week. Your customer is running out of suppliers and is leaning more on you. Avoid the temptation to take the volume, you won’t get paid. Read more »

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I’ve made it!

Written by Steve Winduss on December 14, 2008 – 9:52 am -

Wow – what a christmas this is going to be.  I’ve only been working on for a few months and I’ve already hit the big time. Sorry to brag about this one but when you see this I think you’ll understand why?

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Even More Ways To Improve Cash Flow For Small Business

Written by Steve Winduss on December 11, 2008 – 10:18 am -

As the recession becomes ever more real, how to improve cash flow progressively dominates our business thoughts. Small Business Voodoo is playing its part by providing you with even more ways to improve cash flow for your small business.

Before you dig in, check up on 10 Ways To Improve Your Cash Flow and Another 10 Ways To Improve Your Cash Flow.

OK, let’s go.

21. Cut overheads – Recheck all overhead costs with a fine tooth comb. There is always something that can be stripped out of costs.

22. Combat seasonality by diversifying – Diageo, owners of the great British summer drink Pimm’s, launched Winter Pimm’s to address seasonality. Breweries produce lagers and light ales for the summer, stouts and porters for the winter. Walls ice creams were joined by Walls sausages. Greetings card makers celebrate all year round. Christmas Day, Birthdays, Mother’s day, Father’s Day, Auntie Edna’s Day.  Small business can always develop off season related products to smooth out the revenue curve, improve cash flow and keep the business clockwork well oiled all year round. Read more »

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The Importance Of Innovation – What’s The Fuss All About?

Written by Steve Winduss on December 8, 2008 – 10:31 pm -

The perceived importance of innovation has reached heady heights. But innovation hasn’t just arrived so why now?  What’s the fuss all about?

Man has survived and thrived on innovation since day one. Cavemen realised the importance of innovation when they discovered an ability to create fire from sticks.  The wheel rolled in to our lives in about 3,500 BC whilst the canning industry was born out of Napoleon’s need to feed his army in the early 19th century.  The Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Tudors, Stuarts and Victorians were all innovators. George Stephenson gave us a steam locomotive, Henry Ford modern assembly lines bla bla bla ……..

And yet now its “all about innovation”. The importance of innovation is unrivalled. Nothing else matters.

Corporations preach innovation with the smugness and self-satisfaction of teenage lovers convinced they’ve pioneered great sex for the benefit of mankind. Read more »

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Handling Customer Complaints In 9 Easy Steps

Written by Steve Winduss on December 6, 2008 – 1:07 am -

Like it or not, handling customer complaints is part of life. In fact, customer complaints are great news. Why? 80% of customers don’t complain, they just don’t come back.

Handling customer complaints is one of those times when you really earn your crust. After all, managing the status quo is easy. But don’t keep the pleasure to yourself, train all your staff in handling customer complaints. This is empowering for them and gives a very mature feel to your business in the eyes of the customer.

So here’s handling customer complaints in 9 easy steps:

1. Mindset – Put yourself on the same side of the fence as your customer.  This isn’t a battle. Don’t take it personally, they hardly know you. Prepare for some great feedback for your company.

2. Validate the complaint – If you remember nothing else about handling customer complaints, remember this one. You are about to be verbally assaulted. The first thing you must do is ‘validate the complaint’. In other words, say something like: “Yes, I can understand that must be very frustrating”. You have just diffused 60% of their anger. A sympathetic tone is helpful. So is an apology. Regardless of whether you think your company is in the wrong or not. Read more »

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