Avoiding Communication Breakdown For a Small Business Owner

As the owner of any small business knows, excellent communication is crucial to your success. There are no corporate handbooks to rely on (unless you create them) and no one to pass the buck to. As your small business grows, the need for good communication increases. In fact, the small business owner’s lack of communication skills may even arrest his company’s growth.

The owner of a company I once worked for had an interesting way of communicating. Well respected in the industry for inventing an important piece of equipment, this older gentleman had grown his 20-year-old company to over 200 employees; the company had gone public, and its tools were the industry standard in its niche. The company was profitable and very successful.

But I constantly marveled at this man’s personal communication style. My office was close to his, and his voice carried; I would hear things like “You aren’t listening to a word I’m saying.” and “You don’t understand anything.”

No coincidence then that many of us employees did not have a clear job description. Looking back, it occurs to me that many of us were self-starters and adaptable to ongoing new conditions and shifting projects; in fact, you didn’t last long unless you had those qualities. And I’m sure it helped to be agreeable with the owner, especially in the company’s formative stages!

But during the years I was with the company there existed a palpable frustration among the executives and the board that the company was not growing and competing as well as it could have. You didn’t need to sit on the board to know this; the feeling permeated the mood of daily business from the top down.

Every small business has a unique culture, which begins with communication from the owner. Do you ever consider how effective your communication style is and how it molds your business?

When you find that you have miscommunicated some information to your customer or your team, the result is usually a scramble to make things right again. I would guess that it takes more time and effort to patch up the fallout of miscommunication than it would have taken to prepare effective communication in the first place.

“I don’t remember you telling me that.”

“Where is that written down?”

“I did not know that was important to you.”

If you’ve heard these words from others, then your message wasn’t clear. Unfortunately small business owners must accept that fact and take responsibility for the communication breakdown. The good news is that once we figure out where people get stuck, communication breakdown is easy to fix.

You may relate to these common reasons for lines getting crossed in small business communication:

• We simply don’t know what we don’t know. The problem at hand is new and we lack the process or tools to deal with it.

• We are not precise when relaying information. The basic guidelines are there, but the details are missing.

• We are not clear in our intentions or motives. The “how, when, and what” are important, but sometimes to be clear you must communicate the “why.” The reasons behind directions or descriptions are often the meat of the matter. “The Reason Why” fills in the spaces between the cold hard facts and places the recipient of information at the foundation of the problem. It also shows that you have a sound basis for your recommendations because you’ve been there before.

• We omit important chunks of information because we assume our customer or team already knows what we know.

• We simply forget, or…

• We’re in too big a hurry to explain everything or document it.

• Sometimes we even withhold information, possibly stemming from some trepidation about ruffling someone’s feathers. We bite our tongues, thinking that a one-time occurrence will not be repeated. We may even downplay new information because we are covering for a previous failure to communicate something essential! Swallowing pertinent information to avoid confrontation is a downward spiral that will only come back to haunt you.

Even subtle messages can be misconstrued. Almost all business relationships have a built-in personal element; the connections we make with people make work enjoyable. But if you are the small business owner, pay attention to the messages you are sending. Miscommunication caused by “too-casual” business connections throws a wrench into your company’s operations and standards.

The Right IT Stuff – Finding and Working with the Best IT & Web Partner for Your Small Business

Do you often feel stuck in the computer abyss when it comes to managing your company’s needs for web or information technology services? Businesses with fewer than 50 or 60 employees often find themselves struggling to keep pace with their basic web and computer support services and miss out on effective small business IT solutions.

Without the guidance of an information technology services provider, small businesses can end up wasting time and money on computer support services because they aren’t in touch with the best technology tools and practices for small business IT solutions. Even zero-employee companies can benefit immensely from a computer support services partner who shows them how to standardize their practices, save money with the right hardware or software and develop effective websites.

Putting Out Fires – Who Needs Dedicated Computer Support Services Anyway?

The approach often taken by small organizations when it comes to information technology services is one of putting out fires. No one has time to update the website, the network is cobbled together with wiring strung across the floor, and you’re not sure when the last backup really ran. Then, a hard drive starts going click-click. You call that guy you occasionally use for computer support services, “Joe-I-Fix-Anything-PCs,” to get the computer booting. That’s when to your horror you discover that the tape in the drive since last Tuesday wasn’t really backing up and the click-click is the sickening sound of your QuickBooks data being eaten by the dying hard drive.

There is a Better Way: A Solutions Partner for Web and Information Technology Services

It isn’t that “Joe” can’t spot you some quick computer support services and get you up and running again. It’s the point that the “bargain” hard drive failed without warning, your data wasn’t backed up and you didn’t even have a centralized data management practice to begin with. Wouldn’t it have been great to avoid all the headaches by using best-practice guidelines for business management and making informed purchase decisions? That’s where a good small business IT solutions provider comes in, not only to avoid disaster but to save money. For example QuickBooks could be integrated with your shipping and credit card processing which saves three employees 30 hours a week in order fulfillment. Then you might implement a web solution for online orders which integrates with QuickBooks. A good information technology services partner makes computer support services a value proposition.

Small Business IT Solutions – Hiring a Partner

So what’s the best way to find a great web or information technology services partner to work with and then get the most out of that relationship?

1. Look for a company that specializes in small business IT solutions

Computer support services companies that specialize in small business will be more in tune to your particular needs and challenges. They will understand budgetary constraints for computer support services and the need to use resources very efficiently. Because technology developers and manufacturers are now seeing a large and relatively untapped market of small business customers, there are some terrific tools emerging for small organizations. A technology partner focused on small business IT solutions and information technology services will help your company grow and succeed.

2. Do you need a local information technology services partner?

Not necessarily. If the goal here is to find a provider of information technology services to help you manage your website, make purchase decisions and facilitate projects, it doesn’t have to be local. With sophisticated remote tools and web-based collaboration, many problems and projects can be addressed remotely. The key is to find a good fit. For onsite service such as network installation or hardware swaps, a good solutions partner can identify and schedule local computer support services as needed or works with a nationwide network experts for repairs, rollouts or other onsite computer support service. If the company isn’t local, ask what provisions it has in place for onsite service.

3. Personalized computer support services

One of the stigmas attached to the tech industry and a common complaint about providers of computer support services is lack of personalization. A good provider of information technology services wants to get to know you, your processes and your employees. The staff should ask questions about what your company does and who the key contacts are to gain a feel for your organization’s culture. Likewise, access to the provider’s staff and resources is equally important. The relationship is going to be much more effective when that company has a mandate for personalized service and an open door to communications.

4. Due diligence

Think of hiring a solutions partner for information technology services like you would hiring someone for your staff. Look for a company that is seeking a long-term partnership. Ask for references. Then find out how long the company has been in business, who you will have access to for a problem or project and how the provider charges for its computer support services.

5. Cohesive approach and good facilitation

The partner that you select should want to take a cohesive approach to understanding your business or organization and help you come up with a customized plan for your technology and web needs, be it a long-range strategy or a specific project. The difference between “Joe-I-Fix-Anything-PCs” and a provider of complete information technology services and solutions is someone who can do a good discovery about your organization and its goals, facilitate the project and help bring together providers for the components outside their expertise. Also, a one-stop shop can provide you with benefits. Keeping your hardware and software purchases, web and computer support services together can provide you economies of scale combined with the convenience of single point of support and access to someone who knows your business.

How to Get the Most Out of the Relationship

6. Identify key problems, goals and areas to improve efficiency

Once you partner with a provider of information technology services and solutions, the first and most important step is an analysis of problems. The more you can communicate about your company, current practices and areas to improve, the more effective your solutions partner can be in coming up with a computer support services plan designed to keep things running smoothly, maximize your assets and move your organization forward.

7. Set up best practices

Typically the biggest challenge small organizations face in being successful is getting out of their own way, seeing the big picture and making the changes necessary for improvements to happen. A good small business IT solutions partner can help you set up best practices to get most out of your investment in information technology services. However, making sure those practices are implemented and followed rests squarely on your shoulders, not on those of your computer support services provider.

8. Avoid costly mistakes – Don’t make impulse purchases

Whereas large companies tend to have a formal evaluation and approval process in place for making technology purchases, many smaller organizations make impulse purchases. Let the company you’ve hired for information technology services do its job and provide you its expertise on purchases. If the company resells hardware and software at competitive rates, purchasing from it can be worthwhile. You’ll have a single point of purchase for computer support services, and the company can recommend hardware and software from manufacturers it has partnerships with and expertise on as well. All of that translates to added benefit to you.

9. Choose managed information technology services designed for business

Small organizations have a tendency to operate off the cuff, looking for freebies or grabbing cheap services not really designed for business. This approach to information technology services can come back to bite you. If you want to grow your business, approach your needs for computer support services like a bigger organization would. If your IT partner makes recommendations on computer support services that you think you can find cheaper elsewhere, take a hard look at what you are getting and how it can really benefit your business. Once you weigh all the benefits, you may find the value to your business growth and offerings far outweighs the cost.

10. Can I still do it myself?

Working with a good provider of information technology services doesn’t mean you can’t do anything yourself. In fact, a reputable and innovative IT company should educate you on how to better manage your technology needs and investments. There are still a lot of day-to-day tasks you can and should do within your organization, depending on your skill level, time and desire. The point is to keep your computer support services partner in the loop and use their expertise and input on major technology decisions.

Conclusion

So, what’s in it for you? By partnering with a provider of information technology services, you’ll find a more thought out, comprehensive approach to small business IT solutions that can increase efficiency, save you money, generate revenue, and help your business succeed

Online Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses – Part 1 – The Basics

Online marketing strategies for small businesses have never been as important as it is now. Businesses, towns, states and even countries are on the verge of Bankruptcy.

What are you supposed to do?

It seems like the catch phrase has become, “Well, in this economy, we just have to make some cuts.”

Sound familiar?

As a business owner myself, I understand and appreciate the value of making cuts. However, let’s make some of the cuts in the right places and make sure that your efforts (and dollars) are quantifiable and measurable.

So how do you, the small business owner, remain not only in business, but competitive in your Market Place?

This is actually easier than you think. In fact, after learning what you’re about to read, you will not only remain in business, but will in fact be able to catapult yourself to the head of the pack.

So grab a pen and a piece of paper as we cover 3 basics of online marketing strategies for small businesses. As the old saying goes, you can either make dust or eat dust…I’ve done both and I’d like to save you from that dry gritty taste.

· Get Clear: If you’re going to begin to dominate your market, you first must understand WHO your market is.

I know, this almost sounds too simple. However, you’d be surprised how many small businesses WASTE a ton of time, energy and money marketing to the WRONG people.

Without getting too deep into human psychology (which I am not an expert) I think most small business owners get caught in the IMPRESSIONS of an idea rather than its’ effectiveness.

Let me explain…have you ever been approached to be a sponsor of a local Golf Tournament?

Sounds great doesn’t it? A few hundred people will see your logo and promotional material on certain Tee boxes. You’ll get mentioned in the Golf Tournaments advertising and you can put your material in the welcome Gift Bag to all players!

Man, who wouldn’t want to be a part of THAT!?!

You! And any other small business owner who demands to see an effective return on your Marketing/Advertising dollar.

As a small business owner, it is VERY important for you to NOT take the shotgun approach to your Marketing. You know, a big wide spread blast to a huge area.

If you are an Insurance business owner you need to drill down to YOUR specific niche…and no, your specific niche is NOT the entire Insurance market.

Get Clear, Get Specific.

· Information & Education: One piece of Marketing is NOT enough.

Today’s buyer is MUCH savvier than ever before. Part of this is the fact that there is an unlimited amount of information for your customers.

People hate to be sold but they LOVE to buy. So how do you make sure you do as much sales as possible without selling your customer?

That’s actually pretty easy, you inform.

I know you’ve heard the term, “If you sell shovels, teach someone how to dig a hole.” The premise being that when that person decides to buy a shovel, they will buy from you.

A perfect example is of my local Home Depot. I am NOT a handy person. You know who is…

My main man Clark. I had gone in to Home Depot trying to figure out a project I was working on. I had no clue what I was doing. When I ran into Clark, he obviously knew I was out of my league.

Instead of him taking the “sell him everything we’ve got” approach, he showed me step by step how to complete my project and gave me multiple options of getting it done.

I have done two other projects since then and Clark has helped me with both.

Where do you think I go if I’m going to do a Home project? Who do you think I ask for?

The best part for your small business is that you can do this very same thing for your potential customer without ever leaving your office or having to do it face to face.

Trust me, whatever your business/industry is; your potential customer IS looking to get educated. Do yourself a favor and make sure you are the teacher.

· Follow Up: Tell me if you can relate to this…

You have so much going on and you deal with so many customers and clients that you drop the ball on something.

It may be something as simple as a phone call or email, but it may be something as important as a shipment or re-order.

You know these crazy new online marketing strategies for small businesses can ensure you never miss another follow up anything.

Automation and delegation are the two biggest assets to a small business owner.

How much more effective will your business be when you can do ONE piece of marketing, put it in digital format, hit send and have your entire existing customer base be informed.

This is just the tip of the Ice Berg. Not only do you inform your existing customer base, but also your potential customers and completely new prospects also get a taste of your business.

I know you’re just like most small business owners…BUSY.

You don’t have time to sit and write Newsletters and individual emails to your entire Customer list.

You need to be able to inform as many people as possible to make sure your TIME is as effective as possible.

When you have implemented the first two basics, not only is your time effective, but so is your message because it is going to the RIGHT person, saying the RIGHT message.

Implementing the correct online marketing strategies for small businesses can be the difference between success and failure. Start with these basics of Getting Clear, Informing and Follow Up.

Be on the lookout for part 2 of Online Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses, where we are going to cover HOW to Get Clear…HOW to inform and HOW to correctly Follow Up.