Bootstrap Business Development

Taking steps to build your business


Meet Blog Formatting Guru Delia Rusu


A huge part of my mission at Bootstrap Business Development is sharing valuable resources with small business owners.  Today I’d like to introduce you to Delia Rusu.  I just “met” her today via Decisive Minds Ultimate Blog Challenge (BTW you should take Michele’s challenge on if you’re posting a blog.)

Delia is all about formatting your blog – and I love her tagline “Helping Women Bloggers Stay in The Genius Zone.”

While Delia’s focus is on formatting (she doesn’t ghost write or create content for clients) you’ll want to subscribe to her blog as her writing is as entertaining as it is informative (which is very meaningful to me as this is what I strive for as a content writer.)

In particular, I especially want to recommend her post “How to Set Up Categories and Tags for Your Blog” – she drills right down and is able to make what for many have found to be really difficult (and perhaps have read a few other posts that seemed to confirm that fear) very simple.


Dull to Shine

 While you’re there be sure to sign up for this easy to follow tutorial



What a Trip to a Great Hair Stylist Can Teach Small Business Owners

by Annie Kile

OK – for all you fella’s out there who might think there’s nothing it for you to read this post just think about the last time your wife or girlfriend came home with a haircut or hair color she wasn’t happy with.  I’m going to bet you either said (or were at least thinking) “Why didn’t you just let the stylist know what you wanted?”  Maybe they did let the stylist know. Maybe the stylist didn’t listen.  Maybe the stylist didn’t ask.

Great hairstylists provide their clients with great consultations.  They know that’s the only way to discover their client’s wants, needs, problems, and preferences.

Every small business owner (male or female) needs to discover their customer’s or client’s wants, needs, problems, and preferences.

And that, my friends, is what this post is all about.

Expert versus Know it All

I’ve suffered through a few pretty awful haircuts but I’ve come to learn I know when I’m in trouble.

Scenario #1:  The stylist washes my hair, walks me back to her chair, pulls out a comb and scissors and is ready to start chopping after asking a few superficial questions such as “So, how much do want me to cut off?”

Scenario #2:  After letting a stylist know what I wanted, looking in the mirror, I’m thinking this doesn’t look like what I asked for. Upon questioning, the stylist says “Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.”

Unfortunately, sometimes it appears to our customers and clients that we aren’t listening, or even all that interested, in what they have to say.  After all, we’re the experts, we know what we’re doing, and we’re here to serve our customer’s best interests.  That’s rather hard to do unless you are completely clear as to exactly what your customer’s “best interests” are.

You might be thinking “I don’t do that!”  But you just might have fallen into a rut where you ask the usual suspect questions – which may, or may not, serve to identify your client or customer’s wants, needs, problems, or preferences.  And this can translate into a new customer going elsewhere, or losing a customer whose wants, needs, problems, or preferences have changed.

Take a Seat

Style Seat is an online service “to discover and book a salon, spa or professional online.”  They posted a piece on their blog :  “Tips on How to Give an Amazing Client Consultation.”  The tips they’ve included are as true in a hair salon as they are at any small business.

The first point they make is a critical factor in small business success:

“Consultations are crucial to making your client feel like you’re listening to them and that they’re being taken care of.  The better you can do this, the more they’ll return and refer you to their friends.”

Every savvy business owner knows that keeping an existing customer is less expensive than finding new customers.  Additionally, a general rule of thumb is that 80% of your business should come from referrals – again, having an existing customer refer new business to you is less expensive than finding new customers on your own.

The second point they make is equally critical:

“Consults can get tricky because a client may not speak up if they have questions or concerns.”

It’s really easy to think when a customer or client doesn’t express any concerns or has few (if any) questions during our presentation or consultation that we’ve hit the nail on the head and are certain to make a sale.  Actually, there’s a pretty good chance that we’ve missed the target completely.

One of the worst haircuts I ever got in my life occurred when I was too timid to ask questions or voice my concerns – and this was done by a stylist I’d been going to for over a year!  It will come as no surprise that I never returned and certainly didn’t refer anybody to her ever again.  You think I would have learned, but this same train wreck of an experience happened again with a stylist I’d never used before when, once again, I didn’t speak up.  Never went back or referred to that stylist either.

Neither one of these hairstyles were so bad that I couldn’t be seen in public.  But they weren’t want I wanted, didn’t meet my needs, and certainly weren’t styles I preferred.

How to Give and Amazing Consult

So far we’ve been talking about what can happen when we fall into the trap of thinking we “know what’s best” when, in fact, we don’t have enough information.  However, while I’ve gotten butchered enough to know when I need to get out of a stylist’s chair – I’ve also come to know when I am in good hands.  Again, the tips Style Seat provides for giving an amazing style consultation hold true for any business.  Here’s my interpretation of those tips from a perspective that holds true for any small business:

Communication is key.  If you’re working with a new customer or client it is useful to first establish some common ground.  While people’s time is important and they don’t necessarily want to “chat” – a few pleasantries exchanged can be essential as this helps gain your customer’s trust and they will also tend to be more comfortable about asking questions and sharing concerns with you.

You don’t know if you don’t ask.  The key to asking the “right” questions during a consultation is to be sure you are asking open-ended questions.  What are open ended questions?  The simplest definition of an open ended question is a question that is impossible to respond to with a “yes” or a “no.”  Instead, they are questions that are designed for a response that will provide you with information and insight into your customer.

Show and tell.  Even though you’ve asked the right questions, it is still possible to misinterpret your customer’s response.  Neither you, nor your customer, necessarily sees the world or interprets what’s been said in the same way.  Not to mention that your customer or client might not be exactly sure what it is, or how to express, what will meet their wants, needs, problems, and preferences.

What will solve this problem is a good old demonstration.  No, I’m not suggesting that you present some kind of “infomercial” – demonstrating comes in many forms.

Provide an example.  An obvious example when selling a product is the product itself – but when you include examples of how the product has worked for others this can lead to the customer clarifying or declaring a concern.  This also works when working with clients for those of us running service-based small businesses.  Rather than demonstrating a product, creating charts, graphs, infographics and the like will provide the same opportunity to receive clarification and uncovering concerns from clients.

And I would be remiss if I failed to point out that stories are perhaps the most powerful way to give your client a “real world” example.  For one, a story “shows” the value of your product and/or service.  And, even if the story doesn’t resonate – when you tell a story during a consultation (such as how your service helped another business or customer successfully) if the client you’re in front of doesn’t relate to your story, they are apt to tell you why (giving you more information.)   It is also important to note that stories are a two-way street.  Encouraging your customer to “tell you their stories” can provide you with information they may not have shared via those open ended questions you’ve asked.

Don’t tell – educate.  While we don’t want to come off as a “know it all” and while we’ve established how important communication, demonstration, and examples are for gleaning the information we need in order to best serve our customer’s best interests – there is still a need to educate customers and clients.

This is true even though today’s consumers are perhaps the best informed consumers in history.  The Internet literally places information at the fingertips of your customer, and it is a rare consumer who has not done at least preliminary research online before heading out to buy a product or service.

However, this doesn’t mean your customer or client is an expert or has a complete handle on what is, in fact, best for them.  If this is the case, rather than telling a client what they need, educate the client.  Educating the client involves “who, what, where, how and why.”  For example, the “who” might involve educating a client about why they need to outsource because they simply don’t have the time or the people on board in their business.

You may need to educate about “what and how” by explaining a process step-by-step.  You may need to inform a customer as to where a product comes from and/or how it is produced.  And, it almost goes without saying that customers who understand “why they should buy from you” are customers that do, in fact, buy from you.    

Listen – don’t lead.  Listening is a completely different process than hearing.  You hear what someone is saying simply because they are speaking out loud.  Listening requires attaching meaning to what is being said.  Too often we’re thinking more about what we’re going to say before we’ve really listened to what our customer is saying.  Which isn’t listening, instead this kind of “listening” usually results in leading or prompting a customer to “say what we want.”  It also contributes to our interrupting a customer before they’ve finished – both of which often result in our not hearing important information from the customer.

The goal of a truly expert hairstylist is to know that every time their client looks in a mirror they think “Wow! I love my hair!” and they know the first step to achieving that goal is an amazing consultation.  Our clients and customers may not literally be looking in a mirror, but we can think of our services and/or products as mirrors – and when our customers take a look in that mirror we want them to think “Wow!”  We want them to be completely satisfied and happy with their decision to buy from us.  And we know that the first step to achieving that goal is an amazing consultation.

Content is definitely King. If you’re business isn’t providing dynamic, meaningful content to your customers and prospects that develops their trust in your business, you are losing business. Not enough time to do that? That’s where I come in.


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Good News for the “Not Creative” Small Business Owner

There’s so much talk around about the role of creativity and innovation in building better products and services as well as in marketing and customer service.  But, many small business owners may not pursue the tactic of creativity simply because they don’t think they’re “the creative type.”

And small business owners, especially Bootstrapping small business owners, need creative approaches to getting things done.

Good news: You’re human – therefore you’re creative.

Take some of the mystery out of creativity by watch this super-cool video by Steven Johnson who is definitely creative – especially in demonstrating how creative, innovative ideas come to life.

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Getting Organized: Key Piece of the Small Business Puzzle

The other day as I sat down to go to work I took a quick look at my work area.  Like many small business owners and freelancers I work from home.  So, how organized (or not) my work area happens to be isn’t dictated by my “Boss.”

Which is kind of a perk I guess – until I have trouble finding something.

Years ago I worked for a property management company where we weren’t allowed to have anything on our desk except for the file we were working on at the time.  Even then you were to have only the document out directly related to what you were doing at any given moment – other docs were to be in the folder, and the folder was to be closed.

Sounds Draconian, but there was a reason for Management’s Madness – an organized, uncluttered desk would be translated by resident’s and prospective residents to mean our company, and the property they called home, was organized and well-run.

Being organized and working in an organized environment also leaves an impression on the person working in that environment as well.  As small business owners a self-image that includes the confidence that comes with being well-organized as well as how being organized helps us to better serve our customers and clients is central to growing a successful business.

Being organized is more profitable than being disorganized.

When our offices and work stations are organized we are more efficient and productive and time is an important resource.  Wasting time scrambling to find something isn’t good for business.

Thanks to working with a professional organizer years ago I’m happy to say that my act has remained relatively together to this day.  Being organized doesn’t mean “being perfect.”  I follow techniques my organizer taught me to this day – which make it SO much easier to stay organized.  Thanks to her, within 15 minutes I had everything in its place.

Which got me to thinking about sharing how working with a professional organizer helped me get it together – and then, as so often happens, I happened to hook up via LinkedIn with professional organizer Kathleen Green.  I contacted Kathleen and asked her if she’d be willing to share her expertise on my blog – and she kindly accepted.

Kathleen formerly worked for a number of years as a commercial lender – definitely a position that required organizational skills!  She’s taken those skills and translated them into a successful career helping business and homeowners get – and stay – organized.  Her skills are sought after and she’s written widely on the subject, including a great article on

One of Kathleen’s articles speaks to something that had held me back when it came to “getting organized” – letting go of my “stuff.”

But Kathleen’s got a pretty creative perspective on things:

“Whether it is your home, your office or even your lifestyle, think of it as a giant jigsaw puzzle. The more pieces that there are, then the harder it is to put it together and keep it together. By getting rid of all of those extra pieces, you can simplify the day-to-day management of all aspects of your life and find more time for the important things … like growing your business.”

Check out Kathleen’s complete article here.

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Pancakes, Prospects, & Planning: Hmm Good

We’ve talked about the fact that a whole lot of networking and prospecting can be done in the process of putting your strategic plan together in the past.

We need to talk a little bit more about the difference between prospecting and networking – as well as the fact that when you engage in either of these activities you are NOT selling.

But I also want to tell you exactly HOW you can network and, at the same time, work on your strategic plan.

Not to mention we need to talk about what a strategic plan actually IS — as well as how to go about creating one.

Sounds like I want to do too much.

Maybe if I’m smart enough I can tell you a little story that contains the whole enchilada.  Well, I love a challenge, so here’s my story and I’m sticking to it:  (I just love to say that!)

Once upon on a time there were two women,  Sally and Patty.

Sally Seamstress owns a small business tailoring clothes that she runs out of her dining room slash tailor shop.  Sally started her business when a friend lost a few pounds and complained that none of her work clothes fit her anymore.   You guessed it — Sally fixed her right up and her friend told her “You should start doing this for money.”

Although she’s home-based, any time you see Sally during the work week you’d swear she was the CEO of your local savings and loan — even at the grocery store.  Needless to say her clothes are tailored to the nines and fit her like a glove.  It doesn’t take too many brain cells to figure out that she’s aiming to sell her services to business women and men.

Patty Present owns a small business creating gift baskets that she also runs out of her dining room slash gift basket factory and warehouse.  She started off making her baskets simply because she loved making them.  Patty’s really good at what she does –  she loves to shop, she’s extremely creative, and has an innate sense of design.  Patty went into business for herself after being repeatedly told “You should start a business selling these to people too busy to buy presents”.  Patty decided she’d sell her baskets to busy “I work an 80 hour week” professionals.

Neither Patty or Sally has absolutely any experience running a business.  Neither one of them has a strategic plan — never mind a business plan.  Neither one of them had any money to invest in their business.  They’re like us — bootstrapping it.  But they have so little experience they don’t even know this is what they’re doing.

They both want to sell to business professionals.  Problem was, they didn’t KNOW any business professionals.

Luckily there were both smart enough to realize that the easiest place to meet business people was to join their local Chamber of Commerce.

SMART move on both their part.  Membership fees were really low — lower than a dollar a day in their case — and they could both afford to take that out of the family budget.  (Even if your business is Internet based, if you don’t belong to your local chamber, get on said Internet and JOIN NOW!)

At first it seemed like the Chamber was the magic trick.  They got to stand up and give a brief “Elevator Speech” about what they did.  People were really nice and introduced them around and a few jobs started to trickle in without any further effort.  Much to their surprise, after attracting these few jobs things dried up.

The Honeymoon was over.

As you can imagine by now both Sally and Patty are worried that their businesses are going to fail.  The dream of working for themselves doing something they love will never be anything more than a dream.

Cut to the next Chamber monthly breakfast meeting.

Uh oh – this post is getting to be way too long.  I know you’re all busy people, so I’ll just have to turn this into a series of posts in order to respect your time (and keep your interest!)

Stay tuned for more on the adventures of Sally and Patty as they build their business out of very little or nothing.

“I see Blog people”  

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Like Nike Says: “Just DO It”

I just get so jazzed when something I say or do makes even a small contribution to the success of another.  On one my group forums (Small Business Online Community at a woman posted a discussion topic related to overcoming price objection.

Here was my comment:

The first thing I do is find out if it’s really price they are objecting to. Quite often when you hear ‘price objection’ from a prospective customer or client it can simply be masking the fact that the prospect is not truly ready to buy. This is a time to start asking questions to find out exactly where your prospect is along the buying decision continuum. It can be as simple as your prospect wouldn’t be ready to commit even it were free for any number of reasons and they’re ‘hiding’ that fact behind a cost objection. If you end the conversation now, you may have lost a customer ready to buy in the future.

If, after asking probing questions, you determine that the cost is simply to high from the prospect to bear, or even if they simply are not willing to meet your price, have a couple referrals to a quality lower cost competitor to give to them. These are wonderful relationships to create with your competitors. For instance, I look for my competitors who have higher rates to refer to me. I am ready, and more than willing, to send clients to higher cost competitors when I’m not able to meet their needs.

Why would you want to do that? Great word of mouth marketing. You will be talked about as an honest business person with the goal of meeting the PROSPECT’s needs. That prospect you referred out because they didn’t want or couldn’t meet your price may end up referring clients back to you.

I recommend you read: Customer Centered Selling by Robert L. Jolles. I don’t know your background – but if you’ve never sold for a living and you are now responsible to sell your services, this is an excellent introduction.

May you prosper beyond imagination.
–Annie Kile

I was absolutely delighted to receive an email follow-up comment indicating that the woman who’d posted the discussion had just established a relationship with a competitor who will refer her those customers who can’t/won’t meet their price point.

I’m posting this because it is SO important to share stories of Bootstrapping success!  This business now has a referral source that did not cost her a dime to create – that’s just so cool!

As a startup one of my main networking activities is introducing myself to higher-end competitors for just this reason, trying to meet a goal of introducing myself to three such competitors a day.  This can be done via social networking as well as via an old-fashioned cold call.

OK – now you know it works, so just like Nike says:  “Just Do It”

Bootstrap Business Development:

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