Bootstrap Business Development

Taking steps to build your business

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Business Sales: Three Common Sales Scenarios and How to Handle Them

Many small biz owners whose products and/or services seemed to “sell themselves” pre-Great Recession are finding themselves on the short end of the experience stick when it comes to now necessary sales skills.  Follow this link to an article I wrote on the subject for Merchant Processing Resource’s Small Business Corner where I cover some very common sales scenarios and suggest some simple approaches to handling them successfully.

  • You’re not sure who you’re dealing with.
  • Your prospect doesn’t seem all that interested.
  • You aren’t sure how much time to spend on a prospect who seems interested in buying from you.
  • You don’t know how to tell if the prospect is blowing you off by asking for a proposal or if they are really interested in making a decision to buy from you.

#3 and #4 are closely related, so I stuck to “Three Common Sales Scenarios” – although I guess I could have used #3.1

Business SalesHere’s an excerpt:


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Building Credibility With Your Small Business Customers

I’m proud to be a contributing author to Merchant Resource Processing’s Small Business Corner.  Follow this link to “Building Credibility With Your Small Business Customers” 

Building CredibilityHere’s an except:

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Creativity and The NonProfit Organization: An Equal Opportunity Personality Trait

By Annie Kile

Creativity is our best resource when it comes to inspiring the innovative ideas, approaches, products, and services that grow strong, successful nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses.

The problem is that people tend to think that creativity is one of those “have or don’t have” traits. Creative people write the Great American Novel, paint masterpieces, conduct symphony orchestras, design beautiful buildings. Creative people are geniuses able to come up with solutions to complex problems such as figuring out what gravity is or those who create fantastical inventions that profoundly change the world.

You might think you’re just not the creative type – but we’ve got news for you:

If you’re human – you’re creative.

Remember having to run the 50 yard dash in grade school? Most likely all of your classmates had the ability to run. It is equally likely that many – even most – of your classmates ran faster than you. That experience may have caused you to think “I can’t run” – but, of course you actually could run. You just came to think of it as something you weren’t good at – and we tend not to pursue things we don’t think we’re very good at.

But most of us could train ourselves to run a 5 or 10K race – even a marathon. We might start off pretty darn slow – but, after awhile, we’d get better at it.

Just as you can train to run, or train to become an accountant, or train to learn how to type, or train to learn how to drive – you can train to release your creativity.

While some people tend to think of themselves as “not a creative type”, others have a tendency to compartmentalize their creativity. For example, you might be very creative when it comes to landscaping your yard. You visualized, researched, planned, and planted a front yard that is both envied and enjoyed by your neighbors (who, by the way think you are exceptionally creative.)

Now, you might think of yourself as fairly creative in the garden, but don’t see yourself as a creative problem solver or innovator at work. However, those “creativity skills” you use in the garden are equally available to you at work.

If your still have trouble thinking of yourself as “creative”, try taking a few minutes and think about things you enjoy doing “just for fun.” Visualize yourself engaging in these activities and you will find plenty of evidence demonstrating your creativity skills – and these skills are transferable.

29 WaysWhat inspired this post is coming across this great little video “29 Ways to Stay Creative.” The video doesn’t contain any earth shattering techniques to unleash your creativity. Instead, the video provides simple things we can do every day to improve not only our ability to think creatively – but increase our faith in our ability to be creative as well.

Strengthening our belief that we are capable of approaching challenges and opportunities creatively increases the likelihood of developing the innovative ideas, approaches, products, and services that grow strong, successful nonprofit organizations and for-profit businesses.

Not to mention the joy living creatively brings into every facet of our lives.
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Nonprofit Strategic Innovation: Harnessing the Forces of Change to Your Advantage

Planning for Change

 1bA high school basketball coach who lost all of his key players to graduation would be crazy to use the same tactics to create a winning season with new players who possess different skills. Instead, he needs to assess his current team members – how they play together (internal forces), as well as how they play other teams who have also changed (external forces.) Once he does this, he must come up with innovative strategies and tactics (new strategies and tactics) in order to achieve a winning season even though things have changed.  The coach must manage what has changed both inside the team and outside the team.

Change is often not something we think of in terms of management.

We tend to think of change as something that happens to us, rather than something we voluntarily make a decision to perpetrate upon ourselves. If something changes for the better we welcome that change. If something changes for the worse – we do our best to soften the blow.

Especially in today’s challenging environment, most organizations conclude their major challenge is to respond to change that has been thrust upon them from without. More specifically, more and more organizations are stymied responding to the negative impact of the obstacles and problems this change from without brought about.

Actually both external AND internal forces perpetrate change – and they are most often interrelated. A change from without causes changes within. It only by going through a formal process to identify these external and internal forces that we can create strategies designed to prepare for change as well as plan for change.

First Things First

The problem is that many organizations tend to establish strategies – or the “what” they need to achieve in order to respond to change before they identify the forces of change. Forces of change can be external, such as changes in government or the economy – but these forces can be internal as well, for instance bringing a new CEO, board member, or other employee on.

To make matters worse, many organizations will skip designing overall strategy and jump right into instituting tactics – or the “how” they will achieve their strategies.

On top of all that, because they have not identified specific external and internal forces of change – not to mention how they interrelate – quite often these “new” tactics simply mimic tactics that worked to maintain a status quo that no longer exists.

What “always” worked before change most always doesn’t work (or at least as well) after change has occurred. Instead, organizations must use this information to develop innovative – new and different – strategies and tactics specifically designed to mitigate an organization’s current status.

This is a post I wrote while working with Yngage Team of Experts, a group dedicated to helping nonprofits succeed through innovation and creative strategic development. If your non-profit needs assistance with content writing, strategic planning, board development, or other issues contact me today.
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Why SMEs Should Get Engaged to their Employees

by Annie Kile   March 2013

Recently I wrote a guest post on Merchant Processing Resource’s Small Business Corner.  This short, but power-packed post is all about how Small Business Owners can leverage employee engagement to attract and retain high-performance, highly-productive employees.   It also gives employees who work for over-controlling bosses some sound, logical arguments that it is in the best interest of the business for their boss to “Get out of the way and let me do my job”  without making the mistake of actually telling them to get out of the way and let you do your job.

Hop on over for a quick read you can take to the bank.  I’d love you to come back here and leave a reply that tells the tale of how Participative Management Principles (they’re in the post) have impacted your small business or your relationship with your boss.

Oh, and while you’re here, take a minute to sign up to subscribe to my blog — button’s to your left 🙂

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The Missing Link

Not all bootstrappers have the cash to add all the bells and whistles on social media platforms.  But that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of the bells and whistles that come at no cost to us.

Case in point:

I belong to quite a few groups on LinkedIn for a variety of reasons.  Of course the most obvious is to network, but I highly value “continuous improvement” and the contacts that I have on these groups include subject matter experts who freely and generously share their knowledge with me (and anyone else out there, including you.)

I also value being of service to others and really enjoy sharing advice when I think it can help.  Today I came across a person who asked for some help getting their ecotourism business off the ground.  Her discussion had been up for two days with no response.  That made me feel pretty bad for her.  All those experts out there and she was getting nothing – which is really somewhat unusual.  After all, this was a marketing group.   First thing I did was take a little trip to visit her profile.

And found pretty much nothing there.  Bummer.  I thought to myself,  “You know, this just might be why she’s hasn’t gotten any responses.  Kind of difficult to help someone when you’ve got absolutely no information to go on.”

Your LinkedIn profile is one of the most powerful tools in a bootstrapper’s toolbox.  And its free.   Again, the most obvious benefit is that when people are searching for people who do what you do it’s a good idea to make sure that when they view your profile they get a clear picture of who you are, what you do, what you’ve done, and how you can be of assistance.  However, as I said, one of the coolest things about LinkedIn is that people are willing to help you.  Need some advice about putting an email campaign together?  Post a discussion asking what others have done and “Presto Chango” – you’ve now got some real insight into how that’s done.  Have a question about how to handle a “situation” with a customer or client – there’s a ton of people out there who are more than willing to lend you a hand.  But they can’t really help all that much if they’ve got little or nothing to go on.

I did try my best to give her some direction.  Here’s the comment I posted to her discussion:

My first piece of advice is to complete your LinkedIn profile. I went to take a look at your profile to get a bit more background – but there wasn’t anything there to help me get to know you or where you’re at with your start-up. Here are a few questions: 

  • Do you have a business plan? 
  • Have you acquired funding? 
  • Do you have any experience working in the eco tourism industry (or taking an eco trip yourself)? 
  • Do you have a mentor? 
  • Do you have a website? 
  • Do you have any experience with marketing? Social media? 
  • What is the vision you have for your business (by vision I mean what would your business look like in its most “perfect” state?) 
  • What is the mission of your business? (by mission I refer to what is the purpose of your business, why does it exist?) 

There are certainly more questions – but I believe you’ll see what I’m driving at by asking these questions which is: Where are you at now, where do you want to go, and how have you planned to get there. 

Here are a few resources that may be of assistance to you: 

Great place to start with good info you can put to immediate use in helping you get off the ground. Principles for Developing Your Ecotoursim Business Plan

This is a wonderfully detailed resource. Written for the Pacific Islands, but it contains information applicable to any ecotoursim start-up, great step-by-step and “how to”Improve Profile info:

The International Ecotourism Society

Best wishes for your success – feel free to visit my website – I sent you a connect as well.

The moral of this story is to go check out your own LinkedIn profile.  Is it complete?  Get someone you trust to review and critique it.   I sure did.    

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It Works for Amazon

by Annie Kile

Not sure how to move your business forward?  Try working backwards.

It works (very well) for Amazon.

Just how does Amazon work backwards?  Well, we really luck out because I found the epitome of a reliable answer to that question.  Ian McAllister (whose title appears to be “I Lead Unusual Products at Amazon”) gives us a very detailed description when he responded to the question “What is Amazon’s approach to product development and product management?” online.

Your  welcome to run over and read his response, but right here right now, read this quote from McAllister because it’s applicable to every business decision you make, every business activity you engage in, and every goal you set for your business.  Here it is:

“We try to work backwards from the customer, rather than starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it.”

He goes on to say that working backwards from the customer “can be applied to any…product decision” but that it is “especially important when developing new products or features.”

And I totally agree that working backwards is a very effective way to make sure that the features of the products or services that your small business offers will sell.  I mean, it’s only logical that products and services with features and benefits your customers or clients actually want or need will sell “easier and better.”

When you do that the other way around, it’s like a parent telling their kid what to do (except you’re telling your customer what to buy) and any parent knows their child is more likely to “obey” when what they’re being told to do is something they want to do (or going something is going to get them something they want.)

“But what about creativity and innovation?” you ask.  No diff. 

If your business comes up with something incredibly new and innovative – you’ve still got to apply that creativity and innovation to products and services that meet your customer’s wants and/or needs; and/or help them solve problems that are important to them.

There’s really no getting around that.  Never (ever) forget that the customers are the only reason a business exists.  If we tweek McAllister’s quote just a tad we get what I propose is a “Universal Truth” for getting it right in business:

“Always work backwards from your customer.”

That might sound strange to some.  Perhaps they thought the only reason their business exists was the ability of their company to make money.  Well, how does your small business make money?

I rest my case.