No Picture
Business Line

An Engineering Business Plan is More Important in a Recession

Is your engineering firm meeting its goals in this recession? Do you have more business or less? When do you expect the economy to recover? If your company is like many other engineering companies, you were caught off guard at the beginning of the recession. Are you sure that the current and expected market changes are reflected in your business plan? These are all questions that need to be answered in your business plan; your company’s business road map.

Without a doubt most business owners know that they need to have an up-to-date business plan. All that is required of any business owner to keep the plan current is the time to review, analyze, and update the plan, which can be difficult. So if you have not already, now is the time to review your plan and periodically make modifications.

In a prolong recession a proficiently ran business is more important than ever. Professional engineers are extremely knowledgeable about their career, but are rarely the experts in operating their company’s. An engineer will have spent 8 to 10 years in college and post graduate training before being licensed as a Professional Engineer without ever taken one class in business.

When the projection of incoming revenues slow or stop coming in the door your first reaction is to find more clients from the same source and second to cut costs by downsizing. This may not be the right business steps to take. Usually the better action is to re-examine each of your markets and clients in those markets, and to determine if those markets change in direction is temporary or long term, and then to careful review your company’s services and products. Operating any business should be a constant review of the process of that business, and whether it is operating at its best. Mistakes in the operation of the business during the good times are easy to compensate, but during the not so good times the same mistakes can close the business. A careful review may also show that your company is relying on one market to heavily and may need to diversify into other markets.

The kitchen table sketch may have been the beginnings of an engineering business plan, but as the company continues to operate and grow, the business plan needs to be formalized and updated periodically. The engineering business plan is nothing more than an outline, summarizing how the company will operate to be a successful business. Within the plan there are estimates based on industry research and personal experience which determines how much the company can expect to profit. This is established by quantifying the amount of services and products to be sold minus the expenses. It is one of the business owner’s primary responsibilities to work on the business through the process of reviewing and updating the business plan.

A detailed description of the engineering firm’s direction and purpose is found in the business plan. Without a plan the company can and often will wonder aimlessly, and may eventually fail. A slowing economy can be very damaging to poorly structured companies whether they are large or small. These companies are usually not in a position to handle the changing market conditions, and end up closing their doors. The stronger companies are usually better managed with an operations plan in place to handle the ups and downs of the economy or the changing target market conditions. Companies following good business plans whether small or large tend to survive a recession, and are set to expand during the economy’s recovery period.

There are many resources on the subject of writing a business plan, including websites, computer software and books. Unfortunately most of these sources address the generic business such as retail or service businesses. Engineering is unlike any other professional service business or any type of business.

A very good resource is the United States Small Business Administration website . According to the website, the minimal requirements for a business plan are as follows:

Description of the business: What is the structure of the business, and what are the services and products it provides?

Marketing: What are the potential clients and how will the business communicate with them?

Finances: What are the expected revenues sources and what are the expenses? Also what are the potential profits and losses?

Management: Who are the key personnel and who is responsible for the various functions of the company?

The best way to get through the recession is to have a plan. Now is the time to review your business plan, and, if necessary, revise some or all of the sections. Write out the strategies that will improve all four areas of your business. Next implement those strategies, and monitor their daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly results. If the results are …

No Picture
Business Line

Be Clear on Your “Who” and Your “Why”

Has anyone ever insulted you or your business? It’s happened to me. In fact it occurred very recently at an after-hours business networking event. I was actually told I was stupid and selfish. At first it hurt, like a knife going through my chest. I’ve been a business professional for a long time but I’ve never been referred to as either stupid or selfish.
It started with an introduction, a handshake and then a description of what I do. “What? You help women go from employee to entrepreneur and teach them how to grow a business and market themselves so they can create a financially successful business that will replace their current job? Well that’s stupid and selfish, that business plan is never going to work and you’re only serving a small segment of ‘s what I think you should do instead (blah blah blah)” This person told me that my business plan wasn’t going to make me money and that I had too small of an audience I was desiring to work with. I lost interest in what this person was telling me after that. But I’m a nice person so I didn’t jump down this person’s throat. Instead I took a different approach.
What this person unknowingly did was gave me a great gift. They helped me get further in touch with my “why” and my “who.” You see I’m not meant to solve problems for every person I speak to and neither are you and the sooner you realize it the more focused you’ll be in your marketing and business efforts. I’m strategic about my long term plans and why I want to help others and the truth is that insults will not break my drive.
Now I know that you are in a similar situation. People may look at you funny when you tell them what you do or because you want to start a business and leave your current job. They may laugh at you when you tell them you’re going to make a significant amount of money in your new business. Or worse yet they will tell you that you will fail. Others have said it’s not viable or possible to make your plan/product or business work. But it’s YOUR job, your duty, your purpose to prove them wrong. Just as it’s my purpose to do the same.
You see I know that there are people working their corporate jobs who want more for themselves. Individuals who are miserable, sick and can’t stand getting up and going to work to grab a pay check that means nothing other than paying the bills and putting food on the table. I know that they are secretly looking for ways to start their own business and take their passion and make a living doing what they love. I know this because I’ve been there and I know how awful it feels to not love what you’re doing. So when this person told me that I was stupid and selfish all I could think was that it’s one of the times in my life I’ve been furthest from it.
People talk a lot about the necessity of having the right mindset to be in business. Successful business owners are interviewed and asked what they did and what do they recommend. They’re also asked about how they fuel their drive and passion. That I believe is with a very purposeful and success focused mindset and it’s something that every one of us can choose to have or not have.
When the person I was talking to finally finished offering their opinion about my business plan and niche I thanked them and told them that I appreciated their opinion, but I’m on a mission to prove them wrong. I explained that I have a plan, a purpose and a “who” that I want to help. That what fuels my drive is helping women take one step closer to making their business dreams a reality.
Assignment:
Brace yourself because if it hasn’t happened yet there may be a time that someone will question what you’re doing with your business and they may tell you to take another approach or try a different business plan. Here’s what I recommend:
1. Be clear about your “why.” Take time to write out “why” you are doing what you’re doing. How did you decide to start your business?
2. Be clear about your “who.” Who is it that you should be talking to? Who needs to hear what problem you know you can solve? Write out who is the person you are meant to work with or offer your service/product to and connect “why” you can support them.
3. Create your elevator speech. This is when you connect who you are, who you work with …

No Picture
Business Line

Potential Internet Business Ideas For You If You Are Entrepreneurial

Do you think you could be an entrepreneur? If you think you are the type of person that should be in business for yourself you should take a look at potential online business ideas.
Starting an Internet business is something anyone can do, but people who have an entrepreneurial spirit have a better chance of succeeding in the competitive world of online businesses.
In this article let’s take a look at 3 potential Internet business ideas you could start with.
1. Blogging. This is a quick way to start your business. Initially when you start out you may want to create your blog around a theme that you have an interest in or specific knowledge on.
An important point to keep in mind is hosting your own blog. Don’t use the free blogging platforms as your blog could be canceled at any time.
Use WordPress to build your blog. They have many excellent free themes you can start with. Host it with a quality hosting company such as those Host Gator or Blue Host.
Initially monetize your blog with affiliate products. Google AdSense is an easy one to start with. You can also find many affiliate products at networks such as ClickBank or Commission Junction.
2. Internet coaching. Are you an expert at something people would pay to learn about? If you are chances are very good and you can turn that into an Internet coaching business.
For example, I recently saw a membership site online teaching people how to play the guitar. The owner used to give guitar lessons and earn about $20,000 a year.
Now he teaches people how to play the guitar in his private membership site. He earns a six-figure income doing it.
I also know of coaches who teach people how to do Internet marketing with personal coaching. Their fees run between $5,000 and $20,000 depending on the complexity of the program.
The opportunities to teach people how to do something and get paid for it are endless thanks to the Internet. This gives you the opportunity to make a lot of money starting your own Internet business.
3. Affiliate marketing. Are you familiar with ? They were one of the first affiliate programs over 15 years ago.
They are also the world’s largest online retailer and have an excellent affiliate program you can join or free. You can sell physical products and make money on every sale.
You can also sell digital products and earn commissions that way. Amazon reports that digital download ebooks now exceed sales for hard copy books.
These are 3 excellent Internet business ideas to take a look at if you are an entrepreneurial person. The opportunities to make money on the Internet are unlimited with your own business…

No Picture
Business Line

The Importance of Social Media Tracking

It’s a well-known fact that being active on social networks can be advantageous to building your business and your customer relationships. Your marketing strategies should therefore include networking as a significant factor in marketing your brand. However I can’t put enough stress on the importance of Social Media Tracking because sooner or later you need to take a look at the return on your efforts. Participating is all very well but in the end it all comes down to revenue generation versus the cost to your business.

Here are a few tips to help you decide on the best strategies for your business.

Are you in the right place?

There is only a limited amount of time that can be made available for your online activities and hence it is vital that you don’t waste time that’s better spent elsewhere. Almost every business needs to be online but there is no need to be everywhere. You only need to be in the places that are right for you. Look at it this way, if you’re at a party where the guests are devout vegans then talking about your interest in the latest beef barbeque recipes would well and truly fall on deaf ears. So ask yourself these questions:

Is the site relevant?

There are numerous free sites that you can join but they are not necessarily all relevant to your business. For example, there is a plethora of free blogging sites but you only need one or two to promote your business. It’s much better for your business to have a strong presence on one or two relevant sites than to be one of many everywhere.

Can you beat the competition?

There are millions of businesses with an online presence and getting noticed can be difficult, particularly if you’re new to the game and are still trying to introduce your startup business ideas. A perfect example is YouTube. Yes millions of people do indeed watch the videos but will you be able to make your business stand out from the competition? Do some planning before you decide to jump in.

Is your time well spent?

Keeping track of the cost of your offline marketing activities is simple. One look at your bills will tell you exactly how much you’ve spent. What’s often overlooked however is the hidden cost of your online marketing activities. As the saying goes; time is money and what you need to measure is the cost of the time invested on your social media marketing versus the return on that investment.

Putting a price on your online activities.

You will need to make a budget allocation for the cost of your time invested in your online activities as much as you make a budget allocation for your actual marketing costs. A few simple steps can help with this.

Quantify your online time

Start by analysing the time spent on your various online activities over the past year and note them in order of your most profitable business ideas to the worst results achieved. Based on this analysis estimate the time that you are likely to spend on various activities in the next twelve months and allocate it to individual projects.

Cost your effort

Put a realistic hourly rate on your time. You can either vary this rate depending on the complexity of a task or use a base rate and vary the duration of a task. The latter tends to be the simplest approach.

Tracking your costs versus benefits

As I’ve said in the introduction; Participating in Social Media is all very well but in the end it all comes down to revenue generation versus the cost to your business.

Budgeting for a Social Media Presence

Divide the time allocated to each one of next year’s projects by task. A simple but effective time allocation principle is:

25% reading – keeping up to date by reading online material, including what’s being said about you and related or competing businesses.

50% communication – replying to comments on your blog, emailing, re-tweeting interesting articles, etc

25% creating content – writing blog posts, Facebook updates, creating videos, etc. Creating regular new content is vital to being found by the Search Engines.

Now apply your base rate to each task within a project.

Monitor your progress

Track your results for each activity e.g.

– use Google Analytics to check the performance of your blog

– calculate the conversion rate for your Facebook ads

– monitor the views of your YouTube videos

Check the ROI of time invested on your Social Media Strategies and make regular adjustments to your budget projections as needed.

I hope this article is of help to you. Do you use any form of Social Media Tracking to measure the results of your efforts? I’d love to get …

No Picture
Business Line

Use a Pros and Cons Analysis to Choose the Right Business Idea

Most entrepreneurial types have a million business ideas, and under pressure they could come up with a million and one. The trick to a successful startup is picking the right one for the time, resources, and market available when you are ready to launch. Very few businesses fail because the idea is not viable, but a great many opportunities are missed because the entrepreneur doesn’t take the time to evaluate the best idea to pursue given the circumstances.
Every startup requires time, money and hard work to succeed, but the road is much smoother if there is a sufficient, reachable market for your product. Every business idea should go through a cursory analysis before any significant resources are spent. A rudimentary pros and cons list can go a long way in eliminating bad business ideas and can give you a head start in developing the good ones.
The pros and cons of any new business idea should include, at a minimum, the following areas:
Difficulty
How much do you know about the actual operations of your business idea? How much effort is required to produce a single unit of your product? Do you have the skills to produce it yourself or will you partner up, hire experienced employees, or outsource the skills that you lack?
Market
Is there a sufficient market to support your business idea? That is, are there enough people or businesses that will benefit from your product that marketing can be fairly broad? Or will you have to seek and find a very limited number of opportunities to sell? Is your idea a positive innovation on something people already use or will you have to introduce an entirely new concept to your market? Does your idea provide a greater benefit to your customers than the competition’s products? Will that increased benefit be enough to draw your own market share? How will your product be distributed initially? Down the road?
Industry
How crowded is the industry you are entering? Are there a lot of big guns you will be competing with? How will you fit into the marketplace? Will you compete on quality, benefits, price or some other factor? And, will the market respond to those differences? Remember that competing on price is the most difficult, unless you have concocted an innovative way to produce for far less than anyone else. Where is the industry headed? Will your idea expand to meet the needs of an ever-changing marketplace?
Resource Needs
What do you estimate your startup will cost? Do you have access to enough cash to launch it on your own? Assume, worst-case, that finding outside funding will be there a way to modify your idea to make it affordable? Do you have the time to devote to your startup? Can you afford to work a few months without significant income? How much of your personal resources are you willing to risk?
Interest
Objectively consider whether the business idea will hold your attention and interest over time. If you are motivated purely by profit, but have no interest in the product itself, it will be difficult to stay motivated through the dark days of your there will be dark days. You don’t necessarily have to love your business idea to succeed, but you need to find satisfaction in the day-to-day work. Somebody made millions from producing twist is doubtful that they adored the idea of twist ties before launching the business. More likely, they enjoyed the manufacturing and production industry in general, and saw a need for that particular item.
Path Forward
Write down every relevant factor you can think of related to your business idea and list out the pros and cons of each. Be as objective as possible about each aspect Talk to people about your idea and accept their input. Never be offended by negative responses, but try to dig for information that might improve on your original idea. Most of the time solid planning results in a far different venture than initially considered — this is a good sign. The more you learn, the more you can refine your idea into one that is bound for success.
If you have multiple business ideas, list the pros and cons for each of them, then compare the outcomes. Begin your entrepreneurial career with the easiest option; you can always launch the other ideas later. In fact, a little experience in starting any size and type of business will probably reduce the cons of your other ideas by the time you get around to launching them.…

No Picture
Business Line

Drop Shipping – It Can Help Your Business

Using drop shipping in your business can be the perfect solution. The sad reality about this ever-growing business is that the number of individuals trying to make a go of it and failing is staggering. About 90% of new drop shipping businesses fail and successes are few and far between.
This isn’t because there’s a lack of follow through and diligence, this may not even be due to a poor business plan, but the competitiveness of this industry is just too much for some to take. The idea, the planning, the desire to work hard are all there; the problem is that the drop ship companies are hard to sift through. The companies that have failed are simply unable to locate the legitimate suppliers of great niche items that will generate sales with high profit margins.
There are directories of legitimate drop shippers available if you seek them out. Legitimate drop shippers will typically have a “fan base” of satisfied affiliates who probably talk about them on blogs or in forums. The drop shipper is the key to you business after all.
If you find a strong, reliable shipping partner, you can easily survive in this competitive online world. There are thousands of drop shippers with millions of great products on offer. Sometimes it helps just to know what niche market you’re aiming to fill. You really need only one good drop shipper to make your business work.
One of the biggest and hardest issues that new retailers face is the warehousing of products. Using you would need a storage space which can remove a few dollars from an already tight budget. But, storing is not the only issue. Maintaining stock and developing inventories are also hard to do. When you use a drop shipper you can say goodbye to all of these problems and concentrate on the part of the business that will bring in your cash flow; marketing and sales.
You don’t even have to worry about doing the research on the products you are going to retail; a good drop ship supplier will have the information readily available in catalogue form. And what’s more, you can usually download a database file to populate your database for your website. You can use the information to develop any kind of marketing plan you wish.
When you’ve found a great way to market the products and start getting some orders and cash flow, all you have to do is have the drop ship company fill the orders and ship them to your customers. All of the packaging, tracking and delivery are handled by the supplier company.
A drop ship company performs many of the tasks that a retailer had to contend with on their own in the past. Now the hard work and heavy lifting is done for you and all you need to do is find the most effective marketing strategies to earn your profits. This will also allow you plenty of time to expand your business, maybe branch off into different niches to get a good all-around business going.…

No Picture
Business Line

Some Solid Advice For Any Video Marketer

Some Solid Advice For Any Video Marketer

You can improve your business’ sales via video marketing. It can be a bit difficult to make a great video. There are a lot of things to think about when you are doing video marketing. Keep reading and find out how you can do your best with video marketing.

Make sure your videos are optimized. Give each video you upload its own title and description. Be sure to use targeted keywords, as well. Contact information is a must, too.

A great beginning video marketing tips is to pick great video titles. A good title will attract more viewers. They help spark interest in the content that follows. Therefore, it’s important that you spend some time thinking of creative, yet relevant, titles in order to succeed at video marketing.

Use the tool of video marketing to tell the world about the product you are promoting. People often want to know how a product works before making the commitment to buy it, after all. If they can see for themselves how your products work, this can be powerful.

Get the rest of your office involved in making videos for your marketing campaign. The person in front of the camera should be pleasant, happy and comfortable. You should not hesitate to feature more than one employee or colleague in your videos.

Keep the tone of your videos consistent. A laugh-out-loud funny video can be equally as successful as a how to video. Take the time to really get to know your audience so that you can cater your videos to them. These qualities, as well as your image, are the most important factors for your tone.

Planning on attending a trade show, convention, or other public event? If so, ensure you take a video camera with you. This will give you the opportunity to interview experts and/or document your experiences. If you plan on giving a public speech, ensure someone is there to record it.

Do not ignore the analytics for your video content. You will be able to determine the number of viewers you have attracted, what time of day your video is most often watched, and from where your audience originates. These details can lead you to better understand where your target audience can be reached.

Do not take the whole burden upon yourself. It’s not possible to think of every great idea on your own. Use your staff and the people in your life that you trust to bounce ideas off. Meet up and do those sessions often, to be sure you are working at the top of your game.

If you get asked a question quite a few times, creating a video to answer it is a good idea. It is common to find text FAQs, but videos are even more dynamic. This provides visitors with the choice of how they wish to receive their information.

As previously stated, it’s not as simple as it sounds to make great content for a video marketing campaign. To get the most from your investments of time and money, use any of these tips as a starting point for your next foray into digital media marketing. Remember to plan thoroughly and execute flawlessly!…