Every year, thousands of Americans blow their budgets come December

Posted by the7stages on January 13, 2015
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Every year, thousands of Americans blow their budgets come December — and while they may be tempted to blame that on the dough they fork over for gifts (ahem, office Secret Santa), that explanation is only a small part of the reality.

While some of this spending is, of course, on gifts — a Nielsen survey found that Americans plan to spend 10% more on gifts this year than last and a YouGov survey noted a likely 8.7% uptick — plenty is spent on other things (many of which we don’t tend to budget for).

Overall, 10% of consumers say they plan to spend more this year than they did last year, and multicultural households account for 43% of the projected extra spending: 17% African-Americans; 13% Asian-Americans; 13% Hispanic. Additionally, fewer people plan to spend less than they did last year (21% vs. 23%, respectively). THE ECONOMIC BACKDROP LEADING INTO THE 2014 HOLIDAY SEASON

When it comes to holiday-related spending, the fastest growing areas of spending are non-gift items, says Allison Paul, vice chairman and retail sector leader at Deloitte. This year, Americans plan to spend $195 on holiday parties they throw in their own homes, up 22% from last year (vs. a 13% increase for holiday spending overall), and they plan to spend 15% more than last year on attending holiday events/socializing away from home (this might include things like new clothes for an event or buying a gift for a hostess) and decorating their homes for the holidays.

Read more on DailyWorth: http://www.dailyworth.com/posts/3137-the-cost-of-the-holidays#ixzz3LM1fuZpL

How can consumers appropriately plan and budget for these costs so they don’t start the New Year in debt?

Cash In Rewards to Pay for Gifts
Rather than popping gifts onto that interest-bearing credit card, Mint.com spokeswoman Holly Perez recommends consumers cash in rewards on credit cards or other loyalty programs to pay for gifts. “Redeeming points for merchandise or gift cards can take up to four to six weeks for delivery so now is a great time to start,” she says. Woroch adds that you can often redeem rewards for gift cards, “which make perfect presents or can be used to offset the cost of a gift” and you can also give miles as a gift or turn them into actual products like cookware or a gadget.

Perez adds that some cards are running special promotions offering extra points during this time of year. “Find out what promotions can help you maximize your rewards,”she says. “You could get some of your holiday purchases for free when you are savvy about your credit card use.” But, of course, you must make sure you pay off that balance in full and on time or these rewards likely won’t be worth it at all.

Have a Talk About Holiday Spending With Friends and Family
“There’s no shame in telling people that this year will be a lean holiday season when it comes to exchanging gifts,” says Steve Siebold, author of the book “How Rich People Think.” Perez says that when it comes to talking to family it’s important to establish spending guidelines. “Depending on the age of your children, you can touch on how much they can spend and what they can expect … maybe even give them extra chores to earn money for holiday spending,” she says. When it comes to the rest of the family, she says you should consider a Secret Santa gift swap, making charitable donations in honor of each other, a cookie swap or organizing a gift-free potluck family dinner to save money.

Consider Layaway
Woroch notes that many retailers are offering free layaway programs this year, which while certainly not for everyone (and they come with risks), “serve as good options for shoppers who are carrying a revolving balance, don’t have a credit card and simply don’t have cash to buy the gift upfront but don’t want to miss out on the deal or want to secure the gift before it sells out,” she says. She adds: “It’s a better option than relying on a high-interest credit card and you just stash your cash toward it every week until the deadline right before Christmas — for many people, this works better than simply stashing your cash into a savings account because you are actually being held accountable for it.

The holidays mean spending dough on a sleigh full of presents, but it doesn’t mean you have to slay your bank account or credit balance in the process. You know what we mean: Green as a Grinch, dollar bills fly out of your pockets as you pay and pay and pay for all the extras. To avoid the burden of overspending this season, we recommend taking a look at these seven expenditures that offer wiggle room for extra savings.

Electricity

Are you competing in the neighborhood Christmas-light contest? Is your front lawn visible from space during December? Let your lights shine if that’s your thing, but be prepared for the power bill spike in January.

Visitors

Every family has one. It’s the house that everyone flocks to during the holiday season. That means, at some point in December, you could have 32 people sprawled out across every room in your house. That’s 32 showers, and 32 bowls of cereal, and 32 opportunities to spill a drink on your white carpet. Make sure you budget for the visitors.

Shipping

First, you’ve got all the stamps for your Christmas cards. Then, for the people you’ll actually be sending presents to, there are all of those pesky shipping costs. Don’t procrastinate, because shipping overnight isn’t cheap—or even guaranteed—during the Christmas season.

Stocking stuffers

You’ve got the candy. Then there’s the $3 toy car. And the little thingamajiggy that does the little loopty-loop in the kitchen. Then there are the tiny little gift books. For your budget, stocking stuffers can be death by a thousand cuts. Keep it simple.

Gas

We’re talking about the kind you use while waiting in mall traffic, while traveling to the in-laws house, while doing the 4,000 things you’ve scheduled during the holidays. . . . Don’t forget about the gas. Maybe you’ve noticed that it isn’t cheap!

Wrapping paper

You’d be surprised at how much we spend on wrapping paper every year. Get the cheap stuff—the really cheap stuff if you can. Why spend a lot of money on something that will be ripped to shreds in less than three seconds?

Food

Of course, there’s party food if you’re hosting a party. But if you have overnight visitors, don’t forget about snacks and all the basics like bread and milk and bagels. It’s easy to get caught up in the “main event” food like ham and turkey and dressing while forgetting about all the other little food expenses.

Charity

Hopefully, you haven’t forgotten about giving, so here’s our reminder: Don’t forget about giving to charity! Don’t let this be a hidden cost. Sit down right now and make giving a part of your Christmas budget.

The greatest way to avoid hidden costs is to plan ahead! Don’t let these items sneak up on you, and you’ll have a much less stressful Christmas—the way it’s meant to be.

While entertaining family and friends is all part of the Christmas experience, worrying about how you’re going to pay for it shouldn’t be. With our guide, you can avoid any hidden costs this Christmas.

According to the Money Advice Service’s annual Christmas spending survey, 46% of us will turn to credit cards, store cards and overdrafts to cover the cost of Christmas. While the big costs like presents and Christmas lunch are usually accounted for in your festive budget, there are other, smaller costs that we sometimes forget about.

But by considering your festive finances early on, you can put any money worries to bed.

1. TRAVEL

By planning your Christmas travel well in advance, you could get cheaper deals on trains or flights. If you’ve left it too late, see if you can car share with other relatives.

2. HEATING

A house full of relatives can be as good as a roaring fire for heating your home, so when the party is in full swing you could turn down the thermostat by a degree or two to save on heating bills. Or if you’re spending Christmas at friends, make sure you turn your heating down when away, but not off as you don’t want the pipes freezing.

For tips on how to save money and energy, read our article: Energy – Are you efficient at saving money?

3. CALLING OVERSEAS

If you’re spending Christmas day at a relative’s house, you don’t want to be ringing Australia from their home phone. See if you can use their Wifi instead for some FaceTime or a Skype call.

4. POSTAGE AND WRAPPING

Remember to check the last postage dates so you don’t have to resort to more expensive courier services to get your presents delivered on time. If you want to cut down on Christmas card costs, you could send e-cards but don’t forget about those less IT savvy or more traditional friends and relatives that still like to send and receive cards. A good way to keep the festive spirit going and to save money is to buy your wrapping paper and cards for next year in the sales.

5. CREDIT CARD CHARGES/OVERDRAFT CHARGES

As Money Advice Service pointed out, more and more of us are still putting our Christmas costs on credit cards. Make sure you budget for interest charges or overdraft fees, so you don’t get an extra surprise on January 1st.

For more advice on Christmas savings, check out our article on 5 practical ways to save money this Christmas.

6. ADDED EXTRAS

The phrase ‘batteries not included’ can make an unprepared parents’ heart sink so plan ahead and find out exactly how many batteries you need beforehand, whether you need a certain type of screwdriver to put something together and any other extras that might be needed to make your gifts usable on Christmas day.

7. BREAKAGES

Accidents do happen and if you’re buying expensive gifts make sure to check your home insurance policy to see if the added value is covered. If you don’t have home insurance, you might want to look into your options before the big day so you’re ready if the unexpected happens: Be ready for the unexpected.

8. MAKE YOUR DECEMBER PAY PACKET STRETCH FURTHER

Along with all these hidden costs, you’ve got a pay packet that needs to stretch an extra week. However, if you budget properly and make sure you’ve covered all the costs, there’s no reason why you can’t have a merry Christmas on a budget that works for you.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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Secrets to Hiring the Right People

Posted by the7stages on November 12, 2014
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There may be a war for talent in today’s job market, but when it comes to entrepreneurial, small business owners,they are willing to share  their secrets about hiring the best employees. In this article from Entrepreneur.com honoring small business week, they compiled a guidebook of hiring tips from the small-business owners honored on Capitol Hill during this year’s National Small Business Week. Almost every respondent emphasized the importance of hiring employees who organically fit into corporate culture and who are passionate about the brand.

When looking to grow business, many entrepreneurs begin hiring for quantity, not quality.

In 2013, Inc. magazine, partnering with the Bacharach Leadership Group, surveyed 330 Inc. 5000 firms. The mission: Find out how America’s fastest-growing companies hire their best employees. Cornell professor Sam Bacharach, co-founder of BLG, fielded questions from LearnVest’s Alexa von Tobel about the survey results.

Above were questions that we can ask ourselves on a day-to-day basis. But now here are some strategies and tools you can add to the “traditional hiring process” (of basing your decision on the resume, interview and your “gut feel”).  They are:

1.  Temp agencies, recruiters and headhunters

2.  Reference and background checks

3.  Pre-employment integrity and culture fit assessments

4.  Personality tests

Here’s how companies like Google avoid these expensive hiring mistakes. We call it the “law of three” for interviewing candidates:

  • Always interview at least three people for a position. Even if you like the first interviewee and feel that individual is suitable, discipline yourself to interview at least two others. Many large companies will not hire a person until they have interviewed ten or fifteen candidates for the spot. The more people you interview, the greater the selection of choices you will have, and the more likely it is that you will make the right choice.
  • Interview the candidate you like in three different places. It is amazing how the personality of a person can change when you move the interview setting from your office to a coffee shop across the street. Candidates will usually be at their very best in the first interview. If they were pretending, the veneer will quickly come off in subsequent meetings.

In order for small businesses to grow, more people need to join the team. However, hiring the right people can be costly in terms of time, dollars and company morale. Careerbuilder.com sponsored a survey on the cost of a bad hire, and the clever folks at Mindflash.com created this infographic based on those results.

How many hats do you wear on a daily basis? If you answered one, you’re not an entrepreneur and you’re not working for a small business. So how can you boost your team’s productivity and morale at the same time? Discover some of the unexpected ways to do so in this infographic by TheDegree360.com.

Source: http://www.inc.com/magazine/201404/alexa-von-tobel/hiring-secrets-americas-fast-growing-companies.html

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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Top Up Sale Strategies for Your Business

Posted by the7stages on October 14, 2014
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No matter what business you work in, a “business as usual” mindset will insure your competitors are making more money than you are. Here are eight tips to help you stand out from the competition so you won’t find yourself stood up by your customers.

Jumping into selling your product or service without planning how you will go about it is likely to yield far poorer results than if you adopt a strategic approach to your sales. Use your sales strategy as part of your business plan to help you convince your bank manager or potential investors, and make sure you update and review your sales strategy regularly.

What is a sales strategy?

  • A sales strategy sets out in detail how you will get your product or service in front of people who need it. Looking at it strategically will give you a comprehensive, methodical approach to ensuring you marketing your business correctly and you are approaching the right clients.
  • A sales strategy can be based on your business and marketing plans.
  • A sales strategy is not the same as a marketing strategy.
  • In order to build a comprehensive strategy for your entire business, you will need to sit down and come up with a different sales strategy for each of your product lines.

Whether you offer goods or services, selling is the foundation of your business. Without the generation of sales, your business will fail.  Your selling technique and your sales strategy are just a few of the tools used in creating a successful start-up business. Whether you are the only salesperson, you have a sales manager or even a sales team, the business must develop an effective sales strategy:

Pre-Planning the Plan

In order to create a plan for an effective sales strategy, you must first determine what your sales goals and objectives are for your business. Once the objectives are solidified and defined, you will then need to determine a timeline in which you will launch and implement each goal. You also need to use your market research to understand who your customers are, the best way your company can meet the need of the consumer and the best way in which you can reach your target customer in order to develop your sales technique. During the pre-planning stage is the best time to become exhaustively familiar with the products you sell or the service you provide, your sales quotas and your sales territory. You will also need to determine how much of your working capital you will need to devote to developing and implementing your sales strategies.

Creating the Plan

Once you have your objectives and timeline in place and you understand your market, you can then begin to create your sales strategy plan. You will need to determine your weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly sales goals. From there you can create sales action plans that will help you hit each goal. You will also need to decide if you want one sales strategy for everybody that works for you or if each position has their own unique technique. If you have a small start up business, you can usually get away with having one overall strategy; however, if you have multiple departments or have employers that work off commission, you may want different sales strategies for each position.

Implementing the Plan

Now that you have your sales strategy developed and tailored to meet the specific needs of your business, it is time to put it into action. The first step in implementing your plan for generating sales is knowing your customer and their needs which will allow you to build a rapport with them and lay the foundation for a good business relationship. The cost of your product or service should be explained clearly within your strategy with no hidden costs that are going to surprise the customer later on down the road which is one of the fastest ways to lose return customers. Selling a customer your product or service is always easier when the one doing the selling has confidence in what they are selling.

Developing an effective sales strategy is crucial for a startup business. This lays the ground work for repeat customers and an on-going and growing generation of sales. Continue satisfying the needs of your customers and they will continue buying from you.

How do you come up with a sales focus which drives the most amount of growth to your business and profit to your bottom line?

Some strategy tips are:

Strategy 1. Think big and audit your time. No matter the size of your business, place a mental image in your mind as if you are the largest and most successful person in your industry. How much time is consumed by routine office work someone else should be doing? Spend more time with more important tasks such as marketing strategies, improving customer relations, and implementing new strategies to expand your services.

Strategy 2. Be different and stand out from the competition. Jordan Furniture sells more furniture per square foot than any other furniture store in the nation. They transformed their family-owned business into a multi-million dollar corporation by

following a principle called “shoppertainment.” To surprise employees and customers, Barry and Eliot Tatleman dressed up like the Lone Ranger and Tonto and rode horses in their parking lot. They built an IMax theater inside one store to entertain children while their parents shopped. When you drive around the back to pick up your furniture they provide you free hotdogs and wash your car windows.

Strategy 3. Build relationships with your customers. For each month that goes by, customers lose 10% of their buying power. Create a customer database and contact them on a regular basis. Mail them a postcard, birthday card, sales flyer, newsletter etc. to keep your name, phone number, and service on their mind.

Strategy 4. Collect E-Mail Addresses. Get permission from your customers to use their E-mail address. Periodically send updates and notices to your client list. As long as you have their permission and avoid overuse, E-mail can be a powerful and inexpensive marketing tool.

Strategy 5. Hire top sales people. Successful businesses realize the quality of their sales staff is critical to sustaining their growth in the marketplace. A top salesperson can outsell an average one 4 to 1. Sales people must understand their strengths and have a well-defined plan to reach their potential. Many companies can provide you sales assessments to both identify top candidates and develop currently employed sales people.

Strategy 6. Put a shopping cart on your website. Online sales are still growing at a dramatic pace. This is coming from people who want to save time, avoid crowded stores, convenience, and the ability to shop outside of store hours. Just consider E-Bay for example, which generates millions of dollars of sales each year. It does not cost anything to set up an account on E-Bay, and you pay a proportion based on the cost of the item you are trying to sell. If you don’t want to use E-bay, consider using your own shopping cart system on your website.

Strategy 7. Pay-per-click advertising. Many business owners are finding classified advertising is not an effective use of their marketing dollars. Others are finding pay-per-click advertising is an easier and cheaper way to reach a larger market. Pay-per-click will insure you receive top visibility on websites driving more customers to your door. Advertisers bid on keywords and the more popular the keyword, the more expensive each click is. Prices vary between ten cents to many dollars depending on the popularity of the word. The most popular pay-per-click advertisers are Google, Business.com, and Yahoo.

Strategy 8. Use customer service commandments to create good habits. Bates Ace Hardware store located in Atlanta created “Twenty Customer Service Commandments” modeled after the Ritz-Carlton hotels outlining specific behaviors employees are to demonstrate when dealing with customers and fellow employees. For example, “Accompany a customer to the correct aisle instead of pointing to another area of the store.” They print the commandments on a small card and employees carry it with them at work.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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5 DAILY HABITS OF REMARKABLY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS LEADERS

Posted by the7stages on September 10, 2014
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“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” –Lao Tzu

If you haven’t noticed there has recently been an onslaught of articles from various publications on how to be more productive, and all of them point to the same message: How you choose to spend your time is the difference between being a good leader and a remarkable one.

This is probably an understatement, but entrepreneurs are some of the busiest people around.

  1. 1. Establish a routine/Organize your day. The first hour of the work day is the best time to assess priorities and to focus on what you absolutely need to accomplish, Kerr says. “Too many people get distracted first thing in the morning with unimportant activities such as diving right into their morass of e-mail, when there may be a whole host of more important issues that need dealing with.” Make a to-do list, or update the one you made the previous day, and try to stick to it.

So start doing the work now. Time is wasting.

Related: 30 Most Innovative Business Leaders of 2013

1. Exercise and meditate. The importance of exercise has been well established so I won’t bore you with the details and figures.

We all know fitness is important to our health, but did you know it can also be good for your business? Elizabeth Robinson, a Philadelphia-based personal trainer and creator of VitFit, a mobile app for customizable downloadable workouts and Dega Schembri, co-owner ofCity Fitness Gym in Washington D.C., say regular physical activity can make you a better entrepreneur.

But some really successful people make exercising a priority. The CEOs of Apple, Xerox, Pepsi, Christies and Starwood Hotels all start their days by getting their hearts pumping, according to Business Insider.

2. Remember your purpose. Take a few moments at the start of each workday to remind yourself of your company’s goals. Think about your core customer and which areas of your business are most profitable. We oftentimes get caught up in the minutia of daily tasks we lose sight of what brings us happiness and profitability.

With this progress, goals should meet this definition:
Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Realistic
Timely

3. Plan tomorrow — tonight. Did you grow up with a parent who made sure you were ready for school the night before? Whether that involved getting your clothes out or preparing your lunch, these rituals shaped you. So prepare for the next day before hitting the hay.

A trick from Scott Stouffer. He co-founded a SEO Engine, a com helps companies use data to figure out what’s working online. Stouffer insists on keeping a schedule every day. The night before a big meeting, he sends out an email telling everyone what’s needed.

Read more: http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/8-habits-of-remarkably-successful-people.html#ixzz37mOoYM3s

5. Value your time. Unlike money, time is a non-renewable resource. There’s simply no way to make more of it. Guard your time and spend it doing the most important things for yourself and your company. Avoid distractions whenever possible. Whether you facilitate or attend a meeting, online or in person, get clear about the start and end time. Whenever someone requests a meeting or consultation with you, try asking for the questions in advance so you can do your research ahead of time. This will keep you on time and on task.

So, what are the 5 DAILY HABITS OF REMARKABLY SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS LEADERS

They don’t create back-up plans

They do the work…

…and they work a lot more

… and they don’t stop there

They are never too proud

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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Apps Every Entrepreneur Needs

Posted by the7stages on July 08, 2014
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Getting more done throughout your day isn’t simply a matter of sitting down and working harder. Instead, being more productive requires that you work harder on the right things, in addition to tackling them as efficiently as possible. Fortunately for entrepreneurs, there are plenty of apps out there that will help to both organize an overwhelming workload and provide the motivation needed to get things done.

Entrepreneurs are the artists of the business world — captivated by ideas and the never ending pursuit of the potential—the what if.

Entrepreneurs are known to be the masters of efficiency, right? The secret? We don’t do it alone. Besides having an amazing team to support our endeavor, we also utilize cutting edge apps to keep us on our A-game.

Faster is better.

So below you will find an app rundown, but first of all lets first focus on efficiency — a necessity for the entrepreneur that is constantly juggling various tasks. The faster you can access information and execute, the faster you’ll build your company.

App Name Details
TrackMaven

This app streamlines your ability to monitor data on your competition, withoutgoing through the hassle of consulting multiple sources. Filter the marketing activity you want alerts for and erase all the extra white noise.

EchoSign

There’s no longer an excuse to delay the closing of a deal (You never know when Mark Zuckerberg will call with that $3 billion dollar bid.)  This Adobe app allows you to electronically sign documents easily and securely. It also records and stores each document’s history, so you have automatic audit trails — saving you the time and trouble of backtracking in case the need arises.
Free Wifi Finder


A definite game-changing app for the entrepreneur and tech guru who needs to be plugged in 24/7. In the early stages of a startup, every situation and opportunity is high stakes and you can’t afford to allow a poor Internet connection to get in the way of your company’s success.
Uber


This app never lets us down.  For any on-the-go entrepreneur, this service is essential to ensure you always have a way to get to that last minute meeting — even when every cab in the city is full.
MobileDay


: For those frequent occasions when you’re too busy to be sitting in the office, use MobileDay to coordinate all of your in-person and conference call meetings. With this app, you can dial in automatically, email with participants and even get directions to your meeting place.
Skitch


Screenshots are second nature in the business world these days, but it’s a tedious task to make notes directly on them. Enter Skitch. A product of the ever popular, Evernote, this desktop and mobile application allows you to get directly to the point through different annotations, shapes and sketches.
Mint

An entrepreneur probably knows a thing or two about managing finances, but it’s always good to be able to easily access information about personal cash flow. Mint allows you to record expenses, create budgets and manage savings plans, all from your phone.
Pocket


As entrepreneurs, we’re full of great ideas, so much so that they hit us when we least expect them. Enter Pocket, a phone-based bookmarking app which can save all types of content – anything from a lengthy article to a work report — to all your electronic devices.
Unroll.me


There is nothing we hate more than a crowded email inbox. Thankfully, Unroll.mewas created to fix that exact problem. Simply sign up with your email address and let Unroll.mefind all of your subscriptions for you. Then easily scroll through and unsubscribe from the ones you’d rather never hear from again.  You can also make sure the right emails break through all the noise.
Digg

For the entrepreneur who is always looking for new innovations and wants to stay up on the latest news in their industry, Digg is the perfect app to download on phones, tablets, and e-readers. Digg allows users to find, read, and share the top trending stories on the internet all in one place.
Smartr Contacts

Every business owner and developer understands that having strong contacts is one of the most fundamental parts of the field. Smartr Contacts allows users to find their most important business contacts instantly. By delving into social network contacts, phone contacts, and emailaccounts, Smart Contacts instantly searches for the contact the user is looking for.
Invoice2go

Stay on top of business finances and send invoices in just minutes with Invoice2go.  Once users have created an invoice, Invoice2Go will send a prompt to mark the invoice as either paid or unpaid. Create instant reports to show unpaid balances, and send reminders to debtors immediately from your phone of tablet.
Dropbox

The days of the filing cabinet are long gone, but somehow people still manage to get their files mixed up and confused. Dropbox is a service that allows users to store all of their files in a cloud and access them anywhere or at anytime. With quick uploading time and a simple interface, Dropbox will leave users headache free and ready to feel organized.
Clicky

Clicky allows entrepreneurs and business owners to analyze their website stats on the go and stay up to date with the latest Google trends and algorithms. Clicky allows users to monitor every action taken on their website, while providing the ability to personalize relationships with users by inputting custom data such as usernames or email addresses.  Onsite analytics and Google Search Ratings have never been more accessible.
Prismatic

Entrepreneurs can update their team on the latest updates in their industry with the Prismaticapp. Catered to user’s interests, Prismatic displays articles on a one-page news feed. The perk to Prismatic? Upon liking or disliking an article in the news feed, an algorithm is created to attract the users content and what they are more inclined to like.
Producteev

Producteev is the perfect app to help entrepreneurs delegate and complete tasks with their teams.  Assign tasks, add due dates, track progress, and measure the end results with this app. The best part about Producteev? It allows users to manage projects and tasks at an organizational pace that is catered to the users needs and wants.
Easy Projects

Easy Projects is a management software app that allows users to make online planning the solution to all of their organizational needs. Export and import from MS Project and MS Excell.  Easy project is the solution to management tasks by allowing users to manage and plan tasks, use interactive Gantt charts, and incorporate a time-management module to ensure that every time spent on certain projects is being billed and accounted for.

Vesper

Entrepreneurs would agree that note taking and jotting down ideas is one of the greatest vessels of inspiration. Vesper is one of the most intuitive note taking apps. Users can write text, add images and text, and with Vespers easy navigation sidebar, users can easily find all of their notes later on.

Lastpass

In an age of digital insecurity, forming secure passwords is an absolute must—but who has time to remember all those different combinations of letters and numbers? If you struggle to keep your online accounts secure, Lastpass can help by generating, storing and automatically recalling strong passwords for all of your Internet logins. It’s free to use on both PCs and Macs, though you’ll pay $12/year to have the premium version available for download to your mobile device.

Remember the Milk

Remember the Milk (RTM) is a widely used, to-do list management program that’s worth a look if you’re having trouble tracking your tasks. It’s highly flexible and easily customized—and can even be used to implement a GTD-style system. The Web version and basic iOS and Android apps are free to use, though daily syncing will run you $25/year.

Wunderlist

If RTM lacks in any one area, it’s visual appeal. So if you’re a more graphically inclined entrepreneur, take a look at Wunderlist—a perpetual favorite on lists of the best to-do trackers. The program is easy to navigate and can be used to quickly and efficiently track important tasks from within its free desktop, Web, iOS and Android versions.

Things

Although Things is only available on Macs and within Apple devices, it still warrants a mention on this list, given how intuitive the program is to use. While some users find that the RTM interface has a learning curve to fully utilize, Things makes it easy to start tracking to-do items as quickly as possible. And, as an added bonus, it’s totally free to use!

Instapaper

Coming across interesting articles is one of the best parts of the Internet—and one of the worst things for your overall productivity levels. Instead of reading through new posts whenever you encounter them, save them to your Instapaper account. Your selected Web pages will be automatically saved for later browsing, when they’ll be displayed in a reading-friendly format for free on your computer, iPhone, iPad or Kindle.

Yast

Nearly all professionals can benefit from some type of time-tracking program—whether this type of tool is used to report billable hours back to customers or to simply measure how working hours are being spent. Yast provides an incredibly easy-to-use solution (just press the “Play” button to start tracking time to a specific account) that’s free to use for personal time tracking. Business accounts for entire teams are available as well, starting at $14/user per month.

Focusbooster

Plenty of entrepreneurs use the Pomodoro Technique (which alternates 25-minute long working blocks with short breaks) in order to maintain sustainable, long-term productivity. And while there are plenty of different Pomodoro timers out there, one of my favorites is the Focusbooster App. It’s free to use and provides a simple way for business professionals to stay focused over long periods of time.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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FEAST? OR FAMINE? WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

Posted by the7stages on June 11, 2014
Uncategorized / 2 Comments

FEAST? Or FAMINE? WHICH ONE ARE YOU?

Make Your Small Business a Winner: Sales cycles: feast or famine

Most business owners would love to be so busy that clients are lined up waiting for their services. Do you want to know how to smooth out the ups and downs of the Feast-or-Famine Syndrome?

Many business owners are familiar with the term feast or famine, especially when it comes to operating a business. Feast or famine indicates the extremes associated with the highs and lows in sales revenue.

DEFINITION:

Feast or famine usually refers to a business operating the entire year which experiences extreme highs or lows. During the peak months more than enough opportunities, sales, services and products for income exist. It is during this feast one must beef up production, hire additional employees or expand hours of operation to meet the demand and many times, must place customers on a waiting list, or turn away business altogether.

Yet, all too often a recurrent theme is realized: feast or famine. The weather now cold or wet with its unfavorable climate has declined the demand for seasonal goods. In spite knowing that the famine, or the slowest and sometimes hardest time of year is approaching, many business owners continue to find themselves struggling.

If you’ve experienced feast and famine, you will know that a feast is more like a treadmill, whereas famine is more like famine! This phrase is applied most often to service organizations, but it can happen to any business.

At feast time you are rushed off your feet, thinking only about delivery. You will have no time for building your pipeline and finding your next new customers.

When famine hits you may just have emerged from a busy period, with no prospect of an order in sight. It will be hard to cope without the pressure you’ve been used to. You may lose momentum, or worse, motivation.

WHY FEAST AND FAMINE HAPPENS IN THE BUSINESS WORLD?

First:

It starts when you finally figure out or learn how to bring at least some clients in. It works, and clients arrive.

Eventually you get busy with these clients, and you do less of, or stop doing entirely, those things that brought the clients in. But it’s okay, you’re loving working with your clients, and getting paid!

Second:

Then, inevitably, one of your clients completes with you and moves on. “Okay,” you say to yourself, “No sweat. It’s just one client.” Then another completes. And another.

Soon your schedule is a bit more open than you are comfortable with, so you decide it’s time to go and get some clients, so you start doing those things again that worked last time.

Too late, the famine is upon you. Some mighty lean weeks or even months crop up. You work really hard, and clients start coming back in again. And so the cycle repeats.

WHAT QUESTIONS SHOULD I ASK MYSELF?

  • Do you have feast and famine months in your small business?
  • Times when you’re so busy you don’t know where to turn and then times when it’s so quiet that you’re desperately willing the phone to ring with a new customer?
  • Are you putting so much effort into providing top notch service to your existing customers that you don’t have time to get out and look for new ones?

AVOIDING FEAST VS. FAMINE

When you’re in a “feast” situation, it’s often hard to find time to get out and look for consulting work.

  • When you’re in a “feast” situation, it’s often hard to find time to get out and look for consulting work.
  • Get another job
    • Deal with downtime by getting another jobs. Many successful consultants have turned to office temp work, part-time jobs, and casual work to get through slow periods. 

10-strategies-for-managing-the-feast-or-famine-job-shop

Avoiding the feast and famine cycle is one of the hardest parts of small business sales and one of the key early focuses of my small business coaching.

It’s hard because in the famine times:

  • you’ll be frustrated at the lack of activity
  • you’ll be stressed about maintaining cash flow
  • you’ll doubt your ability and business idea
  • you’ll waste money with knee jerk advertising

WHAT IS THE SECRET?

The secret, of course, is never to stop growing your business; never to stop looking for the next

opportunity, no matter how busy you are now.  Either that, or plan positively for a period where

you will survive on the proceeds of the feast, and not expect to earn much, instead putting a huge

effort into marketing and sales. If you take this route, do it in the knowledge of how long it takes

you to win business.

EXAMPLES:

a)      As a consultant, you average 9 months before you close a big project, then with no pipeline, you might have to plan for a year of famine – can you cope with that, both personally and financially?

b)      If you are a manufacturer, you’ll be able to more accurately estimate your production needs, thereby reducing inventory and improving cash flow. Or if you are a wholesaler, you’ll be better equipped to manage your buying volumes throughout the year, and so forth.

c)      Even the best writer goes through the feast-or-famine cycle. It can be a scary ride, but if you plan right — and trust that there’s always work out there for a good freelancer — you’ll be just fine.

Carl Gould is a business strategist, and growth expert. He has written 5 books in the area of creating business success, and is the co-host of the weekly radio program, ‘Quit and Get Rich’ (www.gteamradio.com). Carl and his team of experts advise companies and organizations to grow to the next level. What is the next level for you?

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The 4 Weaknesses of the Serial Entrepreneur

Posted by the7stages on May 20, 2014
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Successful entrepreneurs are usually hard-driving, and highly focused on some specific goals, like being the dominant player in a given domain, or the low-priced provider of their product. Yet other entrepreneurs will talk for hours about all their ideas, and how they intend to change the world, but I don’t hear any specific goals or milestones.

While goal-setting is an important factor in the success of our business and personal lives, most of us will see our New Year’s resolutions fail before the calendar turns to February. “

Related: Try this quiz to see how your views compare with the facts about entrepreneurs.

Boosting productivity should be on everyone’s New Year’s Resolutions list, especially if you’re a student, freelancer, or aspiring entrepreneur. We hear about plenty of productivity resolutions for businesspeople, but which ones are actually kept? Using common sense, technology, and productivity apps, such as Flow, here are five New Year’s Resolutions that productive people can actually keep.

1. Work Less

We all want to spend more time with our friends and families, and less time attached to our jobs and devices. Aside from quitting your job, or cutting back on hours, the best way to work less is to work smarter.

2. Stay Organized

When you have a million things floating around, and more and more coming in, it can be incredibly difficult to stay organized.

Related: 6 Steps to Managing Your Overwhelming Workload

3. Stop Being Lazy

It’s really not that hard to confront procrastination.

Related: Don’t Wait for Motivation. Do This Instead.

4. Inbox Zero

Ah, the elusive inbox zero. We all want it, but it feels out of reach most of the time. You can actually achieve this by utilizing the urgent/important matrix for emails. Take 20 minutes to organize your inbox with automatic sorting and labeling.

Organize your inbox by tagging the dishes that need to leave the kitchen right now, and those that can survive another minute (hour, day, week) under the heat lamp.

5. Utilize Technology Better

You will save time by spending money. If that means you need to use Flow and other apps on your smartphone.

A recent University of Scranton study showed while more than 40 percent of Americans admit to making New Year’s resolutions, only eight percent of us actually follow through and achieve our goals. Experts say the reason for these failures is that many of us lack the structure to support the behavioral changes our new goals require.

Follow these few tips and make your New Year’s resolutions stick:

Limit the number of goals.

Related: Free Apps to Keep Your Resolutions On Track

Write it out.

While writing down goals is a commonly used technique that forces a deeper level of commitment.

Set realistic goals.

“The people that set the most effective goals are ones that find the sweet spot between overwhelming and uninteresting,” says Gervais.

Find a partner.

When a wife and husband have the same kind of goals they stick to those a lot better than if they a one person goal. Sites such as stickK allow you to create goals, invite others to view your progress and set monetary stakes, creating a sense of accountability that can help you stay on track.

A study created generated by Bill J. Bonnstetter is

chairman of Target Training International, Ltd.

measured whether skills were well developed, developed,

moderately developed, or needed developing.

After analyzing the data, we found four distinct

skills lacking in most serial entrepreneurs, three skills

statistically significantly and one other also noticeably

lacking. The statistical significance is derived by

comparing the lowest ranking skills to the entrepreneurs’

top skills, as evaluated in the first study.

Entrepreneurial-minded people are not proficient in managing themselves and their time. This leads to another skill entrepreneurs lack: planning and organizing. Similar to self-management, if entrepreneurs spent time planning and organizing every task or meeting, they would never get anything else done.

Empathy is one of the qualities serial entrepreneurs lack most.

Entrepreneurs also do not excel above the control group when it comes to analytical problem solving.

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What can every entrepreneur learn from kids this Easter?

Posted by the7stages on April 09, 2014
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What can every entrepreneur learn from kids this Easter?

This is the time of year we dream of a yummy, rich,
sweet chocolate Easter bunny. We envision, in excited
anticipation, our first bite into that scrumptious rich
milk chocolate Easter bunny ears, only to discover
that the Easter bunny’s ears is hollow! Unfortunately,
there are many small businesses much like the
“hollow” chocolate Easter bunny.
The Easter Bunny is a busy guy (I assume, it’s a guy). He has just as much ground to
cover as Santa Claus, and Santa has reindeer and elves helping him out. As a single
rabbit, entrepreneurial operation, the Easter Bunny gets stretched thin. That means that
sometimes, things that were supposed to make it into the basket, don’t get there.
As a smart entrepreneur you hunt and search for just the right vendor to assist in
growing your small business. You go the extra mile in researching each possible
provider.
They are everything you’ve dreamed of in a provider – and more. They say they deliver
on time. They say they meet their deadlines. They say they can – and will – deliver the
results you want. They’re charming, personable, relatable, knowledgeable, excellent at
communicating their field in a way that’s easy for you to understand…It’s a partnership
made in heaven! You’re excited to work with them. They are, in fact, the solid chocolate
Easter Bunny! Until you break off the ear…
There seems to be more a lot of hollow chocolate Easter bunnies in business today.
Some small businesses are always in a hurry to get to market, don’t take the time to do
the important pieces of their business like business/marketing plan that ensure they are
as good on the inside as they look on the outside.
To make sure your small business isn’t one of those hollow chocolate Easter Bunny
experiences for your clients, before you spend another dollar on marketing, work on
your business/marketing plan to help identify the business essentials needed to build a
solid enterprise.
So, what can every entrepreneur learn from kids this Easter?

Be excited by your prospects.
For days before Easter, mornings were a breeze in our house. No whining about waking
up; no fighting at the breakfast table:
Never give up and enjoy the doing, not just the accomplishment.
The Easter bunny got particularly busy at one friend’s house this year, hiding 140 eggs!
Six kids, with some help from parents, tracked down all but one egg. While most of the
adults sat down and watched, the kids just kept looking and looking. They had as much
fun looking for the eggs as they did finding them.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
If there is 1 egg left, kids will join their powers and start
thinking, where can we find this last missing egg – in other
words – TEAMWORK!
Negotiations:
Children of all ages are master of the art of negotiations.
Resilience:
Kids rarely take “NO” for an answer. When they hit a wall, they wall around it and find
another alternative to accomplish where they want to go.

Resources (your vendors):
It is important to know who has the best, the most economical and best deliver time.
Here is where you really prepare your HUNT.
Funding:
When additional money is needed, it is very important to be able to turn to more than
just one funding resource. What kid has not had their own lemonade stand? Baked
cupcakes or cookies or even traded bracelets.
Promote yourself:
It is okay to market yourself, talk about your goals and success with pride. Kids tell the
neighbors and make flyers to market their lemonade.
Dream BIG!
While it is necessary to be realistic, it is also important to project a positive outcome!
“With the money I make from the lemonade stand, I will buy….”
Those who are in need of your talents will find you.
Believe this…the spirit of the Easter bunny; and the entrepreneurial spirit are both alive
and well.
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Growth.Rebirth and Rejuvenation

Posted by the7stages on March 12, 2014
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“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure” Colin Powell

Now that we are a bit into 2014, its time for Growth. Rebirth and Rejuvenation. A new year gives a Company the chance to reinvent who the Company is, what Company does, and who the Company does it for by reassessing its Business Life Cycle.

Now What?

Once a business has decided to review their Business Life Cycle, business owners usually have three big areas of concern:

  1. Attracting Customers
  2. Improving Cash Flow
  3. Increasing Profits

What Do We Do?

It’s a time to look back on the Company tasks, goals and accomplishments over the last year and discuss some of the things the Company has not done well, some of the things the Company could have done better and some of its upcoming plans. Click here for a free Business Plan.

Where Do We Start?

Dust off the Cobwebs!

March, is that time of the year to go back to your New Year’s Resolution List – Remember the 5 Deadliest New Year’s Resolution Mistakes.

Here’s a business principle to remember: “No matter what there are no big deals. No matter what.” Remember this axiom to take the emotional sting out of your problems. You’ll be better prepared to deal with issues.

Here’s another: Budget your time so you can better understand your problems.

Given early intervention, a business in decline can resurrect itself. However, this will usually involve a significant investment in the business.

In the Rebirth or Death Stage:

The Rebirth:

For a business that has made it out of the decline and managed to resurrect itself, things can be exciting again as the rebirth kicks off.

However, there is usually a new set of challenges to face:

  • Competitors may start to fight back
  • The organizational structure of the business may change

Death

Businesses that don’t turn around in the Decline phase of the Business Life Cycle will inevitably reach a point when they will be forced to close the doors.

How can you tell if you have reached that stage?

  • You haven’t paid wages on time for more than 3 months
  • Your overdraft has been maxed out for more than 6 months
  • You owe suppliers more than your customer owe you
  • Your business has been running at a loss for more than 6 months

So, where do we start again…..

Answer the following questions:

  1. Write about your situation. Analyze your problem with a piece of paper and pencil
  2. Get help from a CMT Mentors
  3. Create a vision! Build Your Vision! – some goals. Take a Business Survey
  4. Then, develop a balance sheet – pros and cons of the possible solutions.
  5. Can’t get things done? Start a to-do list. Do the most-challenging project the first hour of your day. You’ll start experiencing some energy.
  6. Start reading — something helpful each day.
  7. Periodically review your goals. Do you want to remain an entrepreneur? Do you need more money? Do you need more time?

Good luck in your rejuvenation!

“Effort only full releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.” Napoleon Hill

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Do You Feel Loved?

Posted by the7stages on February 12, 2014
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Do you feel loved?

Customer Service and Feedback = Customer Satisfaction

Customer Satisfaction = Gold Mines for Potential Evangelists

Taking this feedback to heart and doing something with it will show your customers that you care about them, and their needs. In a study done by McKinsey and Company they found that 70% of purchase experiences are based on how your customer feels that they are being treated.

Remember that customers who have nothing but amazing things to say about your product are probably already your brand evangelists. Customers with problems, or concerns, provide a huge opportunity for conversion to brand evangelism if you can sooth their fears quickly and effectively. Doing this will certainly help them choose your brand over your competitors’.

Customer service ranks as the #1 factor influencing how much a consumer trusts a company. In another survey, 92% of companies reported a decline in customer satisfaction, with consumers most disappointed by inconsistent service. In the same study, it was mentioned, that 45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. (Forrester)

So, what is the top secret of a brand evangelist, the most important thing…“Word of Mouth Conversation”. Because word of mouth is extremely influential when it comes to the buying cycle and it is extraordinarily effective in getting new customers into your company.

Source: 2012 Global Customer Service – Barometer

Source: 2012 Global Customer Service – Barometer

Proactive customer service

In a survey conducted by Forrester for Nuance Communications, customers overwhelmingly indicated their interest in receiving at least one proactive notification, ranging from 80% of cable/telco customers to 93% of travel industry consumers. As an example, more companies are using proactive notification systems, which broadcast information such as workarounds for known bugs, service alerts, new service offerings and knowledge base content.

Retaining staff

When creating brand evangelists it’s good to start from the inside and work outward.

Who has the most contact with your customers? Your staff!

Never Forget, Happy Employees Make Customers into Brand Evangelists

This means that they have a huge impact on the level of satisfaction your customers will have with your product. Employees and their happiness should therefore always be one of the top priorities of your business plan.

One theory proposed by Alexander Kjerulf is, “Happy employees make the customers happy”. Alexander is a lecturer and consultant on happiness at work and author of Happy Hour is 9 to 5. He told Executive Travel magazine. “Studies show very clearly that when employees like their jobs, customers get better service and are more satisfied.” The correlation makes sense when considering that employees are usually seen as the face of the company. A worker who is happy and engaged projects positivity, which customers can usually detect. Someone who is negative, or even just disaffected, can just as easily turn customers away.

Final Note: Brand Evangelists have High ROI

They used to say that you had to spend money to make money. The best part about brand evangelists? They dig your product so much, that they want the whole world to know about you, ex: free advertising!

In conclusion, brand evangelism is by far the most cost-effective form of marketing available to businesses today. It will save your company tons of money, while generating sincere relationships within your business community.

4 Solutions to Turning Customers into Your Brand Evangelists:

  1. Be personal: Why does your product matter to users?

  2. Be smart: Develop loyalty

  3. Be exciting: Never stop evolving

  4. Be yourself: Don’t overlook your employees

So, where does your company rank?
When are you going to have a love affair with your customers?

Finally, below are several important statistics to help you focus your efforts so you can increase your overall customer satisfaction:

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