With the holidays here, small business owners aren’t only making sales; some are making purchases of gifts for staff, business partners and mentors. When it comes to picking a perfect, business appropriate gift, there are a few elements that should influence the type of gift that you get, those being the level of familiarity you have with the recipient, their relationship to you and your business, and how much you know about their personal preferences. Giving a gift during the holidays, even a small gift, demonstrates your commitment to a successful relationship and can be a nice way to show your partners that you value them. The gift you get should reflect your relationship with the recipient. The more time you spend with someone, the more you start to pick up on their personal preferences. When it comes to buying gifts, you can use all that you have observed to help you purchase a gift that reflects their tastes on a deeper level. When you work

The first impression that you make is an incredibly powerful and long lasting thing. Whether for good or for bad, people will arrive at assumptions in a short period of time that can be hard to shake going forward, making it much more practical for a business owner to try and take charge of the first interactions they have with clients through a smooth onboarding process as opposed to possibly fighting an uphill battle after a rocky start. While a first impression is a major factor in creating a relationship, the follow up is also highly important. Did you make a great impression on your client, and now they are excited to work with you? Great, then you need to actively take steps to preserve that goodwill so that it has the potential to ripen into more business, positive reviews and potentially ever referrals for more business. The ability to gain referrals is especially important for your business’s ability to continue growing. Having a stable client

The art of communications is exactly that; an art form, and one that deserves to be practiced in multiple mediums as opposed to ignored and addressed only when it is convenient. Being attentive to incoming communications, as well as proactive in order to keep key relationships strong is something that every business owner needs to be able to handle, but what about those times when you want to go a little bit further? Old school communication, meaning a face to face meeting, a physical letter, or an actual phone call, are a lot less glamorous than the slew of digitally based communication technologies that are now available to small business owners, but in a pinch they can show that you are really invested in the health of a relationship that means a lot to your business. A physical thank you note sends a strong positive message. Even more so if it written by hand. The reason is because it is a gesture that implicitly communicates that

  Networking is an important part of growing a small business, no matter what the industry. The reason why is because so much of business relies on trust built up by face to face interactions. Going to networking events can expose your business to a wide range of potentially valuable business connections, from complementary businesses looking for joint branding opportunities, to new bases of customers that you might not have thought to reach out to on your own. Getting good at creating new connections is only one half of networking, and arguably, isn’t as important as what comes after the event; the follow up. Mastering the follow up is what will allow your business to put the connections that were made during your time spent at events and meet ups to work for your business. Here are a few ways of following up that can help capitalize on the momentum that small business owners create for themselves. Write a follow up that contextualizes your meeting

  The prospect of a business trip can often be exciting, especially for business owners who don’t usually travel often. That said, there are plenty of potential headaches that can occur if a trip isn’t planned effectively. By doing what they can to prepare ahead of time, business owners can ensure that they minimize potential pitfalls and maximize their enjoyment of the travel experience. Pack for the days you are staying, plus one or two. While traveling light is a good thing, traveling too lightly is not. It is always a good idea to bring one extra outfit with you to be prepared in case one of your other outfits gets a stain or you are asked to stay for longer than you had originally anticipated. In a pinch, an extra outfit that is ready to go allows you options when deciding how to match the dress code of the meetings you must attend. Get to the airport/ bus station/ train terminal earlier than you think

  Time is the one resource that can never be replaced once it is used up, so business owners should always be on the lookout for easy ways to save it. One of the biggest time sinks out there is writing and reading emails, especially from people who you would rather not remain in contact with. One technique for managing emails and cutting down the time it takes to sort useful correspondence from junk is adopting a better organized email filtering system that will automatically separate your mail into more easily scanned categories. This will only help when it comes to reading emails that you personally receive, so on the other side of the coin, creating some handy email templates can cut down the hours spent typing up letters in order to respond or reach out to business connections. While you may have to edit your templates before sending them out on a case by case basis, it is still much easier than sitting down to

  Etiquette is an interesting subject, especially in regard to business. While some industries observe relatively rigid dress codes and have high expectations surrounding the way people should behave, others are extremely casual bordering on entirely informal. However, regardless of the industry in which a business owner works, a certain level of etiquette should be observed when meeting partners and creating connections as a matter of appearing professional. In 2014, dress code isn’t as important as appearing put together. A formal dress code nowadays isn’t generally a given when it comes to small businesses. The standard idea of business casual has crept beyond the confines of “casual Friday” and taken over the everyday modes of dress for many. For others, there isn’t any type of dress code in their business, and every employee is able to wear what they choose. Instead of focusing on wearing something specific, business owners should make sure that they appear put together and not sloppily dressed. Maintaining a clean and collected

Meetings are an interesting phenomenon of the business world. When used appropriately, they can be powerful tools for creating team based strategies, but more often they get a bad rap as time sinks where employees and managers will talk in circles in order to avoid losing face or seeming like they aren’t engaged. Then more useless meetings employees are dragged to, the less engaged they tend to become as the point of meeting becomes diluted by the routine postures adapted by participants. Small business owners should avoid calling in meetings constantly, instead only bringing their whole team together when it is actually necessary. Here are some strategies for avoiding calling in unnecessary group meetings while still ensuring that productivity is kept at high levels. Use a wider range of communication tools. Communications during meetings are valuable because of both the immediacy of face to face communication as well as the ability of and entire team to participate and engage. However, team members can use communication technologies

In an article that appeared on the Washington Post, Denice Peterson laid out some strategies for small businesses looking to compete for and win valuable contracts. One of the tips she gave was for business owners to define their value propositions in order to differentiate themselves from other businesses in their space. Specialization can make it easier for businesses to compete. Where small businesses fit in when completing contracts is usually within a specialized role that their client is not able to handle internally. Therefore, a jack of all trades may not be in as good a position to compete as a specialist with a lot of experience taking care of an essential function. Expertise is a large part of a business’s value proposition and a niche wherein they have a lot of expertise. That being said, many times a company that is originally looking to hire a specialist may give them more business after establishing a good working relationship, so there is nothing standing in

In an article on Business Insider by Martin Zwilling, the idea of travel being essential to the growth of a small business was discussed, with the conclusion that business owners should both expect and be willing to hit the road in order to grow their companies. Some of the points made in favor of traveling as a small business owner included the fact that, thanks to the reach of the internet business owners can successfully win contracts from clients that are physically very far from their actual locations. Traveling to meet these clients and affirm relationships can be a good use of time and resources if the potential for a long and productive relationship is there. Another thing to note is that business owners can often benefit from attending industry specific events in order to speak as experts or simply to present their wares and create connections. In order to determine the importance of travel for your business, think realistically about the relative value. While you

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