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4 Secrets to Ensure Your Business Growth

Starting a business from scratch is an arduous task. To make it worse, most people have no idea how to grow their business in the long run. As more and more people chase their dreams of starting a business, it’s crucial to understand how to run a business successfully. You may have the initial funding to kickstart your business but it’s not enough to ensure your survival. As a business owner, you need to maintain continuous growth to compete with your competitors. These are four ingredients which will help you to become successful in any business.   1. You need devotion and dedication Before you start any business, ask yourself whether you truly have the courage to start a new business. Running a business is not suitable for everyone. You must have a strong determination and dedication or else you will fail to understand the nature of the global economy. There’s always ups and downs in the economic landscape, which can and will affect your business. The starting of something new is always challenging and you are bound to face many obstacles. Unless you have the right mindset, it will be nearly impossible for you to take the heat of the global economy when it comes to establishing a new business. You need to have a strong willpower which will eventually help you to overcome all the obstacles. Always remember, embracing the failure is nothing but a part of your business. You need to learn the perfect way to embrace managed loss and look for potential opportunity to ensure your business growth.   2. You must diversify your risk factors As a new business owner, you may get a lot of sales from a single product. A product which is selling like a hot cake now might not be the best product after a few weeks. Therefore, you should never invest a significant portion of your investment on a single product. Try to diversify your risk factors as it will allow you to make the right decision even in worse market conditions. Just like the professional traders in the Forex trading industry, you need to learn the perfect art of risk management to save your investment. Even the most successful business owner in the world knows he or she must embrace losses from time to time. To ensure your business growth, you must create alternative revenue source based on different products or service. Never put all the eggs in the same basket. It dramatically increases your risk factors as you can lose everything due to a small mistake.   3. Treat every customer preciously Sometimes, you may be placing more value to your high net worth client. But this should never be your business model. A person who is purchasing a small amount of $100 today, may buy something exceeding $1000 in the near future. You need to make sure all your clients know they are important to you. Client satisfaction should always be your priority, if you want to grow your business. It’s important to conduct surveys regularly since it will help you to know about the weaknesses and strengths of your business. Collecting feedback from your clients and taking positive steps can dramatically increase your revenue source within a short period of time.   4. Know your competitors inside out To ensure your business growth, you must know your competitors intimately. Young business owners may think they don’t need to study their competitors. They just want to follow the traditional business model. But this is not going to work in the long run. In fact, you need to have a highly detailed idea about the business model of your competitors as if you are the owner of their businesses. It will help to elevate your business strategy which will eventually boost your potential growth in the global market.

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4 Tips To Kick Your Inbox Into Shape

Think back to those dim and distant days of the early 2000s -- a time when the email inbox was a relatively calm, sane and civilised environment. At best, you might have checked your mail once or twice a day in those happy far-off times. The arrival of a new message was generally cause for some sort minor celebration or would at least be something you were actually expecting about a relevant topic. A few short years later and the situation has sadly changed for the worse. The average inbox is now an uncontrollable torrent of frantic random spam, heavy sales pitches, imagined urgency and other people's problems. For all the fancy web-based productivity and project management apps that have recently emerged, the vast majority of most people's daily work is conducted via the inbox and that inbox is increasingly out of control. It's time to stop the rot, reclaim some sanity and kick your inbox into shape. Start with these simple steps: 1. Make Your Boundaries Clear It's up to you to set the rules of engagement for your approach to email. Begin by taking a few moments to mentally review the style of people you interact with most often via email. Are there negative patterns there? People who send emails at 5:29 or on a weekend demanding instant responses? Just because email is constantly available does not mean it must be constantly monitored or responded to. Rather than just randomly responding to everything that pops up in your inbox, start developing a strategy for processing your email in bulk at set intervals and set expectations with your correspondents accordingly. 2. Pick A Schedule And Stick To It Following on from point one, checking email constantly or leaping at every notification is a recipe for mental disaster and incredibly damaging for productivity. Start the healing process by turning off your email notifications entirely. You are an adult, you do not need a little bell ringing every time an email arrives. Then map out set times of the day when you will check your email. Ideally this would be no more than three times daily but pick whatever works best for your circumstances and stick to it. 3. Raise Your Writing Game Hammer this into your head - shorter is better. Few people enjoy opening their inbox at all these days, exponentially fewer relish trudging through long emails trying desperately to locate the point or action item they're meant to address. The worst possible example of this is of course the lengthy, inter-departmental email thread - the bane of the modern workplace. Start your journey along the road to concision by considering whether you should even be sending an email at all. Is a phone call a better way of handling this? Could you as easily IM someone for a quick yes/no? Then save yourself a send and do so. If you do have to send an email, take the extra time to make it concise, on-topic and with action items clearly outlined. Remember, don't just hit send. As with any written communication, you need to edit before publishing. The first draft is not the final draft. Do your readers the favour of going over your email a few times at least prior to sending. They'll appreciate it and your words will carry more weight. 4. Stop The Drama Because it's the primary form of daily working communication, many people fall into the trap of assigning outsize importance to the medium of email. How often have you seen someone hunched in front of their screen, physically wincing at the contents of an email or wildly over-reacting to the words on the screen? Maybe that person is even you from time to time? Email, at the end of the day, is simply a tool. Start using it as such. Introduce some discipline to your working life and kick that inbox into shape. Remember, you should be running it rather than vice versa.

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5 Useful Strategies For Turning Time Into Money

Time management for entrepreneurs is an often misunderstood concept that when grasped will change the way you think about your day and your business.  It is essential to understand that time cannot be managed. The only way to manage your productivity is to manage yourself. Regardless of how productive or successful you are during the day, time is the same for all of us – there are 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and 7 days a week. We have all heard the phrase “time is money” and yet most entrepreneurs aren’t leveraging their time to generate more clients and more money. There is an avalanche of information on time management for entrepreneurs and we can all get distracted with the techniques we should be doing. To keep it simple, I suggest these five strategies for turning time into money. Delegate non-income producing activities. To make more money requires you to do more income generating activities. As a business owner, we are the most focused on making money in our business and are usually the best person to market it, make sales and in some instances – actually perform the service. But what about all the other tasks that need doing? Assess what activities you are doing each day and determine which can be delegated to a staff member or be outsourced.  If you don’t have any staff, consider hiring someone part time. It is well worth the investment and will pay dividends quickly. Plan your day in advance. At the end of each day spend 15 minutes planning the most important income generating activities for the following day. It shouldn’t take any more than 15 minutes and more importantly, this will keep you on track to achieve your goals. Block your time. Once your income generating activities have been determined, schedule time in your calendar to perform them. This schedule needs to be viewed as non-negotiable, even a commitment to your future. Collapse time. When a certain period of time is allocated to any task, as human beings we naturally use the full amount of time. I challenge you to look at how long each activity needs and then reduce the time you will allocate to yourself. Even if you reduce the time by 15 minutes, that 15 minutes could then be used for an additional activity that will generate more money. Each period of time when used correctly will add more profit to your business. Eliminate distractions. This is often the hardest strategy to commit to. We have mobile phones that ring and beep with every call, email, SMS and social media alert as well as office phones ringing, alerts on our computers, staff that need attending to and client requests. It is easy to get caught up in all these demands for our attention. Set boundaries with yourself and those around you that there are certain times of the day that you will be available – and that includes family and friends. Advise family and friends that you are not available during the workday. Educate staff members what time blocks are available for you to be reached. Let clients know when you are available and the estimated time that you will get back to them. Plus turn off all alerts. You do not need instant alerts. Simply return messages when you have allocated time. Now I would love to hear from you. In the comments below, tell me your biggest insight you are taking away from this? If you found value in this article, please share it with your friends – it would mean the world to me. Thank you!

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9 Tips on How to Grow Your Business Smart

After having started a small business, there is a major question that needs to be answered: “How to grow your business now?” First of all, you need to understand who your target is and how to reach out to them in the most efficient way.  If you want to know how to grow your business, follow these steps and establish yourself as a reputable brand and make your customers love you. We all start a business in order to achieve a particular goal. However, sometimes it becomes difficult for a small business to thrive with big players in the same market niche. To survive, it becomes necessary to grow your business and become an active competitor. The question is then, how to grow your business into a competitive brand? Business growth is a gradual and simultaneous process that requires resilience, agility, and proper planning. Here are some tips on how to grow your business. Expand your market scope Some of the reputed brands that have been in play for decades used this technique to make their small business grow; it was costly because they had to open new locations in areas they wanted to capture. Today, expanding your market to reach larger audiences has been made easier through social media and advertising agencies. There are Internet platforms that bring investors, small business owners, and experts into one forum. Getting involved in such forums can grow your business knowledge and open up new opportunities. You can open multiple virtual locations globally, and it will not cost you a fortune. Diversification can also help you grow your business and market base. Forex trading provides low startup capital which can help you grow. Here are some ways you can grow your business niche market: 1. Use of social media One of the first things you need to know about how to grow your business is that most people own three or four social media accounts, and they spend a good amount of time on each of them each day. If your product targets young people, then you have hit the jackpot. Most young people spend at least an hour on social media every day. You can use it to identify the market trends and to gather feedback on your business. Once you know the market trends, it becomes easy to stay relevant in the market and expand your business. 2. Multilingual website The best tip on how to grow your business is to reach every potential customer. The communication barrier is eliminated by the use of multi-lingual websites that communicate to every market customer in a language they can understand. You can learn the various techniques to build a functional and efficient multi-lingual website. 3. Email marketing When you are running a company and want to know how to grow your business, you have to reduce operation costs as much as possible. Email marketing is one of the cheapest ways to inform your clients of the new products releases, attractive offers, and business adjustments. The fun part of using email marketing to increase the reach of your business is that your clients can forward the emails to other people. The more clicks you get, the more sales you get. 4. Plan for the risks When planning what strategies to use to grow your business, most people forget to plan for the risks. If you want to know how to grow your business, you need to know that managing a business is a demanding task, and the biggest challenges come when you want to grow your brand. Risks are part of running a business, but when the risk is too high, it can be disastrous. Analysyng risks as part of the strategy used to grow your business allows you to anticipate the problems you may face on your way to growth. This gives time to create a contingency plan to finesse around the risk or reduce its intensity. The primary challenge when planning for the risk is connecting with people who have experience. You will need experts who have been in your position and have become successful to guide you on how to grow your business. Alternatively, you can study the market trends and consumer behavior to enable you to predict the future outcomes. Another way of planning for risk if you are in a high-risk business is to insure your business with a reputable insurance agency. 5. Merge your business One of the solutions for how to grow your business is merging with other businesses that are in the same line of work as you are. Combining small business can give you a wider market share to compete with the big players in the industry. The survival of your business in the industry is also guaranteed because of the market command. The major advantage of emerging small businesses is that you reduce the risk and also individual operation costs. It also brings diverse expertise and experience to the table which can be beneficial for the growth of the business. The significant disadvantage may be choosing the business to merge with. People with different ideology can slow down the growth of your business. 6. Business flexibility One thing that startup businesses enjoy is the ability to adapt to the market trends and consumer preferences. You can use the changes in consumer preferences to your advantage and grow your business. Timing is the most important aspect if you want to use changes in consumers to grow your company. You can predict the market change and alter your stratagem so that the market catches up with you, or you can wait for the change and change with it. If you decide to stay ahead of the market, the benefits can be larger than if you wait for the consumers to change, but this course has higher risks. Small businesses have the advantage of making quicker decisions that affect the business, unlike a major corporation where decision making is a slow and tiresome process. 7. Hire the right people The people that you include in your business will determine how well your business performs. When planning on how to grow your business, you need people who believe in what you believe in and who are not there for the salary. If your suppliers cannot deliver on time, it will affect your production and business as a whole. If your employees are not willing to work hard to meet the increased demand, then you will lose some clients. Hire people who believe in the goals and objectives of your business. It is also easy to assign duties to people who understand what they are doing. You spend less time supervising them and more time coming up with strategies for how to grow your business. The right team can also bring in new ideas to help your growth. 8. Focus on your customers Your business growth is partially determined by your existing clients. Increasing your customer satisfaction is your best bet to ensure that your sales increase and you do not lose customers. One of the factors you should strive to achieve as a business is ensuring that your products meet the needs of your clients.  Improving your customer’s experience by introducing new and innovative products will keep your clients glued to your business. Clients are your first advertising agents through referrals. People are likely to buy products that have been referred to them by friends than other modes of advertising. Offering discounts to customers who have referred other clients is one of the most effective ways to use customer advertising to your advantage. 9. Brand your business Have you ever asked yourself why you use some daily domestic products? Most people use products because someone referred them to it or they grew up seeing their parents use it. When your product addresses the needs of your target clients, branding creates an emotional attachment to your products. Investing in branding is one of the main ways to grow your business; some of the big players invest heavily on branding and customer care than other departments. When you brand your business and products, you give them an identity in the market which makes it easier for your clients to relate to your products. 'How to grow your business' is a journey that will not end because as you grow, your market demand also grows. There are so many ways to grow your small business into a well-respected brand. You have to choose a method that works for both you and your business. There are some challenges along the way that may limit your business growth, such as cultural or social barriers. Plan for such risks and know how to finesse through or around them. Another important aspect of growing your business is remembering you are always a student of the market. Study the market trends and consumer preferences because they may give new ideas on how to diversify your business.  What are your strategies to grow your business?

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A Communication Checklist: How to Make Office Relocation Easy

Moving offices can be a hassle and stressful, especially for big businesses. Make sure you notify your utility providers, Australia Post, suppliers, vendors, customers and everyone you do business with ahead of time. Hire a corporate relocation expert to reduce downtime and save time.​   Moving offices is usually overwhelming and stressful. You will be juggling many things, from managing the removalists, updating all your business cards to buying new furniture, and much more. One of the most important things to do is to inform all the necessary people and organisations that you're moving and that you will soon have a new address. So, who do you need to notify when you move offices?   1. Utility providers Make sure you alert all service providers that you will be moving to ensure your internet, gas, electricity, and water are all connected when you arrive at your new office. They need to know so that they can cut off the connection at your old offices and reconnect them at your new ones. This will save you time and money, as you don't want to be paying for bills for two separate offices.   2. Government agencies You need to notify government agencies such as the Australian Tax Office, as they need to be able to contact you for important information regarding your business or company. Make sure you do this well in advance to ensure that you aren't caught out later.   3. Your banks It is important to make sure your bank knows that you're moving, so that any statement or communication that they send goes to the right address and has the correct information on it. If you have multiple or separate accounts, make sure you update your address with all of them.   4. Your insurance providers If your business or company is insured, you will need to notify your insurance company that you are relocating. This is very important as otherwise you may no longer be insured. They need your current address to ensure you are paying the right amount for your insurance cover, so let your insurance provider know well in advance that you are moving offices.   5. Australia Post Mail redirection is an important service to take advantage of when you move offices, so make sure you arrange with Australia Post to have all your mail redirected to your new location. This will prevent you from missing any important mail and will give you time to update your address with everyone you deal with who may send you mail in the future.   6. Your suppliers and vendors Your office suppliers or vendors also need to be notified that you are moving offices so that they can continue to supply you with your goods at your new location. If you rely on suppliers to bring you goods every day, then you want to make sure that they know you are moving so they can continue to supply you with everything you need.   7. Google If you have your company or business listed on Google, you will need to inform them of your move as well. This will ensure that your address and other details are updated so people can still find and contact you easily. This means checking that both your business listing and your location on Google Maps is up to date without discrepancies.   8. Your clients or customers While this may seem obvious, it is important to make sure your customers or clients know that you are moving offices, particularly if they often come to your office for enquiries or to do business. You can notify them in a variety of ways, including via social media and your website, by post, email and even put up physical reminders in your office. This will ensure no one is left behind or is unable to find where you've moved to.  

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Blue Oceans and  Empty Swimming Pools, business lessons from an Italian swimming pool

A few years ago I spent 4 months in Italy looking for the answer to the meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Sitting on piazza’s, sipping espresso, licking gelato and letting the Universe speak to me without distraction felt like a good idea. (By the way, it was a good idea and She did speak to me, but that is another story!)  One of the many exciting experiences I had while in Italy was going for a swim in a local swimming pool.  I had taken up swimming as a serious strategy on the way to everlasting life a few years previous and was keen to continue the regime while waiting for the universe to send Her messages. Most of us have some knowledge of Italian traffic; we take great delight to relate crazy traffic stories on our return from Rome or Naples. Italian traffic does indeed seem to operate along different rules than traffic in Australia, but the truly crazy traffic of Italy is to be found elsewhere, namely in the local swimming pools on any afternoon of the week. My first introduction to the council swimming pool in Florence was a heart stopping experience. Bloodbath There must have been 500 people in the pool, swimming in 500 different directions and all trying to find clear water. My pursuit of life everlasting took a backseat to my pursuit of life right then. I crawled out of the pool 10 minutes later with a bleeding nose, bruises and scratches all over my body, as if I had been in a pub fight. I realised that I needed to change my approach to keeping my hard-won level of fitness during this summer of Chianti and Pizza. The competition was simply too fierce, there was only so much water to be found and everyone had to battle it out in the bloodbath that is the Florence Piscina "How to make the Competition irrelevant" I was reminded of this experience recently when reading a great book called “Blue Ocean Strategy; How to make the competition irrelevant”. In order to continue my swimming and fitness regime I had to find a pool where I could swim my laps, and zone-out without fearing for my life. I did; It turns out that Italians hate early morning exercise, it doesn’t fit with their life style at all, especially in summer, and so even though the pools open at 7.00 am, nobody comes near a swimming pool until about 10.30. The other buggers The authors of Blue Ocean Strategy make a similar point about business and competition. Most of us business owners look at our competition and ask: How can we stand out from the crowd, how can we be better, quicker, cheaper than the other buggers? In other words, we go to battle with our competition for the same dollar, the same customer. But what might we see if we step outside that battle for a minute? What might we see about the market and our business in it? What other opportunities are there? And how can we access those opportunities? What can we do to find clear water in the pool, so we can focus on doing what we do best instead of spending all that energy trying to beat the competition? It is tempting to engage with the battle right in front of us and become absorbed by it. But is it really the best place to direct our energy? Maybe we can find a different field to play in all by ourselves?  My own example Let me give you a business example from my own experience. I normally refer to myself as a “Business Coach”. There is no accepted definition of what business coaching actually is, but there is a successful franchise company that also describes its services as “Business Coaching”.  Because I also refer to myself as a business coach, I am by default in competition with this company and swim in the same pool with them even though my approach and services are very different from theirs. For a while I was tempted to compete head-on with this crowd, to develop marketing materials and products, services and packages that were better, cheaper, quicker, faster than theirs. In other words I felt compelled to try to compete with them for space in the same swimming pool. At some point I realised the stupidity of this strategy. To do so I would have to change my personal values, my philosophy and my approach to my clients. That is not a tenable proposition obviously, and it became clear to me that what I had to do instead, was to find my own swimming pool. Being able to settle into my favorite stroke without concerning myself what stroke everybody else was swimming and if I was about to be run over. It took me some time, but I have found that pool and I am so much happier for it.  Find your own pool So this is your mission, should you choose to accept it: Go out and find your empty swimming pool, where you can swim powerfully on your own, being able to focus on your own stroke as opposed to everybody else’s.  To find this empty swimming pool you need to ask yourself a few simple questions: 1) Who are the potential customers of my services? 2) Which group(s) of potential customers don't buy (or virtually don’t) from my company or from my competitors? 3) What are all the factors that we and all our competitors already compete on with each other? 4) On which factors are none of us competing? 3 Case studies:   ± Financial planning for Gen Y: A Financial Planning company I worked with some years ago went through a strategy planning process with me in which we asked questions like those above. The process turned up that all financial planners were trying to out-compete each other on the same factors and all aimed at the same clients. The owner of the company saw a trend in society that indicated that young generation Y’ers were holding off buying their first bit of real estate and electing to continue to pay rent in the trendy inner city areas of Sydney. He suspected that when Gen Y’ers turn 35 they too start to think about having families and homes in the suburbs and that they would need a substantial nest egg to put down as a deposit. The other thing he noticed was that Gen Y’ers as a rule want nothing to do with financial planners, and vice versa. He put these observations together and developed a really funky and smart offering aimed at helping Gen Y’ers prepare for the day that they do want to buy a home to raise their family in. Initially the fees they earned from these services were minimal but over time it has become a golden business, and essentially without competition. My client swims in his own pool and practices his own stroke. ±  Smart video productions: Another client of mine produces video productions. To create his own swimming pool he has found a way to produce a professionally edited and cut 3 camera coverage of an event for the price of single camera operator. The difference this makes in quality is enormous. He is now swimming in a pool all by himself. For particular types of events (awards nights, school events, weddings etc) and a particular type of client, his competition is irrelevant. ±  Renovating Sydney’s terrace houses: Finally I have another example from my own days as a builder in the crowded Sydney renovations market. We came to a realisation that 80% of Terrace houses fit in one of 5 design templates. At the same time most terrace house owners want to open up the back of the house to the light, bring the bathroom into the middle of the house and update the kitchen etc. Putting these two realisations together meant that we were able to offer a standardised design-and-construct service that nobody else was able to match. Very soon clients were knocking down the door and we stopped worrying about the competition. Do your thing If you would like to create your own swimming pool, your own golf course or your own private trout stream for your business, why don’t you leave a comment so we can have a chat. I can assure you there is nothing more fun and rewarding in business than swimming in your own pool. The book I referred to is: "BlueOcean Strategy" by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne 

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Do you benefit from outsourcing workforce?

While working in the Philippines, I received this question from a Web development company in Europe. Of course, one of the first things they wanted to know was, “How are the salaries in the Philippines?” Everybody knows that salaries are often lower in countries suitable for outsourcing. Although outsourcing isn’t entirely based on cost benefits, in many cases, it’s about availability of resources and how long it takes to find the right team members. To avoid a dry list comparing the benefits and disadvantages of having your own Outsourcing Company versus a virtual team in an existing outsourcing / near shore setting or working with fixed price projects, here is a Skype-conversation (adapted) with details in the next paragraph. Above slide was presented by a Mother-Entrepreneur of the Philippines (international outsourcing summit 2011) who said; "Jobs created through Outsourcing/BPO make that family members don't need to go abroad anymore to find work, now families can stay together!".  >> Read my other article at Savvysme; Outsourcing, cruel in times of unemployment in the West? Descriptions: Virtual team: A team of people (programmers, designers, call-center agents, e-marketers, project manager, etc.), also called ‘captives’ who work for you from a distance being part of an existing company. The existing company takes care of local labor laws and provides work environment necessities such as PC, infrastructure, etc. In this scenario, you don’t have to legally set up your company. You will be billed for the services of your virtual team on a monthly or hourly basis, depending on your agreement.Virtual employee: An employee who works for you from a distance, in an existing company.Fixed price projects: You provide a functional description / clear guidelines for your project or campaign. The existing company estimates the required time and proposes a cost and delivery schedule, mostly after asking multiple questions, until all is clarified. For larger projects, a price may be charged for the estimation.Your own Outsourcing company: You establish a legal company, hire your own people, HR, accountant, lawyer, rent office space, etc.(Time) Estimations: After dividing the project into smaller parts, a time estimation is made. How long will the project take? How many people and which skills are required Some skills have a different price; for example, mobile development skills are generally charged per hour unlike for basic PHP development. It also depends on the required level of experience and skill. Our Skype call; James Web: Hi Patrick, we have a small Web development company and need more resources. We are thinking of setting up an outsourcing office. What would that costPatrick Van Dun: Hi James, it all depends on what you want, of course. - What’s your main goal? - How many people do you need? - Which skills do you require; PHP, .Net. JAVA, … programmers, designers, slicers, copywriters …?James Web: We’re thinking of starting with 4 people, 1 programmer who is specialized in the most common programming languages and can take over our server management (Barry does this now, he’s good, but cheaper is better), 1 designer/slicer who is also good in English copywriting for SEO, etc. (Google, Baidu, Affiliate Marketing, Social Media), 1 developer who has experience with Android and Apple mobile devices, and 1 for cold calling to generate leads. And yeah, if possible, somebody who can translate in Mandarin and knows the e-commerce scene in China to manage our e-commerce in Hong Kong.Patrick Van Dun: James, is it ok to be very straightforward with you?James Web: OK, shootPatrick Van Dun: I don’t think setting up your own outsourcing company is a good idea, James. The good news is, I have a better idea that will suit your needs. Setting up your own company for only four people and very diverse skills doesn’t seem like a good idea because:   A. Your overhead costs will be too high; You will have to bear legal costs for the company setup and yearly paperwork. For the start-up, you will have to fly several times to the Philippines, pay hotel and restaurant bills, take taxis and hope they bring you where you need to be (I am not joking), and live with traffic jams. Most importantly, you have to find out the whole process, the right legal partners, and you can imagine what else; all these take time and don’t come for free. HR doesn't have to be a full-time person, but in some countries an agency could take care of HR activities temporarily. Legal support Accountancy + office rent, infrastructure, and maintenance. Not to forget, of course, the headache of getting started. How to find an office (and to verify local contracts). The wrong location means a bad start to attract the right profiles and even suppliers. Certain areas are more attractive (so are favored by employees) due to transport availability, proper Internet connection, or even a stable power source and power back-up (ask in the building or provide it yourself). In certain areas, it will be impossible to find specific talent. People flock to places well known to them. How to recruit the first managers and your whole team? How will you find them? What salary and benefits will you offer to keep a talent pool? What do other similar companies do? How to handle office policies, contracts, salaries? What is the impact of local labor laws? If you hire the wrong people and let them go in a way that conflicts with local labor laws, it could backfire on you big time. How to adapt to cultural differences, work with local employees, and make the best match, win-win for both? How to find suppliers, infrastructure, and get them installed? It’s not as easy as saying; “I want 3 offers for everything we buy”. You may not even get one offer and promises aren’t kept. One ‘real example’, ‘it took me more than 1 month to get a phone line in the Philippines’. To start all this up, you need a dedicated manager. It’s impossible to do all of this in a couple of months; that’s ‘great entrepreneurial spirit’ however it doesn't match reality. I have not mentioned the learning curve yet; it’s more difficult than starting a company in the West and you know, it’s impossible to get all things right and streamlined the first time. Wrong choices made at the start will affect your operations later on. Outsourcing to an existing company means that you can: Start within a week or a month Spend more time focusing on the new business and less time worrying about office issues B. You will need somebody to manage your team.  Do you plan to let one of your employees live in the Philippines or hire a local manager who can manage them, flies over sometimes, or manage everything from a distance? This also has a cost of course. C. Maybe the most important one: As in Western Countries, good people like to work together in a team, they like peers who do similar work to learn from and share ideas with. A team of four is not enough to attract the bright minds you envision. Of course, you can find a programmer with experience. But, to find an expert in multiple programming languages, platforms, and one who can also perform server management (depending on the required level) is almost impossible. Somebody is either an expert or is an all-rounder. One person is needed to do cold-calling 8 hours a day on his own, not as part of a team. Let’s see if we can find a more efficient solution. The Chinese translator/e-commerce person will be difficult to get. Do you need Cantonese and/or Mandarin? For Hong Kong, it is best to have both. The designer combination you ask for, it would be a dream girl (or guy). James Web: So you basically say, “Dream on!”Patrick Van Dun: Hi James, there are other options for now and after a while, when you need more people, setting up your own company could be a good idea. James Web: What do you mean? From how many people onwards would it make sense?Patrick Van Dun: 10, 15, or 20 – it depends where you would set up an outsourcing company. PHP-programmers can be found more easily (depending on the level, Drupal and MVC; framework-specific skills are more difficult) than .Net or experienced mobile device programmers. In large cities such as Manila, there are more possibilities but, there is also more competition for the same workforce. Your future employees will look at the offers at hand. If an established company has 30 people, including specialized teams for .Net, PHP etc. you will have a tough time competing with them, even if you give higher salary. People look for established companies, for job security. Bright people look for team members who are working in the same field so they can learn every day and grow professionally.James Web: I was thinking you could help me but, you say it is impossible? What you say makes sense but…Patrick Van Dun: Don’t worry; I have a perfect solution in mind. Do you still have 10 minutes?James Web: OKPatrick Van Dun: For a start, I propose to work through an existing, well established company that establishes a virtual team for you. It could work like this: Clearly define the kind of skills you need. For example, you could specify which CMS you often use so that the existing company can look in their available workforce or hire people tailored to your requirements. The existing company can take care of the overhead cost (infrastructure, HR, etc.). The company can hire and manage your employees. If you don’t need a full-time designer or slicer (most designers aren’t good in slicing), you could hire them part-time or on an hourly basis, only when you need them (to be agreed on); that could be a good option. You will still have to follow-up with your virtual team and organize project management from a distance or hire a local project manager, who needs your guidelines.\ The disadvantage is that you will pay more per employee if you look purely at the salary. Depending on the amount of people you need, your total cost, including overhead will be cheaper than starting and managing your own company for only 4 people. The existing company will invoice your company. James Web: OK, the established company provides a platform for my virtual team, so they can work and take away all the hassle about local HR laws, etc. And, what if my team needs to grow? For example, after a while, I have 15 people working for me. What will happen if I, at a certain point, want to start my own company? Do I have to buy out my virtual team or start from scratch?Patrick Van Dun: I advise to make an agreement with the existing company in case you decide to start your own company, that you can take your virtual team with you. This should be without extra cost or depending on what you agree. It should be clear from the start.James Web: Sounds reasonable, and would they provide a Chinese employee to support our e-commerce in Hong Kong?Patrick Van Dun: I propose that we talk again soon. For the Chinese employee, I propose to work together with an internet-marketing company specialized in the Hong Kong and the Chinese markets. You could hire a virtual employee from them or work together on a fixed price project model. If you could write down the requirements/responsibilities for this person/project and e-mail it to me, I will look into it ASAP and put you in contact with potential partner companies.James Web: OK, thank you! That’s a lot to think about! What To Do? Setting up my own outsourcing office, working with an outsourcing company, or using freelancers? You can make a decision depending on the below parameters: 1. Where (in which country or city) would you like to have a team? The place you choose should match your current and future needs, a very important decision: Availability of resources for the skills you need Price versus quality Ease of communication (language, cultural barriers, and time-zone difference) Political stability of the region Infrastructure (electricity, Internet, water) Distance (travel time, expenses such as a hotel/restaurant close by and accessibility) Labor laws, and in general, rule of law Cost and regulations to set-up your own business (100% ownership allowed or?   2. What’s your budget (long and short term goal)? If you need a team for a short time, obviously it’s better to work with an already established company or freelancers, as can be found through www.odesk.com or www.freelancers.com to name a few. What is a ‘short time’ to decide whether you set up your own company, partner with an existing company, or hire freelancers? This depends on how many people you need and how fast you can recover the cost from setting up your own company including the learning curve, management, and overhead cost (hiring, administration, infrastructure, management and communication time, etc.). Similarly, the budget has to be in line with your goals whether it’s with an existing company or your own company. Whichever choice you make, both will require time from your management and cultural adaptation to communicate and work together. With an existing company your learning curve is shorter; you can start much faster, and most importantly, focus on your core business.   3. Is your project a long-term project (years) or a short-term development with change requests or new features? Let’s say you have a project for 500 data entry people for a period of 2 years. You also have management with experience in this kind of projects in outsourcing countries, available and willing to relocate for the duration of your project. Depending on the calculations and profit margin, it could be a good option to do it yourself or in partnership with an established company who helps you in the start-up period. I used the above example to make clear that aspects such as workflow, ability to streamline production, and quality control have to be taken into consideration. A data entry project that is well estimated based on trial runs is easier to streamline than a web and software development unit with ongoing new projects, new features, and bug fixing for projects that were finished a long time ago.   4. Can outsourcing work for a small web and software development company? A small web and software development company which wants to work with an established outsourcing company or setup their own company would have to look into the following: How many hours of work do they need each month? Is the required amount of hours large enough to set up your own company? If it’s only the occasional Wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, website and/or small software projects for 4 weeks or less that comes along, it is not easy to find the right outsourcing/nearshore partner; neither is it worth it to set up your own. The outsourcing company has to sell hours and should earn back their extra project management efforts. In case of many small projects, the project management overhead is high. Small website clients have often small change requests that require a lot of communication time. Making outsourcing profitable for small Web and software development companies can be done by optimizing the work and communication flow. Look for an outsourcing partner who specializes in the CMS you use (it’s easier if you use only one or two CMS systems). If the outsourcing company knows the software in and out, it can install and upgrade the CMS easily and give first-hand advice regarding new add-ons and features. This will benefit your sales, time to delivery, and client satisfaction thanks to a good after service, including change requests. If you work often with the same outsourcing company, it can become more like a partnership. Your sales team will be able to use website packages and add features to that. Time (and cost) estimations will be fast and easy to make (with a minimized risk of errors) so sales can focus on selling and the outsourcing company on delivering. Programmers who are focused on one CMS can deliver faster and do a better job with fewer errors. Web design is always a challenge because people can discuss for ages about colors and design. It’s often also easier if the client can stand next to the designer’s screen. If the web design is not delivered by the client company (company that hires the outsourcing partner), you can use an online whiteboard to go over the design in an online session. Alternatively, you can also temporarily set designs online (without slicing) to show the different options or they can be shared by e-mail or file sharing websites. To improve communication, use an issue or task management system to communicate about small updates and avoid a lot of small details in multiple e-mails and attachments. An experienced outsourcing company will guide you to find the best workflow. Often easy (and free) tools such as Google Docs can be of great help for small projects. To get a good price, make a deal with your outsourcing partner regarding sales volume in website packages or development hours. If you can’t afford your own outsourced development team because of an unstable production (not enough work for your developers) you will have to work on a project basis. The outsourcing partner will deliver ASAP considering ongoing projects and deadlines. Although you could approach multiple outsourcing companies and order from the one that requires minimum time, I don’t suggest this approach. If you work with one company you build loyalty, a partnership, and get used to communicating efficiently together. By asking for estimates too often and not giving projects, you may realize that you don’t receive estimates anymore and your company will be seen as a less important client. One of the big success factors of an outsourcing company is to decide which estimates to put effort in and which clients to work for. For larger projects it’s not uncommon that estimates are requested. For example, some outsourcing companies work only for corporate clients whereas requests from individuals (private persons) are ignored. Any time spent in estimations and communication that doesn’t lead to more income in the long term, is wasted time. You get the best outcome when the outsourcing partner and the client company share a partnership based on mutual benefit from their cooperation. It’s logical, of course, but easily forgotten. I once heard a web development company say, “Our client doesn’t have budget for this and we forgot to include it”, and now there’s the expectation that my outsourcing company would do it for free. In a partnership, companies can agree to help each other out (depending on what/how); it’s also nice to do if possible, as long as it is both ways. 5. Can you or your project management team bridge the language and cultural gap, be flexible and available, recognizing potential time differences, and still have time to do their other work? Easiest answer is, “We get it done anyway”. However, in the meanwhile, your business and all daily work is still ongoing. Underestimating management time is the same as buying a Ferrari and having no time to drive it. If you decide to set up your own company in an outsourcing country, it comes with all the work and hassle a Western company faces. To make it more complex, you’re in an unknown country with different customs, laws and administration, and time zone differences. Imagine doing your daily work (8-12 hours) during European office hours and having to get-up at 4 a.m. to start with your team in India and quickly go through major issues. A key success factor to get things done is keeping your remote team members and(Western) management motivated. An established company will have a project manager who can bridge cultural gaps, filter out messages when a client uses some harsh language in a fit of stress. Do you have managers available to bridge the gap? In one instance, a client used words such as “Bullshit”, etc. in an e-mail directly to a programmer. OK, it’s a harsh word but the impact on the employee in Asia was serious, much more serious than meant by the client. 6. Does your team have experience in managing projects from a distance, making functional and potentially technical descriptions that can be understood by a remote team, using supporting software? What happens if a new employee starts in your Western company? The person needs attention, guidance, and probably some specific training. It’s the same if you have a company in an outsourcing country! If you work with an existing outsourcing company, they can guide you through the process and have supporting software and procedures available. 7. Would you like to manage your team remotely or at the location, fly frequently to the destination, or live over there? If you choose to start your own company abroad, obviously, you will have to fly over often and for sure during the initial months. Finding local management who can run your company is a possibility; however, it is easier said than done and it takes time. Also, the management in your current company will have to adapt and learn how to work with the outsourcing team. Working together always requires a learning curve. If you prefer to work with an existing outsourcing or near shore company, the learning curve is much shorter but still exists. 8. If you would use an existing company, do you prefer: A team managed by that company on an hourly basis or for a fixed price (if your projects are described in detail and can be estimated accordingly)? A virtual team that you manage from a distance for an hourly rate? 9. How many people do you need in your team? If you only need a small number of people (less than 10 or 15), depending on the skills required and your location, it’s likely that the overall cost of your own team is more expensive than working with an established company. Good calculations, where all costs and time required are included, are of key importance.   10. Do you need team members who can use the local language and/or other languages? For example, for translations, data entry in multiple languages, etc.? Modern communication and fast travel opportunities mean that language proficiency, cultural differences, and market adaptation are the main barriers for worldwide business. If you need offices in different countries and multiple languages, you have to choose between setting up all these offices yourself and working with one or more partner companies in the required countries. It also could mean that you need a large production unit and sales offices. Imagine you produce technical devices for the European market, or have a large translation team and want to market this in China. Suppose you choose to have your production in China (for example, 300+ FTE). Your production unit will probably not be in Beijing (too expensive) but your sales HQ should be. Besides the cost, an important consideration is also: “Do I want to spend most of my time managing my foreign companies”, “Do I want to focus on sales and business development” or “Am I sure that I am able to do both”? In their enthusiasm and desire to get things done, hands-on entrepreneurs often take a big bump by underestimating costs and time required to set up and manage their outsourcing offices. I experienced first-hand how much energy, time, and money it takes.   * Pictures are from my former teams in Nepal and the Philippines. * This article is part of an e-book published by Bridge Outsourcing; "How to get prepared for managing a remote team". This article was written by and is copyright of Patrick Van Dun, If you like to publish the article, mail for approval.

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Find the Right Advisor & Make $100,000

Before I start where I left off last week, I need to clear something. You see last week I suggested that a number of attendees at my seminar may not have taken action. This it seems may have upset a few people. I received a few emails explaining they had taken action and one person actually sent me his business plan, which was impressive. It was also great to see that action was being taken and I know lives will be changed by using these proven strategies, which makes me very happy indeed. With that over with, let's start. Last week, I advised that if you want your business's pants (or dress) to be on fire and achieve much greatness you really need a business advisor, mentor or coach as you will not achieve as much on your own. People think these are all the same. They are not and it makes sense to understand each. Business Advisor A business advisor sits with you and helps you find the gaps in your business and organise a strategic plan for your business to grow. They can make life uncomfortable and ask serious questions based on their knowledge, experience and qualifications. It’s uncomfortable because they are going to ask questions you don’t want to answer and they have a tendency to tell it to you as it is, even if you don’t want to hear it. And sticking your fingers in your ears won’t help much. They just tend to ignore this. There will come a point in time when you will hate your advisor for a while. I am convinced I have a few clients who have spent days planning on how they are going to torture me and one has admitted that they researched how they could inflict craters on my face. This terrifies me and I have nightmares about what my new Linkedin photo would look like. But here’s the thing.  As a business owner you are accountable and you will have full respect for the business advisor. Always. Which is why I have never been tortured. And it’s also why I don’t have any craters on my face. Mentor A mentor is someone you bounce ideas off and gives you ideas. They don't actually get involved in the nitty gritty of getting the job done. Their job is simply being a sounding board and pointing you in the right direction. There is no accountability. Coach A coach is someone who identifies blocks and hindrances that stop you progressing and helps you eliminate them. Again there is no accountability unless you have expressly agreed this beforehand. I often ask business owners who their mentors are. It is not unusual for the answer to be a high profile highly successful business person. Think Richard Branson and you get the picture. There are, however, one or two problems with this. Firstly, I don't know anyone who actually has Sir Richard's phone number which means unless you have a telepathic connection with him it is a bit difficult to bounce ideas off him. Secondly, anything you read about his business may sound great, interesting and fun but if your business is not set up like his it's not really going to work. It's a bit like inviting some vegetarians for dinner and instead of giving them a few carrots you present them with chicken. The result could be catastrophic. So work out what you need. Ideally you want all three. I often go into all three roles and my client will not realise I have. The lines are not clear cut.   What else should you look for? Well, you want someone who actually has business experience. And I don't mean ' we have been in business for 3 billion years' type experience.  Find someone who has actually worked with businesses and helped those businesses grow. They have track record and your chances of success has just increased tenfold. Generally, avoid anyone who has not been in business themselves or newly qualified students. Don't get me wrong. I am sure there are some very good coaches who may have the theoretical knowledge but there is no substitute for actual experience. They cannot understand the emotions and complexities that go with running a business and all the hats you have to wear. For them sacking an employee is easy but for you it could be a traumatic experience. They just won't get it unless they have experienced it. Do not be afraid to tell your advisor what growth you expect them to achieve with you. If you want $200,000 extra sales make sure they know and if they are not confident on how they are going to do it, look elsewhere. Aim high - if you are taking on an advisor you really want them to show you strategies that are going to grow your business by at least 6 figures - yes that's right a minimum of $100,000 if you are a small business. Also avoid "one strategy fits all" type of advisor. This is very common with franchise business advisors. They use one style strategy for all businesses.  I have been doing this for 15 years and one thing I have learnt is that one strategy for all does not work for everyone. Every business owner is different which means the best strategy for you might be very different from someone else. You want your advisors to work out a specific strategy for you and not working off a preprinted checklist.  Sometimes the value of what your advisor can be priceless. If your advisor reduces the amount of time you spend in the business (my specialty) so you can see your child play soccer or read at school -- what is that worth? One of my clients recently told me that my involvement in their business has actually saved their marriage. For them, this is priceless. For me, it brings tears to my eyes and reminds me why I got into this business in the first place - to make a difference.   Finally, if you really want someone with a big boot to kick your butt to the moon -- please expect to pay for it. Good people cost money. It’s easy to say "I cannot afford it." So make sure you ask yourself the right question. "If I spend $30,000 on this advisor and he grows my business by $150,000, is it worth it?" Don't concentrate on the $30,000 - focus on what can be achieved. And then make sure you both achieve it.

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