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Brad Lyons

Consultant at

Member Since March 2016

QLD,

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I remember when I first took to leap from full-time employment to self employment. It is always a challenging and rewarding experience. My first client challenged me to create new technology for an industry I had little experience in. As a result I found myself interviewing some very passionate people in the industry who were very pleased that someone was taking an interesting in finding solutions to streamline their industry.

I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to assist some v

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Official FAQ
Official FAQ, Inquisitor at SavvySME

Cashflow Management

What Are The Payment Times When Working With Big Businesses?

Invoice factoring could be a solution for you if clients are wanting longer payment terms. As a rule, I decline clients that want long payment terms. Even large clients are fine with 30 day invoices. But it really comes down to your undustry. As a rule, Unless the company is very large, I don't accept any payment terms longer than 14 days. 

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How much should you reinvest in the business?

Live poor, grow faster. Pending on your business the more you  can invest in customer acquisition the faster your business will grow. Prior to do that though you need to make sure your systems can handle an increase in volume.You have not listed what business you are in however after doing a quick check there is a person with the same name as you in Tutoring. If that is the business you are in, based on the information on the website. I would say there are a number of competitors in your industry, investing in technology would be ideal.And again, if it is the tutoring business you are in. There is a massive market for it, there are marketing companies that specialize only in that area. So customer acquisition isn't an issue, making sure you have the technology to handle it is.

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Andrew barnes
Andrew barnes, at Finance expertise

Accounting

Why do people choose BPO outsourcing services from US and India?

The Philippines is a much better place for support services in my view. In fact, an indian call centre employed by Telstra at one point outsource some of their work to the Philippines at one stage. There are a number of reasons companies will use BPO. One is definitely the cost savings, there is a massive saving in wages. Also culture and time zones are also factors. There are challenges with training when looking at outsourcing overseas and there are a lot of companies that will offer to assist with massive mark-ups, so you really need to do your research. A lot of my clients have call centres in the Philippines and some still have call centres in India. Having seen firsthand how the different countries can assist I have always seen less complaints and issues come from a call centre in the Philippines. All clients that have Australian staff in the offshore office to manage very rarely have training and compliance issues. It always pays to have an Australian employee working from the offshore office to ensure compliance, training and customer service is to your companies standards. You wouldn't have an onshore office running without management, no difference for an offshore office.  As for what country, it really comes down to what you need. For developers I would look at Europe and the middle east. From past experience I have seen much better and stable code from these areas. For support I would look at the Philippines. For Tech support, I would look at Australian call centres to handle the actual issues and the Philippines to handle the initial inbound call. Just so they can screen out the Common issues (user training) and actual technical issues. 

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Does anyone know much about 17 Hats or other business automation software?

Vtiger.com. Cheaper, better.There are heaps of programs out there. Some free others for a fee. It really comes down to what your business does and what else you use. I use vtiger for some companies and custom software for others. I also use Hipchat to connect them together and have alerts. IFTTT is good for connecting different products. Really comes down to what your business needs.

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Aishah Mustapha
Aishah Mustapha, Community Manager at

Ecommerce

How to prep online business to compete with Amazon in Australia?

Amazon is already in Australia. There are a lot of dodgy traders out there that will be in trouble, however they should be. So many people buying from Amazon and ebay then reselling with a massive mark-up. A few years ago I caught out Wow sight and sound doing this and a number of other companies. In reality if you are selling your own products there are no issues. If you are reselling products with massive mark-ups you should be worried.Amazon isn't a company people should worry about. They are not the biggest threat to online business. You can buy the products Amazon sell direct from the factories if you wanted to compete with them. There is no reason why any online business can't do the same as Amazon.I believe the biggest issue is import tax and internet. Australia is too far behind the rest of the world when it comes to this space. The internet in Australia is too slow. The NBN is not true fibre, and even if you get Fibre you're not getting the real deal. Your getting a massively restricted product that you have to pay extra just to get a half decent speed. So the real issue is, if you want to setup an online business that has any hope of expanding you need to be offshore. Australia does not have the infrastructure to accommodate. NZ, Thailand, Philippines, China, Russia, US, UK and most of Europe are all up to standards or well above. Australia, too far behind and there are no plans for attempting to keep up. Making money on the internet is easy. Scaling that up to compete with Amazon just takes time, and time is something a lot of people are not willing to spend. A lot of people just want to have a massive online business now.

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How to get my name out there?

1. Build your website and ensure you have the keywords you are after throughout the site. 2. Pay for Google adsense. Set a budget and the keywords. 3. Setup Google Analytics for the website so you can track views, locations and start collecting the stats. 4. Buy the domain names for the most common keywords used to find your site. 5. Add your business to Google maps6. Do some smart research and marketing. I did a similar campaign for a company that wanted to reach out to everyone that was about to move. Called and offered utilities for their new address. 7. Know your customers. Ensure you have a good CRM to keep track of your customers. If you know your customers well enough, you will know when they are due to move next.Those are some basic points that should help get your name out there. After all that, you still need to make sure your customer service is above and beyond. People talk, and happy customers are willing to spread the word for you also.

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How do I choose the best web hosting company?

webhosting is cheap. as Meng said, depends on the number of visitors you believe you will have. Most webhosting packages will give you unlimited email addresses, disk space and pretty much everything unlimited. You need to read the fine print though as "Unlimited" doesn't mean unlimited. There are limits however they are pretty high. You will not need anymore than 20gb in most cases unless you want a really big database loaded on your hosting and plan on having a lot of emails and images/video's hosted on your account also. So as long as you are getting 20gb of hosting space you will be fine. Generally the hosting account would cost you about $10 or less per month for "unlimited"That should come with Cpanel (not cpanel lite or anything cheap like that) and also a tone of free programs.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What must I do to get my website up on Google search results?

You need to change your website content. Doing a search on Google and your website doesn't appear. Looking at your website and there is a lot of content on there however no text that says applicant tracking software, only an image.Look at what people are searching when coming across your website and your competitors. login to your cpanel and look at the visitor stats and traffic. Where are people coming from and what searches are they doing in Google. Pay for adwords for a month to get an idea of what keywords people are using. Look at your competitors websites and see what content they have. If you want to hit the front page of Google content will get you there. No need to spend a lot of money paying someone to do it for you unless you don't have the time. Content is the only thing I do to get my websites on the front page. Another way to get and retain good ranking is news articles. The more high value domains that link back to you the higher your ranking will be. First thing I would do is look at content though. That makes a massive difference!

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Sarah Irwin
Sarah Irwin, SME Community Director at SavvySME

Finance and Accounting

What is Bitcoin and how can I use it?

Bitcoin was and still is the currency used on the silk road (Darknet). It is used because people shopping on the silk road are not buying a new pair of shoes. They are buying weapons, drugs, kids and just about anything you can imagine. Bitcoin was the only currency accepted as it offered a layer of protection. When the FBI closed down the silk rd for the 3rd time they also claimed bitcoin. Now bitcoin is floating on the market it has become more popular. Their are multiple competitors out there with their own version of digital currency like Bitcoin. Is there any real value in added bitcoin as a payment option. That really depends if you have any value in bitcoin yourself. Some companies will accept bitcoin as they trade in bitcoin in other areas. Should you accept bitcoin? Comes down to your personal preference. Do you want to invest your money in bitcoin? Your making an investment, you will not be able to use Bitcoin unless you have suppliers that accept it. Think of it as "Will you accept payments in Euro". How much will it cost to convert payments from Euro to AUD. Can you keep payments in Euro and use that currency to pay suppliers. I only accept payments in currencies that I can easily use. Bitcoin is just another currencies with a dark past and some would say a questionable present. So if you only trade in AUD, only accept AUD. If you also trade in USD, accept payments in USD. Same for Bitcoin.

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Mark Halstead
Mark Halstead, Managing Director at iCumulus

Social Media

Can social media work for B2C lead generation cost effectively?

The short answer is yes, I have, and do use social media to promote some of my products. One business for example has only been advertised on Facebook, 3 months on Facebook only resulted in just over 2,000 customers. However I would like to point out I have never paid for Facebook ads. I created a company page and that is it, I don't see the value in paying for Facebook ads. Your marketing should do much better than what Facebook ads can bring to the table.If you want to market B2C you can't just rely on Facebook ads or Adwords. Adwords is something I strongly recommend however you need a strategy, there is no point just throwing money at Adwords without a good strategy. I am always playing around with different ways to market products and services online. Social media is great however don't expect to create a company page on Facebook and have 2,000 customers knocking on you door. You still need a strategy and you need to be active.

Brad Lyons answered this question

How do you ask for payment from a client before the work's done?

Never had an issue with asking clients for payment in advanced. They way I see it is simple, if they have an issue making a payment in advanced they will probably have an issue in making payment once the work has been completed. Don't be afraid to say no and let them walk away. A lot of companies request payment prior to services being provided. If a customer knows what they are paying for, needs the service or product, I fail to see how what valid reason they would have to not make a payment in advance other than they don't have enough money to pay now. And in that case I would simply ask them to come back once they have the money.

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Just wondering what is a fair price to pay per lead and whether you found it worthwhile?

The price of leads does vary depending on the information you need. You could buy basic data like Name, address, Phone and you would be paying to pretty much cold call and waste a lot of time.You are far better off getting more segmented datasets like age banding data. Charities will generally buy data with age and gender added as they know their target market. Buying the data you would be looking at around the $1 to $2 per record, add another ~50c per record if you want it washed with property ownership. If you want qualified data you would be looking around the ~$30 to $100 per warm transfer.A warm transfer is basically a call center calling everyone that meets your target market, they will ask a few questions and if the customer is interested in a product the will transfer that call through to your sales team.There are many different types of datasets you can buy, volume makes a difference in price however you will find there are ways to get data in low volume that can help increase sales. Happy to have a chat with anyone interested in data. I specialize in this area so have data that can't be obtained anywhere else.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Does anyone use woo commerce and can run stocktake reports?

There are heaps of plugins for Woo. I think you will find all you need here: http://codecanyon.net/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&term=w...I wouldn't recommend any of the free plugins for Woo as they are generally not supported or updated for security. This place is good to buy from.

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When should I write off a receivable as a bad debt? Is it worth taking the customer to court?

In some cases it can be worth taking the matter to court, it just comes down to legal viability of the account.It isn't just a matter of taking a customer to court because you want them to pay. You should only take a customer to court if you know they have the ability to pay the debt. If a customer has assets that could be used to help recover the debt or an income that would support a garnishee then yes. A lot of people tend to take customers to court expecting the customer to just pay because a judge told them to. That isn't what happens in a lot of cases. You need to be prepared to take it further and recover the funds via garnishee or sale of assets. If the courts order an arrangement to pay of the debt is to be setup and the customer misses payments, then the customer is in contempt of court and they could get 3 months imprisonment for that. (For contempt of court not the debt). A garnishee is commonly avoided by people changing employers after the garnishee is setup. So you need to be prepared to follow through.Best advise would be to contact the customer, negotiate an arrangement to pay off the debt and explain to them if they avoid payment you will have to look at litigation and legal fees will be added to the outstanding amount. That tends to motivate them to pay.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What sort of qualifications (if any) do you have/need?

Qualifications??? Me... None!Sure if you are an accountant you will need some qualifications or in a regulated industry. However when it comes to running your own business there are no qualifications needed. Just because someone is a professor doesn't mean they know everything about the subject matter. Sound crazy right? well it isn't. I get a number of student either starting their masters or PHD asking me how to do things. Why, because you can learn from the books as much as you like but at some point you need to know how things are done in the real world.Not that their is anything wrong with getting an education and degree. I am just saying it isn't going to guarantee success in the real world. And to be honest, if two people applied for a job with me in data science or any industry I am in, if one had a degree and the other didn't. I would be paying more attention to the applicant that didn't have the degree and pushing them to see why they believe I should hire them. There is no degree in passion, there is no substitute for commitment. If someone has the drive to learn and believes their application should stand up to anyone who has a degree in that industry deserves my attention. I have never been knocked back for a job because of qualifications and don't believe anyone should be. I have friends that have their doctorates or PHD and they will be the first to admit they don't know everything about their chosen industry however some are willing to learn more from the industry they are in while some simply want to move onto something else.So, qualifications. Not needed to be successful in business, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. And if someone does, tell me the industry they are in and I can guarantee you I can tell you who is more successful than them without qualifications.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What is the best business to start in a village or small city?

it really comes down to the limits and based on your question the limits are pretty set in stone. If you are looking for a business that only trades locally to that small village you really want to make sure you know what the locals want on a regular basis. Selling "one time" items is going to dry up quickly so consumables would be ideal to ensure you have repeat business. However I would never recommend anyone just setup a business with the mind set of a limited consumer base. If you mean on the other hand what business can you start and run from a small village. Anything online comes to mind. Are there local products you can sell to the world, do you want to settup a drop ship account with a wholeseller and start selling world wide. So many options however I would recommend you do something you have a passion for. It makes it easier to press on when most would just walk away.

Brad Lyons answered this question

How do I sell web development services for the first time?

When I first launch something new I spend big with adwords. Then once I know the most popular key words people use I buy those domain names. Adwords puts your site at the top instantly and helps you gain an understanding of what people are typing when searching for your services. So I would recommend spending a large amount for the first week of adwords to ensure your ad is always at the top, then wide back the spend as you start to see the common keywords. Modify your current site to ensure those key words are in your content and buy up the keywords as domain names.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What are the best kept secrets of successful business people?

Redbull is probably the most popular but that is no longer a secret. Passion, that is all it really comes down to. If you don't have passion for the product at least have passion for the sales of it. If you know what you are doing and not trying to sell a half baked product you will be fine. The reality is a lot of people want to know the "secret", the truth is there is no secret, just hard work. If you have contacts in the industry that is a good start. If you don't! then make some. At the end of the day if you are not passionate about it and only want to work 9 to 5 then you are wasting your time. Get out there, let people know who you are and what you are about. Ask questions and don't be afraid to fail. Learn, research and love what you do. There's a start however that is something we already know.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What meetup events do you all go to?

I have mentioned to SavvySME that they should host an annual conference for members. Fingers crossed they see value in it. I generally go to conferences related to my industry, I find them a great way to meet clients and see what the industry is up to.I have tried going to a couple of small local small business groups however found them to be a waste of time (just my personal opinion). Chamber of commerce is another great place to meeting other business owners. I would have a chat with your local Chamber of commerce and see when their next meeting is. You can normally attend the first one for free as a guest.

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Do you innovate in your business?

Do you innovate in your business? YesIf so, how? By knowing the industry and being passionate about it. Like I mentioned in another post. I don't let my competitors dictate where the industry is heading. I force them to try and catch up with me. Know the industry you are in, master it and develop the industry yourself. It is a lot easier than most think, all it takes is passion and knowledge of the industry you are in.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What is the key to successful innovation in small business?

You are the key! Being innovative isn't keeping up with competitors, it is creating new ways, ideas, technology and always thinking ahead. If you stop development and thinking of new and better ways you are just the same as most companies out in the market. A lot of companies just rely on clients not wanting change. That is a very small market as they quickly change their mind once their competitor starts taking their business because they are using the latest tech to help them. You should dictate where the industry heads and what the industry is doing. The only reason our products can take market share is because we don't think about how people do things, we thing about the most efficient way they should be done and what else can help them. If you step up to the plate and take charge of the direct your industry is heading, then you can call yourself an innovative company. So you are the key!

Brad Lyons answered this question

How do you grow a business quickly and smartly?

It all comes down to the business you are in. However this is what works for me:Telemarketing:Start calling your target market and make some sales, that is the fastest way. Sort out who is your target market, buy that data and either make the calls yourself or get someone to do it for you. Presence:I go to conferences for one of the industries I am in, that way I can meet potential clients face to face. Having a presence makes a big difference.Follow up:Once you have their details, follow up with them and ensure they have all the information they need to make the sale. If they say it isn't the right time, send them an email every 6 months to let them know about new features, offers or anything you feel is appropriate. Why not:If they don't want to use your service ask why! If it is because your competitors have added features, better deals or simply a much better product, then you need to develop a better product. The truth is unless you have a "World First" product your potential clients will most likely be using a competitors product. If they are not using a competitors product you may need to educate them as to why they need it in the first place. You have to stand out from the rest, the size of a company doesn't mean they will have market share for ever. There is always going to be new companies coming onto the market with new ideas and processes. We have taken market share from very large companies in Australia because we have a better product, we develop it all the time and our competitors simply can't keep up. The only sales pitch they have is their name, and when that no longer works they have two options; give up or develop.If a potential client tells you that a competitor has a better product, don't bother calling them once you have caught up the the competitor. Call them once you are a step ahead and stay a step ahead.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Which is the best Australian bank for startups to work with?

If you are a startup Commbank is pretty good and has a lot of good features. However I would highly recommend setting up an Hong Kong company and getting a HSBC multi currency account setup with them. It makes life a lot easier when it comes to international payments. While most people think having a Hong Kong company is just a tax dodge, reality is for anyone doing business in multiple countries it simply makes sense. It only costs about ~$2,000 to have setup (both company and account) and can make life easier. Word of warning though, if you just setup a Hong Kong company and live & work from Australia only you will be questioned by the tax office.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Jef Lippiatt
Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Sales and Marketing

Do you qualify your leads?

Do you qualify your leads? YesDo you qualify them before adding them to your list? No - All leads are added to my database and calls are made. At the end of each call the lead is given a status code based on the confidence in that lead.What data do you find important when trying to qualify leads? Probability to convert lead.With any process the workflow is important and status codes are a good way to drive that process. The first thing I do is segment the leads and call the leads I believe are more valuable to me. This could be based on company size, existing relationship with the company or their location to name a few. Once the leads have been segmented the calls start and at the end of each call that lead is given a status code and a follow-up date. If the lead is junk I leave it on the system and label it Junk so staff no in the future.What information is valuable to me to help decide if a lead is good or bad is basically the same across all products and services. Interest level, affordability and time to convert. If someone asks for a call back in 12 months staff will schedule a call in 12 months however the priority is very low. On the other side if someone wants a meeting asap however we don't believe they have the ability or finance to go through with a sale, we will focus on calling other leads in the area and schedule meeting to decrease the chances wasting time on the trip.Steve hit the nail on the head with his Q&A's. There are set questions that need to be asked and these do depend on the product/service you are offering however the examples Steve gave can be used for just about anything. If there is no budget set they are not ready, if there is no timeline then they are not ready. They could be ready in 6 months however they are most likely "kicking tires" at the moment.For me all leads are important, good and bad. For this reason all are loaded onto the system and retained. That way I can see the history of any lead and when loading more leads there is no chance of double ups. No one likes to call the same company twice with the same sales pitch only to get the same negative result. Keep track of good and bad leads as it saves you time. Some bad leads can be converted in the future and the only way to do that is to keep them on your system.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Yee Trinh
Yee Trinh, Cofounder at

Startup

Who knows about WeChat and why isn't it popular in the West?

Population plays a big role in this. China: 1,382,323,332USA: 324,118,787AUS: 24,309,330Just looking at http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/popu... will show you just how little they need to bother about marketing to us. The "Western World" isn't always the best market place and the numbers show that. WeChat has just under 700 million users, Facebook messenger has around 900 million, QQ has around 900 million and WhatsApp has over a Billion. So to answer your question, Wechat simply isn't useful to people in the west because not enough westerners use it. For those who communicate with people in China they most likely use QQ or Facebook. The same question could be asked about Line. For those in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and India would ask why don't more people in the west use Line. However Line only has around 250 million users and the bulk are in the above mentioned countries. However to them, Line is the biggest IM app. TV ads based on Line stickers, Products with Line codes etc, yet outside of those countries Line is very uncommon.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Do I sell my product to someone else to resell?

There are a number of ways to look at this. For example how many sales do you make yourself and how much effort do you put in to make those sales. If someone can sell the shirts for you, it takes less effort on your behalf therefore less cost to you. If she is willing to buy them from you at a wholesale rate you should be happy, not many people get this offer. She will have some cost involved in the sale process so it will be in her best interest to make as much as possible. If you retain your current pricing model with her at $35 per item it sounds like you will both be happy. Sure she is getting a higher percentage however she is doing the sales work for you. With any business relationship both parties need to be happy otherwise it will not last. If you are happy with $35 per shirt and she is able to make enough sales to cover your costs alone, surely that is better than nothing. And there is always room for future conversations and products you could sell.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Do you know how much it costs to run a sales promotion?

Hi Federica,Can you provide more information on what you are looking to do and on what scale?There are many ways to promote online however it comes down to scale and target market. Some markets can be costly to promote to depending on the method used. You can promote for free online however without knowing what type of promotion you are looking to do it is hard to answer this one. Adwords: Cost depends on the keyword value however you control the budget. Facebook: You can control the cost.Email marketing: I wouldn't send emails from your address, I would use a third party for that as bulk emails can ruin your email rep. Those are the most common however really comes down to you and your budget vs the target market. In some cases it would be more productive to try direct marketing instead of casting a net (adwords etc). Casting is very popular and you can get good ROI however direct marketing tends to bring in much better results.Either way you control the budget so it would be an idea to work out how much you want to spend then look at what can be done for that price.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Is e-commerce a dying industry?

E-commerce isn't dying. Anyone can setup an e-commerce site for free and most people online do. The issue is a lot of people will just try and find cheap products off ebay and try to resell them on their own site with a large markup. Since there are so many people trying to sell the same product, people have a lot of choice, larger e-commerce sites would be feeling this as people have more options and in most cases cheaper options. If you want to be successful in e-commerce do some research like Jef said. There are a lot of hobby sellers online that don't really care about sales volume, they are just happy to make a little extra cash. Nothing is forever when it comes to retail. If you found a great product that is one of a kind, enjoy it while it lasts! It is only a matter of time before the same factory starts pumping out cheaper alternatives. So you have to be creative, look for the next trend and do some of your own R&D. For a long time e-commerce was seen as a easy income, now you actually have to do some work it is not so appealing to larger companies as costs increase. So when someone says to you the e-commerce industry is dying, it is just their point of view based on their experience. If your friend is a consultant for the big 4, it would just be that they are not making as much profit as they used as more effort is required. A lot of people pay too much attention to large companies, they tend to believe large companies know it all because of their size. This couldn't be further from the truth! Look at the big 4 banks in Australia. Look at the big 4 collection companies in Australia. They don't know it all and if you keep watching the news you will shortly see this. Large companies are very slow to change, mainly due to internal red tape. Smaller companies don't have that issue so can change/adapt a lot faster. Large companies are looking for large profits with little effort. This means smaller companies willing to actually do some work can succeed. Larger companies have the ability to buy out smaller companies, this is an easy way for them to develop with little effort. I believe what you are seeing in the e-commerce industry is a tipping point, and to me this is the most interesting time.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Neil Steggall
Neil Steggall, Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

Business Planning

Which sources provide you with data on Australian SMEs?

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Brad Lyons answered this question

Neil Steggall
Neil Steggall, Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

Business Planning

Which sources provide you with data on Australian SMEs?

To answer your question on data available on SME's, here is a screen shot of the results based on a search on a company's ABN:http://vunoo.com/images/chresults.JPG
It will not be very clear in this image however it is showing the name, address, phone, email, companies, websites for the ceo. Also showing the relatives living at the addresses. Share holder details. Social media accounts and basically anything that is connected to each result. There is plenty of data out there that can help SME's in different ways. From locating someone who owes you money and is trying to hide behind companies. Background checks on new companies that sign up accounts with you or just marketing information. In some cases you don't need to find new data sources, you may just need to look at the data you already have in a different way.I was at a conference last year when someone asked me what I could do to help them find their customers that owe them money. After finding out what their business was initial step they should have taken was in their own data. Before you buy data, look at your own data first from a different angle. As for the actual sources, I have a pretty large collection of current and historical data on business and residential. If you are looking for additional sources of data happy to have a chat and apply a discount for Savvysme members.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Ava Lee
Ava Lee, at Swing

Social Media

Is there an advantage to email over other online marketing channels?

If you are hoping to have an interactive presence online then email marketing is
essential. How you
do it comes down to the product and target market you have. However email
marketing isn't just for obtaining new customers, in some cases it is better
used to stay connected to current/past customers. Email
is a great way to stay in contact and gain repeat business however you can also
find yourself added to their junk folder if you just try and sell. You need to
find a valid reason to reach out to your customers via email that encourages
them to respond. A response doesn't have to be via return email, that would
just increase your workload. A response could be in many forms. I
wouldn't be so quick to devalue emails. Many people though fax campaigns are
dead, as a result less people use fax to market resulting in higher success
rates for those who still fax.Email
is no different, however doing the same as everyone else with most likely yield
the same result as everyone else, the junk box!

Brad Lyons answered this question

How much do you spend on social media marketing?

To date we have spent nothing on social media and had very large returns. We have discussed on many occasion, the option of budgeting for paid ads however we have opted to remain focused on directly contacting our target markets ourselves. I a lot of work was initially put into identifying where our potential customers are "hanging out" on social media then reaching out to them. I believe this would be more fruitful than paying for ads.We have conducted some campaigns to help measure the success different types of contact with potential customers and seen a large range of variables. One campaign yielded around $120,000 for the month in revenue from one social media site using one form of marketing while other campaigns have been less successful and only yielded around $10,000 for the month. That being said even a bad campaign gave us a return. The only costs involved were time spend in preparation for the campaigns.This is only based on what we have been doing and we will have to pay for advertisement on social media eventually in order for us to identify the best form of social media marketing. For all we know paying for ads could be the best way forward however the industry we used for this campaign was very niche resulting in a limited number of customers and places to find them.I would say if you are looking at paid advertising solutions with social media, first ensure you know where the marketing should be directed and run some campaigns your self to gain a "Champion" then use the paid campaigns as your "Challenger". If you do I know a number of people on here (including myself) would be interested in knowing what your findings are. To pay or not to pay.

Brad Lyons answered this question

VoIP phone systems vs mobile and landline alternatives?

Skype is what I live off. I have phone numbers setup so people can call a local number (numbers setup for different states and countries). That call will come to me no matter what country I am in and the customer has no idea. This is great and doesn't cost the client or me anything for the international call. Also I have the ability to receive the calls on the mobile, great for when I am out of the office and want calls to come through. I believe Voip is a much better solution for any business, even if you are within the main country you offer services in. With Skype I have never had an issue with call quality, regardless of the country I am in. You just need to make sure you have good internet. And at the end of the day if you are working in an office or from home you will have good internet anyway. I had a client call me about a data purchase, I was not able to access the data at that time (not near my computer) however my business partner was. I messaged him only to find out he was in the middle of nowhere. I was in Thailand and he was busy travelling, I believe he was just over the Thai boarder at the time by a river at the edge of the jungle, yet I was still able to message him via Voip and he was still able to run a query on the data via his laptop in the middle of nowhere. Within a few minutes he sent the summaries to me on Skype and we worked out the rates. All while we were both out of the office and in remote areas, and the entire time I had the client on the phone. He called a local QLD number and had no idea that someone was running queries on a server that is in the USA from the edge of a jungle just out of Thailand, and communicating with my business partner via Skype while I was also speaking to them on Skype to get the answers they needed. I have unlimited calls to any landline in the world and I believe I pay just over $10 per month. I pay around $80 per year for the phone number I wanted (ends in DATA) and that is it.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Lina Barfoot
Lina Barfoot, Editor at SavvySME

Social Media

Does social media contribute to your bottom line?

Without a doubt!One of my businesses only gets traffic and customers from social media. We can get over 1,000 customers per month from social media without having to try too hard. That is the beauty of social media. Once you find the right platform for your product and identified your target market you only need to make one post/update and customers start coming in. The down side is the management of messages. Using the built in messaging systems isn't ideal. However there are platforms available that make is more business friendly and allow you to view multiple social media sites from one portal. At it isn't too hard to build a system yourself. The best thing I believe you can do is identify your target market, find where they are socializing and then simply reach out to them. Work on your brand name, make it strong enough so when people think of products (like yours) your name comes up. It took us about 6 months of hard work to get that recognition however it paid off. And when I say hard work I don't mean marketing. I mean actual work, calling, helping and going above and beyond for customers. Take care of your customers and ensure they are happy, word of mouth can travel far. However go above and beyond and all you have to do is make a post and you are flooded with customers. Believe it or not one of the best marketing moves I made with social media was making a mistake with a customer and them complaining about it on the social media page. Instead of feeding them the usual BS you see companies do on social media all the time we not only corrected the issue we made a bigger deal out of it. We knew everyone was watching so why try and hide it. We ended up paying for accommodation for the customer so they could take advantage of our services sooner rather than later. This resulted in many people sharing what we did with others and allowed us to see where more potential customers socialize. So when it comes to social media I say go for it. Just make sure you can handle complaints quickly. As your page/group will quickly turn into a public forum for people to complain about you. Resolve issues quickly and just as publicly. If a customer is willing to post a complaint so all can see you must resolve that complaint so all can see. Doesn't mean you have to breach privacy, it does mean you have to ensure no damage is done by that person making the complaint. If they say you never shipped the item and you did. Post the dates the item was shipped and mention the item has tracking (if it does). Be very clear about the solution without breaching privacy. If it was your mistake then own up and resolve it instantly.I know first hand social media can make you money and very quickly. If your smart about it you will get clients within an hour. But you can lose them all within minutes or a bad complaint or trying to solve the complaint in the background.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What cloud solutions do you recommend?

A lot of cloud services available to the market today can be installed on your own servers so you have full control over the data plus have the advantage of using cloud. A lot of people will say you have to give up something for convenience. Most common thing people give up is privacy, however in the business world the only thing you need to give up is money, and that is only if you don't want to use the free software. If you want the benefits that come with cloud services then you can simply host them yourself. Dropbox: can be replaced with OwncloudSkype: can be replaced with an opensource voip platformFacebook: I have my own version of Facebook running on my servers for testing and developmentSalesforce: Very easily replaced as there are heaps of alternatives. I have an alternative to Salesforce running on my servers, clients can login, see updates on their accounts and interact with me. All on my servers.Desk.com: Yep there are even alternatives to this lovely piece of software.The truth is opensource is very popular with the general public but not as popular as it should be with the business sector. The beauty with opensource is the community of developers working around the clock to improve the software. In a lot of cases you will find opensource software more stable and reliable than commercial software. Microsoft Windows/Linux is a good example. Another more well know opensource project is called Android. Chances are if your not using a iPhone you are using an Android phone, in fact Android has market share over the smart device market. More people are using Android then iPhone, more people use Android devices than any other smart device competitor. So when it comes to cloud solutions it pays to have a look around at what is available. In most cases if not all cases, an opensource version will be available. Enjoy the benefits of cloud and enjoy retaining ownership of your own data.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What exactly is a content management system?

The concept of CMS is it make it easier for people to manage their own content. The most popular CMS's out there are PHP based easy to use. Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal are pretty popular however that also means spammers and hackers focus on those systems. In reality you may not need a CMS to run your site (assuming you are talking about your company website). If you only need a static website there is no need for a CMS. CMS is good if you have daily updates like news articles. If you only want a website that lists your services, about page, contact form and some basic information then a CMS will just complicate a simple process.

Finance and Accounting

The lost funds industry

I get calls from people in multiple industries however some of the most common calls I am getting at the moment are people from the lost funds industry. They are calling me via one of my skip tracing agencies asking for assistance in locating people that have lost funds. This isn't really new, I remember back in 2012 I started to get a flood of calls from people in the lost funds industry asking ...

Business Growth

Getting the most out of your business!

One of the most common issues clients come to me with relate to limits. I posted a comment here about limits and how I believe anyone that believes in infinite growth is setting up for failure. Sure not everyone will agree with me however based on my experience I strongly believe ignoring limits in a finite world, we are putting ourselves at risk.  We have limits even if you don't want to see th...

Brad Lyons answered this question

Mary Mai
Mary Mai, Business Intelligence Analyst at Savvysme

Customer Retention

How do SMEs manage customer relationships?

If your selling products via an online store you can reach out to your customers by sending them a satisfaction survey. You could reach out to them with thank you messaged including a discount voucher for their next purchase. There are so many way to communicate with your customers when you don't have physical contact with them.It all comes down to the type of relationship you want/need with your customers. In some cases having online portals is needed, support desks or a simple email is needed. Most of my customers will call me if they need anything. However there is nothing stopping you from calling them if you believe it is necessary. Not all customers want to have a chat, some just want to make a purchase and move on with their day.I am always travelling and at the moment I am overseas, however my clients can still call a local number if they want to speak directly with me. It just comes down to making sure you have the correct systems setup and software to ensure your customers don't feel like you have left them in the dark.Providing a good service/product is usually enough to retain most customers though.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Charley May
Charley May, Communications Manager at Fowles Wine

Recruitment

How do you attract the best people and maintain energy and creativity among your employees

KPI's, targets, training and development are always a good start. A lot of people don't want a normal 9-5 job and lets be honest you don't want your employees to have the 9-5 mentality either. People are motivated by different things and it is important to keep that in mind when look at rewards programs. Sometimes cash bonuses get a little boring and predictable so change it up a little. Ask your employees what they want.KPI's should always be setup with the companies goals in mind. If employees are achieving targets based on KPI's then your company is achieving it's goals and your employees are achieving their targets resulting in rewards.For some employees they want to know they have a future in the company. They want something to work towards. By providing training they have the ability to learn new areas of the company and it could help them find something they are passionate about. Part of your KPI's could include training, this means in order for an employee to make their monthly target they must also complete 1 training program you have. This could be a short only training course you have setup. It could be based on industry legislation, compliance issues or career development. This not only ensures your employees are up to date with current legislation increasing your compliance, it also gives them the opportunity to improve themselves. If your employee thinks they are going to be stuck behind the same desk for the rest of lives what motivation could they possibly have to be energetic and creative?Rewards can be in the form of training and giving them more responsibility. That not only helps you out it can also really motivate them. Oh, and one thing I would like to point out. Don't ever hold a company meeting to tell everyone how they made you so much money for the month unless you are also giving them a reward. I remember when I was a teenager working in a factory. The owner gathered all the employees in the workshop and said."I would just like to congratulate you on making an extra effort this month. This month has been the most productive in a long time and as a result we have made a lot of money. Thank you for doing the extra over time (unpaid) and working faster".Needless to say as soon as he walked back into the office all the workers were saying: "Sure George, it is always a pleasure to break our backs to make you more money". and"Thanks for the motivation jerk, wont happen again".The owner pushed us harder for the month saying we had fallen behind. However it was leaked he was just trying to see how much he could push us to increase productivity. Forcing people to do unpaid overtime is not the best option. Then rubbing it their faces afterwards really had an impact. A lot of people quit the following month.

Finance and Accounting

The lost funds industry

I get calls from people in multiple industries however some of the most common calls I am getting at the moment are people from the lost funds industry. They are calling me via one of my skip tracing agencies asking for assistance in locating people that have lost funds. This isn't really new, I remember back in 2012 I started to get a flood of calls from people in the lost funds industry asking ...

Business Growth

Getting the most out of your business!

One of the most common issues clients come to me with relate to limits. I posted a comment here about limits and how I believe anyone that believes in infinite growth is setting up for failure. Sure not everyone will agree with me however based on my experience I strongly believe ignoring limits in a finite world, we are putting ourselves at risk.  We have limits even if you don't want to see th...

Brad Lyons answered this question

Official FAQ
Official FAQ, Inquisitor at SavvySME

Cashflow Management

What Are The Payment Times When Working With Big Businesses?

Invoice factoring could be a solution for you if clients are wanting longer payment terms. As a rule, I decline clients that want long payment terms. Even large clients are fine with 30 day invoices. But it really comes down to your undustry. As a rule, Unless the company is very large, I don't accept any payment terms longer than 14 days. 

Brad Lyons answered this question

How much should you reinvest in the business?

Live poor, grow faster. Pending on your business the more you  can invest in customer acquisition the faster your business will grow. Prior to do that though you need to make sure your systems can handle an increase in volume.You have not listed what business you are in however after doing a quick check there is a person with the same name as you in Tutoring. If that is the business you are in, based on the information on the website. I would say there are a number of competitors in your industry, investing in technology would be ideal.And again, if it is the tutoring business you are in. There is a massive market for it, there are marketing companies that specialize only in that area. So customer acquisition isn't an issue, making sure you have the technology to handle it is.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Andrew barnes
Andrew barnes, at Finance expertise

Accounting

Why do people choose BPO outsourcing services from US and India?

The Philippines is a much better place for support services in my view. In fact, an indian call centre employed by Telstra at one point outsource some of their work to the Philippines at one stage. There are a number of reasons companies will use BPO. One is definitely the cost savings, there is a massive saving in wages. Also culture and time zones are also factors. There are challenges with training when looking at outsourcing overseas and there are a lot of companies that will offer to assist with massive mark-ups, so you really need to do your research. A lot of my clients have call centres in the Philippines and some still have call centres in India. Having seen firsthand how the different countries can assist I have always seen less complaints and issues come from a call centre in the Philippines. All clients that have Australian staff in the offshore office to manage very rarely have training and compliance issues. It always pays to have an Australian employee working from the offshore office to ensure compliance, training and customer service is to your companies standards. You wouldn't have an onshore office running without management, no difference for an offshore office.  As for what country, it really comes down to what you need. For developers I would look at Europe and the middle east. From past experience I have seen much better and stable code from these areas. For support I would look at the Philippines. For Tech support, I would look at Australian call centres to handle the actual issues and the Philippines to handle the initial inbound call. Just so they can screen out the Common issues (user training) and actual technical issues. 

Brad Lyons answered this question

Does anyone know much about 17 Hats or other business automation software?

Vtiger.com. Cheaper, better.There are heaps of programs out there. Some free others for a fee. It really comes down to what your business does and what else you use. I use vtiger for some companies and custom software for others. I also use Hipchat to connect them together and have alerts. IFTTT is good for connecting different products. Really comes down to what your business needs.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Aishah Mustapha
Aishah Mustapha, Community Manager at

Ecommerce

How to prep online business to compete with Amazon in Australia?

Amazon is already in Australia. There are a lot of dodgy traders out there that will be in trouble, however they should be. So many people buying from Amazon and ebay then reselling with a massive mark-up. A few years ago I caught out Wow sight and sound doing this and a number of other companies. In reality if you are selling your own products there are no issues. If you are reselling products with massive mark-ups you should be worried.Amazon isn't a company people should worry about. They are not the biggest threat to online business. You can buy the products Amazon sell direct from the factories if you wanted to compete with them. There is no reason why any online business can't do the same as Amazon.I believe the biggest issue is import tax and internet. Australia is too far behind the rest of the world when it comes to this space. The internet in Australia is too slow. The NBN is not true fibre, and even if you get Fibre you're not getting the real deal. Your getting a massively restricted product that you have to pay extra just to get a half decent speed. So the real issue is, if you want to setup an online business that has any hope of expanding you need to be offshore. Australia does not have the infrastructure to accommodate. NZ, Thailand, Philippines, China, Russia, US, UK and most of Europe are all up to standards or well above. Australia, too far behind and there are no plans for attempting to keep up. Making money on the internet is easy. Scaling that up to compete with Amazon just takes time, and time is something a lot of people are not willing to spend. A lot of people just want to have a massive online business now.

Brad Lyons answered this question

How to get my name out there?

1. Build your website and ensure you have the keywords you are after throughout the site. 2. Pay for Google adsense. Set a budget and the keywords. 3. Setup Google Analytics for the website so you can track views, locations and start collecting the stats. 4. Buy the domain names for the most common keywords used to find your site. 5. Add your business to Google maps6. Do some smart research and marketing. I did a similar campaign for a company that wanted to reach out to everyone that was about to move. Called and offered utilities for their new address. 7. Know your customers. Ensure you have a good CRM to keep track of your customers. If you know your customers well enough, you will know when they are due to move next.Those are some basic points that should help get your name out there. After all that, you still need to make sure your customer service is above and beyond. People talk, and happy customers are willing to spread the word for you also.

Brad Lyons answered this question

How do I choose the best web hosting company?

webhosting is cheap. as Meng said, depends on the number of visitors you believe you will have. Most webhosting packages will give you unlimited email addresses, disk space and pretty much everything unlimited. You need to read the fine print though as "Unlimited" doesn't mean unlimited. There are limits however they are pretty high. You will not need anymore than 20gb in most cases unless you want a really big database loaded on your hosting and plan on having a lot of emails and images/video's hosted on your account also. So as long as you are getting 20gb of hosting space you will be fine. Generally the hosting account would cost you about $10 or less per month for "unlimited"That should come with Cpanel (not cpanel lite or anything cheap like that) and also a tone of free programs.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What must I do to get my website up on Google search results?

You need to change your website content. Doing a search on Google and your website doesn't appear. Looking at your website and there is a lot of content on there however no text that says applicant tracking software, only an image.Look at what people are searching when coming across your website and your competitors. login to your cpanel and look at the visitor stats and traffic. Where are people coming from and what searches are they doing in Google. Pay for adwords for a month to get an idea of what keywords people are using. Look at your competitors websites and see what content they have. If you want to hit the front page of Google content will get you there. No need to spend a lot of money paying someone to do it for you unless you don't have the time. Content is the only thing I do to get my websites on the front page. Another way to get and retain good ranking is news articles. The more high value domains that link back to you the higher your ranking will be. First thing I would do is look at content though. That makes a massive difference!

Brad Lyons answered this question

Sarah Irwin
Sarah Irwin, SME Community Director at SavvySME

Finance and Accounting

What is Bitcoin and how can I use it?

Bitcoin was and still is the currency used on the silk road (Darknet). It is used because people shopping on the silk road are not buying a new pair of shoes. They are buying weapons, drugs, kids and just about anything you can imagine. Bitcoin was the only currency accepted as it offered a layer of protection. When the FBI closed down the silk rd for the 3rd time they also claimed bitcoin. Now bitcoin is floating on the market it has become more popular. Their are multiple competitors out there with their own version of digital currency like Bitcoin. Is there any real value in added bitcoin as a payment option. That really depends if you have any value in bitcoin yourself. Some companies will accept bitcoin as they trade in bitcoin in other areas. Should you accept bitcoin? Comes down to your personal preference. Do you want to invest your money in bitcoin? Your making an investment, you will not be able to use Bitcoin unless you have suppliers that accept it. Think of it as "Will you accept payments in Euro". How much will it cost to convert payments from Euro to AUD. Can you keep payments in Euro and use that currency to pay suppliers. I only accept payments in currencies that I can easily use. Bitcoin is just another currencies with a dark past and some would say a questionable present. So if you only trade in AUD, only accept AUD. If you also trade in USD, accept payments in USD. Same for Bitcoin.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Mark Halstead
Mark Halstead, Managing Director at iCumulus

Social Media

Can social media work for B2C lead generation cost effectively?

The short answer is yes, I have, and do use social media to promote some of my products. One business for example has only been advertised on Facebook, 3 months on Facebook only resulted in just over 2,000 customers. However I would like to point out I have never paid for Facebook ads. I created a company page and that is it, I don't see the value in paying for Facebook ads. Your marketing should do much better than what Facebook ads can bring to the table.If you want to market B2C you can't just rely on Facebook ads or Adwords. Adwords is something I strongly recommend however you need a strategy, there is no point just throwing money at Adwords without a good strategy. I am always playing around with different ways to market products and services online. Social media is great however don't expect to create a company page on Facebook and have 2,000 customers knocking on you door. You still need a strategy and you need to be active.

Brad Lyons answered this question

How do you ask for payment from a client before the work's done?

Never had an issue with asking clients for payment in advanced. They way I see it is simple, if they have an issue making a payment in advanced they will probably have an issue in making payment once the work has been completed. Don't be afraid to say no and let them walk away. A lot of companies request payment prior to services being provided. If a customer knows what they are paying for, needs the service or product, I fail to see how what valid reason they would have to not make a payment in advance other than they don't have enough money to pay now. And in that case I would simply ask them to come back once they have the money.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Just wondering what is a fair price to pay per lead and whether you found it worthwhile?

The price of leads does vary depending on the information you need. You could buy basic data like Name, address, Phone and you would be paying to pretty much cold call and waste a lot of time.You are far better off getting more segmented datasets like age banding data. Charities will generally buy data with age and gender added as they know their target market. Buying the data you would be looking at around the $1 to $2 per record, add another ~50c per record if you want it washed with property ownership. If you want qualified data you would be looking around the ~$30 to $100 per warm transfer.A warm transfer is basically a call center calling everyone that meets your target market, they will ask a few questions and if the customer is interested in a product the will transfer that call through to your sales team.There are many different types of datasets you can buy, volume makes a difference in price however you will find there are ways to get data in low volume that can help increase sales. Happy to have a chat with anyone interested in data. I specialize in this area so have data that can't be obtained anywhere else.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Does anyone use woo commerce and can run stocktake reports?

There are heaps of plugins for Woo. I think you will find all you need here: http://codecanyon.net/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&term=w...I wouldn't recommend any of the free plugins for Woo as they are generally not supported or updated for security. This place is good to buy from.

Brad Lyons answered this question

When should I write off a receivable as a bad debt? Is it worth taking the customer to court?

In some cases it can be worth taking the matter to court, it just comes down to legal viability of the account.It isn't just a matter of taking a customer to court because you want them to pay. You should only take a customer to court if you know they have the ability to pay the debt. If a customer has assets that could be used to help recover the debt or an income that would support a garnishee then yes. A lot of people tend to take customers to court expecting the customer to just pay because a judge told them to. That isn't what happens in a lot of cases. You need to be prepared to take it further and recover the funds via garnishee or sale of assets. If the courts order an arrangement to pay of the debt is to be setup and the customer misses payments, then the customer is in contempt of court and they could get 3 months imprisonment for that. (For contempt of court not the debt). A garnishee is commonly avoided by people changing employers after the garnishee is setup. So you need to be prepared to follow through.Best advise would be to contact the customer, negotiate an arrangement to pay off the debt and explain to them if they avoid payment you will have to look at litigation and legal fees will be added to the outstanding amount. That tends to motivate them to pay.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What sort of qualifications (if any) do you have/need?

Qualifications??? Me... None!Sure if you are an accountant you will need some qualifications or in a regulated industry. However when it comes to running your own business there are no qualifications needed. Just because someone is a professor doesn't mean they know everything about the subject matter. Sound crazy right? well it isn't. I get a number of student either starting their masters or PHD asking me how to do things. Why, because you can learn from the books as much as you like but at some point you need to know how things are done in the real world.Not that their is anything wrong with getting an education and degree. I am just saying it isn't going to guarantee success in the real world. And to be honest, if two people applied for a job with me in data science or any industry I am in, if one had a degree and the other didn't. I would be paying more attention to the applicant that didn't have the degree and pushing them to see why they believe I should hire them. There is no degree in passion, there is no substitute for commitment. If someone has the drive to learn and believes their application should stand up to anyone who has a degree in that industry deserves my attention. I have never been knocked back for a job because of qualifications and don't believe anyone should be. I have friends that have their doctorates or PHD and they will be the first to admit they don't know everything about their chosen industry however some are willing to learn more from the industry they are in while some simply want to move onto something else.So, qualifications. Not needed to be successful in business, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. And if someone does, tell me the industry they are in and I can guarantee you I can tell you who is more successful than them without qualifications.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What is the best business to start in a village or small city?

it really comes down to the limits and based on your question the limits are pretty set in stone. If you are looking for a business that only trades locally to that small village you really want to make sure you know what the locals want on a regular basis. Selling "one time" items is going to dry up quickly so consumables would be ideal to ensure you have repeat business. However I would never recommend anyone just setup a business with the mind set of a limited consumer base. If you mean on the other hand what business can you start and run from a small village. Anything online comes to mind. Are there local products you can sell to the world, do you want to settup a drop ship account with a wholeseller and start selling world wide. So many options however I would recommend you do something you have a passion for. It makes it easier to press on when most would just walk away.

Brad Lyons answered this question

How do I sell web development services for the first time?

When I first launch something new I spend big with adwords. Then once I know the most popular key words people use I buy those domain names. Adwords puts your site at the top instantly and helps you gain an understanding of what people are typing when searching for your services. So I would recommend spending a large amount for the first week of adwords to ensure your ad is always at the top, then wide back the spend as you start to see the common keywords. Modify your current site to ensure those key words are in your content and buy up the keywords as domain names.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What are the best kept secrets of successful business people?

Redbull is probably the most popular but that is no longer a secret. Passion, that is all it really comes down to. If you don't have passion for the product at least have passion for the sales of it. If you know what you are doing and not trying to sell a half baked product you will be fine. The reality is a lot of people want to know the "secret", the truth is there is no secret, just hard work. If you have contacts in the industry that is a good start. If you don't! then make some. At the end of the day if you are not passionate about it and only want to work 9 to 5 then you are wasting your time. Get out there, let people know who you are and what you are about. Ask questions and don't be afraid to fail. Learn, research and love what you do. There's a start however that is something we already know.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What meetup events do you all go to?

I have mentioned to SavvySME that they should host an annual conference for members. Fingers crossed they see value in it. I generally go to conferences related to my industry, I find them a great way to meet clients and see what the industry is up to.I have tried going to a couple of small local small business groups however found them to be a waste of time (just my personal opinion). Chamber of commerce is another great place to meeting other business owners. I would have a chat with your local Chamber of commerce and see when their next meeting is. You can normally attend the first one for free as a guest.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Do you innovate in your business?

Do you innovate in your business? YesIf so, how? By knowing the industry and being passionate about it. Like I mentioned in another post. I don't let my competitors dictate where the industry is heading. I force them to try and catch up with me. Know the industry you are in, master it and develop the industry yourself. It is a lot easier than most think, all it takes is passion and knowledge of the industry you are in.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What is the key to successful innovation in small business?

You are the key! Being innovative isn't keeping up with competitors, it is creating new ways, ideas, technology and always thinking ahead. If you stop development and thinking of new and better ways you are just the same as most companies out in the market. A lot of companies just rely on clients not wanting change. That is a very small market as they quickly change their mind once their competitor starts taking their business because they are using the latest tech to help them. You should dictate where the industry heads and what the industry is doing. The only reason our products can take market share is because we don't think about how people do things, we thing about the most efficient way they should be done and what else can help them. If you step up to the plate and take charge of the direct your industry is heading, then you can call yourself an innovative company. So you are the key!

Brad Lyons answered this question

How do you grow a business quickly and smartly?

It all comes down to the business you are in. However this is what works for me:Telemarketing:Start calling your target market and make some sales, that is the fastest way. Sort out who is your target market, buy that data and either make the calls yourself or get someone to do it for you. Presence:I go to conferences for one of the industries I am in, that way I can meet potential clients face to face. Having a presence makes a big difference.Follow up:Once you have their details, follow up with them and ensure they have all the information they need to make the sale. If they say it isn't the right time, send them an email every 6 months to let them know about new features, offers or anything you feel is appropriate. Why not:If they don't want to use your service ask why! If it is because your competitors have added features, better deals or simply a much better product, then you need to develop a better product. The truth is unless you have a "World First" product your potential clients will most likely be using a competitors product. If they are not using a competitors product you may need to educate them as to why they need it in the first place. You have to stand out from the rest, the size of a company doesn't mean they will have market share for ever. There is always going to be new companies coming onto the market with new ideas and processes. We have taken market share from very large companies in Australia because we have a better product, we develop it all the time and our competitors simply can't keep up. The only sales pitch they have is their name, and when that no longer works they have two options; give up or develop.If a potential client tells you that a competitor has a better product, don't bother calling them once you have caught up the the competitor. Call them once you are a step ahead and stay a step ahead.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Which is the best Australian bank for startups to work with?

If you are a startup Commbank is pretty good and has a lot of good features. However I would highly recommend setting up an Hong Kong company and getting a HSBC multi currency account setup with them. It makes life a lot easier when it comes to international payments. While most people think having a Hong Kong company is just a tax dodge, reality is for anyone doing business in multiple countries it simply makes sense. It only costs about ~$2,000 to have setup (both company and account) and can make life easier. Word of warning though, if you just setup a Hong Kong company and live & work from Australia only you will be questioned by the tax office.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Jef Lippiatt
Jef Lippiatt, Owner at Startup Chucktown

Sales and Marketing

Do you qualify your leads?

Do you qualify your leads? YesDo you qualify them before adding them to your list? No - All leads are added to my database and calls are made. At the end of each call the lead is given a status code based on the confidence in that lead.What data do you find important when trying to qualify leads? Probability to convert lead.With any process the workflow is important and status codes are a good way to drive that process. The first thing I do is segment the leads and call the leads I believe are more valuable to me. This could be based on company size, existing relationship with the company or their location to name a few. Once the leads have been segmented the calls start and at the end of each call that lead is given a status code and a follow-up date. If the lead is junk I leave it on the system and label it Junk so staff no in the future.What information is valuable to me to help decide if a lead is good or bad is basically the same across all products and services. Interest level, affordability and time to convert. If someone asks for a call back in 12 months staff will schedule a call in 12 months however the priority is very low. On the other side if someone wants a meeting asap however we don't believe they have the ability or finance to go through with a sale, we will focus on calling other leads in the area and schedule meeting to decrease the chances wasting time on the trip.Steve hit the nail on the head with his Q&A's. There are set questions that need to be asked and these do depend on the product/service you are offering however the examples Steve gave can be used for just about anything. If there is no budget set they are not ready, if there is no timeline then they are not ready. They could be ready in 6 months however they are most likely "kicking tires" at the moment.For me all leads are important, good and bad. For this reason all are loaded onto the system and retained. That way I can see the history of any lead and when loading more leads there is no chance of double ups. No one likes to call the same company twice with the same sales pitch only to get the same negative result. Keep track of good and bad leads as it saves you time. Some bad leads can be converted in the future and the only way to do that is to keep them on your system.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Yee Trinh
Yee Trinh, Cofounder at

Startup

Who knows about WeChat and why isn't it popular in the West?

Population plays a big role in this. China: 1,382,323,332USA: 324,118,787AUS: 24,309,330Just looking at http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/popu... will show you just how little they need to bother about marketing to us. The "Western World" isn't always the best market place and the numbers show that. WeChat has just under 700 million users, Facebook messenger has around 900 million, QQ has around 900 million and WhatsApp has over a Billion. So to answer your question, Wechat simply isn't useful to people in the west because not enough westerners use it. For those who communicate with people in China they most likely use QQ or Facebook. The same question could be asked about Line. For those in Japan, Thailand, Indonesia and India would ask why don't more people in the west use Line. However Line only has around 250 million users and the bulk are in the above mentioned countries. However to them, Line is the biggest IM app. TV ads based on Line stickers, Products with Line codes etc, yet outside of those countries Line is very uncommon.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Do I sell my product to someone else to resell?

There are a number of ways to look at this. For example how many sales do you make yourself and how much effort do you put in to make those sales. If someone can sell the shirts for you, it takes less effort on your behalf therefore less cost to you. If she is willing to buy them from you at a wholesale rate you should be happy, not many people get this offer. She will have some cost involved in the sale process so it will be in her best interest to make as much as possible. If you retain your current pricing model with her at $35 per item it sounds like you will both be happy. Sure she is getting a higher percentage however she is doing the sales work for you. With any business relationship both parties need to be happy otherwise it will not last. If you are happy with $35 per shirt and she is able to make enough sales to cover your costs alone, surely that is better than nothing. And there is always room for future conversations and products you could sell.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Do you know how much it costs to run a sales promotion?

Hi Federica,Can you provide more information on what you are looking to do and on what scale?There are many ways to promote online however it comes down to scale and target market. Some markets can be costly to promote to depending on the method used. You can promote for free online however without knowing what type of promotion you are looking to do it is hard to answer this one. Adwords: Cost depends on the keyword value however you control the budget. Facebook: You can control the cost.Email marketing: I wouldn't send emails from your address, I would use a third party for that as bulk emails can ruin your email rep. Those are the most common however really comes down to you and your budget vs the target market. In some cases it would be more productive to try direct marketing instead of casting a net (adwords etc). Casting is very popular and you can get good ROI however direct marketing tends to bring in much better results.Either way you control the budget so it would be an idea to work out how much you want to spend then look at what can be done for that price.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Is e-commerce a dying industry?

E-commerce isn't dying. Anyone can setup an e-commerce site for free and most people online do. The issue is a lot of people will just try and find cheap products off ebay and try to resell them on their own site with a large markup. Since there are so many people trying to sell the same product, people have a lot of choice, larger e-commerce sites would be feeling this as people have more options and in most cases cheaper options. If you want to be successful in e-commerce do some research like Jef said. There are a lot of hobby sellers online that don't really care about sales volume, they are just happy to make a little extra cash. Nothing is forever when it comes to retail. If you found a great product that is one of a kind, enjoy it while it lasts! It is only a matter of time before the same factory starts pumping out cheaper alternatives. So you have to be creative, look for the next trend and do some of your own R&D. For a long time e-commerce was seen as a easy income, now you actually have to do some work it is not so appealing to larger companies as costs increase. So when someone says to you the e-commerce industry is dying, it is just their point of view based on their experience. If your friend is a consultant for the big 4, it would just be that they are not making as much profit as they used as more effort is required. A lot of people pay too much attention to large companies, they tend to believe large companies know it all because of their size. This couldn't be further from the truth! Look at the big 4 banks in Australia. Look at the big 4 collection companies in Australia. They don't know it all and if you keep watching the news you will shortly see this. Large companies are very slow to change, mainly due to internal red tape. Smaller companies don't have that issue so can change/adapt a lot faster. Large companies are looking for large profits with little effort. This means smaller companies willing to actually do some work can succeed. Larger companies have the ability to buy out smaller companies, this is an easy way for them to develop with little effort. I believe what you are seeing in the e-commerce industry is a tipping point, and to me this is the most interesting time.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Neil Steggall
Neil Steggall, Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

Business Planning

Which sources provide you with data on Australian SMEs?

here are the results in list form. I have X out some of the details. These are all the results
returned and then mapped as per the above image based on an ABN search.· 515
XXXXX Tce Fortitude Valley Qld 4006



·
CXXXXXXN
HXXXXXE LIMITED



·
cXXXXXXXse.com.au



·
domains@cXXXXXXXXse.com.au



·
Webmaster
Webmaster



·
coXXXXXXXe.net.au



·
coXXXXXXse@domainnamegroup.com.au



·
CXXXon
HXXXe



·
tXXXXme.com.au



·
stan.prince@colXXXXXon.com.au



·
Stan
Prince



·
cXXXm.com.au



·
Domain
Admin



·
37
XXXXX St Ascot Qld 4007



·
KXXy
DXXy



·
6
MXXXXyr Rd New Farm Qld 4005



·
David
GXXy



·
351
EdXXXXh Rd Castlecrag NSW 2068



·
David
LXXXy



·
2
BXXXh Ct Albany Creek Qld 4035



·
Philip
HeXXXsy



·
52
EnXXXXy Rd Clayfield Qld 4011



·
JulXXXXne
ScXXXfer



·
MXXXw
ThXXas



·
19
HXXXXw Pl Mcdowall Qld 4053



·
Julie
TXXXy



·
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found



·
PKF
HACKETTS AUDIT



·
CXXXXXe
Limited



·
Suite
3 484-488 QXXXXXn St Brisbane City Qld 4000



·
(07)
3XXXX 0333



·
bne.office@cXXXXse.com.au



·
(07)
3292 XXXX



·
KeXXX
John DXXXX



·
(07)
3868 XXXX



·
(07)
3268 XXXX



·
Daly



·
0405
XXX 158



·
Mathew
John XXXX



·
Maria
Elaine XXXX



·
Danielle
Louise XXXX



·
(07)
3868XXXX



·
D
Daly



·
(07)
3868 XXXX



·
Dl
Daly



·
D
L Daly



·
David
Michael XXXX



·
Unit
15 6 MXXXX Rd New Farm Qld 4005



·
(07)
3358 XXXX



·
David
Paul XXXX



·
Unit
303 21 PXXXX St Kangaroo Point Qld 4169



·
Philip
Arthur HXXXX



·
241
GrXXXX Rd Bridgeman Downs Qld 4035



·
Matthew
James ThXXXX



·
86
HXXXX St Wilston Qld 4051



·
(07)
3356 XXXX



·
0401
0XX XXX



·
Julie
Margaret TXXXX



·
(07)
3353 XXX



·
Jeffrey
Colin TXXXX



·
J
C Tealby



·
J
Tealby



·
(07)
3832 XXXX



·
(07)
3292 XXXX



·
(07)
3868 XXXX



·
(07)
3268 XXXX



·
(07)
3868 XXXX



·
(07)
3868 XXXX



·
(07)
3358 XXXX



·
(07)
3356 XXXX



·
(07)
3353 XXXX



·
domains@cXXXXXe.com.au



·
XXXX.net.au



·
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·
XXXXXXXXX.com.au



·
crXXXXXXect.com.au



·
caXXXXXXXerator.com.au



·
coXXXXXXse@domainnamegroup.com.au



·
stan.prince@cXXXXXn.com.au



·
bne.office@cXXXXXXse.com.au

Brad Lyons answered this question

Neil Steggall
Neil Steggall, Partner at Wardour Capital Partners

Business Planning

Which sources provide you with data on Australian SMEs?

To answer your question on data available on SME's, here is a screen shot of the results based on a search on a company's ABN:http://vunoo.com/images/chresults.JPG
It will not be very clear in this image however it is showing the name, address, phone, email, companies, websites for the ceo. Also showing the relatives living at the addresses. Share holder details. Social media accounts and basically anything that is connected to each result. There is plenty of data out there that can help SME's in different ways. From locating someone who owes you money and is trying to hide behind companies. Background checks on new companies that sign up accounts with you or just marketing information. In some cases you don't need to find new data sources, you may just need to look at the data you already have in a different way.I was at a conference last year when someone asked me what I could do to help them find their customers that owe them money. After finding out what their business was initial step they should have taken was in their own data. Before you buy data, look at your own data first from a different angle. As for the actual sources, I have a pretty large collection of current and historical data on business and residential. If you are looking for additional sources of data happy to have a chat and apply a discount for Savvysme members.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Ava Lee
Ava Lee, at Swing

Social Media

Is there an advantage to email over other online marketing channels?

If you are hoping to have an interactive presence online then email marketing is
essential. How you
do it comes down to the product and target market you have. However email
marketing isn't just for obtaining new customers, in some cases it is better
used to stay connected to current/past customers. Email
is a great way to stay in contact and gain repeat business however you can also
find yourself added to their junk folder if you just try and sell. You need to
find a valid reason to reach out to your customers via email that encourages
them to respond. A response doesn't have to be via return email, that would
just increase your workload. A response could be in many forms. I
wouldn't be so quick to devalue emails. Many people though fax campaigns are
dead, as a result less people use fax to market resulting in higher success
rates for those who still fax.Email
is no different, however doing the same as everyone else with most likely yield
the same result as everyone else, the junk box!

Brad Lyons answered this question

How much do you spend on social media marketing?

To date we have spent nothing on social media and had very large returns. We have discussed on many occasion, the option of budgeting for paid ads however we have opted to remain focused on directly contacting our target markets ourselves. I a lot of work was initially put into identifying where our potential customers are "hanging out" on social media then reaching out to them. I believe this would be more fruitful than paying for ads.We have conducted some campaigns to help measure the success different types of contact with potential customers and seen a large range of variables. One campaign yielded around $120,000 for the month in revenue from one social media site using one form of marketing while other campaigns have been less successful and only yielded around $10,000 for the month. That being said even a bad campaign gave us a return. The only costs involved were time spend in preparation for the campaigns.This is only based on what we have been doing and we will have to pay for advertisement on social media eventually in order for us to identify the best form of social media marketing. For all we know paying for ads could be the best way forward however the industry we used for this campaign was very niche resulting in a limited number of customers and places to find them.I would say if you are looking at paid advertising solutions with social media, first ensure you know where the marketing should be directed and run some campaigns your self to gain a "Champion" then use the paid campaigns as your "Challenger". If you do I know a number of people on here (including myself) would be interested in knowing what your findings are. To pay or not to pay.

Brad Lyons answered this question

VoIP phone systems vs mobile and landline alternatives?

Skype is what I live off. I have phone numbers setup so people can call a local number (numbers setup for different states and countries). That call will come to me no matter what country I am in and the customer has no idea. This is great and doesn't cost the client or me anything for the international call. Also I have the ability to receive the calls on the mobile, great for when I am out of the office and want calls to come through. I believe Voip is a much better solution for any business, even if you are within the main country you offer services in. With Skype I have never had an issue with call quality, regardless of the country I am in. You just need to make sure you have good internet. And at the end of the day if you are working in an office or from home you will have good internet anyway. I had a client call me about a data purchase, I was not able to access the data at that time (not near my computer) however my business partner was. I messaged him only to find out he was in the middle of nowhere. I was in Thailand and he was busy travelling, I believe he was just over the Thai boarder at the time by a river at the edge of the jungle, yet I was still able to message him via Voip and he was still able to run a query on the data via his laptop in the middle of nowhere. Within a few minutes he sent the summaries to me on Skype and we worked out the rates. All while we were both out of the office and in remote areas, and the entire time I had the client on the phone. He called a local QLD number and had no idea that someone was running queries on a server that is in the USA from the edge of a jungle just out of Thailand, and communicating with my business partner via Skype while I was also speaking to them on Skype to get the answers they needed. I have unlimited calls to any landline in the world and I believe I pay just over $10 per month. I pay around $80 per year for the phone number I wanted (ends in DATA) and that is it.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Lina Barfoot
Lina Barfoot, Editor at SavvySME

Social Media

Does social media contribute to your bottom line?

Without a doubt!One of my businesses only gets traffic and customers from social media. We can get over 1,000 customers per month from social media without having to try too hard. That is the beauty of social media. Once you find the right platform for your product and identified your target market you only need to make one post/update and customers start coming in. The down side is the management of messages. Using the built in messaging systems isn't ideal. However there are platforms available that make is more business friendly and allow you to view multiple social media sites from one portal. At it isn't too hard to build a system yourself. The best thing I believe you can do is identify your target market, find where they are socializing and then simply reach out to them. Work on your brand name, make it strong enough so when people think of products (like yours) your name comes up. It took us about 6 months of hard work to get that recognition however it paid off. And when I say hard work I don't mean marketing. I mean actual work, calling, helping and going above and beyond for customers. Take care of your customers and ensure they are happy, word of mouth can travel far. However go above and beyond and all you have to do is make a post and you are flooded with customers. Believe it or not one of the best marketing moves I made with social media was making a mistake with a customer and them complaining about it on the social media page. Instead of feeding them the usual BS you see companies do on social media all the time we not only corrected the issue we made a bigger deal out of it. We knew everyone was watching so why try and hide it. We ended up paying for accommodation for the customer so they could take advantage of our services sooner rather than later. This resulted in many people sharing what we did with others and allowed us to see where more potential customers socialize. So when it comes to social media I say go for it. Just make sure you can handle complaints quickly. As your page/group will quickly turn into a public forum for people to complain about you. Resolve issues quickly and just as publicly. If a customer is willing to post a complaint so all can see you must resolve that complaint so all can see. Doesn't mean you have to breach privacy, it does mean you have to ensure no damage is done by that person making the complaint. If they say you never shipped the item and you did. Post the dates the item was shipped and mention the item has tracking (if it does). Be very clear about the solution without breaching privacy. If it was your mistake then own up and resolve it instantly.I know first hand social media can make you money and very quickly. If your smart about it you will get clients within an hour. But you can lose them all within minutes or a bad complaint or trying to solve the complaint in the background.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What cloud solutions do you recommend?

A lot of cloud services available to the market today can be installed on your own servers so you have full control over the data plus have the advantage of using cloud. A lot of people will say you have to give up something for convenience. Most common thing people give up is privacy, however in the business world the only thing you need to give up is money, and that is only if you don't want to use the free software. If you want the benefits that come with cloud services then you can simply host them yourself. Dropbox: can be replaced with OwncloudSkype: can be replaced with an opensource voip platformFacebook: I have my own version of Facebook running on my servers for testing and developmentSalesforce: Very easily replaced as there are heaps of alternatives. I have an alternative to Salesforce running on my servers, clients can login, see updates on their accounts and interact with me. All on my servers.Desk.com: Yep there are even alternatives to this lovely piece of software.The truth is opensource is very popular with the general public but not as popular as it should be with the business sector. The beauty with opensource is the community of developers working around the clock to improve the software. In a lot of cases you will find opensource software more stable and reliable than commercial software. Microsoft Windows/Linux is a good example. Another more well know opensource project is called Android. Chances are if your not using a iPhone you are using an Android phone, in fact Android has market share over the smart device market. More people are using Android then iPhone, more people use Android devices than any other smart device competitor. So when it comes to cloud solutions it pays to have a look around at what is available. In most cases if not all cases, an opensource version will be available. Enjoy the benefits of cloud and enjoy retaining ownership of your own data.

Brad Lyons answered this question

What exactly is a content management system?

The concept of CMS is it make it easier for people to manage their own content. The most popular CMS's out there are PHP based easy to use. Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal are pretty popular however that also means spammers and hackers focus on those systems. In reality you may not need a CMS to run your site (assuming you are talking about your company website). If you only need a static website there is no need for a CMS. CMS is good if you have daily updates like news articles. If you only want a website that lists your services, about page, contact form and some basic information then a CMS will just complicate a simple process.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Mary Mai
Mary Mai, Business Intelligence Analyst at Savvysme

Customer Retention

How do SMEs manage customer relationships?

If your selling products via an online store you can reach out to your customers by sending them a satisfaction survey. You could reach out to them with thank you messaged including a discount voucher for their next purchase. There are so many way to communicate with your customers when you don't have physical contact with them.It all comes down to the type of relationship you want/need with your customers. In some cases having online portals is needed, support desks or a simple email is needed. Most of my customers will call me if they need anything. However there is nothing stopping you from calling them if you believe it is necessary. Not all customers want to have a chat, some just want to make a purchase and move on with their day.I am always travelling and at the moment I am overseas, however my clients can still call a local number if they want to speak directly with me. It just comes down to making sure you have the correct systems setup and software to ensure your customers don't feel like you have left them in the dark.Providing a good service/product is usually enough to retain most customers though.

Brad Lyons answered this question

Charley May
Charley May, Communications Manager at Fowles Wine

Recruitment

How do you attract the best people and maintain energy and creativity among your employees

KPI's, targets, training and development are always a good start. A lot of people don't want a normal 9-5 job and lets be honest you don't want your employees to have the 9-5 mentality either. People are motivated by different things and it is important to keep that in mind when look at rewards programs. Sometimes cash bonuses get a little boring and predictable so change it up a little. Ask your employees what they want.KPI's should always be setup with the companies goals in mind. If employees are achieving targets based on KPI's then your company is achieving it's goals and your employees are achieving their targets resulting in rewards.For some employees they want to know they have a future in the company. They want something to work towards. By providing training they have the ability to learn new areas of the company and it could help them find something they are passionate about. Part of your KPI's could include training, this means in order for an employee to make their monthly target they must also complete 1 training program you have. This could be a short only training course you have setup. It could be based on industry legislation, compliance issues or career development. This not only ensures your employees are up to date with current legislation increasing your compliance, it also gives them the opportunity to improve themselves. If your employee thinks they are going to be stuck behind the same desk for the rest of lives what motivation could they possibly have to be energetic and creative?Rewards can be in the form of training and giving them more responsibility. That not only helps you out it can also really motivate them. Oh, and one thing I would like to point out. Don't ever hold a company meeting to tell everyone how they made you so much money for the month unless you are also giving them a reward. I remember when I was a teenager working in a factory. The owner gathered all the employees in the workshop and said."I would just like to congratulate you on making an extra effort this month. This month has been the most productive in a long time and as a result we have made a lot of money. Thank you for doing the extra over time (unpaid) and working faster".Needless to say as soon as he walked back into the office all the workers were saying: "Sure George, it is always a pleasure to break our backs to make you more money". and"Thanks for the motivation jerk, wont happen again".The owner pushed us harder for the month saying we had fallen behind. However it was leaked he was just trying to see how much he could push us to increase productivity. Forcing people to do unpaid overtime is not the best option. Then rubbing it their faces afterwards really had an impact. A lot of people quit the following month.

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Succession Planning

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New Business Ideas

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