Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tasteful Follow-Up with New Networking Connections

Salim104When it comes to building a business, many entrepreneurs regard networking as a “necessary evil”. Even among those who enjoy attending networking events, the idea of following up with those new contacts sometimes feels uncomfortable. We don’t want to be seen as overly aggressive, or even worse – desperate.

But without follow-up, we’re letting the opportunity to nurture a potentially fantastic relationship slip through our fingers. So what’s an uneasy networker to do?

I spoke about this with Devora Zack, author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking, and she admitted that even she might be dismissive of a bland follow-up e-mail that read, “It was really nice meeting you at that event. Let’s stay in touch.” Says Zack, “I’m thinking, yeah, sure, you probably sent this to six other people too.”

But Zack says she’d react much differently to the same e-mail if it included an attached article about something of particular interest to her — for example, an article related to one of her current business projects, or a hobby she may have mentioned in conversation. The e-mail might include a line like, “I attached this article because I saw it and it made me think of what we were talking about at the event.”

This slightly different approach via e-mail “does a couple of things,” says Zack. “One, it makes you seem really thoughtful and authentic, and two, I know this (e-mail) is really intended for me and you’re not asking for anything, but providing something. At that point, you’re making me want to stay in touch with you.”

According to Zack, the key to follow-up success is personalization. Not only does it make you seem like less of a “pest”, but you’re also showing that you were truly listening to this person when you talked (closely enough to remember one of their current interests). Additionally, you’re following up with a spirit of helpfulness and generosity, rather than making this person feel like the only reason you care about them is because of what they can do for you.

Are you on Facebook? So is The Omar Group. Please drop by and say hi!

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Competition? What Competition?

salim101Wouldn’t it be great if your small business had no competition whatsoever? Imagine it. Whenever someone needs what you sell, they immediately think of your business and no other.

No matter how small, how new, or how commonplace your type of business, you can be that entrepreneur who smiles and says, “Competition? What competition?” And getting there doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s all about fostering good feelings.

When you give your customer good feelings about your business, you’re all but erasing the competition from his or her mind.

Start by giving thanks. It almost seems too simple and obvious to work. But be honest – when was the last time you walked away from a business transaction of any size and felt genuinely appreciated? If it wasn’t for you and others just like you handing over your hard-earned money, that business wouldn’t exist. When the most we can expect most days is a half-hearted “thank you” from a disenchanted cashier or receptionist, showing genuine gratitude to our customers makes us instantly memorable.

Appreciation can be demonstrated in so many ways, from a few sincere words over the counter (“You know Mr. Jones, you come in here every Friday night, and I just wanted to personally thank you for your repeat business”) to a gift certificate to a local restaurant for a customer’s birthday (“Happy Birthday! Enjoy your birthday dinner on us.”). Get creative. How can your business say thanks?

Another way to cultivate those warm fuzzies is by anticipating your customer’s needs.

We are living in a world where multi-tasking has become second nature for most. We’re working while we’re worrying, making deals while waiting in the dentist’s office and talking to our kids about their homework while grocery shopping. What’s truly valuable these days is someone who can think for us, because we’ve already got too much on our minds.

As a business owner, you’re in a position to make each customer’s life a little easier. They’re coming to you because they have a problem to solve. They’re having back pain, so they come to you, the chiropractor, for relief. They have coffee breath so they stop into your shop for a pack of gum. They’re worried about the future so they come to you, the financial planner, for advice. Once you understand the customer’s problem, push yourself to imagine what else they might need. What other problems might go along with that initial problem? How can your business help solve them? What can your business do to reduce the load on that customer’s shoulders? Make her feel good about your business, and she’ll feel good about coming back to you.

Need a gift for a New Jersey entrepreneur? They’ll find a wealth of valuable information in my book Straight Talk About Small Business Success in New Jersey: How to Maximize the Growth, Cash Flow, and Profitability of Your Small Business.

Until next time,

Salim

Buying an Existing Business: Pros and Cons

salim98Thinking of buying an existing business? The evidence is clear: your chances for success are best when you purchase an existing business or franchise resale. However, I encourage you to review the following list of pros and cons, as taking over an existing business is not ideal for every would-be entrepreneur.

The pros of buying an existing business:

1. The business is already up and running
2. The business is likely to have an existing base of customers, employees and suppliers
3. There exists a tried-and-tested business formula, one that you can emulate (or at least a baseline to improve upon)
4. The previous owners are likely to lend support and goodwill
5. Generally speaking, the chances for success are better than starting a similar business from scratch
6. It may be easier to obtain outside financing because of an existing track record.

And now for the cons:

1. A large investment is often required
2. The loss of an owner or manager may lead to a disruption of operations
3. There are costs associated with business transfer: solicitors, surveys, accountants, etc.
4. It will take time and possibly travel to research available opportunities
5. You might inherit inept employees, or employees who are loyal to the previous owner, but not you
6. The present location might be limiting. You may be locked into existing policies and practices of the business, at least for the foreseeable future.

Purchasing an existing business could very well be the smartest thing you’ll ever do. Just be sure to arm yourself with plenty of knowledge going in. It’s what any savvy business person would do – and I’ve got a feeling that’s you.

Stay in the loop. Follow The Omar Group on Twitter!

Regards,

Salim

New Jersey Entrepreneur Dr. Raj Gupta on Everyday Passion and Creativity in Business

Dr. Raj Gupta

Dr. Raj Gupta of Garden State Spine & Pain Institute in Eatontown, New Jersey

Our client Dr. Raj Gupta is the owner of Garden State Spine & Pain Institute in Eatontown, New Jersey.  Dr. Gupta has been running GSSPI since its conception in February 2003, and he tells us he is “happy every day for the opportunity to work for myself.”

Dr. Gupta is inarguably a local success.

Quoting first from the old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” Dr. Gupta further explains that “What worked for successful practices just two to three years ago will now result in bankruptcy for the same practice.  The insurance game is always changing and only those practices that change with the game will be able to continue to keep their doors open and provide care for their patients.”

Clearly, today’s entrepreneur must be willing to roll with the punches and use his or her creativity every day to solve emerging challenges.  But even with the ups and downs of being a business owner in the new economy, Dr. Gupta doesn’t regret his decision to run his own show.  He says that a business is “a living, breathing being.  I am extremely proud of my business’s accomplishments and I enjoy watching it grow – just as I do with my kids.”

And no doubt the deeply rewarding nature of his work helps the doctor stay motivated through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship.

“I am currently treating a patient who has suffered with debilitating pain every day of her life since being 8 years old,” says Dr. Gupta. “She has seen every doctor under the sun.  All the wrong doctors for her condition.  She didn’t even believe me when I told her that within a week or two she would be without pain. On her last visit, after three weeks of care, this patient stood before me, with tears streaming down her face, thanking me for giving her several days free of pain. It is easy to have passion for your job when you are rewarded so frequently with the fruits of your labor.”

Dr. Gupta also values outside insight in keeping a fresh perspective.  In speaking of working with The Omar Group, he had this to say: “Salim is so much more than my accountant.  He is a trusted business advisor.  Our stewardship meetings, which should be rather cut and dry, often become brainstorming sessions providing new and fresh ideas on how to further build the business.”

We asked Dr. Gupta to time travel for us, back to when he was first starting out with his own practice.  What advice would the wiser, more experienced Dr. Gupta of today offer his younger, struggling self?

“I would tell myself to hold on and enjoy the ride,” he says. “Owning a business is like being on a rollercoaster with very high highs, and very low lows. I would tell myself to live in the moment and enjoy every minute of both.”

Living in the present has clearly worked wonders for Dr. Gupta’s ability to deal with the “very low lows”, because he has no intentions of retiring.  Ever.

“Retire?” he said. “Never in the cards.  It is my duty to provide care to the members of my community as long as I am humanly able to provide it.” Then smiling, the good doctor adds, “Maybe fewer hours.”

Learn more about Dr. Raj Gupta and Garden State Spine & Pain Institute at www.gardenstatespine.com.

Debunking Small Business Bankruptcy Myths

salim94Are you a small business owner in financial distress?  Individuals burdened by debt have the option of wiping the slate clean and starting fresh.  It’s a process that’s entirely legal, and it’s available to almost anyone who needs it.  I’m talking, of course, about bankruptcy.

Bankruptcy helps people avoid the kind of permanent discouragement that can prevent them from ever reestablishing themselves as hard-working members of society.

If you’re in financial distress, you may think bankruptcy is The Answer.  However, bankruptcy cannot cure every financial problem.  There are certain things bankruptcy can do, and many things it cannot.

For example, it’s usually not possible to get rid of certain rights of secured creditors.  Although a debtor can force secured creditors to take payments over time in the bankruptcy process, a debtor generally cannot keep the collateral unless the debtor continues to pay the debt.

You won’t be able discharge debts that are incurred after bankruptcy has been filed.

Also, don’t assume that bankruptcy will allow you to discharge debts singled out by the federal bankruptcy statutes for special treatment, such as child support, alimony, some student loans, criminal fines, certain court-ordered payments, and some taxes.

Consider cosigners, too.  Bankruptcy may not protect all cosigners on their debts.  If a relative or friend co-signed a loan which the debtor discharged in bankruptcy, the cosigner may still be obligated to prepay the loan.

However, bankruptcy may make it possible for the financially distressed individual to discharge liability for most or all of their debts.  Once the debt is discharged, the debtor has no further legal obligation to pay the debt.  Bankruptcy can also stop the repossession of a car or other property, or force the creditor to return property even after it has been repossessed.  You may be able to stop foreclosure actions on your home and allow you to catch up on missed payments.

Additionally, bankruptcy may reduce your monthly payments on debts, and stop wage garnishment and other debt collection harassment.

Utilities terminated?  Bankruptcy may help you restore them.

Bankruptcy also gives debtors an opportunity to challenge the claims of certain creditors who have committed fraud or who are otherwise seeking to collect more than they are legally entitled to.

What I’ve provided here is just a brief overview of what bankruptcy can and cannot do.  Before considering this course of action, I strongly suggest that you seek the advice and assistance of an attorney specializing in bankruptcy law.

Stay in the loop.  Follow The Omar Group on Twitter!

Regards,

Salim

No Such Thing as a Wasted Break for Small Business Owners

salim93Our lives, both personally and professionally, can be filled with both positive excitement and stress.  If you’re a small business owner, you’re probably experiencing a lot of both.

You dreamed of and worked hard to own your own business, but perhaps you’re experiencing unexpected levels of pressure as an entrepreneur.

One of the best ways to relieve stress throughout the work day is to give yourself several small physical and/or mental breaks.  It’s easy to dismiss a micro-mini R&R session as wasted time, but it’s actually a savvy strategy for keeping yourself fully charged and functioning at your best.

Here are two simple and effective things you can do during a quick break from which you’ll reap great benefits.  (I promise.  Just be willing to give them a chance.):

MOVE!

–        Take a ten-minute stroll outdoors

–        Do you work from home?  Grab your bike and take a 10 or 20 minute ride.

–        Stand up and stretch.  It may seem obvious, but it works wonders.

BREATHE!

Sit or stand in a relaxed position.  Slowly inhale through your nose, counting to five in your head.  Let the air out from your mouth, counting to eight in your head as your breath leaves your lungs.  Repeat several times.  That’s it!

There’s no end to the many ways you can recharge during a brief pause.  But if you’re pinched for time, remember – moving and breathing can be done anywhere, for any amount of time.

For those of you whose small businesses are in New Jersey, you’ll find a wealth of valuable information in my book Straight Talk About Small Business Success in New Jersey: How to Maximize the Growth, Cash Flow, and Profitability of Your Small Business.

Until next time,

Salim

3 Ways to Get Customers to Spend More

salim90Wouldn’t it be nice if each sale you made in the past month was worth double what you actually took in?  You’d be looking at twice as much revenue, without having to break a sweat working to woo twice as many new customers.

If it’s in your customer’s best interest, then by all means – find a way to persuade them to spend more money with you.  You’ve already got them in the door.

But how?  There are a number of ways to increase the average size of sale per customer.  Here are three:

1. Raise Prices.  Customers are often willing to pay more for something than you think.  Feel unsure about this?  Try it, but tip-toe into it.  Raise prices in small increments – say, 5%, 10% or 20% at a time.  Keep an eye on the results.  Also, keep in mind that most small business owners underprice their products or services.  They try to price similarly to their competitors.  Instead, ask yourself, what are people willing to pay for the kind  of results you’ve given      them?  The market will tell you what  your best price is.  Test your  theories, then track your results.

2. UpSell and Cross-Sell.  Keep an ear to the ground when it comes to your customers’ needs.  At the  same time, be sure you’re offering product lines that meet different kinds of needs.  If you believe a customer can genuinely benefit from the next level of product, don’t be afraid to sell her more than she wants.  Even McDonald’s understands this when they ask, “Would you like to supersize that for just 39 cents more?”  This is  up-selling.

Cross-selling, however, is offering customers the chance to add related items to their basic purchase.  The idea is that these items, together, will increase the customer’s overall level of satisfaction.  Are you offering related products and services that give you the opportunity to cross-sell?  If not, look for suitable complements to your current line of products.

3. Create Packages.  Almost  everyone responds favorably to a “package” deal.  With that in mind, think about your customers’ spending habits.  Are there certain items they often buy together?  If so, use this knowledge to your      advantage.  Package items together  and price them accordingly.  In my      accounting and tax business, I do this by offering service packages for small business owners.  I found that clients who wanted financial statements and tax returns also wanted financial and tax stewardship, estimated tax reminders, etc.  By combining these services, I allow my clients, who enjoy the benefits of these additional services, to spend more money by choosing a higher-priced service package.

How can you bundle your products or services into packages?  What complementary products or services can you offer to up-sell or cross-sell to your customers?  How much will you try increasing your prices?  Come up with an initial strategy you feel comfortable with, and experiment with increasing the average size of sale per customer.  It’s one of the easiest ways to increase profits without hunting down all-new customers.

For those of you with small businesses in New Jersey, you’ll find a wealth of valuable information in my book Straight Talk About Small Business Success in New Jersey: How to Maximize the Growth, Cash Flow, and Profitability of Your Small Business.

Regards,

Salim