Keep a Database of Your Small Business Clients

Salim97According to conventional small business wisdom, it’s six times more expensive to attract a new client than it is to retain a current one.

All the more reason to maintain a database of your existing clients.  Why?  Because reselling to existing clients is easier than trying to sell to someone new, and it’s almost always more profitable.

Once you’ve acquired a client, there’s always the opportunity to either:

1)     sell them additional services (what is known as “cross-selling”),  or

2)     sell them a more expensive version of their original purchase (or “up-selling”).

Since you already have a relationship with the client, these activities are easier and more effective than finding and winning new clients.

However, cross-selling and up-selling can be difficult if you’re not keeping track of your current clients.  If you’re not already doing so, commit to collecting client contact information today and keeping it organized in a database.

There exists database software that can help you keep information organized, but some of you may be scared away by the idea of having to purchase, install, and learn how to use new software.  While I believe the investment in money and time is worth it (and many of these programs are user-friendly and quicker to master than you might think), I would rather see you build a low-tech, homegrown database than none at all.  Start collecting client information in a Word or Excel file, or even on paper or index cards if you have to.

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

Regards,

Salim

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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.

Don’t Make Your Customers Work Too Hard

salim96Do you have a retail business?  If so, ask yourself: How easy is it to find things in my store?

Do you have a website?  Ask yourself: How easy is it for visitors to find the information they need? 

Regardless of whether you’re selling products or services, whether in a brick-and-mortar location or online or by mail, ask yourself: When a customer calls my business with a question, how helpful are the folks who answer the phone?  Do you maintain Twitter and Facebook accounts?  Ask yourself: How promptly and thoroughly does my company respond to questions or comments via social media?

One easy way to lift your business head-and-shoulders above the competition is to make it as easy as possible to do business with you.  Some business owners have grown complacent.  Others may be lazy or unimaginative.  For others still, it has simply never occurred to them to do business from the point of view of putting the customer’s needs before their own.  Hard to believe, but it’s true.  This is good news for the growth-minded entrepreneur, because it makes it easy for you to provide a superior customer/client/patient experience.

Countless times, I’ve gone to a particular website and didn’t find the information I needed quickly and easily.  I continue to be shocked by businesses who fail to include a telephone number, or even what city and state they’re in, on their websites.  When information takes too much “clicking around” to find, I typically go back to Google and find another option.

Similarly, when I’m in a retail store that makes it difficult to find what I’m looking for, or makes it impossible for me to find a staff member to answer my question, I tend to go elsewhere.

What potential obstacles stand between your business and your desired customer?  What’s standing in the way of the sale?  Take some time to think about what changes or additions you can make to the way you do business that make it easier for your target market to say “yes” to doing business with you.

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

Your Family Vacation, a Tax Write-Off? Yes, it’s Possible!

salim95Small business owners, did you know you can deduct vacation travel expenses from your small business income tax?  It’s true, and it’s entirely legal, if you go about it the right way.

When many of us travel with our families, we make a point of drawing a distinct line between business time and spending time with those we love.  We get more quality time when we turn off our phones, limit our daily e-mail check-ins, and focus solely on our kids and spouse.

However, if you’re able to devote some limited time to business during your trip, you can save money on your taxes.  For example, you might get your family’s permission to set aside one afternoon without them to meet with a client or prospect.  Alternatively, you might make a side journey to look at some material or resource for your small business.

Provided your trip is documented and clearly linked to helping you build your small business in some way, some of your travel expenses can become business expense deductions.

You’re probably wondering which of your expenses may be deductible.  The list is fairly extensive, but you must be mindful of documenting everything.  For example, you can potentially deduct airline tickets, rental cars, hotel rooms and meals.

Let’s take a closer look at hotel costs.  Suppose you’re attending a business conference and then spending a few extra nights to enjoy time with your family.  The cost of the nights you stayed for the conference would be deductible.  Some of those additional nights could be deductible too, if you were able to substantiate a “business purpose” for them, such as extra meetings with clients or prospects.

But it doesn’t end there.  You may also be able to deduct dry cleaning, gratuities, and costs associated with shipping business materials, as well as 50% of your entertainment expenses.

It’s important to remember, however, that you will only be able to deduct your own expenses – just as if you’d traveled alone.  So for example, you may be able to deduct your own meals, but not the meals of your spouse and children.  (As the business owner, you can deduct 50% of your meal expenses.)

It’s often worth it to plan ahead when taking a family vacation and devise a way to legitimately do some business while you’re away. With simple record-keeping, you can enjoy a healthy deduction of many family vacation expenses from your small business income tax.  Just be sure to document not only the expenses, but also the purpose of the trip.  Keep a log of business activities with dates.

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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

Larry Sternbach of the Monmouth County Division of Workforce Development Speaks at “Business Breakthroughs” Breakfast

Larry Sternbach addresses the group about services the county offers for employers.

Larry Sternbach addresses the group about services the county offers for employers.

Last fall, The Omar Group launched an exciting breakfast event to bring Monmouth County business owners together to meet like-minded entrepreneurs interested in proven strategies to grow their business in 2013 and beyond.   Formerly known as “Grow Your Business Over Breakfast”, the event underwent a name change to the “Business Breakthroughs Monthly Breakfast”.  At each breakfast, an expert speaker presents on a topic such as increasing profits, hiring and recruiting a top-notch staff, and attracting quality customers without breaking the bank.

Salim’s daughter Sana joined him for this month’s breakfast.

Salim’s daughter Sana joined him for this month’s breakfast.

The most recent breakfast took place on June 25, 2013 at the Middletown Pancake House. Salim opened the breakfast with a brief introduction and invited guests to share a little about themselves and their businesses.

The speaker this month was Larry Sternbach. Larry works for the Monmouth County Division of Workforce Development. He spoke about different services both Monmouth County and the State of New Jersey offer for employers and job seekers.

Larry and Salim stop to pose for a quick picture during breakfast.

Larry and Salim stop to pose for a quick picture during breakfast.

In the spirit of Fourth of July, we celebrated both our country’s freedom and business freedom. Special Fourth of July cookies were given out to help kick off the celebration.

Please join us next month! The Business Breakthroughs monthly breakfast will take place on July 24, 2013 at the Middletown Pancake House from 8-9:00 AM. $10 fee includes breakfast.  Space is limited, so place register here.

We look forward to seeing you!

Guests enjoy a delicious breakfast during Larry’s presentation.

Guests enjoy a delicious breakfast during Larry’s presentation.

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