• Minority-Owned Businesses Spend More to Win Government Contracts

    source: American Express OPEN

    The payoffs of a government contract for a small business are usually worth all the hard work that goes in to winning one, says Julie Weeks, a global expert on women’s enterprise development. “The government is a steady customer once you break in and understand the rules. They pay more steadily, they provide referrals, and the people you meet can lead to a lot of other business,” she says.

    But federal procurement is a unique market with a big learning curve, which is often even bigger for minority-owned businesses, Weeks’s research shows. And a decline in the federal contracting budget—which is down $35 billion (6 percent) since fiscal year 2009, is making competition fierce.

    Weeks is president and CEO of Womenable, a research, program, and policy development consultancy whose mission is to improve the environment for women-owned businesses worldwide. As an American Express OPEN research advisor, she produces annual reports for the American Express OPEN for Government Contracts

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  • An Entrepreneur Builds a Multimillion Dollar Business with Lego Pieces

    Ranan Lachman, founder and CEO of Pley

    Ranan Lachman says his million-dollar business idea came to him in “one of those moments you realize you’re doing something wrong as a parent.” His mistake? Spending more than $5,000 on Lego toys over the years.

    It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy seeing his son build Super Star Destroyers. “I’m proud of him,” Lachman says. “He drops everything else for two to six hours and can say, ‘look at what I’ve done.’ But then he moves onto something else and you’re stuck with a $400 piece of plastic.”

    Lachman decided it would be more cost effective, as well as environmentally sound, to lease Lego sets and return them when his son tired of them. Of course, no such service existed. So he built one.

    His Lego subscription business, Pley, started small. Lachman invested his own savings to establish an e-commerce website and buy hundreds of new game sets. He began a year ago shipping them to renters from his garage. But what he calls “the Netflix for Legos” has grown 50 percent per month. Now Pley

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  • About two-thirds of nearly 1,000 business owners surveyed recently by Pepperdine University’s Private Capital Markets Project expect to transfer their ownership in the next 10 years. But will those owners be able to sell the fruits of their years of labor for an acceptable amount? Maybe, maybe not.

    The large majority of companies in the U.S. are privately held, and valuing private companies is particularly tricky, because of the difficulty of estimating their future financial performance.

    Investment bankers and business brokers in the Pepperdine survey said that about 1 in 3 of their engagements to sell companies (presumably public and private) terminated without a deal closing last year. The top reason? Investment bankers reported the cause was most often a valuation gap in pricing.

    For business brokers, a valuation gap was tied for the top reason, along with what was described as unreasonable non-price demands by one of the deal parties. In fact, roughly 20 percent of the busted

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  • The trend to mobile e-commerce and Yahoo Live Web Insights

    The future for the majority of our electronic communication and transactions is increasingly mobile. Phone and tablet sales have been eclipsing desktop and even notebook computer sales for several years. And that trend is even stronger outside the US. In some of the world’s most emerging markets in Africa and Asia, the average consumer and small business person never had a computer with wired access to the internet. They went straight to wireless access via a smartphone.

    In a world where we are ever more connected, ever more accessible, the same is true of the small business owner, not just the customer. Yahoo Small Business has launched a mobile app, Yahoo Live Web Insights, that lets small business owners manage their websites on the go. It works with most e-commerce platforms, not just Yahoo Small Business, so anyone can use the app to get connected to their online business.

    What does the app do? Users can view customers on their website, the pages they’re browsing, and products

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  • In the initial stages of any business, there is a chance that you will see very rapid growth in the number of employees that you have. While this can be an exciting time, it can also be very stressful and frightening. Team members might come directly to you for advice and guidance because you have the overall vision about what needs to be done.

    Your first instinct might be to keep them at arm's length, but it is your job to inspire and manage the team. Here are some ways that you can help empower your employees and give them the tools necessary to become the successful individuals that you want them to be. Don't tell them to get off your back -- urge them to join you!

    1. Respect the individual. Each person on your team has their own set of skills and experiences. And if you are a young or first-time entrepreneur, chances are pretty good that you're going to be guiding people who are older than you. Don't see this as a challenge, but an opportunity to use their experience and knowledge

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  • Want to know how to optimize your new CRM setup? Start by finding a stellar CRM administrator on your team.

    Nearly 60% of Salesforce implementations are unsuccessful, always due in some part to an adoption problem. Rolling out a heavy new piece of software involves changing your employees’ processes, behavior and expectations.

    Having an internal champion to shepherd it through can make a substantial difference.

    How do you pick this person? Here’s who it should NOT be:

    • A member of your IT team: While this person is working with a solid piece of technology, your administrator needs to be someone who is familiar with your sales process and your sales team. This role is much more about hand-holding people than coding new fields into Salesforce. So don’t make the mistake of trapping your CRM know-how in the IT department.
    • The entire team: Putting everyone in charge of CRM means that nobody is really in charge. Democratizing Salesforce is a surefire way of ending up with duplicate, outdated
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  • How To Write Email Subject Lines Every Customer Wants to Open


    Writing Email

    With dozens of emails hitting your inbox at 9am, how do you pick which ones to open? A more important question is how your clients and customers — the people whose attention will make or break your business — choose which emails to open. If you want to increase your open rates and deepen your relationships with new and existing customers, you have to focus on the most visible aspect of your email — the subject line.

    To help you with your writing process, try incorporating these three tips into your subject lines:

    Avoid Symbols

    Even if it describes a huge benefit to the reader, don’t include a symbol in the subject line. Why? Because it can earmark your email as spam. A 50% off coupon, for example, is highly likely to get filtered straight out of your recipient’s inbox and into their spam folder. According to business coach Jason Womack, “It’s best to avoid symbols in your subject line, unless you’ve gone back and forth with someone several times, and your risk of being considered

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  • Drama

    Popular expressions, proverbs or sayings said in Spanish are known as dichos. A popular dicho is “guardar el drama para su mama”. Translated that means “save the drama for your mama.” For personal brands, that drama can be a reputation breaker – so save it for something or somewhere you’re not involved with coworkers, employers or customers.

    Recently, I experienced the drama wall. Another vendor and I were working with a customer and both of us were focused on solving an issue for a customer. We were communicating via email which means we didn’t have the benefit of body language or tone to help us decipher a complete context of each other’s message. As our solutions were not reaping the results we had all been hoping for and as the evening waned on, she expressed how late it was, then her emails included a question wondering if we were on the same team, or was I trying to pick a fight, then if I was challenging her intelligence. The communication quickly deteriorated. It was clearly

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  • Eau, Yes

    The man who brought Perrier to America on how to keep the fizz in your business.

    Bruce Nevins is a serial entrepreneur across multiple industries, including beverages, lighting, and athletic apparel. A graduate of West Point and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he launched Perrier in North America in the 1970s and expanded into domestic water through the acquisitions of Calistoga, Poland Springs, and Arrowhead. He also ran Pony Sporting Goods, a competitor to Nike; Napa Naturals, a fruit-based soft drink maker; and, in 2001, cofounded Dutcher Crossing, a winery. He is currently helping build Green Ray, an LED lighting company, and Agile Life, a patient transfer system that safely transfers injured and other bedridden people from their beds to their wheelchairs.

    In 10 words or fewer, what is the big idea behind your business?

    Creating or expanding a product category in the consumer field.

    What is the best advice you've ever received?

    Make sure your projections are

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  • A Cheap Way to Try Out a Customer Loyalty Platform

    The Huzzah Loyalty platform in use at a cafe

    Perhaps you’ve noticed: Customer retention has been a frequent theme of this blog lately. We’ve reported on how customer loyalty programs are slowly gaining traction, about the big data science to keeping your customers, and on how companies have scaled up by focusing on existing customers.

    If your business is a retail shop, restaurant, spa, car wash, or similar consumer-facing merchant, then you already know that you could stand to benefit from getting more of your current customers to come back for more. But in a recent survey, 70 percent of small business owners told Huzzah Media that they simply don’t have the time or resources to improve their online presence, let alone initiate a customer loyalty program or set up a mobile app to keep those customers connected.

    So Huzzah came up with an offer that seems too good to be true. For just $1, the mobile app developer will set you up with a turnkey customer loyalty program. The company is offering to send any small business a

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