Created on June 26, 2013 Written by CNN Staff Writer Ask a Small Business Expert: Yoon Cannon
Yoon Cannon is an author, motivational business growth keynote speaker and highly sought after business coach. She delivers dynamic, high content, inspiring messages to audiences across the US and internationally. She has helped thousands of business owners and executives rapidly increase sales, productivity and profits. She has served audiences in: B2B, Direct Sales, Healthcare/Bio Tech, Family-Owned Businesses, Franchises, IT Companies, Law Firms, Small Business, Sales Teams and more.
Over the past 20 years Yoon has started 4 successful companies and sold 3 of them. She knows what it takes to attract a steady flow of new clients. Her first business was a marketing company which quickly grew into 6 new branch locations managing 30-80 sales reps on her team. Yoon’s depth of insights as a business growth expert will help your audiences improve results in accelerating their business growth.
1. What is your business background? Over the past 20 years I have started 4 other successful companies and sold 3 of them.
2. What challenges did you have to overcome?
Many. I once put too much trust in one of my managers who ended up stealing my clients and starting her own business losing a value of a quarter million dollars in life cycle value.
3. What advice do you give to startups who are struggling?
a) Define your VALUE – Differentiate your product or service from the competition. Customers purchase b) Troubleshoot the ISSUE – Identify where the gap is in your business.
c) Understand and define your TARGET MARKET – When I coach entrepreneurs with struggling businesses too often their target market is just not specific enough. Many businesses may have several different types of target market.
d) Put up the “bat signal” for HELP – An experienced business coach can serve as your guide and mentor to accelerate turning your business around.
4. How can an entrepreneur choose the right business coach?
A. Make sure the business coach has had experience starting and growing their own successful businesses and not just their current biz of business coaching. A business coach coming from a corporate background doesn’t understand what it’s like to be that entrepreneur who is wearing all the hats. Of course, don’t ever go with a coach who makes you feel “stupid” … there’s a lot if that out there
B. have the business coach present to you a process that makes sense to you that will take them from where you are to where you want to be.
“As a type A personality, it was easy for me to get sucked into the ‘workaholism’ syndrome. 9/11 was a huge wake-up call that shouted the reminder to me that we never know how much time we have left here on earth.”
9/11 inspired me to completely change the business I was in. When 9/11 happened I was running three different businesses at the same time – a large performing arts center, a retail store, and a production company – with 35 people on my payroll.
As a type A personality, it was easy for me to get sucked into the “workaholism” syndrome. 9/11 was a huge wake-up call that shouted the reminder to me that we never know how much time we have left here on earth.
No one ever says on their deathbed that they wished they worked more or achieved more. When we face death and tragedy we all evaluate the relationships in our lives. As a working mother with three children (two at that time), 9/11 inspired me to create instead a lifestyle business, so that my new business could be built around my family which would allow me to be available for them on their schedule. I didn’t want to miss out on enjoying my family and loved ones.
I ended up selling all three of my businesses and started my lifestyle business which is my coaching practice. The majority of my work is virtual, allowing me to be at home in the mornings to see them off to school and available for my kids when they get home at 3pm. I choose how much I want to work each week. I can work anywhere in the world, so when we decide to pick up and travel I can work around that no problem.
My lifestyle business also comes with the added perk of no overhead. I used to have a high maintenance- high overhead 5,000-square-foot building. Plus, my lifestyle business offers me a leveraged business model which allows me to work a fraction of the time while earning 10 times more than the traditional billable hours model.
I think the anniversary of 9/11 each year serves an important reminder for us all to prioritize and cherish investing in the relationships of our family and loved ones.
Yoon Cannon leans on her phone and tablet when she’s on the go. Can you run an entire business from the palm of your hand? Some entrepreneurs are giving it a shot using mobile gadgets
For these early adopters, mobile gadgets like smartphones and tablets don’t just help them do their work—they’re the backbone of the business. Entrepreneurs use them to do everything from ringing up sales to creating pitches and promotional videos to coordinating far-flung employees.
Of course, that kind of extensive setup won’t work for every small business. But looking at how these mobile pioneers do it can give any entrepreneur some ideas about ways they can bring mobile technology into their everyday operations.
Here’s a look at some early adopters and how they’re using mobile devices.
iPads in the Aisles
Montreal-based LXR & Co. sells vintage luxury products—like purses, bags, belts and wallets—from outlets in Beverly Hills, New York and, soon, Toronto. Staffers also go to clients’ homes or hotels to complete deals.
That need for mobility is why the company decided to run its operation with iPhones and iPads. Using a tablet loaded with a cloud-based point-of-sale system from LightSpeed Retail, a member of the sales staff can meet with a customer one on one and “swipe a transaction,” says Fred Mannella, founder and chief executive.
“When we go to clients’ hotel or home and process a $15,000 transaction, it goes fast,” he says. “These people don’t like to wait; when they want it, they want it right away.”
In stores, meanwhile, staffers can use mobile gadgets to complete sales wherever customers happen to be. Managers can also order items for customers that are in the warehouse but not in the store.
Moreover, Mr. Mannella can remotely track sales at his stores. “We get to know—at any given point in the day—when a transaction went through and the volume of sales. It’s made our life so much easier,” Mr. Mannella says.
Downtime? Not Anymore
Yoon Cannon, who runs Paramount Business Coach, in Doylestown, Pa., stores company records on her laptop and prefers to use it when she has a lot to type. But when she’s on the road—which is some 40% of the time—she relies on an iPhone and iPad.
“I’m in the car a lot for both work and family,” Ms. Cannon says. “I have voice-activated apps that read me info I need to review from websites. Voice-activated apps like Dragon Dictate or Siri will also convert my speaking voice to if I need to get out some urgent responses.”
The gadgets also help her manage her five to eight remote employees. A collection of apps like Podio let her organize their email correspondence, oversee projects and give them feedback.
Likewise, she can stay in touch with clients. For instance, she can use Skype to videoconference with them over her phone and let them see what’s on her screen so she can show them information quickly, among other things. She can also record and edit videos from her phone and put together presentations and proposals.
Still, the setup isn’t perfect. Once, an alert reminder went off while she was in the middle of a client call—and kept beeping every few seconds for the rest of the lengthy call. “The other person on the call can’t hear the beeps, but it was really distracting and I couldn’t deactivate” it, she says.
Content on the Run
For Holly Shore,mobile technology makes her business possible.
She writes the bulk of the content for Integrative Mom, her nutrition and lifestyle site for mothers, on her smartphone, as well as taking pictures and uploading them to the site.
“I always have my phone with me and am able to work in any bits of spare time I have throughout the day. I am a very busy home-schooling mom, and do not have the time to sit at a desktop computer for any length of time,” says Ms. Shore, of Austin, Texas. “If it weren’t for my smartphone, I’m not sure my website or blog would exist.”
Using her smartphone, “I can write whenever I’m inspired—which can include at the playground, at the grocery store, or while I’m waiting in my parked car for the napping baby in the back seat to wake up,” Ms. Shore explains.
Of course, “there have been times writing on a desktop or laptop would have been quicker, or maybe a photo could have been placed a little better,” Ms. Shore says. But “if I was confined to a desktop or even a laptop, I would be writing and posting a lot less often.”
*This article was originally published in Fortune magazine Written by Elaine Pofeldt Published on October 31, 2013 @ 10:50 AM EDT
Not all small-business owners intend to stay small forever, but few take the time to map out a strategy for their growth. A recent survey by the National Small Business Association found that most don’t have a new ad or marketing campaign in the works, and one in five has absolutely no growth strategy in place for the coming year.
Instead, many entrepreneurs move toward new opportunities like a plant seeking sunshine, going where the light is most easily found. Some never slow down to consider whether those jobs are profitable, rewarding, or ultimately efficient uses of their time.
The key is not always to think big at the start — it’s to focus. With these tips, you’ll learn how to hone your strategy, cultivate the growth you want, and pay for your build-out safely and wisely.
FOCUS YOUR GROWTH STRATEGY
Even if it means turning away business.
To create a business capable of blossoming for years, you’ll have to prune it from time to time. Working with customers or offering products that can’t achieve healthy profit margins can sap time and stifle growth, says Nat Wasserstein, managing director of Lindenwood Associates, which helps turn around small and midsize businesses. So thin out ventures and customers that bleed your energy.
1. Figure out which services are worth it. Giving clients what they want is important, but it should never be your only criterion for the products or services that you provide.
When architect Bruce Wentworth considered expanding his 12-person company — Wentworth Inc. in Chevy Chase, Md. — he thought about what his firm excelled at: combining transitional-style interior design, which blends modern and traditional finishes, with detail-oriented construction. And he discovered there isn’t enough profit in projects below $50,000. “By the time we get involved in design, construction drawings, pricing, and permits, it’s not the most efficient use of time,” he says. The firm’s sweet spot is in the mid- to high-end market — kitchen remodeling, for instance, ranging from $70,000 to more than $300,000.
2. Rank your customers by their “value.” Pay attention to the quality of your clients: Are they high or low profit? Are they high or low maintenance? “You want to retain those customers who represent your highest profit margin,” says Yoon Cannon, founder of Paramount Business Coach, a small-business consulting firm in Pennsylvania. Even better: Find ways to cultivate more business from those clients.
Start by calculating the “value” of each customer, according to what they bring in annual profits, revenue, and effort. Then rank them, and focus like a laser on the top 20%.
3. Prioritize potential clients too. In 2008, Harry and Barb Haagen, who run a house-painting company with six employees, began to worry when sales dipped by more than 10% in the economic downturn.
The couple, from Doylestown, Pa., came up with a counterintuitive fix: They looked for ways that they could winnow the business even more. Harry recognized his strength was in craftsmanship, not low-cost jobs. So Barb, who handles the phones, began screening callers. To those interested only in price, she explained the added value Harry provides. If that didn’t hook them, she moved on, freeing up time to focus on customers willing to pay for premium services. The strategy has paid off: Sales are up 15% this year.
ATTRACT THE GROWTH YOU SEEK
Use the follwoing growth strategy to target clients.
Digital marketing can be a cost-effective way to stand out. Yet a recent survey found that few small-business owners think that using social media (11%) or search engine optimization (6%) is that useful. Don’t let such opportunities go to waste.
Follow the growth strategy checklist checklist:
Choose the right platform. Everyone uses Google AdWords to advertise online, but that can be pricey. The average cost per click in the business category was recently $1.98, according to a study by Adgooroo. For a cheaper alternative (91¢), try the Yahoo Bing Network.
It’s no bit player. Yahoo Bing accounts for nearly a third of all online search in the U.S. And while Google generally delivers more ad impressions, Adgooroo found that the lead is not that great in four of six major categories: business, computers, education, and travel. In finance Yahoo Bing actually leads. Yet costs per click were 23% to 63% cheaper. For B2B firms, LinkedIn is another cost-effective ad platform.
Select the right words. Seeking to grab customers using search engines to find businesses like yours? Incorporate growth strategically throughout your site words customers are apt to look up, says Heather Lutze, CEO of Findability Consulting & Speaking in Denver.
One way Jeb Brooks, CEO of the Brooks Group, a sales training firm in Greensboro, N.C., identifies those words is simple: He asks clients when he meets them. One recent post on his blog was called “The Value of Public Sales Training: Getting Coaching and Ideas From Outside Your Industry.”
Pick the right crowd. Social media is all about finding the right fit. Offer visually oriented services or products? Then Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are good places to hang out, says Evan Bailyn, author of Outsmarting Social Media. Interested in B2B? Then use LinkedIn and SlideShare.net, which let you introduce yourself to clients through posted research and presentations.
Stand out visually. Use some of your Facebook budget to create videos, says Ben Landers, CEO of digital-marketing firm Blue Corona. Research by the social media firm Zuum found that videos were shared 11% of the time, vs. less than 3% for status updates and under 7% for photos.
Track your results. More than half of all small-business owners fail to measure the results of their marketing efforts. So they don’t see what’s working and what’s not.
Yet for just $200, Landers notes, you can hire a developer to customize the free Google Analytics program for you to identify the precise channel through which each visitor came to your website.
FINANCE YOUR GROWTH WISELY
Be relentless when it comes to preserving your cash.
If you grow faster than planned, even a momentary cash crunch can have a lasting effect. “Not stocking enough cash is probably why the majority of firms go out of business,” says Bill Klein, president of Consero Global, a financial consulting and outsourcing firm that works with small and midsize companies.
To avoid a cash crunch, take a page from SpareFoot, an online search firm based in Austin that is trying to become the Hotels.com for self-storage space.
1. Monitor your cash flow maniacally. Part of making your firm attractive to a lender down the road is ensuring that there aren’t wide gaps between money flowing in and out. At SpareFoot, owners check their cash flow statement every day.
Then they do something rather unusual: They let all of the company’s 88 employees look at those financial reports too, says CFO Lucas Walters. That way, when it comes to spending decisions, “everyone on the team is rowing in the same direction” — and focused on savings, he says.
John Egan, editor-in-chief of SpareFoot’s website, agrees. “Because we know the financial situation and feel like we have a stake in it, we are careful with how we spend our money,” he explains. “If I have to book a plane ticket, I’ll look for the best deal. Why wouldn’t I?”
2. Keep staffing costs as low as possible. Since labor is one of your biggest expenses, maintaining tight cost controls over your payroll will go a long way toward protecting your cash. Sure, you can always hire full-time staffers now and lay them off down the road should business slow. But that approach can get expensive, says Jaime Klein, president of Inspire Human Resources.
SpareFoot’s owners avoided this by relying when they could on temporary workers and by outsourcing early on. When the company did need to add permanent employees, it tried them out for 90 days — without benefits — before committing.
Today, as SpareFoot plans to increase its workforce to 96 by year-end, “we still evaluate every position to determine what solution makes sense, including outsourcing,” says Walters, who himself started out as an outsourced CFO for the firm before joining permanently later on.
3. Line up financing before you expand. The time to position yourself for a low-interest bank loan isn’t when you’re running out of money and struggling, says Klein of Consero Global. Obtaining credit is a lot like landing new customers. You have to invest time and effort to build a real relationship with potential lenders — and you have to cast a wide net.
SpareFoot’s owners did just that. They kept deposits in several local banks for years knowing that they’d eventually need financing for expansion. That day came in 2012, when the firm required a seven-figure loan to pay for two acquisitions (one of which it did not complete). By maintaining relationships with lenders for years, says Walters, “we got the loan on more favorable terms than we could have otherwise.”
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▶ Share a quick story of a homeowner who ended up hiring you to fix someone else’s mistake. What was the sloppy mistake they made that you were hired to fix and what are 1-3 things homeowners can look for to help them choose the right contractor? Any extra feedback will also be of use.
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Yoon Cannon~ Create a business that sets you free Founder, ParamountBusinessCoach.com Host, Biz Growth Doctors Show Yoon (at) ParamountBusinessCoach.com