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Unique Shinning Points, USPs for Your Business in Tough Times

It doesn’t take a downturn in the economy to create problems for your business. Every business has its ups and downs even in booming markets. The question is; Are you and your business well prepared and equipped to face the challenges of a soft or hard economy?

Many entrepreneurs fear the downturn, and dread the prospects of losing their customers, their people or their profit. They reason that if the economy is weak, clients and customers will cut back on projects, stop spending and might even seek cheaper alternatives from the competition.

All of this is true, but only to certain extent. Sure, an economic slowdown and negative consumer sentiment can be challenging for your business. Or on the other hand, it can present you with an opportunity to gain new customers and boost your sales by developing effective strategies that can work best in a declining market, and brilliant for the boom times.

Depending on the industry you are in, there are numerous strategies that you can deploy to maintain and even increase your sales, while your competitors struggle to stay afloat.

The following USPs “Unique Shinning Points”, define measurable objectives and recommend key strategic initiatives that will assist you in steering your business effectively through uncertain economic times, while others struggle to get by:

USP No. 1: Utilize the slow down time to enhance your business’ basics and fundamentals

Like a machine that needs fine-tuning, after a long period of operation, so does your business needs tightening of its knots and bolts, and greasing of its parts so as to stop the squeaks. Start from the top by revisiting and re- enforcing your company’s values, vision and mission. Ensure that your people are motivated to keep the torch of the company’s spirit alight, by demonstrating a clear understanding of the business challenges and by articulating their contribution to uphold the company’s values at all times.

Most importantly, align your company’s objectives and values with your team’s incentives and rewards. Share the information across the whole business so as to allow your people the opportunity to show initiative. Involve your team in problem solving and ask them to come forward with innovative ideas to increase profitability, enhance productivity and reduce costs.

USP No. 2: Out think your competition

Pause for a moment and ask yourself the following question; if what I sell or offer is essentially the same as my competitors, what do I need, to be different and better in many aspects including my level of customer service, my approach to marketing, promotion and sales?

The answer to this question goes beyond creativity and innovation, to positively differentiating your company from your competitors utilizing “thought leadership” with inspiring ingenuity, which will have to become a second nature to you and your business in challenging times. Your ultimate objective is to truly stand out in the minds of your customers by utilizing visionary sales and marketing strategies to create a Unique Shinning Points (USPs) that are exclusive to your company and unique to your industry. In other words, differentiate your company positively from its competitors or die.

USP No. 3: Reactivate old leads

With just little extra sales effort, old leads can be converted into profitable business. Many leads that you gave up on in the past can be reactivated and turned around, you just have to persevere. A study by Harvard School of Business in 2007 revealed that most sales people regardless of the industry give up too early. According to the study, 75 percent of sales to business or clients are made on the fifth sales call, 25 percent of salespeople call beyond three calls!

USP No.4: Give superior level of service to your clients

Holding on to your existing customers during tough times is like holding on to fire in your hand, it is therefore of paramount importance to your business’ survival and longevity. Going the extra mile, pleasing your customers and giving them more than their money’s worth by maintaining a sales- service excellence culture, is a sure way to sustaining the impetus in your business. Now is the time to do that extra bit that can mean the difference between just merely satisfying your customers and flabbergasting – dazzling them.

USP No. 5: Plan and Implement an aggressive new marketing strategy

The truth of the matter is that, to prevent a lull in your business from ever happening in the first place, you should market consistently and aggressively all year long and every week. Not just when you need the business. Planning an ongoing marketing strategy ensures a steady stream of new business leads. Marketing done today begins a selling cycle that will result in new business when you need it six months down the track.

USP No. 6: Add value to your existing products or services

In a downturn, customers are more concerned with price than ever before. So address their concern by making sure you give them the best value for their dollar. There is no need to “give the store” or to provide an excessive level of service. Just a little extra effort or service will be perceived as a significant increase in value by your customers. Utilize technology and social media to drive business growth and in the meantime as an added value to customer service, communication and follow up.

USP No. 7: Be positive and enthusiastic

It is imperative that you stay positive and not to become depressed in slow business periods. If you are depressed, your people and your customers can sense your depression which might have negative effect on your internal and external business. Don’t despair, be enthusiastic, believe in your people, your products and your services, and transfer that energy of enthusiasm and belief to your people and your customers. Don’t give up too soon, remember that you are not alone, because in a downturn everybody in the market place are under the same umbrella and going through the same conditions as you are.

Seek the help of a professional coach and mentor who can assist in addressing your strengths and weaknesses while helping you discover your inner motivation and refocusing your efforts on the big picture

USP No. 8: Suspend any planned price increases

Needless to say that a business downturn is not the ideal time for you to increase your prices, even if you feel you deserve it, and that an increase is long overdue. Rearrange your prices during this transient period of business respite to accommodate a wider range of customers.

USP No. 9: Control negative and incompetent people in your business

Negative people at the best of times can be detrimental to your success. The last thing you need during tough times is a negative or incompetent person that does not “buy-in” to your values and your enterprise culture. Control and handle these situations with courage promptly and swiftly, and remove any one who does not “buy- in” to your business culture, as it takes just one incompetent or negative person to hold back the entire team.

Finally and simply put, in every business cycle, and in every businessman’s life term there are defining moments that require remarkable actions congruent with the task at hand. However, due to the pressures of the challenging moments, business people tend to overlook the big picture. Ensure the right coaching for yourself and your team so that you can focus on “back to basics” and take your team to the next level where everyone in your company is proficient at the basics and the fundamentals. Above all, keep sight of the big picture while defining the best strategies, programs and services that will boost your revenues, position your company for continued success, and most of all, that will truly differentiate your company from the others in your marketplace.

I would like to leave you with this thought from my Mentor, Peter Drucker; ” Don’t tell me what you have learned, tell me how you are going to do things differently”

How to Start an Ice Cream Business – A Simple Guide to Would-Be Entrepreneurs

Starting with a small business is indeed a good idea if you want to venture into being an entrepreneur. However, one of the most common dilemmas of many people is the type of business that you want to start with. If you want to start with something small, putting up an ice cream business may be one of your best choices.

If you are interested in an ice cream business, you can start by learning everything you can about the business. To help you have a good start, here are a few things that you may find useful in learning how to start an ice cream business.

- Decide on your product. Yes, an ice cream business sells ice cream but you have to create a product that can make your ice cream business stand out from the rest. You may want to put some distinguishing style, taste or packaging to your ice cream so you can offer something different to the market. Of course, one very important thing is to decide on a product that people would surely love.

- Research and study your target market. If you want your products to sell, you have to make sure that it is what your target market wants. Of course, putting a product for sale with only very few demands of it may make your business not so lucrative. A simple market research could be of great help especially if you are just starting. Competition is already there and getting into the picture without any preparations can be disastrous to your business.

- Make your business plan. Put into writing everything that you need to carry out for your business. From your budget to your marketing, it is important to put them in one document called your business plan. You also have to put your vision and goals in there to help you set the direction that you would want to bring your business to. Remember that this is one of the very important elements on how to start an ice cream business and make a good start as well.

- Decide on your budget. You can actually make a feasibility study as well and jot down everything you need for you to put up the business. If your financial resources won’t suffice, find ways to raise the needed budget for your business. You can apply for a small business loan, borrow from friends, or you can also opt for partnership in your business where you can share the cost as well as the profit with you partner.

- Plan how to market your business. Marketing is one very important element of any business and if you want to make your business grow, you have to plan and focus on your marketing and find ways on how you can reach out to your target market. If your plan does not work, find other strategies in marketing. Keep abreast of the competition in the industry. This will help you make plans and strategies that will allow you to make your business grow.

These are just a few of the things that you need to keep in mind on how to start an ice cream business. keep in mind though that in any business, there are risks and uncertainties that are involved and you must also prepare to face them as well.

ALL Businesses Need an EXIT Strategy

To suddenly realize you are at the point of wanting to exit your business, without really taking the time to prepare for the sale can be a huge and costly mistake. ALL businesses regardless of their size or type must have a competent EXIT STRATEGY! Some successful entrepreneurs choose their business carefully and plan an exit strategy from day one so when it is time to sell their business, they can make a profit.

Here are 14 various options to operate a business until the end:

1. Pass the business on to a family member

Did you know that more than 65% of family owned businesses do not survive to the second generation? This is why planning ahead is very instrumental. Family members are good starting point when you are looking for potential successors. To consider family in an exit strategy, make sure all intra-familial jealousies and rivalries are resolved since these will undermine any smooth transition and ensure the eventual demise of the company. Don’t just look into your immediate family, choose the best candidate regardless.

2. Sell the business to a partner

A partner typically knows the business the best and will most likely continue to grow and operate the business. When choosing this option, you may have to be flexible with your terms and in some cases even carry seller financing. This should not scare you since you believe in your business and your partner’s ability to continue operating the business successfully.

3. Merge with another company

Rather than selling your business entirely, there is always a possibility of merging with another company in the same business (Horizontal approach) or with your supplier or competitor (Vertical approach).

4. Sell the business to your employee

A current employee knows the business and more likely to preserve the business. To prepare for this, you may start selling shares in your company to your employees. One advantage of this is that regardless of number of shares you sell, you can still run the company as long as you desire even if you are no longer a majority shareholder. There are also tax benefits with this option, since you can defer capital gain taxes if you sell at least 30%.

5. Sell the business to a competitor

This might sound terrifying but when it’s time to sell, selling to a rival might be the best option since they are in the same industry and are aware of the growth potential of your business.

6. Take the business public

Offering company stock to the public is certainly a great wait to raise capital. Your business may need some reorganization before going public.

7. Sell to a qualified buyer

Having a qualified, able, ready and willing buyer who has prior employment or managerial experience is essential to a successful sale. A knowledgeable Business Broker can be invaluable in this process.

8. Sell to your trusted friend

A trusted friend similar to a family member has known you for years and appreciates the time and effort you have put into growing this business and would like to see its continued success and growth.

9. Sell your business to your accountant or lawyer

Both your accountant and lawyer are aware of true facts and figures and assets about the company and can put together a fair deal.

10. Sell your company assets

Rather than selling your business entirely, you may want to restructure and sell portions of your business and its assets.

11. Give your business to a charity and take a tax write-off

This will give you a great degree of personal satisfaction. Please consult with a financial advisor prior to choosing this option to ensure no negative fall-outs.

12. Run the business until the end

If you choose this option you are allowing fate to decide when you should quit.

13. Take a loss on your investment

In some cases, taking a loss on your business and letting it go bankrupt might be the best option.

14. Take on an advisory role

Consider a merger or acquisition that will allow you as the owner of the business to take an advisory role to ensure a smooth transition to a new buyer. Advisory roles offer a company owner a way to exit gracefully when it’s time to retire or due to a sudden illness.

Regardless of which option you choose, never simply just close the doors and walk away. Just remember that even if your company is losing money, YOU CAN STILL SELL YOUR BUSINESS AND MAKE A PROFIT!!!

For additional information, please contact Azi Manoussi, Business Broker at Prudens Business Advisors 310.622.8777 or [email protected]