Your New Year’s Resolution for Your Business

I had someone ask me today about their business, “If I could do one thing better, what would it be?”.  As a business consultant, I am frequently asked some version of this question, but today it got me thinking that the start of a new year is probably a great time to pass along one of the answers to that question that I give to everyone who asks it of me.  Are you ready?  Here it comes!

Resolve for 2011 to fully embrace technology and to completely integrate it thoughout every aspect of your business; from your marketing, to how you work with and interact with clients and staff, to how you manage your administrative tasks and actually operate your business, etc.

What I mean by this is:  integrate and take advantage of all the benefits that today’s technologies have to offer, including:  webinars and other types of virtual events (including virtual environment events), social media, mobile technology (and I don’t just mean mobile marketing), cloud computing software options, and any other type of technology that will help you increase efficiency, productivity, and profitability. 

Those that don’t choose to embrace technology will be left behind very quickly because 2011, I believe, will be a ‘game-changing’ year for how business is being conducted.  If you continue to do business as you always have, you will very quickly become irrelevant.

Think about your business in a new way, for example:

  • could mobile technology enable your customers to order and pay for your products or services via their cell phone?
  • can you use social media to interact with your customers and potential customers on a more in-depth level so you can be certain you’re providing the products and services they need?
  • will location-based technologies enable you to more effectively target potential customers?
  • can you make your field staff more productive by dispatching them with tools provided by GPS mobile technology?
  • can you get more immediate response to special offers by sending them directly to your existing customers via their cell phones?
  • can cloud-computing technology allow you to access information from wherever you are as long as you have some sort of mobile computing device or a computer available?
  • can you be more available to your staff for those decisions only you can make if you’ve embraced the use of a SmartPhone or tablet device?
  • can you cut down on travel costs, and yet increase the number of people that you can effectively interact with to present your products or services by engaging in virtual sales and training programs?
  • can bluetooth or QR code mobile technologies help your firm in the manufacturing or supply chain processes?
  • can mobile marketing technologies make your marketing more effective?
  • can mobile technology help you increase the viability of the leads you receive at the next trade show you participate in?
  • can participating in virtual trade shows help you decrease travel costs for your staff, and the ‘down time’ that results from that travel, while increasing the number of viable leads you receive?
  • could social media, mobile and virtual technology increase your ability to recruit new employees with higher rates of effectiveness?

So far, I’ve not found one business that I’ve spoken with or worked with that would not be positively impacted by increased integration of technology in their business.  Given that, I now challenge you to consider how technology can help to improve your business – and as a result, your life.  If you would like some assistance in evaluating your business and the options available to you, please contact us, Strategic Growth Concepts is here to help!

Here’s to increased efficiency, productivity and profitability in 2011!

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Very interesting article on a related topic on TechCrunch; click here to read, ‘Seven Technologies That Will Rock 2011’

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The author, Linda Daichendt, is Founder, CEO and Managing Consultant for Strategic Growth Concepts, a marketing / management consulting firm focused on start-up, small and mid-sized businesses.  Areas of specialization include:  mobile technology optimization and marketing for increased productivity and profitability, social media marketing, and virtual events production.  Linda is a recognized small business expert with 20+ years of experience in a wide variety of industries.  She is also the Founder of the Mobile Technology Association of Michigan, a mobile industry trade association, and the Co-founder of Mobile Monday Michigan, a mobile industry networking and education organization.

Linda is available for consultation, and can be contacted at Linda@StrategicGrowthConcepts.com.  The company website can be viewed at www.StrategicGrowthConcepts.com

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It’s Time to Register For ACE ‘11 (Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship)

The Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship is the place where Great Lakes region entrepreneurs gather to network, learn, and connect. Each year at ACE you’ll join an exciting, forward-thinking community of innovators, entrepreneurs, and business leaders – people like you who have the vision and drive to build new ventures for a new future. 

2011 will be the eleventh year for ACE! Each year the event gets bigger and better.  With more space at Ann Arbor’s Skyline High School, we will be showcasing more companies than ever, and will have more participation from regional support organizations. Combined with the anticipated 1200+ attendees, this year’s event will deliver extraordinary value, learning and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs, funding sources and partners alike. 

Program Includes:

  • A Showcase Presentation by Chuck Newman – CEO of ReCellular
  • The ACE Elevator Pitch Competition: Six pitches, judged by an investor panel with the winner recognized
  • Four Interactive Workshops With Enough Time to Attend Multiple Sessions: What Came First: Innovation or Opportunity?  Ask the Expert Where You Can Raise Your Own Questions.  The Entrepreneurs Search for Funding. From Idea to Business.
  • Exhibit Hall with Entrepreneurial Company Displays 
  • Presentation of Great Lakes Entrepreneur’s Quest Awards
  • Refreshments and Networking 

Where: Skyline High School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 

When: 2:00 – 9:00 p.m. , January 31, 2011

Cost: $11 with pre-registration 

For more info: www.ace-event.org

Follow us: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn 

NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey for Kids and Provides Fun Activities While They Wait for His Arrival

The NORAD Santa Tracker is set to mark the occasion of Santa’s 2010 arrival using all the latest tech gadgets – including Twitter, Facebook, Cell Phones and Google Earth – to track the movements of our universal gift bearer as he moves across the face of the planet to bring us our Christmas presents!

With its countdown clock already ticking, preparations for this year are in place for kids of all ages to enjoy watching as Santa’s elves get things rolling at Santa’s Village.

The NORAD Santa website also offers games and other fun stuff, along with updates and ideas for fun this holiday season!

NORAD, which stands for North American Aerospace Defense Command, has been offering the Santa Tracker for over 50 years now, starting in 1955. According to their website, the tradition began after a Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement offering a telephone number for children to call Santa misprinted the number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations “hotline.”

The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Then children who called were given updates on his location. A tradition was born!

Visit the NORAD Santa Tracker website to keep track of Santa Claus this year!

Below is a video about the NORAD Tracks Santa event from 2009!

NORAD has also provided an audio recording of the famous letter from a child named Virginia wanting to know if there really is a Santa Claus, and the answer she received in response from the newspaper editor.

And, proving there are lots of ways to have fun – besides spending money on gifts – here are some other ways having fun this Christmas while you and your kids wait for Santa.

Go here to check out some of the most beautiful Christmas computer wallpaper we’ve seen for 2010, along with tons of other choices of wallpaper of every kind.

Of course, there are online Christmas games to play, and connect-the-dot printouts for children to color in, and puzzles to complete while they’re waiting for Santa to make his appearance. Go here to get a nice collection of choices!

Go here for some fun and easy activities! Go here for even more ideas, including Christmas cards that can be printed out, and here for coloring pages!

So pull out the cocoa and cookies, gather the kids, and start following Santa on his journey to your house! Merry Christmas!

SBA Unveils New Website and Launches SBA Direct – A New Tool Delivering Personalized and Targeted Resources

WASHINGTON – As part of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s mission to ensure that small business owners and entrepreneurs have access to accurate, timely and helpful information, SBA Administrator Karen Mills today unveiled a newly re-designed SBA website. The new site also features the launch of SBA Direct, a dynamic new web tool with a variety of personalization features that will help small businesses start-up, succeed and grow.

“With the launch of the new SBA.gov, we have reached a significant milestone in how the agency has evolved in using interactive web tools, social media and blogs to engage with, and better meet the needs of small business owners,” said SBA Administrator, Karen Mills. “While the SBA website has traditionally been an information-rich site, we wanted to make it easier for small business owners to navigate. With the new improved SBA.gov, business owners can access the answers they need, specific to their business profile, in an instant – it truly presents the face of the future of SBA.”

While the site features a variety of enhancements including a full re-design, new content, and improved navigation, the centerpiece is a dynamic new web tool called SBA Direct. 

SBA Direct allows visitors to personalize their browsing experience according to their business type, geography and needs.  SBA Direct then delivers relevant and targeted information on all aspects of running a business such as the steps involved in getting started, business growth strategies, and how to stay compliant with current laws and regulations. SBA Direct also provides information on the available SBA programs that can help businesses succeed, such as financial assistance, exporting and government contracting opportunities, counseling and training.

 “Transforming the SBA into a proactive, responsive and ‘customer-centric’ organization that better serves the needs of the nation’s more than 29 million small businesses is an exciting, yet enormous effort,” said Mills.  “We’ve made significant progress, and the new SBA.gov is just one example among many, including record growth capital financing, expedited loan approvals and the acceleration of disaster assistance resources and funds of how SBA has, and will continue to support the growth of small businesses and job creation.”

Other new features to the web site include:

  • SBA’s small business search that improves the accuracy and relevancy of search results —saving time and frustration.
  • Improved navigation that gives users one-click access to the information they need. Combined with the personalization features of SBA Direct, users no longer have to mine through pages of information to find answers.
  • Integration of Business.gov content including a variety of guides and tools that collate information from across government agencies to help business owners comply with laws and regulations, and take advantage of government programs.
  • Interactive location-based maps that allow users to quickly find small business resources in their area, including local SBA offices, and other sources of training and support.
  • User-rated content gives visitors to the site direct control in determining the most useful and relevant information to feature by small business topic.

SBA’s commitment to using web services to provide small businesses with greater access to the pool of government resources available began in 2006 with the launch of the award-winning Business.gov website, and later with the Business.gov Community initiative in 2009 (the first government-sponsored online community built specifically for small businesses), and more recently with SBA’s own social media presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

The new SBA.gov built on these achievements and best practices as a driver for its transformation.  The project is also a flagship for the agency’s Open Government Plan, with the goal of building an online presence for SBA that is transparent, participatory and collaborative.

Small Business Health Care Tax Credit Information

Below is a recently issued letter from SBA Administrator, Karen Mills, regarding the new Health Care Tax Credit for small businesses.  This letter provides information about claiming the tax credit and answers questions about the Affordable Care Act for small businesses.

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SUBJECT: One Page Form for Health Care Tax Credit for Small Businesses

December 2, 2010
Dear Small Business Owner,

As I’ve traveled the country this year, I have heard from many of you who are looking forward to the new tax credits, health insurance exchanges, and other tools that will help you provide health insurance coverage to your employees as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

The most immediate benefit of the new law is a tax credit that will help America’s smallest employers and nonprofit organizations (less than 25 full-time equivalent employees with average annual wages below $50,000) who have been hit hardest by premium increases in recent years.  Today, I’m pleased to announce that the Administration is releasing a one-page form and instructions (available at http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=231928,00.html?portlet=7) on how to claim this credit for the 2010 tax year.   In addition, new guidance released today answers questions that many of you have asked related to: your current contribution arrangements, eligibility for certain religious institutions, and participation by multiemployer health and welfare plans. In each case, the Administration has worked to ensure that a broad range of small businesses can qualify.

These credits are available for tax years 2010 through 2013 and for any two years after that.  Through 2013, the maximum tax credit is 35 percent of premiums paid by small employers and 25 percent for eligible tax-exempt organizations.  Beginning in 2014, those levels increase to 50 percent and 35 percent, respectively.  Importantly, these credits are just one of many benefits in the Affordable Care Act.  Most notably, in 2014, firms with up to 100 workers will be able to pool their buying power and reduce their administrative costs by purchasing coverage through a health insurance exchange.

Finally, the new law strengthens America’s entrepreneurial spirit, overall.  For example, it outlaws discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions, giving more Americans the ability to break out of “job lock” and start their own companies.  The new law also prohibits insurance companies from dramatically increasing premiums for a small business just because one worker gets sick.

Overall, the Affordable Care Act is a critical tool that will help millions of small business owners provide health insurance to people who you often consider to be members of your extended family – your employees.  As a nation, we owe you nothing less as you work to grow, create jobs, and lead us toward full economic recovery.

Warm regards,
Karen Mills
SBA Administrator