Times Are Still Tough For Small Business – What To Do Now?

So, it’s 2011. We’ve wiped the holidays from our eyes and gotten back to the business of the day-to-day challenges of work and life. When we look around us it seems that the general consensus is that things are, in fact, getting better. The stock market has regained much of its previous luster. New jobless claims are lessening. Economists have declared the recession over for months now, and it finally seems that there are some signs to reinforce that position. But, when you talk to the average small business owner they’ll tell you they are hardly out of the woods just yet. In fact, despite the success a lot of larger businesses are demonstrating with solid earnings reports and beating analyst expectations, many smaller businesses are still finding it necessary to make large cuts or even close shop altogether. So, why the dichotomy? What is it about getting out of this recession that has played so well into larger businesses hands and yet has continued to plague so many small businesses? Well, the answer lies in how these respective businesses function. Let’s start with larger businesses:Large businesses, especially those that are public, are concerned with one thing: profits. While this is a big contributor to the negative “faceless corporation” stereotype many attribute to big business, there are upsides. One upside is that it forces large business leaders to utilize the hierarchy they have in place to force the gears of the organization to become more efficient, and moreover to do so as quickly as possible to weather the storm. Sometimes this means layoffs or restructuring, but the end goal, and often the end result, is the same. Quick and decisive action, which can often be painful, but leads to faster recovery and better preparedness for improved economic times when they come.Compare this to the average small or medium-sized business. Many smaller businesses are run by founders or owners who are emotionally tied to the success of their business as well as to their employees. This makes the tough decisions of cuts, restructuring, or strategic realignment much harder. The general mindset in smaller firms is “if we keep doing what we do well, but do it harder/better/faster, we’ll pull through this.” While this may work for some, the sad truth is the nose to the grindstone approach is often not enough, especially in the midst difficult economic climates such as the one we have endured the past three years. Many have followed this philosophy to their own demise. Those that continue to exist are often still hampered by it.This is not to say that small businesses and their management should be ruthless and institute multiple levels of hierarchy to enforce change – quite the contrary. Small businesses’ greatest asset in the marketplace is the ability to get a unified message to every corner of the firm quickly and enact strategic change rapidly. Clearly, a 10 person firm can alter its strategic direction much faster than a 10,000 employee firm. Thus, small businesses are still left with some hard choices, but are also presented with some potentially large rewards.For those small businesses that still need to make cuts or restructure to reach or regain profitability, this is a great time to do so. Unemployment benefits are still very liberally given federally and by most states. Further, the job market is not too bad these days. So, those unfortunate employees who do get let go are far more likely to get a good job quickly now than a year or two ago.For those that don’t require cuts or restructuring, but need some strategic adjustments, this is a wonderful time as well. If the changes require financing or investment, this is a good time with low rates, capital freeing up, and optimism for the near future. Alternatively, if the changes are to be purely internal, most workforces are keenly aware of the difficult times everyone has been through, and there is more appreciation for having a solid paying job now than there has been in generations. As a result, difficult messaging, regardless of how bitter a pill it may be to some, will be better received now than nearly any other time.On top of all of this, is the fact that many small business owners and leaders are closely tied to their business and its employees. As such, it isn’t always clear to them what actions are needed and what ideas for change are coming from the head versus the heart. Consequently, small business consultants are of incredible value these days as the timing for change is very good, but the outlook is not necessarily that clear.Of course, there is always the possibility that things get worse economically. This is why, once again, there is no time like the present for small businesses to take action. Better or worse, getting new strategic messaging across, enacting needed changes, and making strong moves toward profitability is an opportunity that small businesses have now, but is not guaranteed in the future.

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A Brand Review, Anyone?

You’re counting the days. You’re doing things like taking stock, assessing your life, re-evaluating what you’ve accomplished in the last 12 months, and of course, you’re determined to make 2011 the best year ever. Yes/No?!Hurrah. So let me pose two questions: (1) Is taking an Unofficial Review of your Personal Brand on your To Do List in the last few days of December? (2) If you answered no, what’s the chance you’d consider taking a closer look at what you’ve accomplished this year with your brand?Let’s call this conducting an Unofficial Review of your Personal Brand, and see if you can squeeze it in before December 31. It’s bound to tell you where your brand stands. Look at it as an evaluation that will improve your brand’s rating for 2011. Does that sound like something you’d put on your To-Do List Yes/No?OK. Some more questions for you. See how you respond, if you relate to the following options, and how you’d rate your brand in 2010 in this Unofficial Review:1.) In the last 12 months, would you say your personal brand has been: (i) totally irresistible? (ii) awesome but that’s because you believe what your colleagues are telling you? (iii) in need of some serious tweaking?2.) In the past 12 months, have you had unresolved brand issues when it comes to: (i) creating your own power-packed brand? (ii) showing up so your audience can find you, see you and want to engage (ie. work) with you? (iii) not daring to have more fun with your brand?3.) In the past 12 months, have you been craving to find out how you: (i) really stack up in the marketplace? (ii) are going differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack? (iii) can truly create a hugely likable personal brand?4.) In the past 12 months, what’s your gut sense when it comes to your reputation? (i) it’s on the rise? (ii) it’s idling? (iii) it just might need a bit of kick start?If you could respond and relate to the questions (above), now let’s look at the next two steps in the Unofficial Brand Review that will help turn around your personal brand for 2011. Ready?Step 1º IMMERSION PROCESS Get clear on exactly what you want your personal brand to stand for next year. This is about getting a sense of your brand’s inner trajectory. Where do you want to go? Where do you want to land? What do you want to accomplish? Get immersed in your brand’s goals, objectives, strategies, tactics and expected outcomes. Next, make sure you have a process set up so you can evaluate your progress, month by month. (Otherwise, this process is rendered meaningless.)Step 2º REALTY CHECK OR, IN YOUR DREAMS… What message do you want your personal brand to send out to your audience next year? How do you want people to feel about your brand? What powerful clues are you going to embed in your brand that will captivate, engage and attract new audiences and keep them coming back for more? (As I said, this is in your dreams… and note, dreams do come true.)FYI The stronger your brand, the more powerful you are, and the better you can inspire, captivate and engage your audience.The good news After conducting your own Unofficial Brand Review, you’ll find your personal brand will emerge with a clarity and ability to make more meaningful emotional connections in a world with a low attention span. (That is seriously good news.)Remember Your brand is sending out thousands of snippets of dialogue, conversations and clues nonstop, whether you know it or not. Conducting your own Unofficial Brand Review is going to help you turn these around so you can create a more synergistic and congruent brand dialogue that will provoke and captivate your audience.On a final note, a few benefits from conducting your Unofficial Brand Review:• Your personal brand will land a clear spot in the psyche of your target market• Your personal brand will differentiate itself as a desirable client attraction magnet• Your personal brand will create immediate emotional connections with your audience• Your personal brand will create a more highly enhanced personal image• Your personal brand will give you a distinct competitive advantage (with competitors still scratching their heads)Last question Are you willing to add an Unofficial Review of your Personal Brand on your To Do List in the last few days of December Y/N? If you are, let me know what you’ve come up with and how your brand stands up for next year.Is that a deal Y/N?!

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Online Education and Its Benefits

It is less costly.Though education is basically a right, it is a privilege to some. There are those who cannot afford to go to a list of colleges that charge very high university dues. Online schools, on the other hand, do not cost that much and have typically much lower tuition fees. You can even actually increase your savings knowing that online education does not entail you to spend on travel expenses, food, and accommodation. You also do not have to bother yourself spending on textbooks since online college programs usually do not require you to do so. You can simply download all the necessary instruction and learning materials for online classes and lectures.It is more flexible.Attending courses for college through the Web also makes you a very flexible person. It enables you to multitask very easily. It lets you learn at any place and at any time most convenient and appealing to you. If you are currently working, then online education makes a lot of perfect sense.You do not have to be so tied up with your hectic and conflicting class schedules and end up sacrificing your full-time job. You can do away with all the time supposedly spent for commuting and actually being in school. With proper time management and work-life balance, you can obtain your college or university degree while continue supporting your daily needs through your career.All the materials are readily available.Another great advantage of online college programs is that you can ensure that all transcripts and training materials are kept intact and archived. They are all well documented and stored so that you can easily retrieve them through e-mail and university sites opened for viewing, printing, and downloading.It does provide quality education.A lot of people think that they cannot enjoy quality education if they stick with online education. But not all things can be taught and learned in four-walled classrooms. Moreover, established online schools can connect distance learners to the best professors found around the globe. Online instructors are also generally accessible. Top professionals in the research and education field can promptly respond to your questions through e-mail or live discussions.It is non-discriminatory.Online classes you enroll in are also open to the rest of the world. The Internet and its accessibility has paved the way for students from various countries and continents, with different range of lifestyles, cultures, and needs, to converge for one common goal: learn. In fact, through online education, you can gain more friends and understand better one another’s distinct qualities. Online classes teach you how to embrace diversity.Indeed, online education offers more than just the opportunity to ride on with the current wave. It makes learning easy, accessible, and affordable.

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