Lessons for the Small Business from Avatar: Trends and Growth Lead to Change, a Closed Mind May Lead to Failure

ShowAs the story line unfolds, there are those who insist on doing things the way they have always been done. Closed minds lead to the inability to see possibilities. These individuals are incapable of seeing past the norm and accepting anything different.

As in most story lines, there is the other side. There are those who seek to understand, and are willing to open their minds to new possibilities. They are willing to consider something other than the norm.

How does that apply to the business world?

Building something from the ground up can have an emotional impact on individuals. When a business owner struggles to bring an idea into reality, they can fall in love with that creation. As the business fulfills the needs of a family, putting food on the table and sending the kids to school, a bond is established. That bond, between the creator and the created, is easy to see but difficult to break.

In some cases, it is a sad fact that a business will go under, due to the lack of an open mind and a willingness to accept change. Accepting change can become easier, if the creator of the business is willing to see the creation as something that can grow and change as needed.

While small business trends tend to change from year to year, it is a good idea to stay on top of the current issues which small business owners may face. Subscribing to Business Growth Trends will allow for access to this type of information. Along with information concerning business trends; this website also includes information on business resources and financial information.

Below are a few ways to help establish an open mind and ensure a better a transition toward growth and new industry trends.

Attend Trade Shows

Stay on top of the newest trends in the industry. Attend trade shows and conventions. This a great way to discover what others are doing, and learn more about new technology that may be making an impact on a particular customer market.

Read and Subscribe

Subscribe to magazines and other trade publications. Don’t stop there, locate the most popular websites within a trade industry and register to receive updates. This allows for information to flow into the business on a daily basis.

Join Associations

Opening a business is just the beginning. As the world changes, so does the technology within the business world. By joining associations and organizations that are dedicated to certain industries, a business owner is more likely to learn about the newest and hottest trends.

Continue to Learn

It is important to realize that as technology and knowledge increase, the business owner must keep up. Make education within your field a priority. According to Connie Podesta, many choose not to change out of fear. Reading her article, Why Accepting Change is Vital to Your Professional Success. can be a step toward having an open mind.

Bring New Ideas and Services to Customers

By putting a company at the front line of new products and services, a business owner is able to increase the value offered to customers. Customer loyalty and confidence can be built when new advancements in a business, create a greater perceived value.

Be Willing to Educate

Although new ideas and new ways of doing things are easier to accept for some people, there are those that have difficulty accepting change. Take the time to educate your customers about the reason for any changes. Allow them to voice their concerns or uneasiness, while reassuring them that the business has not changed, only the way some things are done.

Have an Attitude of Growth

With new trends, and cutting edge technology, may come some very expensive changes. An attitude of growth will allow a professional to see beyond the current customer base and recognize the needs of the community. There are always ways to improve. Reach out to the community, letting people know about the positive changes made and how they may be served by them.

Accept Change with an Open Mind

Having a closed mind does not allow for personal growth, or the acceptance of change. Looking beyond today and into tomorrow will allow for any needed changes. Competition can be difficult, economic downturns are not easy, but there is always room for an open mind.

Evaluate Business Trends Today

Take the time to evaluate the business as it is today. The evaluation process will be different for every field of interest. However there are a few steps that can lead to being better prepared.

  • What changes have come within this field and how have they impacted the business as a whole?
  • What changes can be seen on the horizon?
  • Will the changes make an old system obsolete?
  • Will the changes create new opportunities and a new customer base?
  • What type of education will be needed to stay on top of the changes that are coming?
  • Will the business be able to survive without incorporating the changes that are coming?
  • If so, how will it impact the business as a whole?

Change does Come

As the movie Avatar points out, changes do come. How a business deals with change and the impact, will have a lot to do with the survival of that business. Although survival may be important, economic stability is extremely important. A business that is merely surviving may be a business that needs to evaluate where it stands.

Owning a business can be a great experience. A successful business will continue to grow with the trends. The way it has always been done, may not always be the answer to growth. Look to the future, with an open mind and willingness to learn and grow.

Business Ideas: Hobby Services: Service Industry Business Ideas

YogaIn today’s marketplace, convenience is key. Consumers want what they need, when they need it, without having to rearrange their busy schedules to get it done. That’s partially why service businesses are always in hot demand – if they can find a niche market and then serve it well.

What follows is a list of some service industry business ideas that will get your creative juices flowing while providing you with several opportunities to explore, brainstorm and research further to see if one of these business ideas is the perfect entrepreneurial venture for you.

Business Idea: Searching for Collectibles and Antiques

This is a highly specialized niche market, but for the right collector, it’s a business idea that can provide great financial rewards. For those who already have a specific hobby they are passionate about collecting – such as stamps, paintings, comic books, dolls and antique scales – opening up a service business that caters to similarly inclined shoppers may be a logical step. Continue doing what you normally do to find the items you collect (garage sale hopping, flea markets, eBay) but instead of merely looking for yourself, look for your clients, too. Finding clients isn’t that challenging either, as you’ll probably already know where people with similar interests spend their time: reading collectors magazines, in the eBay forums, searching the Internet and in flea markets themselves.

Business Idea: Cleaning Golf Clubs

If you are already an avid golfer, then you know how important it is to keep your golf clubs clean. Yet, how often to you actually make the time to keep them in tip top shape? That’s where a golf club cleaning service can step in. By giving clients a very specific service – cleaning their golf clubs – while they get changed after a game or at any other time that is convenient to them – you are saving them time, energy and probably the cost of a new set of clubs after their poorly maintained ones have rusted, pitted or become discolored with use.

Business Idea: Yoga, Pilates or Self-Defense Instructor

Although the services are quite different, the intention is the same: offer clients a way to get into shape or defend themselves by showing and guiding them in ways to take control of their bodies and minds. Your schedule should be somewhat flexible for these types of business ideas, since your intended audience will likely require classes at varying times, and you’ll need to take some intensive training before teaching anything at all. But once you’ve completed those necessary steps, contact either other instructors in town to ask them how and where they began teaching, or make a call to your local recreation center and find out what you’ll need to do to use their facilities for a course.

Business Idea: Seamstress

For those who already love to sew and have all of the necessary items in place, starting a sewing business is quite straightforward. Put up some flyers around town announcing your services, contact local tailors and dry cleaning companies to let them know you’ll work with for them as a contractor, and get a cell phone that is only used for work purposes. Then, create a list of set prices for all different kinds of sewing needs such as hemming, repairs or creating a prom dress from scratch. Before you know it, your phone will be ringing off the hook.

Business Idea: Personal Chef

There are as many opportunities for providing cooking services to clients in your community as there are types of cuisine to choose from. Elderly clients may want someone to come into their home and cook for them, and young families overloaded with responsibilities may cherish a couple of hours of cooking time off from a pro. Expecting parents may like to sit down with a chef to work out meals they can prepare in advance and freeze for when the baby comes, and busy singles who travel often may lust after a home-cooked meal. You could even teach a specific kind of cooking that normally takes a bit to master, right in the intended chef’s home. How’s that for convenience?

Jody Kriss, Embattled Real Estate Developer, Has One Lawsuit (Of Many) Dropped Against Him

It has been over three years since a real estate development consultant accused former business partner Jody Kriss of utilizing mob tactics to put his life in danger. Last week, developer turned Mob informant Sal Lauria withdrew a $5 million lawsuit against Kriss, stating that he wished to move on with his life and distance himself from the scrutiny brought on by connections with President Donald Trump.
Salvatore Lauria, who worked for the Bayrock Group several years ago, sued East River Partners principal Jody Kriss for allegedly putting his life in harm’s way with persistent legal suits against Bayrock themselves. Bayrock Group worked on several Trump-branded developments, including the Trump International in Fort Lauderdale and the Trump SoHo in New York City.
In the lawsuit, Jody Kriss was accused of illegally handing over sealed government files to a lawyer representing mob members who Lauria assisted with putting behind bars. Allegedly, this led to a Mafia member assaulting Lauria in the middle of the day at a restaurant in Brooklyn. According to the lawsuit, the Mafia member then threatened Lauria’s life.
Regardless of these accusations against Jody Kriss, Lauria did not actively pursue this case in court. In March 2016, Erika Edwards, Supreme Court Judge for the state of New York, requested Lauria to respond to discovery requests by April 3, and then to appear for a deposition the following month. On the deadline day, Lauria changed attorneys, filing for extensions on both the deposition and discovery requests.
In an affidavit, Lauria told the courts that he did not wish to further pursue the suit, as the pain Jody Kriss had caused had faded. Salvatore Lauria added that he felt vindicated, as two frivolous lawsuits Jody Kriss had filed against him and hundreds of others (including President Donald Trump) had been dismissed from the courts with prejudice.
“When this action was commenced in 2014, the physical and emotional pain that I was feeling due to the actions of Mr. Kriss was fresher in my mind, and my desire to hold him accountable was stronger than it is now,” Lauria wrote. “My desire to hold him accountable is no longer strong enough to justify the continuing expense and other problems… that continued litigation would entail.”
Lauria also stated that he wished to distance himself from media scrutiny that was amplified by the election of Donald Trump.
Jody Kriss denied Lauria’s claims, stating that the lawsuit’s purpose was only to further damage his spotted reputation, which includes involvement in billion dollar legal suits, a case of child endangerment, unlawful tenant eviction, and potential involvement in a real estate scam led by former NBA star Tate George. Kriss has been accused on multiple occasions of using his affiliations to President Donald Trump to persuade sales and potentially commit fraud.
There have even been allegations of Kriss having connections to the Russian Mafia, and funneling Mafia money through East River Partners to use in real estate transactions. As written in Georgia Today in June 2016:
Kriss’ current financial backing must come from other sources, which, in turn, poses the question that journalists and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and other countries are trying to answer.

Playing to Your Strengths: How to Make the Most of Your Talent

strYou’re told to play to your strengths, but what are they and how do you do it? Many people are not fully aware of their strengths. When people get feedback about a strength, they often look surprised. They say it is just their job or they ask “Doesn’t everybody do that?” This shows that we discount the things we find easy to do or enjoy doing. Then we assume that everyone can do them. This is poor self-perception if you are overly aware of one or two weaknesses but unaware of your core strengths.

Strong self-confidence is the most important benefit of changing this imbalance so that we are more aware of our strengths. Confidence is our number one strength. Without confidence, we struggle to make full use of our strengths. When we are under pressure, we revert to our natural selves, but if we lack confidence, we freeze and cannot perform. Think of a golfer, baseball pitcher or tennis player who has an abundance of talent but who has lost confidence. These otherwise excellent performers can’t do their stuff if their confidence is lacking.

How to Assess Your Strengths

The first step in assessing your strengths is to determine which ones are most important in your role and your line of work. These are your strategic strengths, the ones most critical for success in your current job or next one. When you have a list of core competencies for the role, list them in order of strength for you from top to bottom. Ask yourself which ones you enjoy using the most and find easiest to use. This is a good way of identifying what you are good at. You could rate yourself on a five point scale for each competency but you might be tempted to give yourself overly high or low scores across the board. It is harder but more accurate to rank order them in a list. If you have some colleagues who know you well and are willing to give you honest feedback, ask them to do the same for you. Keep in mind, however, that they may not know you well enough to assess you accurately. Ask your boss to rate you too. You might include a few blank spaces for your raters to add extra competencies. It also helps to have questions on your feedback form where you ask people to list three things they would like you to start doing, three to stop doing and three to do more of.

How to Play to Your Strengths

If you are a manager whose strengths revolve around product development but you don’t like managing people, then you may simply have to set up a personal development plan for this area. However, if you have weaknesses in budgeting, planning, innovation or strategic thinking, you could delegate some of these tasks. You might cover off innovation and strategic thinking by brainstorming future possibilities with your team. The point is to apply the 80-20 rule. You should spend 80 percent of your time making use of your key strengths. This is just wise investment strategy. You need to invest your resources where you will get the best return.

Cutting Business Expenses in a Hurry: How to Achieve Fast Short Term Cost Reductions in a Company

reductionsWhen a company is having a problem with a drop in sales, or a cash shortfall, management needs to find real reductions in expense. Many strategies will work in a number of industries.

Reducing Salary Cost

In many industries, salary and benefits are major components of expense, up to 80% of total cost of business in some sectors. A reduction in work force (RIF) can reduce cost, but generally takes time to take effect. There can be the immediate cost of severance, outplacement assistance or benefits that delay savings.

A better short term effect is the reduction of hours from full to part time, or cutting the work day, for example from eight hours a day to seven. Lunches can be expanded in order to maintain coverage.

Reducing overtime is a key strategy for immediate savings. Hourly employees, especially those on time clocks can earn incidental overtime, loosely defined as extra tenths or quarters of an hour by clocking in early or out late.

Any kind outside labor, or contract labor should be reviewed. Companies pay a premium for contract labor, and unless the contract stipulates a certain number of hours, these hours can be reduced quickly in a crisis.

Some industries utilize bonuses for coverage or payments for employees to be on-call. These should always be watched closely, and if not needed, can be cut first.

Position controls are listings of employees and positions listing the scheduled hours for an employee. If a position control exists, management should compare the actual worked hours to what is scheduled. They may find that some part-time employees are working full time hours.

Cutting Supply Expense

Another large area of cost in many companies is supply expense. During a major downturn, businesses can save cash by spending down inventories of supplies.

If an item is recognized as inventory on the balance sheet, cutting into inventory will not result in an expense saving, since this will just reduce an asset the next time supplies are inventoried. It will save cash, however, and this generally the most important goal.

If the supply is expensed when purchased, using up excess stock will reduce both general ledger expense and cash outflow.

Reducing Other Expenses

Short-term savings can be achieved by cutting other non-necessary items:

  • Purchased Services – Anything that is bought from vendors outside the company should be questioned. If an service can be brought inhouse using current staff, employees are better utilized and expenses reduced.
  • Travel and Seminar Expense – Cutting education may be a negative in the long run, but surviving to make the long run may require cutbacks. Alternatives such as webinars and distance learning may prove to more efficient and equally valuable.
  • Preventative Maintenance – This tactic may prove to be short-sighted, because not maintaining equipment will be costly later on. It may be necessary to postpone cosmetic repairs or delay others. Equipment that is vital to core operations should be maintained in top working order.

Getting past a difficult period for the company will involve tough choices, but strengthening the business can help the business survive the downturn.

Fostering Team Work: What kind of team do you really want?

teamTeam work is rightly regarded as vital for success at work today. But before you launch into a team building exercise, think carefully about exactly what sort of team work you want. Do people reporting to you need to collaborate to get things done or do they operate autonomously? If the latter, then what cooperation do you need from them? Maybe you just need them to participate more fully in meetings with you. Improving team work must add value to your overall output, not be done just for the sake of it.

If you decide that team work really is critical in your organization, there are 3 key steps you should take. The first is to spend a bit more time together socially, and on a regular basis, so everyone relaxes and gets to know each other. Next, do some analysis of style differences so team members better understand where their colleagues are coming from, what is important to them and how to communicate with them effectively.

The third, and most important, step is to talk through with them what team work should mean in your organization. Everyone in your team should have input into what, for them, counts as good team work. Your team should discuss how they will behave with each other, what type of support and cooperation everyone wants, how they want to communicate and what they want from you. It’s a good idea to agree how you will deal with conflict, how you will deal with criticism nondefensively and how you will foster openness. This means agreeing to thank people for saying unpopular things instead of putting them down or arguing. It’s a matter of defining the success criteria or values you will live by as a team. You should also agree how to measure your performance as a team and how you will reward and celebrate successful team work. To monitor your effectiveness as a team, you might draw up a list of success criteria and assess yourselves as a team against your criteria at least once a quarter, but more often if improving team work is really vital and you have a lot of work to do to reach the level of team performance you need. To change the way your team behaves, it is vital to reward and celebrate team work. The old saying, ‘’you get what you pay for’’ applies here. So, if you constantly reward superstar individual efforts and foster competition between people, that is what you will get, not better team work.

Know Your Customers

samplesDo you serve themor just depend on them to buy from you? Gaining a competitive advantage is not easy for an entrepreneur even a small business. If you focus on certain customers and send them a warm but enticing messages, you can achieve great results through true Customer Knowledge.

What is gained by knowing your customers? Two things; (1) getting to them through their affective or emotional state and (2) knowing how to apply the benefit of the product or service.

Other factors can be considered, like price, location, quality and much more, but nothing speaks like emotions overcome by benefit. What do your customers really want when they buy from you? Even if they are buying from someone else they still want something that saves them time, makes them look good, even makes them feel good when their sick. It could be a gift their after, or a small item to make someone else feel or look good. Spend time knowing what they want and for what or whom.

Spending Time

You will need to spend some time gathering information about your customers. Some companies have covered the United Stated end to end in search of customers that potentially have interest in what they sell. Do you know what you sell? Do you know everything you sell or offer? Take the customer test: write everything down that you sell and see if you can pick out one or two things or services that you think a customer will like the most. This is called setting priorities my friends. Hard isnt it? Well join the club; its only hard because you are not the customer, so be the customer. Go and get some customers, offer them something for nothing (within reason of course) and they will be thankful and probably tell other people who are potential customers.

How? Think of ways to catch their heart, emotions with benefit. Give them options, alternatives and goodies, and more goodies. For example, if you send a letter to a customer telling them about your dynamic new product, send them a product (or sample)for free! Give them options to get more, give them alternatives between products, and throw in a calendar, pen or something warm.

To gain your customers buying strength you need to know a few things. First, no customer wants to just stop by just to chat, if they do, they are not there to buy. The most often want to buy something or get ideas (what a novel concept) of things to buy. Second, more times that you can imagine customers will already have in mind what they are after, if you trap them into buying your “on-sale” items they won’t come back. Instead, try offering a sale brochure or featured items list for that week or month; offer it to them with a free calendar or pen, or something useful.

Business-to-Business Media Companies: Making Some Unusual Publications Serve a Purpose

mediaThe Internet has given society a way to get instantaneous updates on a variety of topics, from celebrities to healthcare reforms, but sifting through the trivial tidbits and erroneous information is time consuming when one is looking for solid knowledge.

Fact finding is becoming increasingly difficult, especially for those in the business world, who are looking for concrete statistical figures on the competition, or sound information regarding upcoming business trends. The solution to this problem is at the heart of business-to-business media companies.

What is a Business-to-Business Media Company?

They are a breed of companies that typically produce niche publications, especially for professionals that want specific information about their own genre of business. For example, a B2B media company produces a monthly magazine called Rock, Paper, Roll that specifically targets paper distribution companies. The magazine includes interviews with those in the industry and new technologies business owners are taking advantage of.

Granted, the average person would pick up this magazine and be lulled to sleep, but for those immersed in the industry, the B2B media company is providing useful information that professionals would not be able to obtain in a condensed format anywhere else.

Common Target Industries for Business-to-Business Media Companies

In a sea of niche publications like, Pavement Maintenance & Reconstruction from Cygnus Business Media or National Floor Trends from BNP Media, there are categories of industries B2B media companies tend to focus on. The majority of the publications are for the professionals in blue collar commerce such as manufacturing and construction. Because the concept of specialized media can appeal to almost every industry, there are also publications for those more interested in attracting patrons like restaurant owners.

If an industry is not large enough for a big circulation, or updates more frequent than a useful magazine can be published, media companies may opt to offer newsletters instead, which are cheaper and can be produced more rapidly.

Why Business-to-Business Media Companies are Important

Niche business publications will never be as exciting as the grocery store tabloids, but these B2B media companies are bridging a gap in communication for professionals and manufactures that make decisions that affect a lot of employees and customers.

These magazines also offer opportunities for individual efforts to be known within a sect that could open up doors within other similar companies. Bottom line: any company that assists working individuals with trustworthy industry knowledge and provides an outlet for discussion and networking is important.

After Disaster Strikes How Do You Recover

disasterIt has been a tremendously unnerving time during the last two weeks, and most of us will still be in shock forever. In every tragedy there is great triumph to be seen. In business as it is in life, we never really believe we will loose our precious comfort zone and all of its luxuries. Think again and be ever so watchful and vigilant for your country and your neighbor. In the business world you must pick up the pieces and go on, and as bad as this incident was it is entirely possible it could happen again. This article is about helping recover your business. It is a tough road to go down but if you have ever been in a disaster you know, so bear with me. Here goes.

Are your business managers and employees ready for a disaster? Say it with meYes we are!

In this article I will explore the world of disaster recovery for businesses. This aspect of business practice is rarely funded, not practiced, and oftentimes forgotten. Nothing could be worse than losing friends and loved ones to a horrific tragedy, but people in this world will tell you that if something happens to them, they would want you to carry on. So to grant their wish lets use that sad energy and turn it into mad energy.

Its especially hard when you loose a great deal of your leadership structure, like the New York Fire Department did in the recent World Trade Center tragedy. As a matter of fact during my research for this article I found that many businesses either did not have a disaster recovery plan or it was so outdated that only certain aspect of it were still applicable. Small businesses are the ones most often hardest hit. These small businesses are often unprepared for a disaster. With few employees, there is usually no one designated to create a contingency plan, and with small budgets, there is often no money to fund a plan even if it’s created.

I found that even though there is an absence of contingency planning in small businesses, it can also be found in larger companies, but it is not as widespread. For example, many of the large businesses in the Oklahoma City area had recovery plans in effect, which helped them stay in business following the bomb’s explosion on April 19, 1995.

The Social Security Administration, which was housed in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, was able to continue client’s claims with no interruption, despite the fact that their business site was destroyed in the blast. Because of contingency planning, almost all information on Oklahoma’s 100,000 social security clients is stored at a computer center on the East Coast. When the disaster occurred, workers in Dallas immediately reassigned the workload to other offices and calls were routed to other offices where specially briefed staff members handled them.

Make a Move to the Future

futureOnce is all it takes to realize that your business is not going where you think it should. Likewise, once is all it will take to see how successful your business can be when guided down the right path. Sounds like a cliché, and it may be in some respects; but it’s really a modest wake up call to the realities of making a smart decision for your business and its promise of a successful future.

In the next two articles I will help your organization explore some approaches for preparing a vision for your organization. A vision is much like painting an abstract of your fruitful business on a canvas for everyone to see. Before you can paint, though, there are certain preparations to be made before you can start painting.

Before we explore the process of preparing a vision for your organization, it is only fair to tell you that the senior leadership of an organization can only carry out this process. It is possible that lower level management can develop a vision for their piece of the pie, but there should only be one vision statement for an organization. All other lower level vision statements will complement the vision of the organization in unison, with links and patterns that show relationship.

On any given day, an organization can write down what they do and put it into eloquent words, and it may appear in some trade show brochures or fancy annual reports. I think that is nice, but let’s look at what and why you write a vision and some steps to help you actually carry out this monumental task.

First of all, a vision should be a profound statement that provides everyone a visualization of the future — a desired state of the organization. It should reveal a quick but masterful look into the company’s future while rolling out any challenges the organization will meet in the next five to ten years.

As a senior leader, you should already know where you want your organization to be in the future. It should be no problem to have to put it into words, right? The main question I get asked is how do I know what my organization will be capable of in the future — say five to ten years from now. Well, no one really knows; the future is dark and unknown because it’s not staring you in the face. What you should concentrate on is four aspects of getting your organization to where you expect it to go. They are the vision statement, goals, objectives, and people.