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PERSPECTIVES ON DIGITAL CURRENCY

Nov 12, 2013

Small Business

Holiday Shoppers Prepare to Hit the Web

 

 

 

As consumers gear up for the holidays, it’s clear we’re in for another growth year in eCommerce.  According to new data from the Visa Spending Intentions survey, 87 percent of people plan to do at least some of their holiday shopping online this year, with 40 percent saying they will do half or more gift-buying online.  That’s good news for retailers, knowing that 72 percent of people also plan to spend more or the same amount of money on gifts this year, compared to last year.

In the first 10 months of 2013, eCommerce sales are up 17 percent from the same period last year, and Visa domestic eCommerce transactions exceeded one billion dollars on 211 days, an increase of 19 percent from 2012.

Other key findings from the Visa Spending Intentions survey include:

Electronic Payments are the Norm

  • 25 percent of respondents plan to use their mobile phone or tablet for holiday shopping this year, up from 22 percent last year
  • Credit and debit cards will be the primary form of payments through the holidays, with 56 percent of people planning to use their credit card and 30 percent to use a debit card

The Holidays are Big Business, for Big and Small Businesses

  • Almost 50 percent expect to spend between $301 and $800, while 14 percent plan to spend more than $800
  • More than 85 percent of consumers are as, or more, inclined to shop at a small business this year, compared to last year

Beat the Crowds, with a Tap of the Finger

  • Online holiday shopping has become the preferred way to shop for a number of reasons, including:
    • Fits my schedule better/Can shop anytime (67 percent)
    • Better prices online (61 percent)
    • Dislike battling crowds (54 percent)

Each year, millions of shoppers rely on Visa for holiday-related purchases, providing a near real-time view into consumer behavior. If you wish to receive regular updates throughout the holiday season, send an email to globalmedia@visa.com or follow ongoing updates at http://blog-visa.fhstage2.com.

* 2013 VisaNet Data

Survey Methodology:

This survey was conducted for Visa by Prosper Insights and Analytics via an online sample of over 4,600 U.S. consumers aged 18 and over.

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Posted by: Wayne Best, Chief Economist, Visa on November 12, 2013 at 7:00 am

Oct 23, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success Series: Insider’s Perspective with Nikhil Arora (Video)

In our last video blog by Donna Fenn, she sits down with one entrepreneur who tells her when he starts thinking of holiday planning for his business, and also a campaign that gives back just as much as it gets during the holiday season.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Secrets of Small Business Success Series: Insider’s Perspective with Nikhil Arora (Video)

We sat down with Nikhil Arora, the co-founder of Back to the Roots, to talk about how his company, which makes grow your own mushroom kits and aqua farms, prepares for the holidays. Hint: you can’t start too soon!

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 23, 2013 at 9:31 am

Oct 22, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: The Price is Right: Use Pricing to Maximize Holiday Cash Flow

All good things must come to an end. We hope you have enjoyed the Small Business Success Summer Series with Donna Fenn. This will be her final blog post, but stay tuned tomorrow for her interview with Nikhil Arora, the co-founder of Back to the Roots.

For her final tip on making the holiday season a smashing success, Donna had the chance to sit down with three small business owners and chat about how to maximize holiday cash flow, which can be overwhelming with all the holiday hustle and bustle.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

The Price is Right: Use Pricing to Maximize Holiday Cash Flow

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

Many entrepreneurs have love/hate relationships with the holiday season.  At this time of year your business may be firing on all cylinders and the cash may be rolling in, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed unless you have a solid strategy for keeping the flow of business on track.  One great way to do this is by using pricing to your advantage.

Use discounting strategically. At ScanDigital, a company that digitizes photos, slides, and film, CEO Anderson Schoenrock, says he typically sees a 40% increase in sales over the holidays. While the company offers discounts throughout the year, “we offer our final discount of the year on Black Friday,” says Schoenrock.  “From that point forward, all orders are processed at full price.  Between better efficiency due to the sheer volume, as well as more full-priced orders coming through the door, we see profitability increase by 10-15% during the fourth quarter.” Last year, the company offered 20% off plus free shipping (which essentially amounted to 30% off).  This year, Schoenrock says he’ll offer a straight 30-35% off to drive larger volume, and he’s considering a tiered discount structure to incentivize larger orders.

Connect your price break to a cause.  “When you’re buying a gift for someone, it’s nice to feel that you’re giving back,” says Joy Chopak the founder of Gunamuna, a startup that makes wearable sleep sacks for infants, which can help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Chopak offers a 20% holiday discount on select products to retailers and directly to consumers in October, which is also SIDS Awareness Month. “We donate to the Safe Sleep Campaign and we also ask retailers and consumers to pass some of their savings on to the charity as well, “says Chopak. The price break also encourages retailers to stock up early for the holidays, which gives Chopak’s cash flow a boost and makes her own holiday schedule a bit more predictable.

Stand firm on pricing. “We don’t get into a race to the bottom on pricing,” says Chris Zane, the owner of Zane’s Cycles in Branford and Fairfield, Conn. “So we don’t ever have a holiday sale.” What he does instead is make post-holiday returns very easy for his customers. “All year, we have an unconditional return policy,” he says. If customers know they won’t have a hard time returning an unwanted gift, they’re more likely to spend, even at full price. After the holidays, Zane typically gets $15,000 to $20,000 in returns, which can wreak havoc on cash flow. So he offers every customer the choice of a full refund or a store gift card with an additional 10%. “90% of people will take the gift card,” says Zane. “So we don’t lose cash in the drawer at a time when we really need it.”

 

Remember that your primary goal should be to make your customers feel comfortable buying your product or service sooner rather than later.  Offer early discounts, promotions, or other incentives for them to pull the trigger before the rush. And when your promotion ends, stand firm on your pricing; an eleventh hour discount will only encourage the procrastinators.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 22, 2013 at 8:54 am

Oct 15, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: Strategic Online Marketing for the Holidays

While some believe that “if you build it (your website), they will come,” most small businesses should face the reality that there is a lot happening online to distract their customers. How do you cut through the clutter and stand out? As part of her holiday series, Donna Fenn shares tips from successful small business owners on how they are differentiating themselves from competitors via online promotions. From working with bloggers to getting in the gift-giving sprit, you’ll have four bases covered this holiday season.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Strategic Online Marketing for the Holidays

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

Chances are you’re ramping up your online marketing campaign for the holidays right now – along with everyone else, unfortunately! As you look to reach your current and potential customers, the challenge is to market to your customers in the places where they’re most likely to notice you, and with messages compelling enough to convert prospects into buyers. To help differentiate yourself from your competitors, consider trying these online marketing strategies:

Court the right bloggers. Diana Charabin, founder of Tiny Devotions, taps into bloggers who write about yoga and contemplative practices to help her get the word out about her mala beads, which are frequently used in meditation. Rather than approach very high profile bloggers who are typically inundated with requests to review products, Charabin instead targets “the mid-range bloggers – the ones who may just have a few thousand Twitter followers, but they’re very die hard.” She sends them her products, but makes it clear that there’s no obligation to write about the company. It’s a strategy she can use throughout the holiday season, as bloggers are always hungry for content that can be turned around quickly.

 

 

Have a mobile strategy. Dr. Marvin Lee, a Los Angeles-based chiropractor, has been working with a company called Signpost to help him with online marketing and to ensure that his content and offers are mobile friendly. “I’m a doctor and I don’t want to wear a marketing hat,” he says. “But you need an online presence, and if that doesn’t translate to mobile devices, you’re behind the times.” For a quarterly fee of $375, Signpost promotes his business on multiple channels, including Yelp, Foursquare, MapQuest, Amazon, and Google. Over the holidays, he’ll promote a special $39 introductory offer that includes a consultation, a first adjustment, and x-rays if needed. “My job is to convert the lookers to regular patients,” he says.

Offer gift-giving advice.  At Book Bouquet, founder Kim Shanahan is already busy marketing her company’s book-centric gift baskets on Facebook. “Every day, we’ll have a post that’s related to how people within our company are using the special that we’re promoting,” she says.  That may include gift baskets for coffee-lovers, cooks or movie buffs. She also offers customers the option of spreading payments over three months.

Personalize your communication. Sure, your customers want to feel that you know them, but they also want to know you. Ada Polla, CEO of the family-owned skin care company, Alchimie Forever, says that email blasts containing images of and content about her mom and her three sisters “get click rates that are much higher.  We’re a family-focused company and email is much more successful when it’s highly personal.”  This year, Alchimie will offer a 30% friends and family discount on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and the email blast will contain images of all four Polla sisters peppered with a bit of family storytelling.

Remember that one of your greatest strategic advantages over your larger competitors is your ability to connect intimately and authentically with your customers. Online marketing enables that, but also make sure that you’re not just “broadcasting.”  Now’s the time of year when you need to make certain that you’re also engaging in dialogue with customers who respond to your online marketing efforts.

Please check out other posts in our “Secrets of Small Business Success” series:

Secrets of Small Business Success: Your Best Strategy for Attracting New Holiday Customers is Hiding in Plain Sight

Secrets of Small Business Success: Holiday Marketing: Be Memorable and Meaningful

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 15, 2013 at 8:05 am

Oct 8, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: Your Best Strategy for Attracting New Holiday Customers is Hiding in Plain Sight

Sure, the holiday rush is exciting and a great boost for business, but what’s your strategy to drive even more business and keep those customers coming back all year long? Donna Fenn spoke with two successful entrepreneurs on how they tackle the holiday season and keep customers coming back for more.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Your Best Strategy for Attracting New Holiday Customers is Hiding in Plain Sight

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

At this time of year, consumers are more willing than ever to pull out their wallets to begin to make progress with their gift lists.  That means all you need to do is sit back and watch your sales multiply, right? Wrong! Yes, your tried and true customers are probably thinking of you already, but what about new customers? They’re out there, but you may need to make a special effort to reach them.  Do it right and you’ll not only increase sales over the holidays, you’ll add a significant number of new loyal customers to your database.  Here’s what two smart entrepreneurs have planned:

Ada Polla, the CEO of Alchimie Forever, a family-run skin care business, has struggled with the dilemma that “skin care is not really a gift product.”  No one really wants to open a wrinkle cream or anti-cellulite gel on Christmas morning! Her solution: create a new product specifically for holiday giving. “We tweaked the formula of our hand and foot cream to make a dry skin balm that’s neutral in terms of skin type,” she says.  She priced the product at $25, packaged two of them in a pretty gift bag and will price the package at $41. “We learned that if we just put two products together in a gift package and sell them at retail, that isn’t enough,” she says. “There has to be value.”  Another lesson learned from previous years is to take the gift package off the website after December. “We used to leave them on for the whole year,” says Polla, “but we found that people were buying them for themselves at the discounted price, and I don’t want that. We want them purchased as gifts for new customers.” Plus, she says, the gift packages appear more special if they’re more scarce.

At Back to the Roots, an Oakland company that makes grow-your-own mushroom kits and aqua farms (you can grow herbs and baby greens on top of a beta fish tank!), co-founders Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez also came up with a product-related holiday strategy. Their mushroom kits are currently on sale for $20 at retailers such as Whole Foods, Home Depot, and Safeway, but for the holidays they plan to produce a “mini” mushroom kit that will retail for just $9.99.  “Buyers tell us that when the price tag of an item goes from $12 to $10, it often doubles or triples sales,” says Arora.  “Going from $20 to $10 opens up a whole different world and will be a huge opportunity to drive sales and maximize our exposure and sell-through.” And $10, he says, is “a perfect stocking-stuffer price.” The company will also tweak its packaging to add a holiday theme that will appeal to retailers and encourage them to display the products prominently.

Bottom line: whether you make a product or deliver a service, you don’t need to launch an entirely new offering to attract attention over the holidays. Your best strategy may be hiding in plain sight, in the form of an existing product or service that can be tweaked with a holiday spin.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 8, 2013 at 8:02 am

Oct 1, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: Holiday Marketing: Be Memorable and Meaningful

Donna Fenn has shared expertise and insights from entrepreneurs who’ve seen it and been through it all. From innovation heroes to customer service champions, in her last installment of the Small Business Success Summer Series, she explores holiday planning for the fast-approaching season. In this blog, Donna spoke with entrepreneurs who learned the hard way that it’s never too early to prepare your business for the  busy holiday season.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Holiday Marketing: Be Memorable and Meaningful

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

For many small business owners, the upcoming holiday season is the most important time of year, as it represents a huge percentage of annual revenue. While consumers are in the mood to buy, they can be overwhelmed with marketing messages and confused by a huge number of choices.  So how do you rise above the noise? At this time of year especially, customers are more likely to do business with companies they like. Don’t wait until the crowded holiday season to start your holiday outreach. Instead, take the opportunity to meaningfully connect with them over the coming weeks and you’ll reap the rewards in the coming months.  Here are a few ways you can show your customers that you’re a cut above your competitors:

Be generous on social mediaZady.com is a new, multi-brand online retailer for people who want to be both stylish and socially conscious, says co-founder Soraya Darabi. “We don’t have a big marketing budget, so community is our first priority,” she says. Yes, she wants to drive consumers to Zady, but part of the company’s social media strategy is to be a trusted resource to people, even if it means sending them elsewhere. A woman recently asked Darabi where to find a great pair of boots. Her response: check out the used Ferragamos on eBay. “We want to position ourselves as experts,” says Darabi.

Host a party. At Zane’s Cycles, which has two bicycle shops in Fairfield County, Conn., holiday sales are just between 9- 10% of total revenue. Still, owner Chris Zane leverages the holiday season to thank and connect with a select group of important customers.  He hosts a VIP cocktail party with tenderloin, shrimp, and gift bags filled with Zane swag and a bottle of wine for 200 of “the customers who are most intimately involved in our business,” says Zane. “They’re the people who help us clean up after our big spring sale, or who wave the flags at the charity rides that we support. It’s about building community around our space and sending the message that we’re here for them.” He knows that message will pay off when it’s time to shop for bicycles in the spring.

Leverage cause marketing. At Back to the Roots (BTTR), an Oakland, Cal., company that sells mushroom growing kits and aquafarms, founders Nikhil Arora and Alejandro Velez forged a holiday partnership with Revolution Foods, which provides healthy meals to school children.  “For every Aquafarm that we sell at Whole Foods, Petco, and Nordstrom, we’ll donate a healthy school meal through Revolution Foods,” says Arora. The program, which starts this month, is part of BTTR’s philosophy to “partner with cool companies to do good things,” says Arora.

Of course, your holiday marketing should also include more traditional elements, such as email marketing to your most loyal customers and a holiday card. For a spin on that, check out OpenMe.com, a new social greeting card company that allows you to custom create e-cards (free) or physical cards ($4), with multiple pages and signatures, all managed online. Remember, it’s all about differentiating your company to customers in a memorable and meaningful way so that they fall in love with your company, not just what you happen to be selling.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on October 1, 2013 at 10:05 am

Sep 16, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: Forging Great Strategic Partnerships

This month in our Secrets of Small Business Success series with Donna Fenn, we have been diving into the topic: ‘Nurturing Your Entrepreneurial Spirit’.  Part of keeping that spirit alive, means evaluating your partners. How do you know if they are going to add value as your business grows? This week, Donna looks at how to form tactical partnerships from the very beginning.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Secrets of Small Business Success: Forging Great Strategic Partnerships

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

 

 

A great partnership can save you time, make you money, and open doors that might otherwise remain closed. But strategic relationships can also be tricky, so it’s important for you to ask the right questions before entering into any agreement.

1.  Will the partnership provide comparable value to both parties?  “You have to strike a balance,” says Morgan First, co-founder of Second Glass, which creates “Wine Riot,” wine-tasting events geared toward twenty-somethings. “We find out what potential partners are looking for and what we can do for them for very little or for free.” One of Second Glass’s key strategic partners is Yelp. In exchange for 20 pairs of tickets to a daytime Wine Riot event (a time slot that rarely sells out), Yelp promotes the event via its newsletter and directly on the Yelp website and mobile app. First forged the partnership in Boston, when her company launched in 2006. “We now partner with them in all the cities where we do Wine Riot events,” says First.

2.  Are you legally protected? “My general rule is that there should be a written agreement for everyone who your company does business with,” says Rachel Rodgers, an attorney who provides legal counsel for entrepreneurs.  “One of the biggest things I’m always concerned about is intellectual property (IP). If IP is exchanged or created, who owns it?” You’ll also want to specify the exact terms and expectations of your agreement, including a start and end date, and any restrictions you or your partner feel compelled to place on the relationship.

3.  Is there synergy between your companies? When David Adelman launched ReelGenie, a company that helps families collaboratively transform online content and photos into videos, his plan was to entice users to come to his site to produce their custom videos. But then he discovered that partnerships were a more efficient path to growth. He’s now inking strategic agreements with social networking, photo sharing and family history sites that will offer ReelGenie’s video creation services to their own users. “We positioned ourselves at the end of the funnel to reach people who are already looking to create something,” he says.  “We give up some of the economics to our partners, but we get our name and our technology out there without spending money on user acquisition.”

4.  Are you getting the “halo effect?” Especially if you’re a  very small company or a startup, your customers will judge you by the      company you keep. A prestigious strategic partner will cast the glow of legitimacy on your own company and can open doors to new      opportunities.  Take Jordan Goldman’s Unigo,  a highly popular website that offers student-generated content on more than 6,500 colleges and universities. Goldman negotiated partnerships with  U.S. News & World Report to power the publication’s college reviews; The Wall Street Journal to produce custom content for students; and with McGraw-Hill to create college readiness curriculum for high school students. Those partnerships have helped make Unigo one of the largest resources for college information in the country.

So where do you find high-value strategic partners? Start by looking for companies that are in related industries whose CEOs have the same values as yours. And look to those who want something you have and who have something that you want.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like these previous posts, Smells Like Team Spirit and Put on Your Innovator’s Hat.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on September 16, 2013 at 8:41 pm

Sep 11, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: Smells Like Team Spirit

Your company is growing and you need to keep your employees motivated. How do you do this? This week, as Donna Fenn continues diving into the topics of ‘Nurturing your Entrepreneurial Spirit’, she sits down with CEOs who to find out how they inspire team spirit among their employees.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Smells Like Team Spirit

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

 

Every business owner likes to think of his or her employees as great team players. But every team needs a great coach – someone who sets the tone, makes the ground rules clear, positions the players to win, rewards success and has a reasonable tolerance for failure.  So what are the best ways to foster team spirit in your growing company?

1.  Keep employees invested in success. At Select, a membership organization that offers discounts at restaurants, CEO Carlo Cisco can’t afford princely salaries, so he keeps his eight employees engaged and motivated by “selling our vision of the future.”  All employees have stock options in the startup. And Cisco keeps everyone apprised of the company’s progress with a big board that tracks both leads and sales. There are individual performance rewards, but options keep everyone focused on the overall success of the company.

2.  Do a happiness check.  Corey Blake, the CEO of Round Table Companies, which helps authors write books, gathers his eight-person team once a year and asks them what they love about their jobs and what they don’t like. “We help them to replace any aspect of their work that doesn’t create happiness,” says Blake. One team member, for instance, expressed interest in leveraging her background as a former teacher. So Blake assigned her the task of creating classroom materials related to the company’s books. “We want to inspire people about what’s possible within their roles,” he says.

3.  Don’t over-collaborate. At ‘ZinePak, which creates custom, interactive publications for brands, co-founders Brittany Hodak and Kim Kaupe found that when teams collaborate too much, projects can get bogged down and “become more about people’s personal likes and dislikes instead of about the client,” says Hodak.  So at the beginning of each new project, they started creating formal checklists of responsibilities for each employee so there’s “no confusion with multiple people feeling like they own something.” The result: everyone has a voice, but team members aren’t tripping over each other in the midst of deadline-sensitive projects.

4.  Connect your virtual team with tech tools. She Takes on the World is a media company focused on professional and personal development for female entrepreneurs, and its six-member team is all virtual. CEO Natalie MacNeil, who is based in Vancouver, connects employees in Canada, the UK, the Philippines, and the U.S. with a variety of tools. “We use Yammer like a mini-Facebook,” she says. “We can all talk in real time and it creates a social atmosphere.” She also uses Asana for simple to-do lists and to monitor progress on tasks and deadlines.  “It’s beautiful and simple,” she says. Both services have free versions, which are currently adequate for MacNeil. “I’d probably pay for the premium versions if I had more people,” she says. Lastly, she also takes advantage of Google Hangouts. “If we’re working with a consultant, the whole team can be involved in training on a Hangout,” she says.  She recently offered SEO training to her virtual employees.

Don’t assume that your team – even if it’s a just a team of two or three – will just naturally communicate and cooperate. It’s your job as CEO/coach to make sure that happens consistently and efficiently. Go team!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like last week’s post Put on Your Innovators Hat.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Erika White, Visa Corporate Relations on September 11, 2013 at 11:55 am

Sep 4, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success: Put On Your Innovator’s Hat

We are more are half way through our special series of uncovering the secrets of small business success with Donna Fenn. If you’ve missed a post, click back through and read some of her expert insights and interviews with successful small business owners. This month, Donna will dive into ‘Nurturing Your Entrepreneurial Spirit’. Her first article uncovers four steps on how to stay on top of your innovation game to continue cultivating your inner entrepreneur.

~Enjoy!

Janet – @jzablock

@VisaSmallBiz

Put On Your Innovator’s Hat

By Donna Fenn, Small Business Author and Expert

Whether you’re a local retailer or CEO of the trendiest new tech startup, you can’t afford not to think like an innovator.  Granted, that can be tough when you’re bogged down with the day-to-day details of running your company. But if you don’t keep your creative juices flowing, you’re in danger of stagnation or, worse, extinction. You may not be making innovation a top priority, but you can bet your competitors are.  Here are four ways to stay at the top of your innovation game:

  1. Step outside your industry. “I surround myself with the right people and ask the right questions,” says Justin Brown, CEO of First Global Xpress, a shipping company. “But I don’t speak to people in my industry.”  Brown, 34 and a serial entrepreneur, thinks he learns more by talking to smart people in other industries and asking them “how they view the future” so that he can get a fix on supply and demand trends that will direct him toward new opportunities for his own businesses. You might also consider attending trade shows outside your own industry; go with the intention to learn and gain a new perspective.
  2. Solve real world problems. Innovation doesn’t happen in a void – it occurs when you solve real problems for potentially large numbers of people. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to strive for Apollo 13-level innovation. Look  everywhere for pain points and know that small changes can have a big impact. If you need proof, take a look at Quirky.  This social product innovation company has ordinary people put innovative spins on products as mundane as dustpans, beach bags, and power strips.  The common theme: every new product improves consumers’ lives by solving a common problem.
  3. Foster a culture of innovation. Every employee at your company should be granted the power, the freedom and the responsibility to be an innovator. That could be as simple as putting up a few white boards for brainstorming, or as formal as Google’s 20% program, which allowed all employees to use 20% of their time on side projects that spark their passions.  Sound extravagant? While Google is reportedly winding down the program, consider that Gmail and Google News were 20% projects!
  4. Don’t be afraid to fail.  “Our team likes to say ‘fail fast and fail cheaply,’” says Victor Hwang, CEO of T2 Venture Creation, a venture capital and ecosystem design studio in Silicon Valley. If you don’t have a basic comfort level with failure, you’ll never muster up the chutzpah to take a risk.  What’s riskier than failing? Never trying. “You don’t know what’s as the top of the mountain until you’ve been at the bottom of the valley,” says Hwang.  He suggests that you surround yourself with a support system of family, friends, and/or peers who are willing to remind you that failure isn’t lethal.

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

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Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on September 4, 2013 at 9:12 am

Aug 28, 2013

Secrets of Small Business Success Series: Insider’s Perspective with Jennifer Kushell (Video)

For the last two months, Donna Fenn has shared with us insights from successful small business owners. At the end of each month, Donna sits down with one business owner to do a deeper dive. Last month, Donna met with Shama Kabani, CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, to talk about customer service. This month, she explores company culture and working with millennials with Jennifer Kushell, founder of Young & Successful Media.

~Enjoy!

Janet (@Jzablock)

***********************

Talk to any CEO for more than a few minutes about his or her toughest management challenge and, inevitably, the topic of managing younger workers surfaces. Are they lazy and entitled, or ambitious and creative people who just need to be managed a bit, well, differently? Jennifer Kushell has been helping the world understand Millennial workers for over 20 years.

Here’s what she has to say on the topic:

 

 

Disclaimer: Practice recommendations are intended for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon for legal, financial, tax or other advice. When implementing any new strategy or practice, you should consult with your legal counsel to determine what laws and regulations may apply to your specific circumstances. Visa makes no representations and warranties as to the information contained herein.

READ MORE

Posted by: Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business, Visa Inc. on August 28, 2013 at 9:03 am