Posts Tagged ‘book’
Customer Service – two words which may strike either fear into you, or more likely, a sense of apathy. If you are a small business or a one man band, what has Customer Service got to do with you? But haven’t we all been victims of bad customer service? Whether is the never ending of security questions you are forced to go through when you call your bank, through to the teenager at the checkout who is too busy talking about last nights party to serve you. Bad customer service may not win you any new clients, but it is sure a good reason why existing customers stop using your services.
Of course, the internet now also means that bad service (and products, and staff, and stupid rules) is now visible to all. Specialist sites have popped up allowing Joe Public to vent their wrath about your service, and if somebody is viewing this and needs to pick a company to use, it may turn a prospect into a lost sale. I for one constantly use review sites such as TripAdvisor to check what people are saying about hotels, restaurants and other establishments before I make a booking.
Somebody who knows social media, the internet and customer service is Peter Shankman. Peter looks at customer service in his book, Customer Service: New Rules for a Social Media World. The book is a look at how we are all failing at customer service and how to improve our outlook and embrace social media. The advice Shankman gives is 100% implementable and really doesn’t take much effort. From case studies to travel tips, this book has it all. Social Media is everywhere and this book really shows us how to harness new media to give our customers and clients a better experience.
Pete Shankman isn’t someone who talks about social media and leads expensive motivational seminars, but instead uses Social Media and is immanently successful at it. Through use of personal and industry anecdotes, Shankman lays the ground work for business owners to see the value of Social Media and more importantly, the risks of not getting involved in it for servicing customers. The fact is that Social Media impacts every brand and industry, the only question becomes the degree and your impact.
The book assumes a basic understanding of social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter and specifically applies them to serving your customers and potential customers. If you are already doing customer service via Social Media, you’ll find this book more of a review of what you already do whilst providing a few specific insights and jumping points for new ideas and expansion.
Even if you think your customer service is great, or customer service is not part of your current business, the book will show you how it can be, how you can add value, and how you can retain customers leading to future repeat business.
One of the small business rules that was drilled into me by a number of former bosses (and small business owners themselves), was that no matter how well or bad things are going, no matter how busy you are, no matter how much money you do or don’t have… NEVER STOP MARKETING! Today’s customers could walk away or go out of business, and the work you are doing now may be completed or dry up… then what????
Marketing is important, no matter if you are a one man band, a contractor or a fully fledged small business – you need to do some form of marketing to have tomorrow’s customers ready to order. But being a small business means you don’t have a marketing department or the big bucks to carry out the marketing activities that other companies may carry out.
That is where this book (Small Business Powerful Marketing On A Shoestring Budget) comes in. It is like having a marketing department of your own with tips and ideas – but in printed format.
This book will show how you can grow your business on a small budget with some incredibly simple but powerful tips and tools. Topics covered include all the common options including PR work, targeted direct mail, exhibitions, business networking, e-marketing, advertising and telephone cold calling. Plus, it includes some newer more interesting ideas that will help push your business to the next stage.
This is a great marketing book, as it covers a little of the theory of marketing, but then cracks on with the practical steps needed to win new customers. It never assumes that you have either the time to spend on marketing, or the budget of a large company. Every idea is quick, simple and relatively cheap.
The book is sectioned in such a way that as well as flowing really well if you read it cover to cover, it can also be read by just going to the sections that particularly interest you.
Working on your small business can be a juggling act; unless your company has grown to include lots of staff to run different functions for you, we can easily find that we have to wear too many hats every day. Marketing, accounts, legal, sales, and even the cleaner. Oh, and don’t forget the work for customers and on products that can actually generate revenue.
One of the most well known and respected is Getting Things Done. If you want to get organized but don’t know where to start Dave Allen’s book will give you the tools to ‘Get Things Done.’ The book recommends a set of principles, habits and a filing system which encompasses everything that you want to do from the mundane ‘I must get new tyres for the car’ to the important major projects at your small company. If you have a hectic lifestyle this system will remind you that your library books need renewing or that the car is due for its MOT as well as that you need to write the first draft of a report for a customer or you want to email a friend to ask if they would like to go to a concert. You can concentrate on making that phone call or writing that report without worrying about all those other things that you need/want to get done. His system even finds room for long term ‘dreams’ which are not possible at the moment such as learning a second language, writing a book or travelling to China.
So when I’m not at my desk making phone calls, writing letters, or reading emails I can relax knowing that everything is in my filing system, calendar or in-tray. If I need to go into town to pick up some milk a quick check in the appropriate file will remind me I’ve also got some dry cleaning to pick up or whatever else needs doing in town. Setting up the system takes time and effort but it works. Dave Allen recommends clearing two whole days to clear an office and your mind of clutter and put it into a system which reviewed regularly. I didn’t have two full clear days and did it over a couple of weeks but my home office has stayed tidy, organised and fully functional since and other areas of my home/life are being transformed.
This is a practical book with lots of useful ideas for increasing productivity in all areas of life and reducing stress but if you are prepared to implement the whole system it can be life changing.
In my home office, I have a number of small business books. Some I have read once and have placed on the shelf (never to be read again), some I read every other year as a refresher, and the odd 1 or 2 sit on my desk; within easy reach because of the value they offer. Out of all the books I have mentioned within my blog thus far, the crown for the best book for an IT contractor or freelancer has to go to The Wealthy Freelancer.
The words “Wealthy” and “Freelancer” don’t seem to go together. It punches holes in the whole starving artist picture of freelancing. But in this book, three respected authors combine forces to produce a business book which is loaded with insight for freelancers at every level. The book will be a freelancing bible both for new freelancers just having made the leap as well as old hands who think they have seen and heard it all.
The book covers topics such as marketing, pricing (the best section in the entire book), focusing, winning new clients, service, income streams, referrals, and almost every other topic that a freelancer either needs to know, or needs to improve to jump from a run-of-the-mill freelancer, to a major earner.
Most freelancers I know who want to earn more from their business need to read Secret 7 many times over. That’s the one that jumped out at me, and then I realized that every chapter in this book is at least as valuable, and maybe more. I’ve been freelancing both part-time and full-time for almost 10 years, and my bank account would be a lot fatter if I’d followed this book to the letter starting from day one.
In Secret 8 on Focus, Pete Savage writes, “Focus is what helped me go from barely paying the bills to busting through the six-figure income barrier.” (page 148). If you want to take your business to a new level of income and effectiveness, then you need to read and re-read the wisdom packed into these pages.
During a recent Business strategy meeting I attended, one of the other participants (thank you Paul) recommended a book to us – the 4 hour work week by Timothy Ferriss. Based on how this book was described, ordering a copy from Amazon was the first thing I did when I returned back to my desk.
One of my strong beliefs is the growth of a freelancing or contracting IT business through the creation of revenue and wealth generating assets that do not rely on you being around (after all, there is only so much work you can do in a day). This book is all about the generation and the use of such assets for a small business.
The book is actually separated into two halves. In the first half, the author provides a step by step action plan for eliminating non-essential work, outsourcing a lot of the remaining work, and giving a detailed blueprint for designing, test-running and developing one or more ‘automated’ on-line businesses. The author describes the use of products, services or assets which can be performed by outsourced companies, hence it is scaleable and allows the owner to keep only a very light hand on the tiller, through weekly or monthly reporting by the outsourcers. The ideas in the book are excellent and have added more fuel to my asset generating fire.
The second part of the book is focused on what you should do with all the free time that you have managed to create and ideas for filling the gaps in a working day. Whilst this section was less relevant to me (more free time equals more time to work to generate more cash), it does have some useful aspects regarding time management.
If you are looking for ideas for generating more wealth and money, allowing you more freedom either for more free time, or simply allowing you to build other areas of your business whilst generating wealth with only a minimum of input of your time, this book is RECOMMENDED.
Life can be complex, but it gets even more difficult when you are running a small business. As a manager, owner and revenue generator, you can end up wearing so many hats and doing so many things that everything can end up as a big blurred unstructured mess. Sometimes you can get into a muddle and you need guidance or help in seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
Over the years, one resource that I can rely on time and time again is an individual by the name of Jack Canfield. Jack is an American peak performance guru, but before you close this article and move on, bear with me and I will explain why and how he can help in your small Business.
Amongst the various books, podcasts, audio CDs and other material that Jack Canfield makes available, is a great book called the Success Principles. There are always 3 or 4 books on my home office desk at arm’s reach that I can dip into when I need them, and the Success Principles is one of these books.
The content is pretty similar to most other self-help guides to high achievement, but it does manage to pack in an awful lot of ideas and advice into fewer than 500 pages. The basic premise of the book is that in order to achieve success in our business and personal lives, it is our persistence in applying positive steps that gets results.
The Success Principles provides 70 tried and tested steps or actions which you can use to generate success. Some of these are mental shifts to change the way you think about achieving success (such as the realisation that a small setback is not the end of the world, and is just a way of realising your on the wrong track so need to change something to move back into the right direction), and some are practical changes you can make (such as finding a support group to discuss business ideas with).
There are lots of ‘self help’ books available on a wide and vast array of subjects. However, the Success Principles combines the best parts of multiple sources, provides a massive array of actions you can take to move your life and business forward, and at the price that Amazon are currently charging, this is a wonderful bargain.
I challenge anybody to read this book, follow some of the actions and principles defined, and not see an instant improvement in both their personal lives and business.
If you have never read the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, then let me summarise the book in 6 simple words : you need assets that generate money. Don’t let me stop you reading the book – it’s a fairly interesting read with some useful ideas, and I can recommend it.
Regardless of what you think of Robert Kiyosaki’s motives or style (and there are as many sceptics to his philosophies as there are followers), the idea of having money generating assets is a powerful and compelling argument.
When you run a service type company, there are initially only two assets that you own, that you have some control over, but also limit you. One is time, and the other is you. You can get an order to carry out some work, some service, but you can generally only perform one service at any one time. You are limited but how many hours you can work in a day (until your partner gets moody about never seeing you) and there is only one of you, so you can’t work on 3 or 4 projects at the same time. After a while, this really does start to limit the growth of your business.
So that’s where the money generating assets come in. In order to break out of the time/you restriction, you need assets that work either whilst you are working on other things, or work for you whilst you are asleep. It’s the only way to generate additional revenue once your time is maxed out, and it’s the only way to obtain economies of scale.
Assets can come in various forms. They can be:
- People (staff who work for you)
- Products that you can sell
- Revenue generating property (as suggested by Robert Kiyosaki)
- Advertising (through web sites, etc)
- Payments extending services already provided (maintenance charges, interest, etc)
- Financial assets (stocks, shares etc).
Of course the key is finding which money generating asset fits with your business, your style of working, and will generate the money you need. Maybe Robert Kiyosaki’s book can help you figure that one out.
I want you to imagine if you will, the perfect business book. A book with the best possible advice on how to run your SME/SMB, with all the topics you ever need covered – sales, technical details, ideas, productivity – everything you need. Now, imagine this book never ends – as you read it, more ideas are added all the time, so it’s growing with more and more ideas and useful information.
Now, lets take this idea one step further- there are sections in this fantasy book for other areas of your life – for your hobbies and interests; music, movies, book reviews, your favourite sports team, food, whatever.
Let’s complete this fantasy idea by setting a price for this magical book. How does free sound??
Well, last week I created such a book – and it’s so easy to do.
You see, all the information is there, on the web, in blogs, forums and web sites, all available in RSS feeds, such as the RSS feed for this item at the top of the page, providing streams of articles from web sites you like. There is a vast array of RSS readers presenting the information in multiple formats. The problem is, if you are anything like me, when do you find the time to read all this information? If your computer is on, you may be more interested in working than reading blog posts.
The solution, is an e-book. An electronic book such as the fabulous Sony-505, the Amazon Kindle or even the new Apple iPAD. Download the RSS feeds to one of these devices, and you have all of the articles and information in a format that you can read anywhere; sitting in front of the fire, or a train, in the bath, in bed, over lunch, in the park, all without a PC in site.
For moving all of your various RSS feeds into a nicely formatted eBook, I would highly recommend a Free eBook tool called calibre. In addition to the converting of eBooks (regular electronic books) from one format to another, the Newspaper function allows the specification of as many RSS feeds as you like, and will produce an eBook on a regular specified basis with the new items, with an index, all the graphics, and best of all, a way to read this useful information on the go. Oh, and dont forget, because you would be using the eBook to read business news, your company can pay for it, and its tax deductible.
When you create your own never ending business book, don’t forget to add the feed for this blog.
All business owners/managers are looking to grow and expand our business. New business (whether obtained directly, through a sales process or through an agency) is the future revenue stream which will keep our companies alive. But how is the best way to grow our business and find new customers?
One of my personal recommendations is a book called 101 ways to grow your business by H.M. Williams. This is not your typical business growth book. There is very little padding or unrequired build up in the book – just a very short introduction and then straight into the 101 tips. Most of the tips listed are very obvious when you think about them, but each is like a magnifying glass onto each subject and guides a small business owner into making small changes for big impacts (I very much like idea 22 – the guarantee which is putting your money where your mouth is).
As a read, it provides a good initial hit with lots of adding to your `to-do’ lists to grow your business, and then you can dip into and out of the sections as you need it. RECOMMENDED!!!!