I had the privilege of attending the 2012 New York Business Expo last week at the Javits Center in New York City. This event, which grows bigger and bigger each year, boasted thousands of attendees and over 100 exhibitors with products and services designed to help small businesses and their owners.
As I do when attending any trade show, I look for the “little” exhibitors that are just getting off the ground. Here is some advice from people who have “walked the walk” and are struggling to build a successful business in the icy crucible that is the Big Apple.
“You cannot project a professional image when talking on a cellphone. There is too much background noise. If you have a service business you still need a professional phone system with a message center and call forwarding technology that will tell people you are serious about your business.” Danny Danny Lu, Seawolftech.com (provider of VOIP, SoftSwitch, SoftPhone and IP phone systems).
“Fail fast, fail often, and fail cheaply. Technology is so cheap now you can throw a million things online at the same time and see which ones catch on.” Nelly Yusupova, DigitalWoman.com (networking organization for women in technology).
“Text messaging is the wave of the future. I mean, look at all the kids today. To be successful, a small business has to learn to market itself in 140 characters or less using no vowels.” Virginia Gudiel, Wordivate.com (mobile marketing solutions).
“If you’re buying a franchise, don’t be afraid of franchises that run their own ‘company stores.’ When franchises run their own stores, they are going through the same challenges you are, and are more likely to adapt quickly to market changes than those who don’t own stores.” Bob Wenson, LittleCaesars.com (pizza franchise, competes with Domino’s).
“If you want to raise capital for a startup, worship your credit score, and make sure any credit card balances are less than 30% of the available credit on those cards.” S. Colin Fraser, ColleenDwyer.com (finds loans for small businesses and entrepreneurial startups).
“If you want to impress a customer, make a BobbleHead or action figure of yourself and send it to them. They will be a daily reminder of who you are, and they’re a lot harder to throw away than a business card.” Stewart Barnett, AllBobbleheads.com (makes custom BobbleHead dolls for celebrities and business owners).
“There are five websites now for every man, woman and child in the United States. If people can’t find your site, it’s not worth having one.” Frank Holland, eZanga.com (search engine marketing consultants, and probably the only company in America named after a frog that committed suicide).
“Bend over backwards for your customer. If his computer server breaks down at midnight, get out of bed, load a new one in your car, and drive it up to him so he’s back up and running the next morning.” Robert Mulé, computerns.com (information technology network consulting and outsourcing firm).
“If you’re thinking of buying a fast-food franchise, don’t get caught up in trendy concepts. Invest in something that’s going to be around for a long while. Cupcakes are so yesterday. Frozen yogurt was big in the 1980s, faded out in the 1990s, and is coming back again. But burgers are forever.” Marty Casey, Mooyah.com (franchise offering high-end burgers, fries and shakes, competes with Five Guys Burgers and Fries).
“If you’ve got employees working at remote locations, there’s a good chance they’re wasting time, running personal errands on your time, or otherwise goofing off on the job. By tracking their location at all times, you reduce overhead costs and keep them on their toes. When the cat’s away, the mice will play.” Jason Gaines, LaborSync.com (GPS service that tracks employees’ time and location with their mobile devices).
“No one ever drowned in their own sweat, and no one ever died from eating too much broccoli. Although some people get gas.” Ellen L. Harnett, backtobasicwellness.com (diet and nutrition consultant and “digestive diva”).
“You need to get into the game of golf to be considered a member of the inner circle with your business associates, your peers, your boss. It is there that rousting about and bumping shoulders with business associates, you will be seen as a real person, a new person to them and perceived as having more in common back in the office or in the industry. It’s the development of this kindred spirit among the players that in the business world leads to promotions, to big figure deals.” Joan Cavanaugh, BoardroomGolf.com (golf instruction for executive and entrepreneurial women).
Cliff Ennico (www.succeedinginyourbusiness.com), a leading expert on small business law and taxes, is the author of “Small Business Survival Guide,” “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book” and 15 other books.