Great Ways to Succeed in Your Online Business!

You Can Succeed if You Follow these Ideas.

In my previous article “What Does It Take to Succeed Online (or in Life)”, I listed several positive characteristics to increase your chances for success: Desire, Planning, Faith, and Perseverance just to name a few. If you believe you have what it takes to succeed online, you’re ready to find an online business which is reasonably tailor-made to meet your personality, talents, investment (whether it’s financial, in time, in talent, or all the above).

WARNING: I said “reasonably tailor-made” above, as no business is 100% perfect for everyone. All online businesses, like those in the real, 9-to-5 world, require some planning and effort. If you’re not willing to invest the time needed to adequately support and promote YOUR business, running one is NOT for you. There is no free lunch!

HOWEVER…If you do have what it takes-Desire, Plans, and Perseverance, to name a few-then, by all means, find the online business of your dreams. How, pray tell, do you do this? Well, first off, it starts with:

RESEARCH. If you have no idea what type of online business you wish to offer and promote, research is the key to unlocking a wealth of information on a wide-variety of businesses. Without research, it’s like a first-timer making homemade cookies without a recipe. Do your homework! Grab a pen and notebook, and take some notes.

Start your journey to success online-that’s right: the internet. Read articles by home business professionals-no, not the folks trying to sell you business programs, kits, and pie-in-the-sky potions. I mean real, legitimate online business professionals, such as Scott Fox, Juliette Powell, and Ewen Chia, just to name a few.

NETWORK. Whether Online or in-person, talk to area business leaders to get their viewpoints and feedback on successful online businesses. No, I am not talking about classifieds who tout their online business opportunities, but networks of local business people from business organizations (such as BNI, Business Network International), forums (Ryze and LinkedIn are good ones), or your area chamber of commerce (ask for a business directory, often free).

PLAN. Put pen to paper and carefully, thoroughly develop an online business game plan. Brainstorm with your closest, trustworthy friends and professional acquaintances to come up with a steady stream of ideas.

Together, ask several important questions:

(1). Who is your customer base and/or niche audience? Be as specific as possible, and realize you can’t serve everyone in the universe. (For example: My audience is small to medium-sized business owners in the southeastern United States.

(2) What product(s), service(s), or program(s) do you plan to offer? Again, try to be as specific as possible. Don’t overwhelm your audience with a ton of unrelated products, services, or opportunities, as this will only confuse them. (My website primarily offers tools to promote businesses, thereby hopefully increasing my customer’s image and profits.)

(3) When do you plan to purchase a domain and website? The correct answer to this two-part question should either be Immediately or Right Away. There’s no better time than the present to project a professional image. Also, be creative when deciding on a domain name. Just make sure your website is lightening fast, as many search engines can ignore slow websites.

(4) How much can you safely invest in a business? Be brutally honest with yourself. If you don’t have two dimes to rub together, the last thing you want to do is get deeper in debt. Good news: The internet lists well-written articles on free and inexpensive ways to start a business.

(5) How much time do you have to invest in a business? Read that last question again, please. If you are not willing to put (invest) time in your online business-say two or three hours a day depending on the business, then don’t waste your time. Collect baseball cards, garden, or do anything else. After all, an online business requires some sweat equity.

(6) Who is your competition? What do you know about them? What sets you apart from them? You need solid, concrete answers to these three questions, so you can beat them at their game. The best place to learn more about the competition is online. Check out their websites and information to discover how you can become even more competitive.

(7) What type of content will you offer your visitors? Many websites simply promote products, services, or opportunities! Boring! Set yourself apart from the competition with a site rich in content. Let’s say you’re a pest control operator: Write an article or blog about what causes wasp, hornet, or rat infestations. Whatever you write, show them that you Are the expert in a particular field.

(8) Have you thought about a logo, motto, or slogan? If you have, make sure they look professional and set you apart from the others. Suggestion: If you have an artistic friend or sign maker in your area, see if they can offer input.

(9) Anything else? YES: Always make sure you use spell-check. Nothing looks less professional than a website full of spelling errors!

SEARCH. Make sure the product(s), service(s), and opportunities you plan to promote interest you, so the visitor senses your passion for the item(s). Also, make darn sure these items are scam-free (so you can be proud of what you do) and marketable to your audience (so you can make money online). Whether good, bad, or downright ugly, you can find items and their reviews on the internet.

If you already have a product, service, or opportunity that can be promoted online, I would start there first. After all, you are the expert. And, hopefully, your passion and interest for that item shows.

However, if you lack passion for your item(s) or need a product, service, or opportunity to promote online, realize they fall into several categories:

(1) Affiliate Programs: A company rewards you to promote their product or products. Great for the beginner, many marketers earn thousands monthly for their efforts-even more. Hint: Don’t join every affiliate program on the planet. Join something that intrigues you. For me, it is panic attacks and relationships.

(2) Free Online Businesses. Just like the name implies, these businesses cost nothing to join or promote. Many business “owners” can generate an excellent return on their investment ( by working smart).

(3) Networking or MLM programs. Here, you help others succeed, so you can earn several layers of income. While some are free, most are not.

(4) Paid Online Products and Services. The more the internet grows, the greater the need for related services. Among the greatest money-makers online are effective tools to increase your business. Warning: Some of these products are much more superior to others.

(5) Online Businesses. These require a fee to join, but may generate the income you desire. Word of advice: Check them out before you join. Like anything, most are good, reputable businesses, but a few are rotten to the core.

(6) Direct Selling. This one is iffy. I am a business consultant by day, yet find promoting some of my services does well online. However, results do vary.

(7) eBay. Though some products are overly saturated on the site, many make a decent living on this site. Overall, it has an excellent reputation.

(8) Blogging. If you enjoy writing, this may be down your alley. Bloggers often make money from ads surrounding their blog.

(9) Referral Sites. There are numerous sites promoting networking, advertising, and free sign-ups. The jury is still out on this, but some folks reportedly make money.

(10)Everything Else. A new opportunity, product, or service pops up almost every day. Some will work; others will fail. Do the research online and you may discover a goldmine-or fool’s gold.

Driving Your Business

Businesses are living entities in motion. No matter how slight or subtle, there is always movement – no matter if the movement is beneficial or not!

A business owner could think of the business as the vehicle that will carry the owners and shareholders to success regardless of how success may be defined.

Like any other vehicle, the business vehicle requires a driver to steer and to keep the business on the road to success. In a small business that someone behind the wheel is typically the Owner. In larger businesses, the driver will be the President, CEO, Managing Director, or one of similar title. But no matter the business size, the driver is the leader and the leader is the driver.

Again, no matter the business size, the “driver” must depend on the following three business elements and components in order to steer and to lead the business properly.

A clean and unobstructed Windshield in order to see clearly where the business is going.

A Dashboard that provides the driver with necessary data and information on demand to assure the business continues on the move.

A clean and unobstructed Rear View Mirror to show where the business has been and what may be approaching the business from behind.

Obvious you say? Of course! Who would want to drive a business vehicle without these components?

Sadly enough, most small business owners “drive” their business day-to-day without the full benefit of all three components. Sadder yet is that those same small business owners and operators don’t need to do without.

Let’s take a look at the same three components from a business operations perspective.

The clean and unobstructed Windshield represents the Forward-Looking Plans and Direction of the business. What the business leader sees out the Windshield is what the business leader Wants to Happen. It is the Vision (not Mission) of the business.

The Mission of the business was established long ago, and it is not likely to change. On the other hand, the Vision of the business may change over time. Vision defines where the business wants to go and how the business wants to be perceived at a targeted time in the near future compared to where the business is now and how the business is perceived now.

The essential elements and components of a clean and unobstructed Windshield include:

Marketing and Sales Plans that include Goals for Revenue, Profitability, and Operational Needs such as equipment and additional staff as well as Strategies and Objectives to achieve the Goals.

A Financial Operating Plan that forecasts Sales by Revenue Stream, Costs and Expenses by category, and Margin expectations. (Think of the Financial Operating Plan as a “fully loaded” Budget with all the extras.)

The fully functional Dashboard provides the Immediate and Current Status of the business.

The Dashboard informs the driver (leader) of the present and immediate status of all the major elements of the business. Immediate for some data could be the previous day’s results. Some information, like Cash-on-hand, available Cash, Accounts Receivable due, and Accounts Payable owed must be available immediately.

Cash is the fuel of business, so the driver must always know how much fuel is in the tank? Timely Information is the most powerful tool available to business leaders. The sooner the business leader knows, the sooner the business leader can act.

The essential building blocks of the Dashboard include:

Cash Management Plans that project Cash In, Cash Out, and average balances on hand. Cash Management Plans that project when payments are due and project when favorable payments policies (early pay discounts) are available. In other words, full and immediate control and awareness of Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, Scheduled Expenses, and Line of Credit Status.

Measurements of Actual Revenues, Costs, and Expenses compared to the Financial Operating Plan. In other words, where is the business today compared to the plan?

The clean and unobstructed Rear View Mirror is the historical data and information. It is the “What has gone before”. Past Performance data and information are essential tools to the business for many reasons including awareness of past successes and past shortcomings. Additionally, past performance results are the basis for Income Tax and other business taxes.

The essential building blocks of the Rear View Mirror include:

Accurate (Audited) Financial Statements and Reports including the Balance Sheet and Income Statement.

Project or Job Completion Reports that compare actual cost and expenses incurred to the Estimate or Quote.

Tax Reports including Federal, State, and Local Income Taxes, Sales Taxes, Property Taxes, and other business taxes. [These reports are prepared by the tax accounting firm or other outside agencies. While necessary reports, typically they cannot be presented soon enough to allow business leaders to make timely decisions.]

As stated previously, far too many businesses (mostly small businesses) depend solely or primarily on the Rear View Mirror components. They must not and they need not.

Decades ago the Drive to Success was easier in many ways. There was less traffic (competitors) and there was plenty of available fuel (profitable sales opportunities) for all. Today the Drive to Success is not so easy. The traffic is bumper-to-bumper as competitors (qualified or not) are abundant. Profitable sales opportunities are few.

New Technology Creates Better Communication

Business phone service can be as simple as a single phone line on up to the use of T1′s or other types of circuits to handle higher call volume. Depending on the nature of the business and the expected call volume, phone service for business can become quite complex and require the use of more sophisticated solutions to deliver phone service.

For smaller businesses, standard POTS lines are used to terminate into a phone system that then routes calls out to individual extensions. POTS or “Plain Old Telephone Service” is the same exact type of phone line that would be used in the home. To accommodate the call volume, business phone service would use multiple POTS lines to provide the capacity needed when installing for use by a business. Although suitable for small, stand alone businesses, this type of setup is not practical for larger businesses where thousands of calls may be made each day.

ISDN is a common type of circuit used for business phone service. ISDN or (Integrated Services Digital Network) allows the transmission of digital signals to travel over traditional copper telephone wires. Suitable for most types of communication transmission, ISDN has become somewhat of an industry standard for most phone service for business. This type of circuit can be used for voice, video and data transmission. Each ISDN T1 gives you 23 outside lines. There are 24 channels in an ISDN circuit with the last channel being used for switching signals and data such as caller ID. Each ISDN circuit can be configured for outbound or inbound traffic as well as being assigned long distance or local capabilities depending on the needs of the business.

When speaking about business phone service, the term “trunk” usually comes up in conversation. A trunk is the term used when talking about grouping circuits or phone lines together. They are configured in the business phone system as a “trunk group” where each of the members of the group is called a trunk group member. Each trunk group member consists of one line in which a call can be made or received. In the case of the ISDN, 23 trunk members are configured for each ISDN T1. Trunk groups can have as little as 1 trunk group member up to 100′s of trunk group members depending on the type of phone lines coming in and the capacity of the phone system.

Most business phone company providers offer various packages that are geared to a particular business’s needs. The type of service provided is implemented using considerations such as call volume, the type of phone system being utilized and any features that the business might need or want. VOIP is fast becoming a commonly used technology that allows businesses to leverage their network for the transmission of voice conversations between locations. This type of setup allows the business to save money on long distance costs as well as create a telecommunications environment where multiple locations use one phone system.

VOIP can be implemented through either the use of dedicated circuits in the business’s network, or can be used over the internet. However, since the internet is not controllable, a VOIP system should be configured on a private network. This way the business can control traffic priority and insure that the voice conversations are given priority on the network. VOIP requires higher bandwidth and a properly configured QoS setting to insure that in times of high traffic demand, that the voice traffic receives the highest priority and is routed first.

New to the world of business communications, SIP is the latest signaling protocol for VoIP and data networks. SIP is a specialized protocol whose sole purpose is to control the network session. SIP controls the opening and closing of a network session in much the same way as HTTP. A large benefit of SIP is its ability to control many different types of media within the same communications session. A user could surf the net, watch an online video and make a phone call all on the same communication session. This means that SIP has a larger trunking capacity than many circuits in use today.

Phone service for business should have some provision for disaster recovery or redundancy in the event of an outage. Redundancy utilizes a backup system in the event that the main system fails. Larger businesses typically have a duplicate system in a remote location that becomes active in the event of loss of connectivity of the main system. In those businesses with many locations, each location should have the ability to operate as a standalone system in the event of a network outage that prevents it from communicating with the main telephone system. This way, each of the locations still has the ability to communicate with the outside world and engage emergency services if necessary. This is done through strategically installing circuits and network connectivity through the business phone company. Having redundancy minimizes the risk of loss of communication in the event of a natural disaster or inclement weather where the main phone system is located. To further minimize potential risk, it’s also a good idea to make sure that the company providing business phone service has also taken measures to insure business continuity in the event of major power outages or loss of communication.

Business phone service can take many forms as well as offer businesses more cost effective ways to provide communication for their associates. No matter what the size or the complexity of the business is, there is a suitable solution that can provide features and benefits that allows the company to save money and improve communication with both the customers and the employees. When assessing business phone service needs, determining how the company uses communication and what they find most useful are going to be key in determining the type and capacity of business phone service needed. Whatever solution is decided upon should offer a significant return on investment in terms of better communication and cost savings for the company’s overall communication costs.