Single Piece of Business Advice

22 02 2010

After months of brainstorming and researching your business idea, you have now decided to start a business. You have tried to ignore all the nay-sayers who don’t think you could succeed and would like to have some encouragement and advice that will move you closer to your goal.

I asked the following question of five of my friends who are successful online entrepreneurs: What single piece of advice would you give to someone thinking about starting an online business?

Bonnie Taylor-WachowiczInform to Enable Inc.
Single piece of advice? There is a ton of information available to a business owner to help them know what to do and how to do it, but unless you actually use that information it really won’t be of much value. I started an online business just over a year ago with a business partner with just that in mind. It’s a part time endeavor for us, and we have really big plans which we are making progress on, but the important thing is that we’ve started. We could easily have spent 12 years planning and it would not have made any difference until the business was started. Once it is started, it will take on a life of its own and everything will fall into place as it grows. Planning is definitely important, and you’ll need to do a lot of that, but action is really key.

Marsha KopanExecutive Secretarial Services
There are many types of online businesses. Some are retail. Some are service. I will speak to a service business, namely, being a virtual office professional. First, don’t use the word “home office” or “work at home mom.” In my honest opinion, these wordings send the wrong message to prospects. That message is that you are not a serious business person. Second, find a niche. A niche has two parts: your market niche and your service offering niche. Last, don’t quit.

Denise JeffreyAbout Time Virtual Assistance & Commemorative Services
My advice would be to build yourself a support network; find other people in similar businesses that you can go to with questions. As a VA, I have been fortunate to have others I trust that I can refer clients to when I don’t provide the service myself, or that I can talk to when I’m feeling unsure or need direction. Even if you don’t have a close network of people you can contact directly, you can still take advantage of the online networks that are out there. I’ve mainly used VA forums to voice my questions, and have found them to be a very supportive group; but I have also visited other forums for technical issues and other business questions, and there always seems to be someone there willing to help.

Pam IveyPam Ivey Group of Companies
Make sure your business is built surrounding your passion(s). Making money is definitely a viable goal but if you have to go about it working on something you’re less than ecstatic with day in and day out, your enthusiasm will quickly wane and so, often is the case, will your business.

Michelle JamisonMJVA
 Believe in what it is you are doing and the value of what you are offering.   Starting any new venture can be overwhelming and intimidating. We sometimes begin to question the value of what it is we are offering and when we begin to question, fear and doubt can easily creep in.  It’s important to believe in yourself and the talent you bring to all your endeavours, believe in your worth and your value and others will too!

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College


Nail It, Then Scale It

16 02 2010

The recent presentation “How to Scale Your Business and Create Bigger Opportunities” given by Christian Faulconer, CEO of Franchise Foundry, was of keen interest to the Brigham Young University students interested in creating a winning business.

While your business idea may not quite be ready for franchising, Christian gave invaluable recommendations that will work for any new start-up. Here are some of his tips that I jotted down for fine tuning your business idea so that you can “nail it, then scale it”:

  1. Find out where the “pain” is for your potential market. Hold informal focus groups to dig out that information.
  2. Analyze your competition so that you know where to position your brand. What product/service are they not providing that your target market needs?
  3. If your business idea requires that your target market make a switch in their buying patterns, you will need to focus your marketing efforts on educating them.
  4. Look for ways to automate. For example, use technology such as a website, a call center, or email for lead generation.
  5. If your business idea requires that most of your time is taken up in selling (going out and finding new clients) and then executing (teaching your life-skills course), you will want to find a more consistent revenue stream to augment (software package or an ebook).
  6. Document every step in the process from customer acquisition to shipping the product, to invoicing, to customer retention strategies. This “procedures manual” will prove invaluable should you decide to take on employees, a business partner, or franchise.

 Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College

Do You Have a Hardy Business?

8 02 2010

SnowmanDuring my stay here in Provo, Utah, someone recently commented that as a Canadian I should be used to the cold weather and probably didn’t need to wear a coat in -5oC (23oF).  I explained that as a hardy Canadian we layered up with a scarf, mitts, a toque (hat), and sometimes ski pants to stay warm throughout our winters. In Alberta it’s not unusual to have several days of -46oC (-51oF) and then “warming” up to -24oC (-11oF). And this goes on for months and months. (Okay, now I’m whining!)

How hardy is your business? Have you insulated your business for success during that crucial first year?

Experienced small business entrepreneurs often recommend starting small and building momentum by using these tips:

  • Research your competitors to determine what sets you apart from all the others.
  • Select a niche market that wants and can afford your product or services.
  • Keep your “day” job until you can replace your income.
  • Locate your office in your home or garage until you can afford a more prestigious location.
  • Don’t buy all the latest gadgets when a computer, a printer, and a cell phone would be sufficient.
  • Set ambitious but realistic goals for your business.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College

8 Tips for Greater Hits

1 02 2010

Are people coming to your website and quickly leaving? Or perhaps no one is even finding you. This past fall I sat in on an internet marketing course at Brigham Young University Provo that was packed full of ideas for generating more traffic to your website.

Here are 8 tips that will translate to increased traffic and increased sales. The first 5 focus on search engine optimization (SEO) and the last 3 on web design:

  1. The names you give each of your webpages should, where possible, include a portion of your keyword phrases. Keyword phrases are the text keyed in a search engine by potential clients trying to find your product or service.
  2. Are you curious as to what keywords your competitors are using, especially those who appear on the first page of a Google search? Go to and type in your competitor’s url. Their keywords will provide you with clues as to why their sites appear in the top links.
  3. With all your pictures and diagrams, include alt tags (pop up words describing the image). Because search engines cannot “read” images, the alt tags let them know what you’ve included on your webpage.
  4. Another area where you can include keywords for the search engines is in the head tag, a block where authors can declare information about the webpage, such as the title, description, and keywords.
  5. Pictures are great, but be sure to have 250 – 600 words of content on the landing page. Include keyword phrases in that content so that the search engines will index your site.
  6. All of the important information about your product or service should be “above the fold,” the portion of a webpage that is visible without scrolling.
  7. Make it easy for your visitors to navigate your site. Keep your navigation tabs or links in a consistent location (down the left side or across the top). Breadcrumbs, a navigational aid, typically appear horizontally across the top of a webpage and provide links back to each previous page.
  8. Your home or landing page should capture your visitors’ interest with photos, intriguing headings, exciting upcoming events, the unique characteristics of your business, and a call to action (i.e. sign-up for your newsletter or obtain a free report). Just don’t go crazy with blinking images and music that plays as soon as you enter the site.

Bev McCrostie, M.Ed.
Virtual Assistant Certificate
Red Deer College