Tag Archives: Small Business

With A New Economy, Is It Time To Have A New Attitude Towards Internships?

04 My Yahoo Cubicle
nicwn / Foter / CC BY-SA

Seven years after the beginning of the recession, the economy still isn’t where was pre 2008. Close to 33% of eligible adults have dropped out of the labor force, another third is either freelancing or starting businesses, and the final third are active in the labor force, whether that be full-time or part-time work. For Millennials, we are now going to be a part of this new economy, and the decisions we make could put us in one of the above groups. Internships have always been a way to gain experience and skills during, or shortly after college before applying for full-time jobs. But in 2014, is it time to have a new approach and attitude towards internships and the opportunities that they bring?

Some former interns have come out accusing companies of not paying them well, or paying them at all. While I’m no lawyer and not an interpreter of the law, I’m not going to discuss whether it’s legal or not. However, when you decide to be an intern you’re not an employee and the company doesn’t have to treat, or pay you like one. There is another form of compensation that internships provide, and that’s in experience, confidence, and learning how to navigate through an office setting. Seeing as though many young people are turning to starting their own business because of limited job opportunities, maybe it’s time to look at internships as a preparation and confidence booster towards starting businesses.

Some interns have proclaimed that they had multiple roles in the company, learning multiple aspects and performing an array of tasks. For small business owners overseeing, and at least having a hand in different departments and aspects of the business is necessary. These interns now have the experience of multi-tasking, and grasping the magnitude of being a part of multiple roles within a company.

Now rest assured there will be a majority of interns who won’t start a business or freelance, but for the small group who will, internships can be that confidence booster that they need to get over the initial fear of starting a business. Fear is what stops people from doing anything; all they need is self-confidence and a business mindset that tells them that they can succeed and be their own boss. Internships bring a lot to the table, but money should never be the top priority when seeking a summer intern job.

Get the experience and confidence that you need to be successful. Take advantage of the opportunity that internships bring. If you still decide to become an employee and not run a business, you’ll still walk away from an internship with self-confidence, business skills, and the ability adapt to different situations. Employers have a growing fear that Millennials aren’t ready to join the workforce because they’re not being taught the skills to succeed in an office environment. Get an internship and learn. That’s the best way to get real world experience before fully submerging yourself into the labor force.

Finding Your Niche And Sticking With It Is The Key To Success

Business owners, vloggers, bloggers, and websites all thrive on one thing; being the masters of their niche market. For some, going mainstream and facing the giants of an industry that’s already saturated can work, but unless they bring value to the consumer they’re going to be overlooked. While everyone goes macro, small businesses and individual bloggers must think micro when starting out. Being unique is what gets exposure, and the creativeness and passion behind what these people are trying to accomplish will show much more than those who are subconsciously more concerned about acting like or competing with the big boys.

A niche market is often overlooked by the conglomerates, bigger websites, and blogs, which opens the doors for the individual writer or small business owner. When you find that niche and get a good foothold on it, you must stick with it and grow your following and customer base without changing your identity. Too often after a year or two of success, these small businesses and blogs begin to get overconfident, and reach for consumers or viewers who are not part of the original niche they were marketing to. This eventually leads to loyal customers leaving, and what you’re left with is a blog or small business that is directional-less.

You may be the captain of your ship when it comes to your business or blog, but it’s the followers and customers that steer it. Ultimately it’s them who take your niche market and grow it, not the other way around. When you get that strong loyal group, listen to them and they’ll help you get more exposure. Remember, your decision to enter a niche market has given you the opportunity to grow your business or website into something more, and if you try growing it yourself and go in the wrong direction, you’re going to have many followers and customers, but they won’t be loyal nor profitable in the long run.

Niche marketing can be profitable. If your content or products bring value to the consumer they’ll return, bringing more people with them the next time they visit your store or website. You built a community that was unique and brought like-minded individuals together, and now that community is growing on its own without you forcibly marketing to multiple groups. The niche market you got into has brought in niche consumers, and that’s how you become successful, by naturally building off what you started and what the consumer continued.

Small Businesses Can Learn A Lot From Colonial Entrepreneurs

shopping @ the greenhow store
happy via / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

If you live in or near a city that was a major hub for one of the Thirteen Colonies, there is much more history to learn that doesn’t pertain to the Revolution, but more importantly how small businesses operated in the 18th century. While I know there will be a few who will roll their eyes because there is the perception that these business methods are outdated in the 21st century. That attitude couldn’t be more wrong. The way these entrepreneurs lived and worked on a daily basis can easily be applied to how we conduct business with other small businesses today.

In the 18th century, what was marketing? There was no yellow books yet, newspapers were only a handful of pages thick at best, printing presses were just becoming the revolutionizing method of the distribution of news, and the town cryer wasn’t one of those TV marketers who yells at the screen to buy the product now. So how did small businesses acquire clients, besides being on a street with a lot of foot traffic? It was being selfless, while also looking to gain a profit for themselves.

In a day in which we all want everything, and have this attitude as to what the other person can do for me, business owners and entrepreneurs of the 18th century were more concerned about helping their neighbors and fellow business owners than we are today. Small businesses were connected through the needs that they offered and services they provided. If the butcher needed clothes, the small clothing store made them and delivered it to him; and when the clothes store owner needed meat the butcher would then help that individual.

While this sounds like one of those feel good stories where everyone in the town is all wearing smiles, there is a process to this way of business that supersedes the business transaction itself. Both stores and business owners will get exposure through word of mouth. If someone asks the butcher where he got those clothes, he refers that person to the clothing store he got them from, and the business cycle continues to spin from there. In the 21st century however, we’re more concerned about making the quick business transaction, cash the check and move on to the next client. By building strong business relationships with other small businesses as the colonials did, the endless referrals from that happy customer will be worth more than the ROI on a marketing campaign.

Even in the relative modern world, during the 1920’s and 1930’s, this way of business was still alive, and the endless cycle of helping the business owner next to him, which created referrals and exposure for both companies were highly effective. When big businesses took over, we all lost what American entrepreneurship and business was all about. Yes, it was nice to make a profit off a client, but by helping the fellow businessman, these entrepreneurs grew their customer base because the butcher’s customers would then buy clothes from the clothing store, and vice-versa. There was no need to spend a few thousand dollars on a marketing campaign when their real marketing was through being active in the local community and by shopping in local stores.

People will say that those days are over due to distribution of work and how less connected we are, despite the fact that the internet and social media were supposed to make us closer. If you’re a small business owner, and a fellow business owner asks for your services, don’t just see the cash that you’ll make, but find a way to help that business owner too. We all discuss how important it is to make a lasting impression, and by helping someone who didn’t ask, this will leave a lasting impression that helps your business and that other person’s business as well.

The key to being successful is to be selfless and give back to those who are keeping your business dreams alive. 18th century history probably put you to sleep in class, but the way those people conducted business and their lives is certainly worth looking into and learning. Just remember, without those first entrepreneurs, none of us would be where we are today.

Small Businesses Must Remember Who Their Customers Are

J C Penny In Great Bend, Is
pasa47 / Foter.com / CC BY


There have been a number of instances over the past few years, and even decades, when small and large businesses change for unknown reasons, or they try changing their clientele. J.C. Penney comes to mind as they turned a regular clothing outlet into something similar to an Apple Store, and still to this day they’re reaping what they have sown. There are some places that the “Jean Bar” and other small details of the major change J.C. Penney made haven’t been removed, as if being relics to show customers what complete change can do to a franchise. Small businesses make this mistake as well, and for some, they never recover.

Some business owners forget who the customers are, changing how they run their company after it’s already been successful. If customers are buying into what you’re selling, why adjust to running a company your way, even though that’s not what your clientele want. For example, if your favorite gym down the street decides one day to take away all the elliptical machines or reduce the weight room, you’re probably going to look for a new club immediately after this sudden change. Listen to your customers. As the saying goes, “The customer is always right”, and that quote is an understatement.

Another example, Ford’s Taurus was the number one selling car in America during the years of 1992-1995. In the 1996 model year, Ford completely redesigned the exterior of the Ford Taurus, and if it wasn’t for the car rental companies who made up 51% of the sales, it wouldn’t have retained the title of best seller.

No matter what business you have or industry you’re a part of, change might not be received well unless that’s what the customer wants. You could spend thousands of dollars on marketing and advertising, but you’ll never get the customers back. As in the case of J.C. Penney, those people aren’t walking through those doors. Always take major business changes into consideration and think both in the short and long term. What are the ramifications of these actions, and will I regret them? Those questions need to be asked, but very rarely do business owners mull over decisions that big.

Remember, it might be your business, but the clientele are the ones who are making you money and your company successful. Without them, you don’t have a business, and being a good listener to what they want keeps them coming in your front doors, website, or online store. This also coincides with how your business is managed and perceived. If you’re working with distributors, other owners, or contractors, the way you do business also plays a factor, not only in image, but how your business is looked at from a management point of view. If customers feel the management is poor, that’s exactly the same as making a change to your company.

No matter what it is you do, whether you run a website or business, take the consequences into consideration before making a change that could one day be compared to J.C Penney and Ford’s Taurus.

Marketing Matters: Why It’s Important To Start Blogging

Desk - 1st September '09
William Hook / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Last week I wrote an article discussing blogging and how it can further advance your business or career. This time, let’s go over why creating a blog is important for anyone at any age. I had briefly glossed over the importance of writing for college students and looked deeper into the effects a blog can have on a small business. But blogs aren’t exclusive to certain interests or situations, and the pros, even if writing isn’t taken seriously at first, completely out-weigh the cons of not starting at all.

Whether you’re a high school or college student, an experienced worker in a particular industry, or someone who has a passion for a hobby, all can make a splash on the internet. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to write about sports, model planes, cars, your business, or advice, there are many aspects of creating a blog that aren’t considered when first starting out.

Starting at the age of 17, I created my first blog, bostonbball.com. It was a way for me to discuss basketball and the Celtics without disturbing friends with endless tweets and statuses, but it was more of a hobby than a serious daily blog. As the months and years passed, my writing along with viewership started to grow, and my credibility did the same. This all lead me to becoming an editor for another blog, which means 300 articles weren’t written in vain, and people were reading.

The same outcome can happen to you as long as you’re persistent and continue to publish articles and content. The first few articles might be a bit rough, but as you start getting into a rhythm, you’ll begin to notice that you’re writing bigger and better posts that begin to look as if a professional writer now handles the blog.

Start out small, write about something you like to gain experience in writing. Being a student, I know how boring written assignments are, but they become easier as you’ve written articles before. It doesn’t matter if your blog is related to school or not, you’re ability to write translates to the classroom. From a blogging perspective, don’t think no one will read your blog, in fact people are constantly seeking for information on any subject, and if you can supply them with the information they’re looking for, they’ll return. As the viewership and followers begin to amass, you’ll most definitely get noticed. But along with the blog, creating a Twitter account to compliment it further enhances what you’re writing and accomplishing.

As time goes on, interests may change, and that’s where creating an endless amount of blogs comes in. Most likely, after a few years you’re now looking at a certain career; write about it! Employers want experience, and if you can display that in a blog, you’ll have a better chance of getting the job you’re applying for, or you might be offered one instead. Blogging has no boundaries, and for you students don’t limit yourselves, as having an open mind can take you a long way.

For graduates and people already in the workforce, start a blog too. Show the world your knowledge and the value you can bring to a company. The confidence that blogging can bring might lead you to starting your own business, as you realize you know more about your industry than you thought. You may now have a portfolio that employers can see, making your blog(s) a résumé that contributes to the experience you have in that field.

Most importantly though, for a personal or business blog to be a success, a Twitter and Facebook account must be linked to the blog you’re writing. Articles can be shared, potentially growing the viewership to levels you didn’t think possible, but also you can connect with people in the industry and continuously learn more, even if you’re not a student.

Blogging brings many benefits and it would be a mistake to not create one and see how far it can be taken. Just as a small business, blogs grow, not only in followers, but as you learn to write better and be more creative, the website itself begins to take shape. To quote the Nike catch phrase, “Just Do It”, and see what the future brings.