Monday, October 12, 2009

Handling Phone Calls… From a Customers Observation

This article was written by Barry McKinley, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

Don’t answer in a hurry, you make it sound like you are doing me a favor by answering your phone ----Don’t forget I am doing you a favor by calling!

Don’t interrupt – you may think you know what I want but let me tell you, your wrong more then ½ the time!

Have knowledgeable people answering the phone—Since I may never come into your business, get the “first team” to talk to me. Many times I don’t buy because of the poor phone treatment.

Have your phone person be able to speak clearly and precisely. When you have somebody answering your phones that sounds bad or uses poor English that may be why they don’t ring!

Please roll play with new employees. Make them feel comfortable and learn about your company before turning them loose on me!

Have everything you need when answering the phone, pricing, pen, paper, etc. I can’t tell you how many times I hear “hold while I get a pen and pad!” When you come back, expect a dial tone!

Don’t put me on hold forever---- If you have to put me on hold and you don’t have music playing come back on every 30 seconds to let me know you are still there.

Don’t say I will call you right back – unless you call me right back! Many times “right back” to you may mean when you get a chance, find the information or remember. If it is going to take sometime, tell me that, “I will call you late today or early tomorrow” –then do it.”

Don’t ask me to call back because so and so is out or you are busy. Politely tell me that my phone call is very important and could you have my name and number to return my call, and then ask when that would be convenient for me.

Please don’t use your industry slang when talking to me. “I have no idea what a “SDW ho” is, and more importantly I don’t care!

Please keep you conversation polite. Make me feel that you are truly happy to serve me and appreciate my call . . . Remember I am your paycheck!

Women in Business Breakfast-November 6th

This article was written by Martha Ryan, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

Magnetize Your Marketing to Attract Your Ideal Clients

clip_image002Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to stand out in the crowd of competition. Join us as Master Marketing Consultant, Intuitive Business Coach and Founder of Conscious Marketing, Lisa Cherney discusses how to own what makes you unique and translate your passion into your marketing. Lisa brings 15 years of Fortune 500 experience to help her clients enjoy businesses of passion and profit. She will cover:

  • The critical difference between a target market and an Ideal Client that will sky rocket your business
  • A step-by-step method for finding the perfect words to communicate your unique approach
  • Powerful marketing strategies that will attract tons of your Ideal Clients and fit any budget
  • How to maximize the impact of all your marketing investments & get results fast
  • A simple system you can use over and over to market any product or service you ever have!
Register online at www.Score114.org

The Magic of a Cash Flow Projection

This article was written by Bill Bowers, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

clip_image001When seeking either equity or debt financing, the entrepreneur will be advised to write a business plan. This can often be a daunting task because the writer doesn’t have all the answers and isn’t sure where to get them. That’s when a cash flow projection can be almost magical in it’s ability to bring out the answers and simplify the chore of constructing a business plan.

Why is that? Well consider what information is needed to make a 1 to 3 year cash flow projection. All the anticipated cash in from sales, loans and equity investment must be considered and entered into logical monthly positions on the cash flow spread sheet. All cash out including rent, insurance, payroll, interest, etc. has to be entered also.

It’s appropriate here to identify the difference between a cash flow projection and a Profit & Loss projection. The key difference is that cash flow shows actual cash coming into the out of the business. A Profit and Loss statement takes into account depreciation and usually counts sales when products are shipped and not when the payment is received from the customer, along with accounts payable. P & L most often accounts for bill payment when the bill is received and not when the bill is actually paid. So for a bill that is received on April 1, P & L will account for the payment on April 1 but Cash Flow will show it 30 days later, with 30 day payment terms, when the cash is actually dispensed

The Cash flow projection forces the entrepreneur to think through all aspects of the business including how much equity or debt capital to bring in to start and run the business. If, after entering all the cash ins and outs over a 3 year period the bottom line shows minus, it becomes clear that either more start up cash is needed or cash ins and outs adjustments needs to be made. A minus cash flow bottom line is a definite no-no.

SCORE’s Small Business Solutions CD has an excellent template for fashioning a quality cash flow projection. This task should be at the head of the list of things to do in designing a quality business plan.

Orange County SCORE 114 launches CEO FORUM

Shared Knowledge-Shared Experience-Better Results

This article was written by Jack McSunas, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

clip_image002[4]The leaders of growing small and mid-sized companies confront the constant challenge of “doing more” with constrained resources in the face of increasing competition. The CEO FORUM program was formed by SCORE Orange County to address these strategic issues in a peer group setting. The members of the FORUMS are passionate about improving the performance of their businesses through shared experiences and knowledge.  Each CEO FORUM group is comprised of 10 - 12 CEO/Presidents from non-competing businesses who meet monthly as an ongoing team.

The CEO Forum program includes a monthly, half-day problem-solving and skills development meeting that is facilitated by SCORE Counselors with CEO experience. This meeting is an opportunity for the group to share problem solving, experiences and support.  Additionally, once a quarter the monthly session will include a three hour workshop which is led by an expert outside resource speaker based on the group’s collective interests. These meetings are usually held at a central hotel conference room but, on occasion are hosted at a member’s business location which provides valuable insight into their operations.

Between the monthly workshops each member can also choose to meet individually with an experienced SCORE Advisory Board member for no-cost, personal performance coaching sessions at their place of business. These sessions can be focused on a wide range of business and personal development opportunities.

The CEO FORUM program will enable you to become a better leader, make better decisions and achieve better results through:

  • Better insight into your own business as well as the economy at large which will help them to compete and outperform their competitors
  • New perspectives to stimulate fresh ideas about your opportunities and challenges
  • Enhanced skills to facilitate ongoing learning and performance improvements
  • A confidential sounding board comprised of experienced executives for both everyday and strategic decisions

To keep the groups homogeneous the following criterion has been established:

· Revenues are expected to reach at least $1,000,000 during the current year

· The company has been operating for a least two years

· There is an established office ( excludes home-based businesses)

· There are at least 3 non-family employees

· There will not be any competitors in any given FORUM

· Members must sign a confidentiality agreement

· Members informally agree to participate for one year, once they have completed their group orientation and have attended their initial meeting (after acceptance by existing members, if joining an established group)

Each SCORE 114 CEO FORUM Member is requested to be active in meetings and cooperative and respectful of other FORUM members. Members come to each meeting with current business issues that they wish to share with the other members that may have similar problems or perhaps have some experiences that might be of assistance. Additionally, each member seeks to identify areas of their business experience that may need some skill development and share these requirements with the facilitator.

As of early September there are 29 companies in three FORUMs. FORUM FOUR is being formed.

A new FORUM member sent the following email following the last meeting: “Before time got away, I wanted to thank you, a big thank you, for the invitation to the Forum this past Wednesday .The session, for me, was energizing and inspiring. Actually, I was first humbled and then, proud to be in the company of you and the other facilitator. Your combined experiences, successes and talents set the tone for the meeting. And when each of you spoke, the comments were measured and intelligent. The atmosphere was certainly cordial and open, but it was also apparent immediately that people were going to reach down and put forth their best observations and input.
The diversity, intelligence and entrepreneurial spirit shared by each member around the table was gratifying. I don't use this word loosely - it was truly synergism at its best. For me, the experience was like Jack Nicholson's  character in the movie As Good as it Gets, when he says to Helen Hunt -"You make me want to be a better man".
The experience made me "want to be a better, more astute, more complete business owner and entrepreneur".
Thanks for being there and doing what you do.”

To request an application for the SCORE CEO Forum please contact the Program Chairperson at CEOforums@SCORE114.org or telephone 714-550-7369 between 9 – 2:30 weekdays.

Looking for New Business? Don’t Forget your Chamber of Commerce!

This article was written by Jerry Margolin, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

clip_image002In today’s business climate things are tough. Companies are laying off employees, reducing operating hours, cutting prices, and a whole lot of other things, hoping to hang on until this recession passes, and unfortunately, that may also include dropping their Chamber of Commerce membership “till things are back to normal.” You might want to think twice about those Chamber dues.

I’m a Chamber fan, and even when I worked for companies doing business throughout the country, I never considered dropping out of the Chamber to save money. It makes no sense. The Chamber is our watch dog for the business community. It monitors legislation, advises their members about “job killer bills” cuts through red tape for those who are having trouble with local, and state government, works with the city to encourage new business to move into their city. The list is endless.

In order to do that though, they must be supported by the various businesses that are based within the community itself. If your business makes its profit from the community itself, such as Retail Stores, Restaurants, Automobile Sales, Attorneys, Doctors, Book Stores, Banks, and on and on, then being a Chamber Member, provides you a golden opportunity to not only have a list of all the other members of the Chamber, it gives you an open door to meet these business owners personally by joining with them at these special events.

In order to be successful though, you can’t just get your plaque at a mixer, put it on your wall, and point to it when customers come in. You have to work at it. A Chamber Mixer is a business event, as is a networking Breakfast, and almost any other “social function” that you hear that they are having. When I hear “I don’t have time for these parties, I’m working.” I sometimes lose it, you are working! You have to get involved, “work the room,” introduce yourself, don’t attack anybody with a sales pitch, but let them know you are there, and interested in what they do, if you are interested in them, they will be interested in you. People do business with people they know! In these difficult times, they better know you!