Today I am attending Network Solution’s first annual GrowSmart Biz conference in Washington, DC with the goal of:
- Learning stuff.
- Meeting people.
- Not being a troll, which, as a mom of two young kids is a reality I face.
This was a summer of learning, of which this conference is a continuation. Learning is important. Our Hot Mommas Project survey (largest database of teachable role models) indicates that one of the KEY traits of successful women is the interest in life-long learning. So here I am, learning and sharing top takeaways (in a series) from the following incredible folks:
- Roy Dunbar, CEO of Network Solutions
- Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief of WIRED Magazine
- Mark Warner, US Senator, Virginia
- Other fabulous speakers and panelists
Quick and Dirty Takeaways and what it means to you (and me):
P.S. You’re going to be more interested in this if you’re a small business person.
Roy Dunbar, CEO of Network Solutions, shared the following takeaways from their small business study. The focus areas over which I levitate here are:
#1 Money and
#2 How to be successful in this ikky economy
Money – No surprise, access to capital is an issue for small business. Bringing it home for us, however, is the results of the Network Solutions small business survey in which 34% believe lack of access to working capital is impeding their growth.
Some things are working better than others to remain successful during these tough economic times. See the chart below.
Chart: Mistakes Small Businesses are Making (Source: Network Solutions Small Business Survey)
Highly competitive Companies
|Cutting valuable employees||11%||26%|
|Hurting company morale||19%||45%|
More stats available at GrowSmartBiz.com
Well isn’t that just peachy? Let’s all just do the stuff in the left column and not the stuff in the right column? Roy Dunbar didn’t stop there, however. He provided some actual examples, resources, and action steps for the small business person.
#1. Creative companies will survive
Issue: What to do when you’re a small business person having trouble accessing capital?
Seek out local banks with experience in your industry. Kristina Bouweiri of Reston Limousine sought out a local community bank that had a good track record of partnering with local community businesses, as well as history in the transportation industry.
Market your company to your bank. Marissa Levin (is speaking RIGHT NOW on a GrowSmartBiz panel), says to raise money when things are going well for your company. Win an award, receive an honor or exposure? That information goes straight to your banker.
Seek our factors, and other creative solutions. Factoring. Heard of this? There are companies that can help you factor (or get an advance on) your Visa and Mastercard receivables. Example of a factoring company is RapidAdvance who is speaking here today.
#2 Flexible and creative companies will survive.
Issue: What specific steps can small businesses take in this tough economy?
Write your plans in the sand. You need to plan for flexibility. One key to having flexibility is derived from reducing expenses and having a cash reserve.
Be creative first, don’t cut your price first. Two examples were shared. One was a DC restaurant called “Indique Heights.” They ran a promotion for an $18 dinner in celebration of their 18th anniversary. This approach was good for promotion and the demonstration of value for consumers. It wasn’t just a price cut, it was a discount for a distinct period in time that correlated with a specific promotion to create a continued relationship with future full-price paying customers. Another example was provided of a patio furniture company. Instead of offering a price discount to a customer, they offered two free chairs. Thus, the company created a win-win by maintaining their cash flow, but increasing the customer’s perception of value.
#3. Companies with partners will survive.
Issue: How can relationships help a company in a down economy?
The right relationships can mean success. Dunbar shared the results of their small business survey which shows 51% of highly competitive businesses have multiple owners.
Partners help you seem big and successful. While Network Solutions is a big company, it’s clear they got there thorugh the right strategies and then following up on those strategies with action and a clear view of the changing marketplace. Dunbar pointed to the banner behind him showcasing partners such as PaloAlto Software, The Washington Business Journal, PAYCHEX, Comcast, Wasp, Salesgenie.com, and others. While some companies might view these as just sponsors, Network Solutions views them as partners. As a small company, partners are critical. For instance, the Hot Mommas Project enlisted a panel of very reputable judges last year for our annual case study competition. In addition to being a news item, it established credibility for us.
Partners can help you get press. Panelist Bob London of London Ink suggested a strategy he has seen work for many clients to get press. He suggests going to larger clients or vendors and saying, “Hey – as a part of your press strategy would you consider including us as a case study?”
4. Companies that employ the right technologies will survive.
Issue: What technologies should companies deploy? How do we filter and choose?
Dunbar mentioned Network Solutions’ survey says businesses that employ 6 or more technology solutions that are right for them are more successful. What the heck does this mean? Here was a great series of examples, as well as a “test” question.
Does the technology you use result in sales? According to Dunbar, 60% of online searches end with a purchase. Is it going to be your service? This is a great test question that small business owners can ask themselves as they evaluate and deploy technologies ranging from email and website to SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
- Example – LSV (Network Solution’s Local Search Visibility) deployed by the owner of horse stables. She got 2 to 3 inquiries a day after employing LSV.
- Example – Reston Limousine offers wireless in its coaches. It’s not just about making employees productive, it’s about clients being productive as well.
- Example – ConstantContact (for whom John Arnold was speaking today – he wrote Email Marketing for Dummies), and other programs can be used for nurturing relationships. It is not suggested these programs be used for initiating relationships. Provide relevant, high-value information to your clients and move them down the sales cycle.
- Resource- are you using relevant search terms and other key tools to increase the chances that people find YOU and your company? At the GrowSmartBiz booth here, Randy Windsor and his Network Solutions team are helping business owners analyze this. For a quick search, look at Google Insights.
- Resource: Coming soon from Network Solutions – Great looking website + built-in SEO
Stay tuned for other takeaways from today’s GrowSmartBiz Conference featuring Chris Anderson, Senator Mark Warner, and others.