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Small Business – Big Business…What’s the Diff?

Small Business, Big Business – What’s the Diff?

Well a lot actually!

I become frustrated and angry at the government’s paying lip service to assisting small business. It appears as though all governments, bureaucrats and many accounting advisers do not know what a real small business is.

In Australia the government’s definition for a small business is one which has less than 100 employees. Who are they kidding? In my consultancy that’s a big business.

They believe that ‘small business’ is the same as ‘big business’ on a smaller scale, that ‘big business’ is ‘small business’ with more of the same.

Wrong! About 99% of small business employs less than 10 employees and what is beneficial to the 100-employee firm may be downright dangerous for the 10-employee firm. Governments must know that. They can’t be so stupid not too… can they?

We Aussies are ready to believe anything about our politicians. We have met so many of them and none of them seem any brighter than the fellow next door. (In fact, none of them seem to know as much as I do).

When I decided to go global I was certain that the situation would be different in the USA. I was wrong.

The USA Small Business Authority has set a size standard for most ‘small business’ enterprises. In the full Table of Small Business Size Standards Matched to SIC Codes published by the Small Business Authority it is annual turnover that limits the size of small business firms.

In my consultancy of restaurants, coffee shops, florists, hairdressers, electrical retailers etc. the turnover limit is $5 million. In Australia there are NO single shop establishments achieving that sort of turnover.

In Australia a hairdressing salon working a 7-day week at an average price of $70 per client would need 30 clients each and every hour on ever day of the year. Impossible in Australia and probably in the USA too.

This does clear up an anomaly I had noticed in the different approach business plans took in Australia as opposed to that taken in America.

When Australian business began to use the Internet almost all the business plan software was from the States. The plans, although meant for small business, were not appropriate for Australian firms because they focused entirely on obtaining venture capital.

There were very few venture capital providers in Australia and of those that were few were interested in providing capital to the majority of our small ‘small business’. Business Plans languished in the filing cabinet and were hardly ever seen again.

The Australian consultants began to oversee business plans that focused on their being used as management tools. The planning itself was a vital element in the success of the business…and the plans were used to chart the course of the firm.

Each month the actual results were compared to what had been expected in the business plan. Tactics were formulated to overcome shortcomings or build upon favorable results.

Are you a small business owner who has studied all the books and web information that you can get hold of, and it is still not happening for you?

Perhaps it is because the information was directed to firms much larger than yours – firms with 100 employees or $5 million in sales. You need information more suited to your own business size.

Various organisations publish benchmarks for your industry. Compare your own results with the industry average. This will show where you should be concentrating your efforts for improvement.

You should seek out advisers and information that applies to ‘mini’ business – firms that are your size whatever it is. Perhaps you own accountant can help you find it.

But never be so foolish as to believe that what the government says is good for small business will be necessarily good for you.

Kelvyn Peters CPA and Associates knows profitable business strategies that really work.

And he’s only an e-mail away.

Point Your Window Washing Business Towards Success and Profits by Taking Massive Action!

Some folks may interpret this article as containing only a motivational message for your window washing business, but no…this article is a call for action. And a lot of it. Also defined as “Massive action”.

I’m a firm believer that a person’s ultimate success in business depends on what happens in the first 30 days of his or her business. Just like a house, every business needs a strong
foundation to build on. And by hustling the first 30 days of your window washing business, that foundation can be put in place because:

1) Your belief in the window washing business will strengthen (seeing is believing right?)

2) Seeing strong activity early in your business creates continued motivation and excitement.

3) Positive intense action will translate into more customers and more dollars which of course leads us back to one and two.

On the other side of the coin, if you plod along slowly doing a little something here and a little something there, the opposite occurs where you may lose the initial interest or excitement you felt when first getting into this wonderful business. I’ve seen it happen…and I don’t want it to happen to you!

If you’ve been in the window washing business a few years or a few months, and the first 30 days of your business has passed you by, it’s not too late. Just pretend that the 30 days starts today. Right now!

The kind of action I’m talking about doesn’t consist of sitting in front of the computer reinventing “stuff”, pushing papers around, talking to a few people about the business, or
distributing a few flyers around town.

I’m talking serious, petal to the metal, take the bull by the horns, and preach the window washing gospel prospecting for 30 days that’ll provide an immediate boost to your business.

Now this doesn’t mean at the end of 30 days we can all retire to our sofa and crack open a beer and watch our prospects and customers beat a path to our door. We still have to continue to
market, work the referrals, etc, but what this 30 day period does though is crank up the fire fast and make people take notice. Once it’s hot, then all you have to do is fan the flame.

Let me put this into prospective for you by talking about the importance of “seeing the numbers” or “playing the numbers game”, and how it relates directly to the number of window washing jobs
you get or don’t get.

A quick definition…when I’m talking numbers, I’m referring to the people/prospects you market your window washing business to.

Business, marketing, and sales is all about numbers. See enough numbers and your business thrives. Don’t see enough numbers and your business suffers. Elementary stuff for sure, but now we’re going to apply it in the real world.

But first, let me emphasize that it takes a certain kind of person to pay for a professional to wash their windows so you have to see more “numbers” than let’s say a carpet cleaning business or maybe a landscaper would. In other words, not everyone is our prospect, so we need to see a lot of numbers/prospects.

And here’s how we do that…

Let’s use the marketing technique of flyers because it’s probably the lowest cost form of marketing available.

If you put out 300 flyers a day 4 days a week every week for 4 weeks, that is 4,800 flyers. Using the average of a 1% return, 48 people will contact you. Out of those 48 people, let’s stay
really, really, really conservative and say only 40% of those 48 prospects end up turning into customers. That’s 19 jobs you just captured in 30 days!

Now I know there are people out there right now saying “I can’t possibly do that. I work full-time” or “I just simply don’t have the time to do those kind of numbers.”

My answer to that is to have someone do it for you.

It’ll be the best investment you would ever make. Think about it for a second. You invest $50 to $75 bucks a week in flyer distribution for 4 weeks and get 19 jobs. Again remaining
conservative, let’s use a low average per residential window washing job of $150 per house. That’s $2,850 for a $300 investment!

Um…not to bad, wouldn’t you say? Try and get that from the stock market.

And I’d like to stress once again that I’m remaining conservative. Frankly, if you can only turn 40% of your prospects into customers, then you’re doing something wrong. You should be able to convert at least 70% to 80%. Especially if you use the estimate package I provide in my window washing system. It does the selling for you.

I’m also not even talking about the number of referrals you’re going to receive from the above 19 customers you just acquired, PLUS the fact that you’ll be going back in 6 months to a year for a repeat performance.

If there’s no way, no how, you can invest any money or spend 4 days a week distributing 300 flyers a day, then how about 200 flyers every day 3 days a week every week for 4 weeks? Using
the same conservative numbers above, you’ll have 2,400 flyers turn into 24 interested people turning into 10 window washing jobs.

THEN take some money you have just made from these jobs and pay someone to assist in flyer distribution so you can boost your numbers.

This works! How do I know? Because that’s exactly what I did.

When I was in the insurance industry and made the transition from health insurance sales to AFLAC (yeah…I know. The AFLAC duck), I bought a mailing list of business names/addresses and must have visited every single business in my town in the first 30 days.

After awhile, the sales manager was asking me to make presentations to the sales force to explain why I was able so sell so much insurance. I think everyone in the audience expected some sort of magic bullet or “secret”.

No…just a non-stop, whirlwind of activity the first 30 days.

And once I hopped on board the window washing freight train, this whirlwind consisted of not flyers, but mailing out lots and lots of postcards. A constant barrage of postcards the first 30 days created an incredible foundation to build on.

Use whatever marketing method appeals to you (and what your finances dictate), but take strong action “early and often”.

I don’t care how you slice and dice it, but IF you work the numbers, the numbers WILL work for you…each and every single time.

But the numbers will not work in your favor if you see “few numbers”. If you distribute 100 flyers one day every 3rd week, it won’t work. Not enough numbers. Sure…it would work if you’re in the pizza business distributing pizza coupons, but we’re talking about the window washing business. You may receive a customer or two, but this whole article today is dealing with massive action by seeing serious numbers, not getting one or two customers.

So…are you working on your foundation?

Pick a date to really commit to your “massive action” campaign. Work it hard for 30 days.

Whatever day you pick, reread this article the night before you launch. I can promise you this…come 30 days later (assuming you religiously hit it hard during your 30 day massive action campaign), when the dust has settled and the smoke has cleared, you will be well on your way to a successful window cleaning business with more customers, more jobs, and more income.

As a side note, 30 days is my general rule of thumb because that has worked for me, but pick whatever time period works for you. You might be even more ambitious. Heck, just imagine what kind of business you can create with a strong 60 or 90 days of non-stop, aggressive, push-push activity.

I realize that some folks are only interested in doing one house a week to supplement their retirement income or maybe they love their employer so they’re staying there and using the window washing biz more as a side business.

This article is geared towards the person who wants to build a substantial window washing business. And my research has shown that that’s the majority of you out there.

I want this to be the best year you’ve ever had so give me a call anytime, anywhere, and anyhow. Let me know how I can help. My phone lines are always open. ‘Til next time…happy marketing and
don’t forget to think “massive action”! :o )

Regards,

Steve

256-546-2446

Better Business Bureau; Is it worth another look

Better Business Bureau Fraudulent Sales Practices

Have any other small businesses had a problem with the BBB and there sales practices? We have for quite some time. Our franchisees, (our company is a mobile car wash franchise company) are required to join the local Chambers of Commerce as part of their franchise when one exists in their exclusive territory. But as soon as they do the BBB calls up and says;

“We have been getting a lot of calls about your service, but we did not know what to tell those customers who inquired about you with The BBB?” Then the pitch goes on…for about $300 plus dollars you will receive….

Our franchisees join the chamber prior to the commencement of their business while their mobile car wash service trucks are being built to get to know the communities they will be serving. Inver ably they will get the call from the BBB from the new member directory from the chamber of commerce before any advertising goes out, so in fact no one had ever called the BBB at all. This has happened to our franchisees in Carson City, NV; Palm Desert, CA; Agoura Hills, CA; Camarillo, CA; Sacramento, CA and Houston, TX. I realize that this is “telemarketing fraud” and I am concerned. I am told that many of the 128 BBBs across the country pay their salespeople either all or part commission. So perhaps this is an individual problem, yet their sales people have done this. I personally have had it happen five times to me as the franchisees signed up at the Chamber of Commerce in various cities and they did not have phones yet, so they called me at Corporate. As a franchisor I am responsible for any verbiage of any sales person given during a sale, shouldn’t the BBB also be liable for these falsehoods?

I contacted the Washington D.C. head office of the BBB and they denied that any such incident has ever occurred and referred me to the fact that they are a 90-year old organization. Maybe, but as it stands today they are breaking the law. This has occurred five times in sales calls to me personally from BBB representatives. I also contacted the Los Angeles BBB and was told that yes their sales people often use Chamber of Commerce lists of new members as well as look up names of anyone who has had a complaint filed against them. I was told of this off the record, yet I am using this information too. In other words they use the list of companies who had customers call in whether it was a valid complaint or not as a sales tool. Interesting since accounting firms cannot also be consultants these days. The hypocrisy of the BBB is a little unnerving and of course unethical if not out right fraudulent in my opinion. I was told at the L.A. office that “MOST COMPANIES” join the BBB. Impossible since there are over 1.6 million businesses throughout the greater LA, Orange County, Riverside, San Fernando Valley area and most could only be over 51%. This is an exaggeration by any stretch. This would mean they would have a minimum of 800,001 business members, when in fact they have less than one tenth that number in all of Southern California. Yet these same BBB offices take complaints about franchising and on many of their web sites tell buyers to be aware of exaggerations;

http://www.bbb.org/library/fran.asp .

This is quite appalling and shows that both franchisors and franchisee attorneys should stand up and take notice; but this is not just a franchise business issue, it is a small business issue. All small business people are subjected to this and maybe harassed. Chambers of Commerce across this country signup their new members with public trust, yet this is being abused by another organization the BBB. I was also told today by this sales person in Los Angeles that 9 out of 10 calls coming into the BBB were consumers looking for references of businesses for service or products. This is also an exaggeration and a falsehood (lie). If you call any BBB the answering machine usually states; “If you would like to make a complaint press 1…” There is no mention of getting a reference and certainly few incoming calls result in new business for its business members. One of the benefits you receive is instant credibility from the consumer, yet the organization issuing the stamp of approval lacks credibility and ethics of it’s own.

Also of grave concern is the fact that even if you join the BBB and appear in the BBB phone book they produce in some markets, if you are disreputable you are still in print for the remainder of the year. And therefore we have the BBB promoting disreputable businesses for as much as 12 months. If someone files a complaint against your company whether real or imaginary (trying to get free stuff) you must settle the said complaint before you can renew, once again extortion.

I feel these sales techniques are fraudulent and disreputable. I am also concerned with the “Boomerang” closing techniques when the BBB sales person gets a negative response to join. “We will not be able to tell the people who call us that you are a reputable company.” Implying that the consumer will assume the opposite, that you are disreputable company. This in itself maybe good for BBB sales, but it is an extortion technique. I have heard this extortion technique myself many times and phrased many different ways all-leading to the same tactic. Asking small companies to fork over $300 plus dollars is unnecessary and they will receive little if any benefit for their BBB membership. Perhaps the plaque displayed may be of value to customers in a store, but the way in which they attempt to sell it is dishonest.

The BBB works closely with the FTC and after contacting the BBB to make a complaint they told me I was wrong, and that I did not know what I was talking about and that the BBB would never do such a thing? Which is also a falsehood since I have experienced it first hand. When I told them that I might have to contact the FTC in this matter, they said go-ahead knowing their strength in alliance with the government

The BBB preys on small businesses of all types as well as franchised businesses for membership using these techniques. We called the FTC as well and they would not take the complaint. Perhaps this is because they work with the BBB in secretly using entrapment techniques to get franchisors to make unsubstantiated earnings claims. The FTC has also worked with the BBB to catch franchisees of various systems in consumer fraud such as automobile repair, advertising claims and telemarketing techniques. So for this reason the FTC will not do anything about this issue.

The BBB is above the law. They often lie to prospective members to make sales, meanwhile attack franchisors using entrapment techniques from the inside while preying upon franchisees to prove self worth in conjunction with other agencies in the media and also use extortion tactics to make money for membership fees. Imagine the money they have extracted from all the franchise systems of this country. Just imagine the number of small businesses who are struggling right now to make payroll as cash flow has lessened due to economic forces beyond their control. Over 10% of all Americans own some type of small business and can be subjected to these terrorizing and extortion sales tactics. Most franchisors have many franchisees that are members of the BBB; this costs franchisees each year and cuts into the profits of the franchised units. We have put this line of text in our franchise agreement:

5.1 You may not join the Better Business Bureau as a business member as part this franchise with us.

I am very serious about this issue, having been lied to by BBB representatives for the last five years and today when I called to see if things had changed. I was hung up on by the BBB in Washington D.C. when I called to discuss this issue. The FTC will not do anything about it for fear of losing a partner. If the FTC will not look into this, why do we need an FTC or a BBB?

I have received several emails from concerned business people, for instance, Bob writes: “That’s really interesting, isn’t it? One government bureaucracy is using what
is “supposed” to be a free-market entity to do the dirty work that they
themselves don’t have the Constitutional backing to do in the first place.
Then, by not holding the BBB accountable for its fraudulent practices, it is
basically saying to them, “you are a brother government agency – one of us -,
free to terrorize whomever you want”. “I always thought that the BBB was basically a private organization that served as a watchdog, with a membership of businesses that could self-police. Apparently, I was wrong.”

This is a nationwide problem not just a few rouge sales people in one part of the country or one of the BBBs 128 locations. In Atlanta Mr. Lee writes: “It’s not just with franchises…. We get calls at our company stores in Atlanta, NYC, Chicago, and Birmingham with the exact same sales pitch “blah blah …we’ve been getting a lot of calls about your company from your prospects, and we don’t know what to tell them because you’re not listed with us..” “It seems like a total scam. I often feel stongarmed by them. Do you mind if I share your email with our attorney?”

Other people are also concerned with these issues, iCop Founder writes: “You certainly don’t need to convince me! I know first hand that everything you’re reported here is true. I have personally received the exact same treatment from the BBB in California. I had to threaten to sue them to get them to stop calling with the threats and harassment. A few years ago, when I had a complaint about one of their big name “sponsors” who ripped me off to the tune of several hundred dollars, the only response from the BBB was, “They said they didn’t so it.” This in spite of the fact that I had sent them undeniable proof! What is wrong with THIS picture?!” “Unfortunately, I have no idea that anything can ever be done about it. They are protected by the government – as you have already found out. I did write a series of articles on it a couple of years ago. Maybe it’s time to rerun them! Apparently, the only thing we can do is educate people and warn them.
Pretty much like the Mafia making you pay for protection under threat, eh? But then when Quest is listed as one of their corporate sponsors, you have to know something’s very wrong! Sorry we can’t be more help but it’s way too big a scam for iCop! When a government supported company like the BBB acts like nothing more than thugs, it’s hard to be surprised at situations like Enron and Worldcom.”

But that is not all the smallest of small business also have been harassed, Greg Spunk writes about this from San Diego and an office now in Phoenix: “We have not joined the BBB in either the Phoenix or San Diego locations for similar reasons. You just verified what I already felt was happening. They are of no value to us and we have not missed them.”

In Pittsburg a small manufacturer writes in to us and says: “The same thing to me. “someone is calling about your business and we aren’t able to tell them anything since you aren’t a member…. It was $465 dollars to join, and they called and called and called. I declined since I didn’t see the point.”

We received this from Albuquerque, NM from the proprietor of a small automotive business who wanted her husbands company to remain anonymous; “It happened here for 6 months, same speil, We have been getting calls for your business etc. Finally I told them that I was not interested and to stop calling or I would call Santa Fe and talk to the DA. Susie”

I received this email from one of our own franchisees;

“The BBB has called us and even after telling them I was too busy to make an appointment (after several calls), they dropped in when I wasn’t home and told Gino I had made an appointment. NOT TRUE. What’s up with them, I told them we were too new to join yet, we had to watch our cash flow. What’s up with them?”

Franchisees coming into the market and/or having been laid off need to watch every penny they spend, if the BBB uses forceful tactics, then they are of detriment to the success of a new franchisee that is on a budget to get their businesses going. Then they show up at a personal residence without an appointment? The sales people are so aggressive and hound small businesses. What happened to privacy? Is the BBB resorting to new tactics after the recent telemarketing law became effective? The BBB was told by our franchise that they were not interested after several calls, so they show up at their house? I am sorry but isn’t this pushing it a little, general harassment? Yet no one will enforce these issues.

If any other Small Business Person, Chamber of Commerce, SBA office, SBDC or franchisor are having this problem, I would sure like to know. Yes we are busy too, but that does not mean we can allow this injustice to continue. This is unacceptable behavior and the BBB should be disgorged of these ill-gotten gains. These monies should be rightfully returned to the businesses and the FTC should not get a dime since they are in cahoots with the BBB and are allowing this to continue for years on end. The FTC and the BBB should stop throwing stones at franchisors and their franchisee team members.