Six Sigma for Small Business

It is not surprising that some people may perceive Six Sigma as being only for large corporations. Major corporations such as Allied Signal, Black & Decker, Dow Chemical, Dupont, Federal Express, General Electric, Johnson and Johnson, Kodak, Motorola, Sony, and Toshiba have all rolled out Six Sigma efforts and achieved outstanding results. Yet, it is incorrect to think that Six Sigma process improvement results can only be achieved by huge organizations. Small businesses can also succeed in implementing Six Sigma and reap the process improvement benefits that Six Sigma provides.

Certainly, there are factors that can be disadvantageous for implementing Six Sigma in a small business rather than a large business, such as lack of resources and expertise in change initiatives. However, there are also characteristics inherent in small businesses that can speed up the effective implementation of Six Sigma more than in large businesses, such as flexible process flows, a shorter decision-making chain, and higher visibility of senior management.

Six Sigma can work in any size business because the nature of Six Sigma is dependent upon characteristics inherent to any business, not on the size of a business. Six Sigma MAIC (measure, analyze, improve, and control) disciplines work no matter the size of the organization or even the size of the Six Sigma project.

Small businesses do have constraints that limit their ability to initiate a large scale Six Sigma implementation. However, there are ways to overcome these limitations. Small businesses don’t have large reserves of excess cash to earmark for the massive training programs employed by the large corporations in implementing their Six Sigma programs. Small businesses generally can’t afford to have full-time Master Black Belts on staff and may not have the personnel with the skills and expertise to step into the role of Black Belts without extensive training. A certified Six Sigma consultant can act as your Black Belt for the initial projects until you have generated sufficient savings to be able to provide some of those savings for training your own people. Training happens at a slower scale for smaller companies but it still happens. Financially, savings realized from the first set of projects usually justifies the entire cost of the Six Sigma training.

Once some members of the organization have been trained as Green Belts, Six Sigma projects proceed with Green Belts executing Six Sigma processes. Incrementally, Green Belts are developed into Black Belts and new Green Belts are trained. Using a more gradual training approach addresses many of the constraints of smaller companies and allows them to implement Six Sigma at a pace a small business can more easily manage.

There is a benefit to implementing Six Sigma in a smaller business. Because of the size of a small business, the financial results and cultural transformation that stem from Six Sigma will propagate more quickly through a smaller organization. Focusing the Six Sigma tools at virtually any properly scoped project will drive savings to your bottom line and achieve breakthrough change in your organization.

Small Business Planning — Three Myths

Are you — like 70 percent of small business owners — working without a plan? Here are three myths that need to be dispelled about strategic planning for small business.

1. It has to be formal — Not so.

The value of a strategic plan for your small business is in putting the ideas on paper, creating action steps that will get you where you want to go and implementing those action steps.

2. I’m too small — Not so.

Even a one-person business can benefit from a strategic plan. A strategic plan can help you make decisions about time management and budget. You can use your strategic plan to help you determine whether to attend an event or advertise in a publication. It’s a check and balance tool.

3. A strategic plan is like a ball and chain — Not so.

It’s your plan. Too many small business owners feel like once it’s on paper, it can’t be changed. Wrong! Your plan should be an active document that gets reviewed and updated at least monthly, if not weekly. You’re the business owner, you wrote it, you know what’s happening in your market — adjust as necessary.

Graphic Design Using Color

Color is everywhere and conveys a message even if we don’t realize it. While this message can vary by culture it pays to know what colors “say” in your own corner of the universe, and even what color means to your target market.

If you don’t think that color speaks just complete this sentence, “red means —- and green means ?” even a child will know what red means stop and green means go. If such simple ideas work for all of a given culture or market what could it mean to the graphic design of your website, brochure, or product if you know some of this information.

First let’s start with the basics. The color wheel. We’ve all seen it. The color wheel shows the basic colors, each wheel is different in how many shades of each color is shown, but they are essentially the same.

Color harmony, colors that go together well. These will be colors that are next door to each other on the color wheel. Such as blue and green. In reference to clothes these colors match each other. Instinctively most of us know which colors go together when we dress ourselves every morning.

Color complements, colors that set each other off, they complement each other. These are colors that are opposite on the color wheel. Such as blue and orange.

Color depth, colors can recede or jump forward. Remember that some colors seem to fall back such as blue, black, dark green, and brown. Other colors will seem to step forward such as white, yellow, red, and orange. This is why if you have a bright orange background it may seem to fight with any text or images that you place on it. The orange will always seem to move forward.

Now you have the basics so let’s go further. Just because to colors go together or complement each other doesn’t mean that yo necessarily want to use them on your project. I opened this article with the meaning of colors now here is an example, keep in mind this is one example from western culture.

Color Survey: what respondents said colors mean to them.

Happy = Yellow Inexpensive = Brown

Pure = White Powerful = Red (tomato)

Good Luck = green Dependable = Blue

Good tasting = Red (tomato) High Quality = Black

Dignity = Purple Nausea = Green

Technology = Silver Deity = White

Sexiness = Red (tomato) Bad Luck = Black

Mourning = Black Favorite color = Blue

Expensive = Gold Least favorite color = Orange

So in designing your project it’s important to know what colors mean. You can now see why a black back ground with green type would be bad, beyond being nearly impossible to read, if your target market thinks that black represents mourning and green makes them sick. There are exceptions to every rule of course.

So you may want to include some research in what colors mean to your target market. Colors that would get the attention of a teen would probably annoy an older person and the colors that appeal to the older person wouldn’t get a second look from a young person.

 

“Pay-Per Click” Ad Campaign: Earn More By Spending Less

What is “Pay-Per Click”? “Pay-Per Click”, is an easy to understand advertising strategy. There are around 300 million searches at major search engines everyday. This causes 80% of internet traffic. Placing your websites on these search engines is very important in reaching as many potential customers as possible. But in order to be seen and clicked most frequently, your website should be viewed at the top most of the search list. Most people only reach up to the third page of a search engine so the lower your rank, the lesser the chance you will be clicked. In “Pay-Per Click” advertising, you pay to be always visible on the internet. You select keywords or key phrases about your website, and the highest bidder ranks the best. There is no upfront cost. You only pay after a visitor clicks your link. This is why it is called “Pay-Per Click”.

Everyday millions of people around the world click on Pay-Per Click Advertising Campaign. With the booming internet industry and the ever growing online business, an ad of virtually anybody on the planet can be seen on the internet anywhere in the world.

The “Pay-Per Click” advertising campaign is the premier growth area in online marketing. Last year, an estimated $741.2 million was spent on “Pay-Per Click” advertising. The usual search engine optimization can take weeks or even months to produce results. “Pay-Per Click” advertising can attract customers at an instant. Why? Because, this cutting edge ad campaign can be placed on any website and can be viewed by potential online customers, anywhere, anytime and all the time. The only challenge is placing the ads on proper websites that will attract possible customers for a specific product or services.

“Pay-Per Click” advertising campaign attracts the right consumers at the shortest possible time. This is the most cost effective way of marketing products or services. You can also monitor the customers who visit your site, what they are looking for and what they are buying. With the right creativity on using the right search-phrases, we can direct the right people who are willing to do business with us.

“Pay-Per Click” advertising can easily be managed 24 hours per day and 7 days a week through the internet. This allows you improve the campaign strategy by effectively responding to the activities of both customers and competitors.

So what are you waiting for? “Pay-Per Click” now and let your business take the fast route to success.

Know Your Competition: How to transfer business skills into the internet marketplace

One of the first things to do before starting up any business is to investigate the competition. Any business owner knows this is crucial; to determine how to position a business in the market, who to target, what prices to set and who to keep an eye on. The same is true of the internet marketplace.

However, this understanding is rarely transferred when a business decides to ‘go online’. Perhaps the initial setup is so daunting that little thought is spared for anything beyond the layout and content of a website. The internet, however is still a marketplace, and one that is growing exponentially. Those same business skills need to be put to use here too.

If you want to learn from the success of your competitors you first need to think like a search engine. By mimicking popular keywords and phrases you can benefit from traffic that would otherwise be directed to your competitors sites.

Keywords are contained in what are called ‘Meta Tags’. These are tags that are found in the source code at the top of a webpage and include descriptions, titles and key words. Search engines use this information (in addition to content) to rank your page for different search strings. You can access this information by viewing the source of any website, just simply select ‘View’, and ‘Source’ from the toolbar.

If after looking at this code you fear it resembles some alien language, do not despair! There are many programs available that will search competitors’ sites for this information and provide a full report: in plain English. Just look for anything about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), it is one of the new hot topics; and you will be swamped with products. The danger is to believe too much of the hype, don’t pay for promises; search engines are not as easily tricked as we are!

Another key ingredient is links. Your page will be ranked favourably if it is viewed by the search engines as being an authority on a given subject. Links work a bit like votes, if someone links to your site they are effectively ‘casting a vote’ of approval. However the weight of this vote is affected by how many other sites they link to, so beware of ‘link farms’ (pages contained entirely of links) because they will not help improve your site’s positioning. The easiest way to obtain links is through online directories – although people may not visit your site directly through these links, it will help with overall search engine positioning.

Returning to the competition; you can discover who is linking to other sites by using an online link popularity checker. This way you can try and get these sites to link to you also. Remember, directed traffic is the best, so aim for links from sites which contain similar content to yours. If you are a business selling stamps, your best links would be from stamp appreciation pages – obvious really.

The internet has been established for a while now. It is no longer an unknown jungle. As a new business entering this arena you can learn from other people’s successes as well as their mistakes!

Why You Need a Business Planning System NOT a Business Plan

When someone mentions business planning we have been conditioned to think about writing a business plan. There are hundreds of books and articles, tons of software, an army of consultants, and a multitude government programs to help you write a business plan. There are virtually no resources to help you set up what today’s business environment really demands – a continuous, ongoing planning system.

A commonly accepted theory is that for a business to survive and prosper it must be flexible and nimble. It must be able to turn on a dime as conditions warrant. Having a written five-year plan is not part of this picture. In fact, trying to follow a long-term plan during rampant change is not logical. It is applying linear thinking to a non-linear situation. It just doesn’t work.

Having a formal, written business plan is so accepted as being crucial to success that there haven’t been many studies or surveys to test this premise. If business plans were such a wonderful thing, there would be a significant and conclusive difference between businesses that have them and those that don’t. Interviews of 100 founders of companies on 1989s “INC 500” list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. found only 28 percent had “full-blown” business plans. The 1993 AT&T; Small Business Study found that 59 percent of small businesses that grew over the previous two years used a formal business plan. A 1994 survey of the country’s fastest growing companies found 23 percent lacked a business plan. “The Relationship between Written Business Plans and the Failure of Small Businesses in the U.S.,” by Dr. Stephen Perry, surveyed 152 failed and 152 non-failed small businesses in 1997. He found that 64 percent of the non-failed firms had no written business plan. He also found that non-failed firms had more extensive written plans than failed firms, 23 percent compared to 9 percent, respectively.

As you can see the results of studies and surveys are all across the board and don’t prove anything. Clearly, a significant percentage of successful businesses don’t have written business plans. None of these studies reveal the nature of the process that created the plan. Was it the result of an annual process with occasional updates or an ongoing, continual process? As Professor Albert Shapero said, “Companies that plan do better than companies that don’t, but they never follow their plan.”

The focus needs to be on the PROCESS not on the plan. If a continual, ongoing planning process is in place, a written business plan is just not important. Writing a business plan without a planning system in place is a massive effort that is done very infrequently. Many businesses write three to five year plans and update them annually. The plans are reviewed periodically during each year to analyze the plan vs. actual variances. Little, if any, thought is given to strategy between the annual updates. Strategy should be the focus everyday. Setting up a planning system allows and sometimes forces you to focus on strategy.

A planning system consists of two functions. One is a goal setting and attaining process, and the other is a trend watching or environment scanning process. Setting up a planning system takes several steps. The first and foremost task is to set aside or make time for planning on a regular, ongoing basis. It must become part of your routine, not an occasional event that can be easily postponed. In the evaluation phase, the owner or management team and the company are analyzed. From the analysis, key or critical areas of the business are identified. These areas are filtered down to focus on the most important ones. Performance measures are determined and systems to gather and process the necessary data are set up, if needed. A base of current performance is used to set goals.

Now the regular, ongoing stuff begins. Strategies are formulated, tested, implemented, monitored, and reworked until the goals are achieved. Each planning session is split between working on strategies and trend watching. As goals are achieved, the goal setting and strategy formulation process begins again.

Let’s put the focus back where it belongs on continuous, ongoing planning instead of writing business plans. As Karl Albrecht said in his book Corporate Radar, “The majority is not always right, the conventional wisdom is not always wise, and the accepted doctrine could well be flawed. The more fashionable an idea, the more it is likely to be exempt from critical evaluation. Breakthrough thinking sometimes calls for contradicting the most widely held assumptions and beliefs.”

Using SWOT Analysis To Improve Your Business

Analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) of a business is a well-established tool that is widely used by academics, consultants, and advisors. Although it is a simple concept, business owners often struggle when trying to use it because it is so broad. It is difficult to determine where to start, what questions to ask, and where to focus. The obvious problems get attention while many other important issues get overlooked. SWOT analysis is a great tool, but its effective use requires additional structure.

Strengths and weaknesses relate to internal factors, while opportunities and threats cover external ones. The internal factors can be divided into five categories: management, workforce, sales and marketing, operations, and financial. The external factors are also divided into five categories: threat of new entrants, bargaining power of suppliers, bargaining power of customers, threat of rivalry from competitors, and threat of substitution.

To approach the analysis in a structured way, prepare a checklist using the categories mentioned above. Identify factors within each category that are important to your business. Under management for example, a major weakness for virtually every small business is relying too heavily on the owner. What would happen to the business if something happened to the owner? In the workforce category a factor could be employee turnover and the availability of new hires. The threat of new entrants might include the possibility of a big box retailer opening near your business. The bargaining power of suppliers and customers categories should consider the possibility of losing a major supplier or customer. Come up with several factors for each category to complete the checklist. It is important that you do not try to rate or solve each issue as you identify them. If you do, you will get bogged down on each factor and never complete the analysis.

Once the checklist is complete, you should rate each factor based on its importance to your business. Use an alphabetical scale from A to E, where A = very important, B = important, C = some importance, D = little importance, and E = not important. Next rate each factor based on proficiency (internal) or vulnerability (external). Use a numerical scale from 1 to 5, where 1 = very proficient or not vulnerable, 2 = proficient or little vulnerability, 3 = average proficiency or some vulnerability, 4 = poor proficiency or vulnerable, and 5 = deficient or very vulnerable.

The factors with the lowest letter and highest number (A5) are the biggest weaknesses or threats. The ones with the lowest letter and lowest number (A1) are the biggest strengths or opportunities.

Using this structured approach makes a SWOT analysis possible and practical for any small business. To make this process worthwhile you must use this information to take action. Work to fix the worst problems first, prepare for the biggest risks, take advantage of the best opportunities, and build your secondary strengths.

Staying Sane Survival Tips for Small Business Owners

Your lunchtime thoughts are comprised of brilliant marketing strategies and anxiety over bill payments. You’re the CEO, human resources director, janitor, and administrative assistant all wrapped up into one. You open the doors at dawn and lockup when it’s time to wrap up for the day.

Welcome to the world of small business ownership. Lovely, isn’t it?

Of course, the rewards of small business ownership are quite high. Your focus determines your reality and your success, you never have to answer to an angry boss, and (for most owners) you get to work in an industry of your choice. There’s an obvious trade-off with the long hours, multiple responsibilities, and occasional panic attacks of “how am I going to get this done?”

Not to worry. You’re not alone. In fact, almost all small business owners face the same issues you do. And many have survived and lived on to tell the tale (in small business seminars, in fact!), so don’t get discouraged. Here are several easy tips to get your business head out of the clouds.

Become an expert at time management: If you went to college, chances are you learned how to balance midterm studying, paper writing, socializing, and plain old partying into a somewhat successful formula. Dust off those time management skills, because they’ll get your small business running in an efficient fashion. A great way to do this is to use the tools that come with modern office software. Any sort of email program that features a calendar, such as Outlook, will allow you to track appointments, follow-up emails/phone calls, and important dates. It will also allow you to create daily to-do lists while maintaining an organized list of your contacts. You can also use spreadsheet software, such as Excel, to keep track of the progress of multiple tasks, calculate and crunch numbers, and store tables upon tables of information. Get this software, load it on to your office computer or laptop and use it religiously. It will organize your life and allow you to attend to the important things for your business.

Contracts are good things: Here’s a hint – if you’re not an expert at something, don’t do it yourself. Your budgets are stretched and your time and sanity are running low. How about a hired hand? From virtual administrative assistants to business planners to copywriters, hiring out help on a contract basis can free you from the logistics of running a business and allow you to stay focused on what your business really does. Obviously, hiring a professional costs money, but it also means a separate set of eyes specializing in something that you’re not the most adept at. The process could even pay for itself. If the quality of work these contract professionals bring in generate revenue by allowing you to work harder at what you do best.

Seize every opportunity: When you’re a small business, you’ve got to get creative with your marketing. Fortunately, every single moment and action presents itself as a time to sell your business. Writing an email? Then attach your business description to your signature and casually mention your business. Going to the library? Bring some flyers and tack them on the bulletin board. Going to get office supplies? Ask the supply store manager how you can place your business cards on the counter. Every scenario grants you the opportunity to reach another person. And even if its just one person, that someone can tell a friend, who may tell two friends, and so on. Word-of-mouth and grass-roots marketing can be a powerful tool, and it’s cheap – so use it!

Keep your chin up: It might be a cliché, but it’s true – the best way to have run a successful business is to stay positive. Keeping a positive mindset affects you, the ones you work with, and your customers. No one likes to work when they’re down in the dumps. But if you’re chipper, motivated, and ready to go, you’ll inspire yourself and the ones around you. It may sound trite, but it’s the truth. Maintain a positive attitude and work hard and the results will present themselves!

While running a small business is consuming and exhausting, don’t forget that you also need to stay mentally and physically healthy. These tricks will help you run your business more efficiently, but it doesn’t excuse you from running yourself into the ground. Remember to find an outlet for the physical and emotional stress that come with running a small business. You’ll feel refreshed and energized and ready to work hard and efficiently – and that means more business and more profits!

Persistence: A Key Ingredient in the Recipe for a Successful Small Business

It has been said that success is rarely easy or quick and that it is only the product of consistent effort which is repetitively applied. This is definitely the case for the small-business owner when trying to become successful in the cutthroat world of marketing. Any successful business depends upon marketing your product or services to the general public and convincing them to spend their hard earned money or time. It is only through persistence and never giving up on your dreams can success be achieved. Within this article, you will find several ideas of how you can maintain perseverance and understand that persistence is indeed a key ingredient in the recipe for a successful small business.

Finish What You Start

Oftentimes people get off to a flying start in their business endeavor, but as time goes by they get side-tracked never finishing what they started. The history of small business is full of great starters but not-so-great finishers. There has never been a great book left half-written, nor a successful business left half-built. The key to finishing what you started is perseverance and commitment. Remember that many people with less talent, less ability and less experience can achieve greater things than those with greater gifts if they commit to the end of what they begin to do.

Don’t Fear It, Face It

Fear is a terrible thing and when applied to running a small business can end in disastrous results. Most people are afraid of rejection or the thought of failure. Fear of rejection will cause people to accept lives of conformity and mediocrity, while fear of failure will lead people to pass up on life changing opportunities. The small business owner will oftentimes have to take chances and risks in order to survive. It is the ones that face their fears of rejection and failure that survive. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “The men who try to do something and fail are indefinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed.”

Decide to Be Decisive

Everyday we make choices. Most of the time we are not even aware that we are making them. In the world of business, indecisiveness can be fatal. To pursue opportunities for your small business and maximize potential, you have to become decisive. Becoming pro-active in making decisions in the direction of your business and staying the course will be for more successful than waiting for choices to happen and then dealing with the consequences.

Never, Never Give Up

This is the definition of persistence. As one Japanese proverb teaches us, the eventual winners are those who “fall down seven times, gets up eight.” We aren’t losers until we give up. This is definitely true for the small business owner.

Persistence is indeed a key ingredient in the recipe for a successful business. You must stick to your game plan and finish what you start. You must be decisive in what you chose and never fear rejection or failure. And above all, you must never, never give up. One final thought from J.D. Rockefeller, “I do not think there is any quality so essential of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

Why Online Presence Is Essential For Small Business Success

If you are any kind of small business or home operated business, online presence is essential. Majority of web site visitors are from the English speaking population due to the high levels of internet penetration in that category, online presence for all small enterprises cannot be overemphasized. The research data in the US about online connectivity reveals the following facts which may help to understand the importance of the web presence for businesses especially the small enterprise.

70 % of the US households have web connectivity.

In 2004 worldwide online population was 801 million worldwide.

Of these 36% used English as the language. Of this U.S. alone accounts for close to 200 million.

The next major group was European languages with 38 % and major single language next to English was Chinese accounting for 14%.

Home web users were generally affluent, literate, and belonged to the younger age profile. This means the web presence for any business is necessary if you want to succeed in promoting your products and services to a population who can afford them and also willing to buy them online.

The household that did not own a computer or who were were not connected to the web, generally felt it is not useful or needed and cost too much.

What this means for a small business owner is that they are better off promoting their products to people who were online.

You small business success is undoubtedly linked to your online presence