Parable of the hawk and the dove

In the world of nature everything is about opportunity.

This truth was apparent the one day when we heard a thump on the roof of our office. As I looked out of the window a red tailed hawk rolled off the roof with a mourning dove in his talons. They rolled around in the underbrush and then the hawk took flight to the cover of a low-growing live oak. There he perched to feast on his meal of opportunity; the mourning dove.

Many reading this will think the hawk cruel for devouring the dove and some might wish for the demise of the hawk. From where I sit, I think this is a lesson in seizing opportunity.

As a small business owner, how hungry are you?

If you are hungry, how do you find your next project? Do you do as the hawk and fly across your territory watching for the slightest twitch or negligence? The truth is that the dove only became hawk food because he was not placing his attention where it needed to be: on being aware of what was happening around him. It’s the same in business. If someone “eats our lunch” in business, it’s because we may have been negligent one too many times.

Be aware

Whether we are in a pandemic, an economic recession, depression or boom, being too satiated keeps us from being aware. Throughout nature, critters have a way to know when opportunity arrives. Spiders sense the filaments of their web twitching; fish feel the vibrations of the water moving as flies land on its surface. Animals have a territory that they diligently monitor, making it their business to know what happens in their territory. We many not need to act on all the intelligence we gain, but it is our responsibility to know. And we must be prepared to respond to our intuition and the cues we gather from our intelligence.

Here are a few tips to keep the business hawks out of our dovecote:

  1. Be vigilant to all opportunities.
  2. Follow up on all leads.
  3. Respond in a timely manner to inquiries.
  4. Even when you don’t think you need to, circulate.
  5. Remain powerful; not only physically, but mentally. Knowing you are capable is half the way to gaining the opportunity.
  6. Don’t judge until you have all the information needed to make a decision.

How do you find your business opportunities? Share your insights in the comments.

Photo Credit: Thanks to Flickr user USFWS Mountain-Prairie for the featured photo.


 

What kind of website does your business need?

Most small business owners want a website, but aren’t sure of how they’ll use it. Knowing the purpose of your business’s website is important to understand before you start building it or assign a budget to your project.

One size does not fit all in websites either

One type does not fit all

There are so many ways you can use your site. Most want a website to help promote and publicize their business. Some want it to function like a “Yellow Pages Directory Ad;” providing contact information. Some may want to use their website to sell their most popular products or services. Others may want to use their site as a customer service portal. Most, however want to use their web site as a brochure—and often don’t realize that there are many other options.

Brochures and more

A static brochure website functions like a printed brochure, sharing information about your business all day, every day. It usually features your products and services and a call to action. Additionally, you can offer free samples; white papers or valued added items that can help you convert your prospect into an interested customer.

This is a very simple type of site and if you don’t plan to update it too often, you probably won’t need a content management system (CMS) to help you change content, but it may mean that you pay your web developer to update your content for you. If you are somewhat computer savvy, using a CMS, you can keep your site’s information current and help you avoid the expense of content changes.

Avoid Flash

A couple of “web generations” ago businesses hoped to impress their customers with sites that use Flash. Many opened with a “splash” page which delayed the customer’s ability to see your products and services. It’s common that customers don’t want to wait and will abandon a Flash based site before they realize the full experience. With the use of iPhones that don’t support Flash, you may wish to avoid using Flash except to display small or embedded elements. There are many ways to use CSS (cascading style sheets) to provide motion on a page that may be preferable to Flash.

Add interactivity

Given the interactivity of the web today, you can have so much more than a static site. Adding interactivity, such as comments and product evaluations or ranking as well as social media connections to your site helps people know more about your business, creating a higher feeling of trust.

 

WordPress LogoUse a content management system

A website that is active and updated often may produce better results in search engine rankings. Google favors fresh content and connections from various kinds of rich media (audio or podcasts and video.) If you want the best rankings in search engines, having fresh varied content is primary. So, you’ll need a CMS to manage your data. There are many Open Source platforms that provide CMS functionality. These include Drupal, Joomla and WordPress. Usually one of these solutions is more than adequate for most small businesses. All allow for rich media, interactivity and easy updating.

E-commerce doesn’t equal a whole store

If you sell products as opposed to services, you may want an e-commerce website. Most small business owners don’t want or need a site with all the functionality of Amazon’s robust store, but there are ways to sell your business’s most sought after items. This is a good idea if you operate in a large geographic area. You can save them travel time while maintaining your relationship and get product evaluations too.  Selling a limited number of items using Google Checkout or PayPal provides inventory tracking, the capture of customer information and even a way to refund money should you ever need it. Integrating either solution into your website is simple. Both solutions function well for small business websites.

 

Facebook logoBe sociable

If social media is part of your marketing communications plan, you should link to your profiles, feature your Twitter stream and demonstrate your social media activity on the website. Let your customers find you on Twitter, LinkedIn or your business’s Facebook page. These communication channels allow customers to know your business in an informal way. Truly, we are all busy and customers don’t often have time to linger in the store getting to know you. With social media you can share your personality to support your brand.

Adding chat functionality into your site provides people an immediate way to contact you if you are online when they wish to talk with you. You can also add a Google Voice widget that connects directly with your business phone so that people coming to your site can make a connection easily and for free.

Free is good

If you have expertise in a particular area, you can provide e-books or white papers on topics that will develop credibility in the minds of your customers. You can also put downloadable value added coupons on your site to stimulate a buy now attitude.

Reach the website finish line & achieve goals

Know your goals

Knowing your goals for the website lets your web developer make efficient use of their time and yours, choose the appropriate tool-set to implement your site, while achieving your business objectives.

Ten spot-on ways to develop articles for your business blog

If you are writing a blog for your business, you need to stay focused on the goals you set when you decided to begin. Was it to demonstrate your firm’s experience and capabilities or was it to help search engine results by providing keyword rich posts that also demonstrate your businesses’ knowledge?

10 tips to get you going with your business blog

Hopefully the later is your goal. So here you are, committed or not to the blog and you are short of ideas. These ten ideas will help you write interesting blog posts even when your creative muse has gone on vacation.

  1. Look to the news of the day; are there any major news items that impact some aspect of your businesses core competencies? If so, write about how and why. Google News has a robust search feature which allows you to hone in on your most significant keywords.
  2. Look to your interactions with your clients. Did you have any “teachable moments” or interactions in the past few days that you feel are common and which, when shared, can provide learning opportunities? If yes, write about those moments; be sure to keep the names of those you mention and identifying comments discrete. You don’t want to embarrass your clients or yourself.
  3. Write about some of the “basics” of your business. It is always good to refresh yourself on core competencies and share fresh insights as to why these basics are so important.
  4. Write about management issues affecting your business. Each business has issues that are common to them all and often generalize to others in the industry.
  5. Look to trends in your industry and analyze how one of them may affect clients in your industry.
  6. If your blog is client facing, write about new developments that are sure to produce results for them. Tell why.
  7. Invite another industry / sector expert to be a guest blogger. They can write about their insights into key issues in your industry.
  8. Share a client success story (with permission of course.) Tell why they succeeded and if you were a part of that success, help readers see how and why the client succeeded.
  9. Share a major learning experience; an Ah-ha moment. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be bullet proof…just healed. So say how and why you got insight that helped you redirect.
  10. Share information about your colleagues or employees or even new staff member news, awards and competencies. I would even suggest having one of your employees write a guest post. Invite them to share some of their personality and talents they bring to working with you.