Tag Archives: Start-up

Q4 Finish Like a Savage Prep for 2020

STILL PLENTY OF TIME IN Q4: FINISH LIKE A SAVAGE & PREPARE FOR 2020 DOMINATION!

There’s something about Q4 that is always exhilarating to me. Knowing that “the game” is coming to an end, each and every play is more significant, there’s less margin for error. Perform well during this time and you can make up for a lot of previous mistakes and setbacks along the way. Let up or fumble the ball, and you can destroy all the momentum you made thus far. No pressure, right?

All of this is going on while simultaneously a new game is going to begin soon thereafter. Endings are always thrilling, but so are new beginnings after all. The new year coming up is especially enticing. Not only is it a new year, but it’s a whole new DECADE. The freaking Roaring 2020’s are upon us.

Despite the hectic grind I’ve been on lately (pretty perpetual at this point, but even crazier with baby #2 arriving very soon), I wanted to take a little time to revisit and write up a quick/updated “Q4 Manifesto” which is mostly for myself, but then I decided to add a few extra tips for you too, primarily applicable to both your business and professional life.

  • Don’t wait for January 1st to start your New Year’s Resolutions, now’s as good a time as any. It’s a misguided practice that usually doesn’t end well anyway. You don’t need an arbitrary start date to work on self-improvement, that should be a daily practice as it is. Why not start right now?
  • Get AGGRESSIVE – Close out ALL of those pending dream deals that have been lingering. Do much more outreach and lead generation. Don’t dwell on whether you’re annoying people or assume that they already have an expert helping them that does what you do. Push harder!
  • Try not to eat and drink everything in sight just because it’s the holidays. Maintain (or in some cases start) your workout routine consistently and only indulge occasionally. It’s especially tough given all the parties and networking events, but some balance now will spare you later.
  • Enjoy time with my family and friends and BE PRESENT. Don’t spend that precious time distracted with your head in the clouds and worrying about things that are out of your control.
  • Debrief/Reflect on the past year. What worked, what didn’t, what do you need to improve upon? Lay it all out objectively and identify opportunities to get better. While this may seem obvious, it’s crucial.
  • Strategize for 2020 (and beyond) now. Spend an appropriate amount of time writing out specific goals, sketching out project plans, and dreaming big. It’s rare that a whole new decade is about to start so let your imagination run a little wild to kick things off. From there be mindful, thoughtful, deliberate, and thorough enough to also make your plan realistic while still stretching yourself. Once this exercise is completed, start working on implementing that strategy ASAP to carry some momentum with you.
  • Add appointments to your 2020 calendar (monthly/quarterly, etc.) now to make sure you schedule the time to reflect on your progress and measure where you’re at along the way to ensure you continuously improve.

A few specifically for you:

  • Get and implement a CRM already! Seriously, how many times do I have to say it? If you need to spend some time asking a few questions on how to get started, reach out to me, that part is, and always will be, on the house.
  • Start a blog, a podcastvideo/webinar series, whatever. Leverage content marketing to develop and enhance your brand and get your business’ name out there.
  • Finally start that business you’ve been day dreaming about for years now.
  • Or at least start working on that side hustle you’ve been planning.
  • Identify an organization you’re interested in and get involved in the community. This could be philanthropic or civic, doesn’t matter as much as simply taking action and giving back.

I’m sure there are plenty others I’m forgetting. And I will likely revisit this some more over the next few months to continue tweaking it.

What are some of your Q4 goals? What about your 2020 goals? How can I help you achieve them? Please let me know, would love to hear from you!

CRM Call to Action 2020

Your Annual CRM Call to Action for 2020

I’ve been harping on the importance of CRM programs for about a decade now (here’s the last time), yet it still hasn’t caught on the way it should. This is the year that changes. Like with most technology, competition, economies of scale, and innovation have driven costs down significantly. Not only are they cheaper, but the functionality and value has simultaneously increased dramatically. Now, you can even get basic versions of a CRM program for free. It’s why acquiring and implementing a CRM program is my #1 recommendation for every business, regardless of industry or target market, if you’re looking to increase revenue.

Whether you work for a large and complex company, or if you’re an independent freelancer, or if you’re a sales mercenary who is compensated by getting to “eat what you kill,” there is a CRM program out there for you. Regardless of your budget (or lack thereof), you can customize the level of sophistication of your CRM program, as they all have various subscription levels. Further, there was recently an absolutely game changing announcement from one of my CRM platform preferences (and the one I personally use for my business).

Zoho One – An Operating System for Business

“Zoho One is a broad and cohesive set of applications that work collectively to run an entire business on the cloud. It includes more than 40 web applications and an equal number of mobile apps—under a single sign-on, with centralized administration and provisioning—making it a true operating system for any business. While each application punches above its weight against the competition, collectively they deliver a knockout punch.

With Zoho One, we’ve put together all the applications a company needs to acquire and serve its customers (marketing, sales, automation, and support apps); run its operations (finance, recruiting, and HR apps); and provide all the tools for its employees to work collaboratively and get their work done (office suite, mail, personal productivity, and collaboration apps). Almost any company has these same needs. With Creator, our drag-and-drop app builder, customers can even build custom apps for unique business needs—like logistics scheduling—and put them under the same umbrella that forms the single operating system for their business.

Zoho One is available at $30 a month—or just about a dollar a day, per employee. ($35 if you pay on a month-to-month basis).”

While WIMS, Inc. is platform agnostic (we work with all of them, including SalesforceHubSpotMicrosoft Dynamics, and Insightly among others) it’s getting more difficult not to refer my clients and prospects straight to Zoho right now. There are of course exceptions, but they’ve built something special, particularly for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Now, back to the more general CRM theme.

They all integrate with your email provider of choice, along with most social media channels, so tracking communications is easy (and automated). There are an incredible number of third-party add-ons you can incorporate depending on how robust your operations processes are to add additional functionality too.

Most importantly however, is that the ROI (return on investment) will more than make up for the expense.

CRMs help you automate your sales process. The more automated your sales cycle and follow up efforts can be, the greater volume of deals your business will be able to close. Further, the more accurate data you have about your sales cycle, the more deeply you can analyze it to gain insight that will not only help increase revenue, but ultimately help you improve:

  • Close rates,
  • Customer service and retention,
  • Length of sales cycle, and
  • Forecasting efforts and projections.

While implementing a CRM program can be a significant commitment initially, if you do it right, the benefit to your business is invaluable. With just under two months left in 2019, now is the perfect time to start planning and conduct your due diligence to start 2020 with yet another New Year’s resolution.

We’re here to help if you need it!

Data Analytics Dashboard

How Anyone can Build a Custom Data Analytics Dashboard

If you could carve out an hour a month for analysis in order to save a dozen hours of work, the one-hour investment would be worth it, right?

How about if that same hour led to crucial details about your sales trends and customers insights?

On top of all that, what if that same one-hour investment came at no additional cost to you?

Seems like a pretty great deal.

Welcome to the benefits of an Excel-based analytical dashboard.

Benefits of an Analytical Dashboard

You’ve most likely heard of the powers and benefits of data analytics. You’ve probably seen examples from things like POS systems, Tableau, cloud-based software, and many others.

Some of these benefits include the following:

  • Saving you time and money through efficiency and more impactful insights

Spending time looking over your dashboard saves hours of debating anecdotal or piecemeal results and helps guide you towards the best path forward

  • Giving you better insights into your customer to improve marketing campaigns

Campaigns based on hard data are more successful as you can target your intended customer more effectively

  • Taking the guesswork out and make great, data supported, decisions in less time

The high end services all have their merits, but in a small business where you might not have the budget for those services (which are also potentially far beyond the capabilities you actually need), plus a large learning curve, those services don’t always make the most sense.

By learning (on a much faster learning curve) to make a dashboard in Excel, you can get the benefits you want in a completely customized dashboard at no cost (since you already have Excel on your computer).

 

Why use Excel for this

Let’s start with some common business questions.

How did your sales do last month? How does that compare to the same month of the prior year? How about compared to the pace you’ve been running at this year?

Now how about separating those numbers by project, item, or client? How about by distribution channel? Sales rep? What about the specific days you had promotions?

The first set of questions is somewhat easy to have a gut feeling for, if nothing else. You might even have some quick analysis created for you in QuickBooks (or similar software).

However, the second set of questions represents another level deeper. You might feel a bit less confident about your gut feeling. They require you to dive into the data each time you want to look, and maybe even anecdotally piece it together from a few different sources. It’s kind of a hassle, but they’re important insights, so it’s worth the time.

Here’s the good news from Excel – you can answer all of those questions, from top line revenue down to whatever level of detail you need, and have them at your fingertips in one place!

With a simple export of data from whatever source you need, you can populate dozens of custom views that you’ve templated and turn it into your very own analytical dashboard!

The only time intensive piece is building the template and framework for all your custom views.

After you create that, you’re essentially just updating with data each week/month/etc. and looking it over for trends. Making changes to it? Duplicating views with variations? Actually, all pretty easy.

The Excel Dashboard

Here is a very quick sample dashboard that shows that topline sales numbers (black chart) followed by a few, slightly deeper, analytical pieces that help evaluate performance (gray charts).

When I say “very quick” … this dashboard took less than an hour to fully create. Real life dashboards of this level of depth take a similar amount of time. Getting significantly deeper into the data does not necessarily mean significantly more time to create though.

Only a few “next level” type questions are displayed (although these may only be half a level deeper), but they are meant to be representative, and the great feature about the “behind the scenes” of the dashboard is that the building blocks for all levels of analysis can be VERY easily duplicated to get at any question you need.

Take a quick look at the dashboard, follow it along the yellow markers, 1 to 5. Any trends jump out at you?

You can likely see the following in a quick pass:

  • Sales are up in 2019! (Callout #1) – by 22.1% if we want to be specific

  • There seemed to be a change in performance starting in February (Callout #2). Perhaps a new item was released? Or a new marketing campaign?

  • All Sales Reps are selling more this year (Callout #3). Shawn leading the pack with a 28.7% increase over 2018

  • In Store sales have grown by over 60%! (Callout #4). However, Online sales have shrunk a tiny bit.

  • Further diagnosing, it looks like Jennifer and Oliver have really improved their In Store sales, while Shawn has faltered there (Callout #5). Perhaps there was a training that stuck with Jennifer and Oliver? Maybe Shawn has just focused all of his attention on Online sales?

Those types of insights are crucial to running your business and can be seen quickly from the dashboard. On top of that, there are still tons of different ways to cut the data… by product, by product and distribution channel, by sales rep by month, etc. All of these examples are (almost) as easy as copying and pasting.

Creating the Backend of the Dashboard – a General Guide

We start with one of the building blocks of an Excel-based analytical dashboard. Simply, the Pivot Table.

Depending on your level of familiarity with Excel, Pivot Tables might seem like “that complicated next level” or “that tool we use every day”.

The truth is, everyone can easily be at the latter, and if you’re already there, you could probably be using them more even more effectively. Investing just a bit of time can have a very outsized benefit to your business.

Pivot Tables are fantastic, for all levels of users, because of a few main pieces of functionality:

  • Very easy to build, use, and manipulate

Drag and drop methods, no complex formulas, no macros or coding

  • Ability to create charts and dashboards from the Table(s) easily

  • Build automatically updating formulas off the Table to create new data elements

It deserves mentioning that the quality of your data is very important. If the data is wrong to start, then there is no point is doing any analysis.

First… a few tips on how to create a Pivot Table

Feel free to skip this section if you’re already familiar.

For a detailed “how to” build a Pivot Table, I recommend watching from ~2:30 to ~5:30 in this video. The rest of the video has some good explanations as well, but for a quick guide, the 3 minutes is really all you need.

One piece I would highly recommend changing though, is in the data selection piece.

Important – select the entire column in the data, making sure the headers are in row 1. This allows you to add data in the future and have it included in the pivot table without having to change the data range.

The boxed-in range is okay as “ Sample Data!$A$1:$E$13 ”, but would need to be changed if you add more data to the end of it. The better version’s range “ Sample Data!$A:$E” highlights the entire columns.

Onto Creating the Dashboard

Start with creating a Pivot Table, and from there it is really just about dragging and dropping fields, copying and pasting, and picking a layout!

  • Let’s say you begin by creating a simple Pivot Table with sales by month:

  • From there, go up to the ribbon and find the “Pivot Table Analyze” or “Analyze” tab, depending on which version of Excel you’re working with.

  • Select the “Pivot Chart” option, and out pops a variety of options. Select your favorite chart option (bar chart, line graph, multiple types, etc.) and boom! You’ve got a working chart to help you analyze!

  • Any time you change what’s in the Pivot Table that created the Pivot Chart, the Pivot Chart will change accordingly.

Example, if you limited the data to just “Jennifer” (Sales Rep filter), you’ll see only her sales in both the Table and Chart.

Tip for the aesthetics of the Chart

To get rid of the “buttons” or ugly looking gray bubbles polluting your chart, you can right click on any of them and select “Hide All Field Buttons on Chart” and they’ll go away (as shown below).

If you don’t mind their appearance, each button acts as a filter for the Pivot Table. So instead of scrolling over to the Table, you can filter right from the Chart.

  • From there it is just preferences:

You can add a chart title, hide the legend, and a lot of other customization by clicking on the Chart, and then selecting the green “+” button that appears to the right of the Chart (shown below).

Once you’ve got your first chart, you can then start the duplication process!
  • To make another Pivot Table and Chart combo, you can just select the entirety of the Table, then copy and paste it elsewhere on the sheet

Copying the Pivot Table to be replicated
  • Drag and drop the fields (from the Field List on the right) you want to look at in the new Table (ex. Sales Rep in place of Month), and then go through the same quick process to create a Chart

The premise here is that each Table you create is referencing the same data. Each variation is just how you want to cut the data for that particular view.

Note – the formatting you select for one chart will not transfer to a new chart. The easiest method is to pick from Excel’s preset templates, which are normally visually appealing enough – both the black and the gray Charts above are in Excel’s preset templates. You can always customize the look of every chart individually to how you want though.

Best practice is probably to settle on a color scheme and layout after you’ve created all the charts you want, that way you can quickly go through each and select the same layout all at once.

After creating however many variations that get to your necessary level of depth, you’ve now just created yourself a dashboard! Congrats!

Best Way to Create Formulas Based on the Tables to get Additional Metrics in your Dashboard

You may notice that some pieces in the above dashboard (the tables with headers that have blue background and white text) are not Pivot Tables or Pivot Charts. These are created using the same information though.

Enter the GETPIVOTDATA formula. It is one of the most complicated looking formulas, but one of the most effective to use.

Note that it is simply complicated “looking”, but not actually that complicated to use.

Here’s an example. We’re going to walk through the Sales By Month table in the dashboard above (and referenced below).

Let’s say you wanted to get that 41.1% “Growth vs Prior Yr” for Feb from the information in the Pivot Table.

Naturally, you would do the following (referencing picture below) U10 / T10 – 1 = 41.1%

When you go to do that though, this scary looking formula comes out:

Let’s break it down and look at the first piece, before the “/”:

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

Translating, it is saying the following:

  • From the Pivot Table

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • Grab the metric “Sale Amount”

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • In the Pivot Table located in cell S7

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • Given the following criteria, Year = 2019

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,“Year”,2019,”Month”,”Feb”)

  • And the second criteria Month = Feb

=GETPIVOTDATA(“Sale Amount”,$S$7,”Year”,2019,“Month”,”Feb”)

You’ll notice the second GETPIVOTDATA (after the “/”) is the same formula, just referencing Year = 2018 instead of 2019.

It is the same formula as the nice and easy U10 / T10 – 1 above, just bringing in the functionality of the Pivot Table.

So why on earth would you actually use the complicated version?

Reason #1: Let’s say you add in another filter and the bulk of the Pivot Table shifts down by one row. The U10 / T10 – 1 will remain but will now be looking at a different month.

Reason #2: What if you changed the Pivot Table to include each Sales Rep’s details in each month (like below)?

Now that “U10 / T10 – 1” formula would be referencing Jennifer’s sales in Jan… not even close to total Feb sales.

If you used the GETPIVOTDATA formula, you would still get the result you want (Total Feb Sales Amount, 2019 over 2018) because you’re telling it what criteria to look at, regardless of what cells the intended data ended up in. It would still do $26,070 / $18,470 – 1, or 41.1%.

Note – in a scenario like the above picture, make sure Subtotals are enabled in the “Design” tab that appears when you click in the Pivot Table

Reason #3: You can completely customize the look of your created table, whereas you have limited aesthetic flexibility in the Pivot Table itself. I choose a blue header with white text.

Reason #4: You retain the copy and paste functionality of the “U10 / T10 – 1” formula but increase the accuracy of the formula.

Notice in our summary chart with each month’s “Growth vs Prior Yr”, we have the month abbreviation in the left column, then the % growth in the right column.

To utilize the copy and paste functionality of formulas in Excel, we just have to reference the month in the formula.

It is the same formula as above in every way except for the P9 in place of “Feb”. This just tells the formula to take the value in cell P9 as the criteria needed to be found in the “Month” section.
You can then copy and paste this formula to each of the months, and the “Growth vs Prior Yr” will fill out for each month, regardless of how many other variables are in the Pivot Table, or where the numbers you want are located (cell-wise).

Summary

So now you’ve learned…

  • The benefits of a dashboard, specifically one in Excel

  • How to make a Pivot Table

  • How to make a Pivot Chart based off it

  • How to duplicate those efforts (for efficiency)

  • How to reference the information in it to get analytical metrics that aren’t directly called out in the Pivot Table

  • (Most importantly) How to build your own fully functional, completely customizable analytical dashboard!

Updating the dashboard is an exercise that takes mere minutes to download the data and add it into your data sheet.

Reasonable time investment to make the dashboard, small time investment to update it, big business benefits.

The WIMS World is Expanding

The WIMS World is Expanding!

As business has continued growing rapidly for WIMS Consulting, the preexisting business model of leveraging elite independent contractors to assist with client projects has needed to evolve. So, we’ve begun growing more in-house as well in order to focus on enhancing client service by way of emphasizing project management and streamlining operations. Simultaneously, we’re more focused on continuing to grow and take on new challenges as well.

What’s been happening with my company’s EolianVR and Augmented Reality Real Estate (ARRE) either which have been exploding with growth recently too. We’ve landed deals with government entities, major health care companies, and are closing in on major real estate companies from brokers to developers to architects as we’ve refocused on improving development. We’ve also just filed a full patent to further expand on our provisional patent. It’s been an insane year and it’s not even halfway through yet. By the way we’re also hiring (Unity Developers particularly, and front end even more specifically).

Just wanted to take a few moments to update those that may be interested on some of latest developments in our world.

We’ve had Craig Oliver on as a project manager for a while now yet his role is continuing to evolve and grow with experience.

Tom Schaefer, Jr. has been brought on as a strategic partner to head up our business development efforts in both Charlotte and Miami (and beyond).

We’ve got interns Evan Shirreffs and Taisha Johnson who are helping with marketing, CRM, finance, and additional projects as well. Their roles will continue to expand as well heading into the summer.

Further, we’ll soon be announcing new partnerships as they’re formalized within the next month or two with people/firms in Los Angeles/San Diego, Atlanta, and New York in addition to more in Charlotte/Miami to go with our existing ones.

We’ve also got some new packages rolling out over the new few weeks to leverage our partnerships with Picnic Table Video Productions and Novelty Technology.

We are committed to working with the best and brightest team to ensure we bring the greatest possible solutions to our clients, maximize the value we bring to them, and to ensure they grow their revenue to unprecedented levels.

What is 10X Tom Schaefer Jr.

What is 10X?

If you’re an entrepreneur, a sales professional, work within your city’s start-up ecosystem, or are a follower of one of the dozens of personal/professional growth coaches, chances are you’ve seen or heard of “10X”.  This has become a hot term in the last half-decade, and I wanted to break down my interpretation of what this means, and how it’s meant to be applied to your efforts.  It started as a way to describe the “best” engineers who are 10 times as productive as their “worst” counterparts in the field of software development.  The term has been appropriated, perhaps most famously by Grant Cardone in his book “The 10X Rule”, as an understanding of the levels of effort and thinking required to break out of the average results and truly succeed.

The first component in The 10X Rule (get it here free, just pay shipping) takes a closer look at how we think about success, and how we set goals.  While we’re taught “slow and steady wins the race”, this puts our mindset in a place where average is OK.  However, average is a sliding scale.  If everyone is struggling, your struggles are justified.  We set smaller “realistic” goals, limiting our belief in what is possible.  I believe this way of thinking is rooted in the fear of failure, so we celebrate even the smallest victories.  Failure is necessary for growth.  As we fail, we learn what doesn’t work and improve our efforts for the next attempt.  Welcome failure, set audacious goals that are “10X” what you originally thought possible.  10 new clients a month instead of 1.  Raise $1 million for your start up instead of $100K.  Thinking in these magnitudes, even a “failure” of getting 3 new clients or raising $200K is still better than the original goals.

Now thinking at a higher level than before is great, but making them happen can seem daunting.  This is where the second part kicks in, and understanding the order of magnitude of your actions comes into play.  Break down what it takes to reach your goal.  Does it take 5 meetings to get that 1 client?  Schedule 50.  Does it take 10 calls to get 5 meetings?  Make 100 calls.  Don’t have 100 people to call?  Start building your network by sharing what you do with others and ask them if they know anyone that fits your ideal client profile (ICP).  Start somewhere and create the activity to get to the next step.

“But Tom, I’m a solopreneur and I’m already working 60 hour weeks, I can’t possibly work 600 hours a week, it’s impossible.”  or “Those numbers aren’t realistic, in my industry a 20% growth is considered a huge margin.”  Excuses are a justification of our fears.  We stay in a comfort zone to avoid failure.  Well a solopreneur can leverage tools like CRM to manage a sales and marketing strategy, making scalability much more attainable. A strong digital marketing campaign can grow an audience 100 times what was previously done with more traditional methods at a fraction of the price (and often at no cost at all).  The fear of failure is stopping more people from succeeding than the actual failures ever will.  Stop thinking small and start doing, because nothing ever happens overnight, and every great journey begins with a single step.

If you enjoyed reading this article, let us know in the comments below and remember to sign up for our newsletter via the form below.

Small Business Week 2019

WIMS Celebrates National Small Business Week 2019!

In honor of Small Business Week I’ve put together a collection of resources, information, articles, etc. for you to check out whether you’re currently an entrepreneur, if you’re considering becoming one, or if you simply want to support your local crazy roller coaster rider like myself. Also, to celebrate WIMS Consulting is offering a 20% on all services/projects for other small business owners. Just reach out and mention it during your consultation!

What is SBW?

From May 6th to May 11th, 2019, it’s National Small Business Week where the SBA (Small Business Association) recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners from all across the 50 states and U.S. territories.

About: “Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness.”

 

For North Carolina Companies:

Charlotte Business Resources – it’s Small Business MONTH for the CBR and the city of Charlotte (thanks Mayor Vi Lyles)! Check out everything going on. They’re using #31DaysofBiz too if you want to follow along.

Check out NC IDEA, they’re expanding the long-standing NC IDEA SEED grant program by introducing a Micro-Grant Pilot Program to award micro-grants to deserving companies not yet positioned for their traditional $50K seed grants. “The NC IDEA SEED Micro-Grant Pilot Program will award project-based, micro-grants in the amount of $1K – $10K to young companies looking to validate and advance their idea; or if further along, validate scalability where a small amount of funding would make a significant impact. Grant recipients will also receive mentorship and assistance from NC IDEA, as well as access to its wide network of advisors, partners and investors.”

 

Other SBW2019 Resources Worth Checking Out:

Entrepreneur Magazine SBW2019 HQ

Entrepreneur Magazine SBW2018 HQ

Fundera Ultimate Guide for Small Business Owners

Amazon Business Small Business Week Page

They also created: The Small Business Office Playbook is a resource endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of its commitment to continually support small businesses’ needs and growth opportunities.

Vista Print 33% off entire site with code SMALLBIZ

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

Top TedTalks for when you want to start a business.

Consider These 9 New Ideas For Small Business Week PR (Forbes)

Why National Small Business Week Matters Now More Than Ever (Business.com)

Small Business Week 2018: Need money to get started? We’ve got you. (USA Today)

43 Reasons You Should Support Small And Independent Businesses (Forbes)

Marketing Sales Automation Tech Stack

The Best Marketing and Sales Automation Tech Stack for B2B Businesses

Just about every company in America would publicly emphasize that they’re committed to revenue growth (this is more important than ever now). Yet simultaneously its common to try to cut corners and get cheap when it comes time to invest in tried and true resources that help them realize that goal. Further, these resources will easily pay for themselves and more by leading to significant ROI both monetarily and via efficiencies.

In 2019 I can’t believe companies still need to be convinced that they need things like CRM programs and marketing automation but here we are.

And let’s get one thing out of the way before going any further. No, having a free HubSpot account doesn’t count as investing in a CRM program. It may be slightly better than a Google Spreadsheet (yes some solely use that as their “CRM”) but it’s still a lame attempt at best (that’s not to knock them, they have a fine platform if you’re willing to pay the fees to upgrade it).

Fortunately, there is an upside whether you have a CRM and marketing automation system or not. Regardless if you have none, a poor/dysfunctional one, or even one that’s working decently well, now is a great time to make it even better. Take the time, make the investment, and ensure it’s a priority to get dialed in and implemented now to lead to massive dividends later.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right, so I’ve put together a list of the best tech stack in the game to work synergistically and seamlessly whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or a $100 million company with hundreds of employees.

To set the ground rules this piece is predominantly focused on marketing and sales automation. There are plenty of additional angles to take to assist with ERP, HR/recruiting, etc. (if there’s interest I’ll gladly do a follow up post). Also, there are a variety of effective approaches and platforms to pull this off so in some cases I’ll include secondary and tertiary options. If your favorite tool is omitted it doesn’t mean I’m not a fan, just trying to make this easier in a world with a vast amount of options to avoid analysis paralysis. I’m not going to let that be your excuse not to take action and execute.

Ok here we go.

Communication

This is obvious, but your base starts with communication, so email, mobile device, etc. Personally, my preference is overwhelmingly an Outlook and iOS base. However, Gmail/Google Suite or Android are just fine. I use both Outlook/Gmail and both accounts are connected/integrated with my CRM. If you’re working in teams, adding Slack to the mix is worthwhile as well. Price: $5-$10 per user per month.

CRM

This is really the major component that ties everything together and is the key to making everything else in your business work. If you’ve read anything I’ve written about CRM’s you know my #1 preference right now is Zoho One. It does so freaking much for your company for the price that it’s absurd. Their tagline is: “The Operating System for Your Business” and it’s 100% true. There are literally 40 applications that go along with it that could easily eliminate much of what you’re using right now. But if you love your other platforms and want to keep them it also integrates with them all.

A few steps allows you to sync and keep track of all your communication with clients and prospects, ensure you follow up with leads who fill out contact forms or simply visit your website (yes it includes a heat map and website analytics) and so much more. I also use it for project management.

Almost on equal footing (albeit it comes with a much higher price tag) is Salesforce, followed by HubSpot. These are both great platforms, they just cost a whole lot more to license and don’t come with the extra bells and whistles that Zoho One does. Price: $30-$40 per user per month.

Social Media

This section will be brief, your company has got to have at least the following accounts: LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you want to add others to the mix more power to you, but this is the base. I use Zoho to manage, automate, and track my posting (which is included) but you could easily use Hootsuite too. Price: Free (Zoho) – $30 per user per month for Hootsuite.

Email Marketing

Another quick section: you need to be incorporating email campaigns into your marketing activities. Email isn’t dead, that’s a lie (neither is direct mail, but that’s for another time). This is one where you could get away with Zoho to manage it, yet I stubbornly have stuck with MailChimp. I love the platform, the company, and what it stands for and have remained loyal. You can start with a free account for under 2,000 contacts, I have more in my list, so I pay a monthly fee (the fee staggers based on your amount of contacts). Constant Contact is a fine option too. Both integrate with Zoho. Price: Free (Zoho) – $30 per month and up for MailChimp.

Contract/Proposal Management

If your company is like mine, you crank out a lot of proposals and contracts on a regular basis. While we customize each one there is still plenty of overlap and recurring content that we leverage often. Standardizing as much as possible with templates creates a HUGE advantage. It allows us to crank out much more in less time. Business is a numbers game, i.e. more activity leads to more volume, which leads to more sales and revenue. So being able to get more proposals and contracts out in a timelier fashion is going to make a tangible impact on your business alone. For this I use/recommend IntellyDoc. Adding this to your tech stack is going to make a major impact on your business. Price: Free (Freemium Model) – $150+ per month depending on your company’s situation.

Payment Processing

Not that your company is closing all this new business you’ve got to collect, right? I have an account set up with PayPal, Square, Stripe, Venmo, Zelle, Coinbase, and Gold Money to collect fees from clients. I recommend having them all nothing else in your business matters if you don’t collect the fees you charge. They all connect to your bank, which should connect to your bookkeeping platform, which then connects back to the CRM to tie in deal flow tracking and to assist with financial forecasting, etc. Price: Free aside from a percentage per transaction.

Bookkeeping

QuickBooks gets all the love, but I’ve been using Wave and it’s really great too (you’re probably sick of hearing this by now but Zoho has an application that comes with your Zoho One account too). QB integrates with Zoho, Wave doesn’t which is a minor annoyance, but I created a work flow to work around that.

Other recommendations:

Scheduling: Acuity is awesome to assist with scheduling meetings, demos, calls, etc. by allowing folks to see open times on your calendar and book appointments. They have a freemium model.

Ecommerce: Shopify.

Seed Round Capital

Notes on Raising Seed Round Capital

Throughout the past year I’ve helped lead a couple of seed round funding for company’s that I’m a co-founder of. While I’ve assisted and consulted many startups prior to that with raising money, doing it from this perspective was quite different. I won’t admit to knowing absolutely everything, but I’ve certainly learned a few things along the way that are worth sharing if you’re in a similar situation or considering it.

Seed round funding takes significantly longer than you think it will, even if you’re just going after “friends and family”. Start reaching out to potential investors at least 6-9 months before you think you’ll need the funds as it can easily take that long to close the deal and collect the check.

How are you going to structure your company, and the investment? Delaware C-Corp’s are a common favorite structure and get a ton of attention, but you don’t necessarily need to structure it that way. Do you want to offer a convertible note or do a straight equity investment (or equity crowd funding – which is a whole other game)? There are pros and cons to each of these decisions, so it really just comes down to preference and seeking expert counsel.

Get serious about documentation as there’s a ton of it required. These deals are a negation, so anticipate there to be red lining for edits on a term sheet contract, additional concessions will be asked for, etc. Secure an attorney to assist you with this side of things. While you can start with a template, always get approval from a professional before executing the deal and finalizing documentation. It will help you later.

Your valuation is likely too optimistic. But even then, a valuation is always subjective. Your true valuation is essentially what you can convince someone your company’s worth. Remember no business plan or pitch book in the history of the world was 100% accurate with their projections. Make sure your work comes across as thoughtful and realistic however to show the potential investor that you did the work and aren’t just flying by the seat of your pants.

A “yes” isn’t really a yes until the money has been transferred. Don’t count your chickens and start deploying capital until you have received it. You can get a yes (or what you perceive to be a yes) on a deal but then when it comes time to complete a wire transfer the investor can get a little gun shy. Things happen, whether they get push back from their spouse, the market takes a downturn, or perhaps it’s some other random unexpected occurrence, a deal isn’t truly closed until you have the money in hand.

Collecting the funds isn’t where it ends, rather it’s just the beginning. After you receive the investment capital, then you have to execute the vision, deliver on what you said you were going to, provide further documentation along the way, communicate progress regularly, and ideally turn a profit so you can return the capital back along with a sizable return on their investment. Not sure which is the hard part? They all are.

What are some of the things you’ve learned along the way? There are so many others to consider. I always love hearing, and learning from, a good case study about your personal experience raising funds if you’re willing to share.

SMALL BUSINESS WEEK 2018

WIMS Celebrates National Small Business Week 2018!

In honor of Small Business Week I’ve put together a collection of resources, information, articles, etc. for you to check out whether you’re currently an entrepreneur, if you’re considering becoming one, or if you simply want to support your local crazy roller coaster rider like myself. Also, to celebrate WIMS Consulting is offering a 20% on all services/projects for other small business owners. Just reach out and mention it during your consultation!

What is SBW?

From April 29th to May 5th, 2018, it’s National Small Business Week where the SBA (Small Business Association) recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners from all across the 50 states and U.S. territories.

About: “Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness.”

 

For North Carolina Companies:

Charlotte Business Resources – it’s Small Business MONTH for the CBR and the city of Charlotte (thanks Mayor Vi Lyles)! Check out everything going on. They’re using #31DaysofBiz too if you want to follow along.

Check out NC IDEA, they’re expanding the long-standing NC IDEA SEED grant program by introducing a Micro-Grant Pilot Program to award micro-grants to deserving companies not yet positioned for their traditional $50K seed grants. “The NC IDEA SEED Micro-Grant Pilot Program will award project-based, micro-grants in the amount of $1K – $10K to young companies looking to validate and advance their idea; or if further along, validate scalability where a small amount of funding would make a significant impact. Grant recipients will also receive mentorship and assistance from NC IDEA, as well as access to its wide network of advisors, partners and investors.”

 

Other SBW2018 Resources Worth Checking Out:

Entrepreneur Magazine SBW2018 HQ

Amazon Business Small Business Week Page

They also created: The Small Business Office Playbook is a resource endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of its commitment to continually support small businesses’ needs and growth opportunities.

Vista Print 33% off entire site with code SMALLBIZ

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

Top TedTalks for when you want to start a business.

Consider These 9 New Ideas For Small Business Week PR (Forbes)

Why National Small Business Week Matters Now More Than Ever (Business.com)

Small Business Week 2018: Need money to get started? We’ve got you. (USA Today)

43 Reasons You Should Support Small And Independent Businesses (Forbes)