Best Backdrops for Professional Headshots

Originally posted on Business. Only Practical.:

Having a professional head-shot is extremely important for anyone in business. In this day and age, it may seem easier to simply snap a picture with your smartphone and call it good, but business people always need to think about the image they are projecting and an unprofessional picture may make your customers think you are unprofessional in your business.

Whether you are using your head-shot for your company’s website, print advertisements, newsletters or to include with articles you submit to industry publications, you need to work with a professional photographer to get the best results.
One question many photographers get asked is which backdrop is the most popular and would be the best for their personal head-shot. While it might seem like an easy question at first, there is actually quite a lot that goes into the answer. When it comes to professional head-shot backgrounds, less is usually more. The last thing you want is to…

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SMART Goals for 2015

Originally posted on David Cummings on Startups:

With 2015 almost upon us, it’s a good time to review goals for the next year. When I talk with entrepreneurs, I enjoy asking about their big-picture goals. Too often, I’ll hear “my goal is to build a successful tech company.” Great, what does successful mean (here’s my definition of a successful business)? That’s when I like to drill in and talk about SMART goals

Specific – What exactly are you going to accomplish?

Measurable – How can you track it?

Actionable – What steps do you need to take?

Realistic – Is it truly feasible to accomplish the goal?

Timeline – When will it be finished?

The next time you think of goals, think of SMART goals.

What else? What are some other thoughts on setting SMART goals?

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Ask An Expert: Kevin O’Leary Discusses Debt vs. Equity

Ever wonder when the right time is to sell equity in your company vs. using a loan to get you to the next level? Kevin O’Leary from ABC’s Shark Tank talks about the right time and place for each. And that IOU Financial is his preferred Small Business Lender. Visit us at

8 Ways to Show Customer Appreciation Everyday

Your small business thrives when you can count on customers loyally returning time and again to purchase your goods or engage your services. Sure, it’s necessary to have good offerings, low prices and savvy marketing, but sometimes that not sufficient. The deciding factor is often an environment you establish that appreciates and values your customers. This atmosphere doesn’t happen by chance (although it doesn’t hurt if your personality naturally operates this way) — you and your employees have to foster it.

How to Thank Customers

You can show your appreciation to loyal customers, and create more of them, by specific behaviors, programs and events. It’s not rocket science –it just requires common sense and a little empathy. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Start at the personal level. Smile. Shake hands. Remember names. Compliment. Inquire. Sometimes, a hug is in order. Don’t underestimate the value of the personal touch, because it can have a strong impact on your customers, who are, of course, only human.
  • Lead by example. You and like-minded small business owners can form advocacy groups to promote local businesses as well as popular civic causes, such as safer streets with better lighting. Members of your group can advertise in each other’s establishments, maybe even undertake joint projects. For example, the bakery at one end of the block might offer its goods at the coffee house on the other end. And vice versa. Customers are often attracted to good businesses that are also good citizens.
  • Mix it up. Special events, like block parties, customer appreciation days, food/wine tastings, grab bags and contests help create buzz that can attract first-time customers. The goodwill creates something of a psychological debt that customer repay with loyalty.
  • Always have at least one unadvertised promotion each day, if applicable. Soon shoppers will be coming in just to catch today’s deal. Make it something worthwhile, like bogos or special financing rates.
  • Premiums are a classic. The idea of getting a free radio when you open a checking account in the lobby of a balloon-festooned bank might be hokey, but guess what — it works! You can gear the promotions to your product or service. For example, if you offer financial services, how about free tickets to a seminar on a related topic?
  • Loyalty cards, rack up the points and get something for free. This only works when your business relies on repeat business. But if it doesn’t, offer referral fees instead.
  • Be very nice to complaining customers. And you should be, because they are helping you uncover and fix problems that others may have not brought to your attention. First, address the complaint head on and try to show immediate action. Second, issue an exclusive coupon or credit to the unhappy customer, something of value that shows you are sincerely trying to keep them from becoming disaffected.
  • Use your social media voice. Tweet. Like. Blog. Many forward-thinking businesses use a freelance writer to put out weekly blogs of general interest and value to consumers and other businesses. You do a lot of great things — shout it out on the interwebs and reward especially useful customer posts to your website with coupons or secret words.

Really, we’ve just scratched the surface. Let your imagination run riot and you’ll come up with a dozen ideas. For example, if you are a B2B, think about free extra services, faster shipping or better credit terms. In all cases, consistency is the key. Be grateful and appreciative every day, and you’ll have to beat off the thronging customers with a stick.