Saturday, January 24, 2015

Guest Blog: 10 Reasons Why Contractors Fail!

Written By: Gary S Goldman
Business & Management Consultants to the Construction Trades

We spend a lot of time maintaining the trucks, loaders, mowers, trimmers, and blowers that we purchase. However, many contractors do not see the need to perform “preventive maintenance” on their business operations. In these times of uncertainty, I am seeing more and business, struggling to keep their “bottom line” in the black. In most situations it has nothing to do with quality of the product or service that the company offers to its clients. Most contractors that I work with are excellent craftsman.

The problems that many business owners are faced with are not derived from the lack work and backlog. The majority of the contractors that I work with have more work than they can handle.

Watching a business die is never easy, if for no other reason that it can happen in so many different ways. And, no matter what the cause, it’s never funny. Here, in the hope that a bit of foreknowledge may make a dent in the death rate, are 10 of the most popular reasons contracting businesses fail:

  1. UNDERCAPITALIZATION. Money’s not only the root of all evil; it may well be the leading cause of business failures among contractors. Far to many contractors underestimate how much money they are going to need, not merely to get the business up and running, but also to sustain it as it struggles to gain a commercial foothold. Once you start out undercapitalized, that can start a downward spiral from which you can never catch up. 
  2. BAD CASH FLOW. This is the macabre cousin to inadequate capital. Even businesses that move past the embryonic stage often collapse when incoming cash doesn’t at least offset expenses and other costs. Watch your cash “burn rate” by not falling into the trap of confusing cash receipts, or a positive cash flow, with excess cash. Once you spend it you cannot get it back. Understand the importance of monthly budgets and cash flow projections. They are great tools that will help you manage your business. When it comes down to it, cash is what really counts. 
  3. INADEQUATE PLANNING. Not surprisingly, this is the reason problems like capitalization and bad cash flow happen in the first place. It’s critical that you map out as comprehensive a business plan as possible, covering financial issues, marketing, operations, growth and an array of other elements. Granted, it can be time consuming, as a well-prepared plan can take weeks or months to complete. That’s the time to find out an idea may not work. If you don’t plan and still go ahead, you may end up with heartache and thousands of dollars down the drain. 
  4. A COMPETITIVE EDGE. Genuinely unique ideas are as rare as honest CEOs these days, but it’s still critical that your business gain a toehold in some sort of singular niche that you can exploit. Be it a slightly different service or customer support that goes beyond your competitors; earmark that one element that sets your business apart. Too many contractors are simply “me too” operations. Make sure something is unique or different.
  5. MUSHY MARKETING. Your mother knows your special, but what about your prospective and current customers? It essential to develop a marketing strategy not merely to identify who might buy from you, but why. Make certain your marketing strategy sets you apart so a customer can clearly see why they would rather work with your company than a competitor.
  6. INADEQUATE FLEXIBILITY. From stacks of cash to battalions of seasoned employees, every small-business owner knows the advantages a larger competitor brings to the game. Well, one thing they can’t necessarily do is turn on a dime, something smaller companies can exploit. Never forget to remain flexible. If a service isn’t quite right or a marketing campaign isn’t really flying, don’t be afraid to tinker. Making those sort of in-course adjustments is much more unwieldy for the big guys.
  7. IGNORING THE NEXT STEP. Make sure you and your people emphasize complete customer support, from doing things you don’t have to offering thoughtful, useful advice that goes beyond the ordinary. Make sure that all members of your staff focus on quality, service, responsiveness, and value. All members of your staff need to be focused on operating in a proactive manner. This mindset often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day activities. However, it is essential for the growth and continued success of your business.
  8. FORGETTING THERE”S NO “S” ON YOUR CHEST. Entrepreneurs are a smart, resourceful bunch, but running a small business carries its share of hidden kryptonite. Don’t try to be all things to your business. If you cringe at the thought of maintaining complete books, don’t hesitate to hook up with a good bookkeeper. When a legal issue crops up, don’t rely on your home-baked juris doctorate to evaluate the legal ramifications. Establish a long-term relationship with an attorney; preferably one with small-business acumen.
  9. GREAT BOSS, MEDIOCRE STAFF. Inexperienced and unmotivated employees can often bring down a solid business with a knowledgeable, enthusiastic owner. Make certain your employees are well trained, fairly compensated, and somehow share in the fire that burns in your belly. 
  10. UNCONTROLLED GROWTH. Ironic as it seems, but a small business that simply succeeds to quickly often pushes itself into an early grave. If your production fails to keep pace with demand or necessary expansion coincides with insufficient cash, the growth you dream about as an entrepreneur can actually threaten your business’ very existence. Again, cover foreseeable growth in your original plan and track it adequately to make certain that it never gets dangerously out of hand. 

If you feel that your company is suffering from any of these “symptoms” do not panic. In fact, it is not uncommon for a business to have these types of problems as it progresses toward its long-term goals and objectives. What is important is the ability to have a system in place to identify the various problems and take the necessary corrective action.

I have developed a simple process that allows you to take a proactive approach to help you manage your organization. I recommend that you perform a B.E.A.R., Business Evaluation And Review, on an annual basis. Conducting a B.E.A.R. is nothing more than a “preventive maintenance program” on the operations of your business.

You will be conducting a comprehensive evaluation, review, and analysis of 6 key components of your business operations & procedures. The internal audit that you will be conducting will focus on the following:

  1. Management and Administration
  2. Marketing & Sales
  3. Contract Administration
  4. Field Production
  5. Finance & Accounting
Each of the above components will be sub categorized and analyzed to determine if there are standard operating systems, procedures, and processes in place. If they exist they should be reviewed to make sure that they are meeting the needs of your organization. Where it is identified that they are lacking or non-existent, you will need to determine how they will be implemented.

The B.E.A.R should be conducted on an annual basis prior to the preparation of your annual budget and any goals that you may be setting for the upcoming year. That will give you the opportunity to take the appropriate corrective action and move forward.

The first objective of the B.E.A.R is to provide you with the information that you need to manage your business efficiently, profitably, and with confidence. Secondly, this evaluation will help create a degree of standardization within your company. Company wide standards are an integral component in maintaining quality control within your organization.

This will result in more efficiently, professionally completed jobs which directly equals greater profit not only financially for your company, but also for the client from a satisfaction standpoint. You will also benefit because employees at all levels, administrative through production, will enjoy coming to work where well defined practices, policies, and procedures clearly outline what is expected of them.

Your business needs to be monitored on a regular basis. Conducting a B.E.A.R on an annual basis is only one faucet of the monitoring process. You need to get in the habit of performing monthly operating reviews to be sure that what you projected and planned is really happening.

By grabbing control of your business and keeping it running at peak performance, you will increase your odds for long-term success and profitability. And most important, you will have a good time doing it! Remember, the “secret of getting ahead is getting started”.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Guest Blog: How to Determine you Google Ad Word Quality Score

Written By: Kerri Koncius

Okay, so you’re ready to start your first Google AdWords paid search campaign. Great! You’ve got your landing pages ready to go, your ad copy written, and your budget nailed down. Now all you have to do is bid highly on the keywords you want to target, and you’ll show up at the top of the results, right? Not so fast…

There is another piece of the AdWords puzzle that is incredibly important, yet widely unknown by those outside of the search industry. That piece is called Quality Score, and impacts not only what positions you show up in and how often, but how much you pay per click as well.

Google defines Quality Score as “an estimate of your ads, keywords, and landing page” and claims “higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.” It takes into account the relevance between your keyword, ad, and landing pages, as well as user experience.

The reason for this measure is that once upon a time, you could just pay your way to the top of Google results with a high bid. You could rank prominently on highly searched keywords without having anything to do with those terms. This led to users having poor experiences and not getting what they were searching for. Quality Score ensures that an ad for a dentist’s office won’t show up on a search for “Disney World,” no matter how much that dentist is willing to pay to target that term.

So how can you set your business up for high Quality Scores, low cost-per-clicks, and effective paid search campaigns? Here’s how:

  1. Don’t bid on keywords that aren’t relevant to your business 
  2. Write compelling ad copy that encourages high click-through-rates 
  3. Ensure that users won’t be surprised when they reach your landing page, that you are giving them exactly what they were searching for 

The bottom line is that you need to make sure that your keywords, ads, and landing pages are all relevant to each other. This can be easier said than done, especially when you are a small business owner, responsible for many different facets of your company. Fortunately, there is a lot of help available, from webinars and whitepapers, to professionals that can set up and maintain campaigns for you. Whether you choose to give it a go on your own or enlist some assistance, if you keep relevance and quality in mind, you will be setting your business up for paid search success.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Four Ways to Increase Sales for Your Business

The world of sales is constantly evolving. New competitors can emerge at any minute, and you have to be willing to adapt as the market changes or you face the possibility of being left behind. Whether you are just getting started or looking to refresh your sales strategy, here are some useful ways to increase sales for your business:

1. Develop a clearly defined mission
The most important part of your business is making sure you have clear statement of what your business aims to achieve. Your employees and consumers should have no doubts that you are 100% committed to the mission of your business. Your belief in the product or service you are selling can have a huge impact how your employees sell it.

2. Sell to customers needs
You should always operate within the assumption that your customer will only buy what they need. Emphasizing the features of a product or service you are offering may convince the consumer of their need for it. Remember to be creative in your approach!

3.Outline your sales process
Having an updated Best Practices document readily available for your employees can make a big difference rather than relying on them to come up with their own strategy. Outlining a comprehensive, step-by-step process allows for a clear standards that can be measured. Once documented, these procedures can also drive training, coaching, and marketing efforts.

4. Get creative!
The world is constantly changing and it is important to stay on top of trends that fall in line with your business philosophy. Never thought about using social media? It may be time to start that Twitter account. Play on the creative strength of your staff to find new and refreshing ways to close your sale.

How do you refresh your sales strategy? Comment below!

Friday, December 26, 2014

7 Tips for Seasonal Healthcare Enrollment

The holidays can be a hectic time: making lists, checking them twice, and planning for parties, relatives, and seasonal events. It’s also the time of year when we can choose new healthcare coverage, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience.
November 15 to February 15 is the annual period of open enrollment for medical insurance coverage. Check out these seven tips to help make choosing a healthcare plan a little bit smoother this season, from healthcare.govKaiser Health News, and Bankrate.
1.     Act by Monday, December 15. Whether you’re switching healthcare plans or enrolling for the first time, try to choose by December 15, so you can begin 2015 coverage on January 1.
2.    Shop around. The plan you had this year may not be the best one for the coming year. You and your loved ones may have different medical needs, and a higher-tier plan may help lower the cost of co-pays and routine visits. You can compare your options at, or ask your insurance provider for more information.
3.    Research your network. Out-of-pocket healthcare costs can quickly add up into the thousands, so make sure you know which doctors in your area accept the plan you’re considering. Even if you’re keeping the same coverage, make sure nearby medical offices are still taking it. You can visit your healthcare provider’s website to find doctors in your network. 
4.    Read the fine print. Cheaper isn’t always better when it comes to medical insurance. It’s important to consider all the costs, such as medicine, co-pays, emergency room visits, surgeries, dependent costs, maximum out-of-pocket expenses, and deductibles. The plan you choose will affect the cost of all your medical visits, so make sure you read everything carefully. 
5.    Find out about discounts. If you’re enrolling through a healthcare exchange, see if you qualify for financial assistance by entering your income in a calculator. It’s important to enter exact numbers, so you don’t end up owing extra money next tax season. If you have an employer-provided plan, ask about wellness discounts or other incentives. 
6.    Get free help. If you’d prefer to talk to someone about your healthcare enrollment options, you can find a trained helper in your community. Search for free local assistance here.
7.    Check with BBB. To learn more about your healthcare provider, local medical offices, and other businesses, you can read BBB Business Reviews on
- See more at:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Guest Blog: Shop Safe This Holiday Season

By Judy Leary, President of IdentityForce 

The holidays should be a joyous time of celebration and not a time of worry. But identity theft is a problem that affects us all. It was just one year ago that sophisticated cyber thieves accessed Target’s computer system and stole 40 million credit and debit card numbers and personal information on 70 million customers. It was a huge wake-up call for retailers and consumers alike. Consumers vowed to be more careful with their personal data, and retailers redoubled their efforts to make every customer transaction failsafe.

 Unfortunately, despite companies spending more than $4 billion so far this year to combat the problem, cyber attacks have not only continued but have escalated. According to information compiled by the Identity Theft Resource Center, major data breaches are up about 25 percent over this time last year. Home Depot, J. P. Morgan, Kmart, ebay, Neiman Marcus, Walgreens, and the U.S. Postal Service all experienced security breaches in 2014, exposing data on tens of millions of customers. No wonder 60 Minutes recently dubbed 2014 “the year of the data breach.”

While safer days are ahead of us as banks and retailers gear up to roll out the more secure pin and chip credit cards in 2015, shoppers can do their part this holiday season to keep their identity as safe as possible.

10 Tips for Safer Shopping—Online and in Stores

1. Strengthen and Protect Passwords
“123456” is not a legitimate password, yet 60 Minutes reports it’s one of the most common ones used. A strong password consists of a combination of at least 8 letters, numbers, and symbols. Store passwords in an online password safe, never in a desk drawer or wallet.

2. Vary Emails
Do not use the same password for multiple email accounts, and always keep your banking emails separate from other email accounts.

3. Use a Credit Card Rather than a Debit Card
Credit cards are generally more secure than a debit card, which links directly to your
bank account. If you absolutely must use your debit card, be sure to have the cashier run it as a credit card so you won’t have to input your pin number.

4. Review Bank and Credit Card Statements
Review your statements each month and question any suspicious expenses, no matter how small. Cyber thieves sometimes “test” a card with low-cost purchases first.

5.Check the Safety of Each Retailer’s Website
To ensure the website is safe for transactions, make sure “https” is part of the address in the URL, and look for the padlock icon, typically found in the bottom right-hand corner of your browser. Use a credit card rather than a debit card, and under no circumstances give out your social security number.

6. Be Aware of Your Surroundings
With so much emphasis on cyber security, we forget sometimes about the still very real threat of pickpockets. Pocketbooks and backpacks should be kept closed and when possible carried in front of your body. Men should keep wallets in a front pants or jacket pocket. Limit the amount of cash and number of credit cards in your wallet, and never carry your social security card.

7. Treat Your Social Security Number Like Gold
You’d be amazed at the damage an identity thief can do with just your name and social security number. Memorize the number so you don’t have to carry the card with you, and share it only with employers and banks.

8. Guard Your “Snail Mail”
If paying bank and credit card bills by mail, put the envelopes directly into a secured U.S. post box, rather than in your door slot where anyone can grab it and access your account numbers.

9. Sign Up for Alerts
Ask your bank to alert you via email or text for any transaction over a certain threshold amount, such as $250.00.

10. Use Two-Factor Authentication
More and more banks and websites are offering this service, which requires an additional security step above and beyond your username and password. Typically a passcode is generated anew and sent to your phone each time you want to log on.

Follow these tips to ensure your identity is protected throughout the holidays, and all year long. From all of us on the IdentityForce team, we wish you and yours a joyous, magical, and secure holiday season.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Giving Back on a Small Business Budget

Businesses, large and small, frequently receive requests to support local causes and events. While large businesses may have a portion of their budgets allocated to support local causes, small businesses oftentimes have the desire but not the funds, making charitable giving a challenge. However, giving back is more than donating funds; it is supporting the communities we serve with resources that create a positive impact.

Customers are loyal to businesses that are involved in programs that support their local community. Even if small businesses are not able to write a big check, they can still be good corporate citizens by supporting local causes and creating mutually beneficial collaborations.

One of the first steps to giving back is learning about the opportunities available. Conducting research will help assure that the charity you support has a commitment to standards and accountability and will use your time and talents effectively and ethically. Because not all charities are created equal, ask for details on its programs, finances and governance. Use BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance evaluations on nationally-soliciting charities for free at

Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers three tips on how small businesses can support the communities they serve on a small budget:

Donate Time: Know what your company and its employees can offer. Consider staff members’ skills and what services they would be particularly well-equipped to provide. From volunteering at a local food bank to helping construct a home, a small business can not only offer volunteers, but also expertise that many charitable causes will value.

Donate Resources: Think outside the box. The most common ways to support local causes are donating funds or providing volunteers; however, be creative with your resources and consider offering services, equipment or space. Share your expertise on a project, offer to print flyers for an upcoming event, or make your conference room available for meetings.

Donate Support: Encourage staff to participate in company-backed volunteering efforts. Much of the great work charities provide to their communities is made possible by volunteers. Support staff volunteering in groups or teams—not only does it provide a great service, it also enhances team building, staff cohesiveness and community awareness.

Comment below and share how your company gives back to the community it serves.

- See more at:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Guest Blog: How to Protect Yourself on Cyber Monday

Written By: Judy Leary
President, IdentityForce

Ah, Cyber Monday. No lines, no waiting, no fighting over the last Frozen DVD for a lucky niece or nephew.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of Cyber Monday. Apparently, I’m not the only one: deal hunters spent $2.29 billion in 2013. That’s a 15% increase from 2012, and with all those shiny new iPhones with bigger screens (better to see those deals with) this year, I have no doubt that the number of online shoppers is only going to increase in 2014.

As the president of IdentityForce, it is my job to remind people that unfortunately, holiday shoppers won’t be the only “hunters” surfing the Internet on December 1. The increase in online spending is the perfect opportunity for scammers to gather credit card data from unsuspecting bargainers.

Here’s how you can protect yourself throughout the online holiday shopping season:

  1. Avoid making purchases over a wireless connection in a public space. Shared connections allow hackers to access your computer (or tablet or phone), and lure you to fake sites where they can gather your credit information.
  2. Password protect your home network connection, or better yet, plug into the network. Wireless connections are inherently less secure than ethernet connections, for the same reasons noted above.
  3. Be cautious about links provided in emails. You’ll see plenty of deals come through your inbox, and it will be tempting to just click on the links to get the deal. Experts recommend pasting the link into a new browser window, or navigating directly to the site to find the coupon or deal. Hackers can manipulate emails links to look safe when they’re actually designed to take a user to a fraudulent page.
  4. Lock down your social networks. The more of your interests that you make public, the more information a scammer could potentially use to target you with fake offers that you’ll be tempted to accept.
  5. Dedicate one of your credit cards to all of your online purchases. That way, if your information is compromised, it’s only one account.

While it is really important to remember that thieves and scammers may be more active over the holidays, don’t forget that they’re searching for vulnerabilities on the Internet all year long. Always remember to keep your passwords unique, and limit the number of people you share personal information with. Remain diligent over your credit reports, and monitor your credit card bills for unusual purchases. By keeping these tips in mind, if your information is compromised, you can take the necessary steps to stop the bad guys before they do too much damage.

December 1 is almost here! With these tips, I hope you’re getting ready to sit back in your coziest pajamas with a great cup of coffee to shop away from the comforts of your home, and personal computer.