June Business Gadgets on Sale

Spend less for what you need .  We know smartphones, tablets and laptops are not only helpful for businesses, small or otherwise, but critical in today’s market to effectively compete, close deals, complete transactions and conduct operations.  And if you can do all you need to do for a fraction of the cost, wouldn’t you be all over that like white on rice?  But let’s not forget items that we can use on business travel, recording imagery, communicating, the office or the employee lounge/kitchen and anything else we need to take care and manage business.

Through Costco/ Costco.com

Through Brad’s Deals  (FYI: These deals to expire and sell out fast!)

  • Refurbished Fijifilm AX655 Camera for $50
  • 7- Piece Luggage Set for Travel for $100 plus free shipping
  • HP Pavillion 10 TouchSmart Laptop for $285
  • Apple TV (from BestBuy) for $100 plus a $25 Gift card
  • Keurig K45 Brewer for $105 plus free shipping (and coffee cups)
  • Rocketfish 3G Mobile HotSpot for $18
  • RCA Charging Station for $14 plus free shipping
  • Motorola Power Pack for $10

Through Groupon

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 (7″, 8″ & 10″ screens) for $109.99
  • iEnjoy MyBolt Battery Charger for $11.99
  • Blackberry Z10 4G LTE for $189.99
  • Acer 15.6″ Touchscreen Notebook for $299.99

A penny saved is a penny earned…!

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The Seven (7) Things Someone Should Have Told Me…

About Starting A Business In My Twenties

When I attempted my first solo venture at 24, I was wide-eyed, hopeful and frustrated.  Yes, all of it.  Don’t ask me how, I just was.  I was frustrated with the economy and job market because no one was hiring inexperience hopefuls, degreed or not, but I was hopeful because the economy was also producing a generation of aspiring entrepreneurs who were tired of waiting for their reject letters or pink slips.  And I figured because I fit into one of those two categories, I could build something for myself from the ground up too.  Ha!  So cute, really I was.   Cute, but more clueless than anything else.  But it took some faltering, failing, starting over, giving up, coming back and failing some more to figure out a reason to the rhyme.

I use to think that it was inexperience that was against me.  What the hell did I know in my 20’s – more importantly, what the hell have I done in my 20’s that worthy of going into business for myself?  I also thought it was lack of formal education.  All I had under my belt was a bachelor’s degree that was nowhere near the realm of business.  Who was going to take someone supposedly in business seriously who never studied business?  It could’ve been I lacked confidence in what I could offer because I was still figuring all that out and testing the waters. Or, maybe I didn’t know enough people or wasn’t putting the word out as often as I should have.  It could have been any one of these things, it could be all of those things, it could be NONE of those things.  Business, whatever the industry, is quite often a hit-and-miss game.  You’re gonna miss more than you hit, but you gotta keep throwing to see whether or not you’re gonna hit.  Very much like a game of darts, I suppose.  Despite all of that, there were some really trivial things I should have known (or wished I was told) before I ever stuck my foot out there.

  1. Be an asset –whenever possible as often as possible.  People remember what you do for them, not what you tell them.  You can yap all day, every day about how you got a business, but if that business isn’t relieving someone’s aches and pains, no one cares.  Be an asset to those who aren’t even a client or you wouldn’t normally take on as a client.  When you start building referrals that build your business.
  2. Don’t do it for free if you’re not going to do it right — Pro Bono is fine and all for the experience, but if you’re going to half-ass it, don’t even bother.  Even free shoddy work speaks poorly (and loudly) of you.  You may need the work or the experience, but not at the expense of your name.
  3. Never diminish your work ethic — It’s tempting to, especially with all the tools and apps available to kind of automate stuff for you.  Uh-uh.  Won’t fly.  Repeat business comes down to how well your business was delivered the first time.  It doesn’t matter if that was your first client or your 15th, the delivery should still be the same.
  4. You cannot rush time — Man, oh, man.  I’m completely guilty of this one.  And this is probably one of the reasons why I failed so many times.  I wasn’t trying to cut corners, I was just trying to push things along a little faster.  I don’t equate anything to luck (I’m more of a “fortunate” kind of person) but timing is a huge factor.  As in, everything needed its time.  Time to build, time to develop, time to promote, time to test, time to grow.  If you don’t give elements in business their respective time, you’re building on shaky ground.  Ask me how I know.
  5. Seek help –On occasion, it may be mental, but on most, it’s actual help.  Find someone you trust (trust being the most important word in that statement) who can help you find the resources you need for whatever.  Whether they’re helping you research funding options, getting you touch with their website developer, or someone who can refer clients to you.  There should be at least one person in your camp.  Seek them out.
  6. Make the investment in yourself – It took me a while to take this piece of truth to heart, because I only heard it, but never fully absorbed it.  When people speak about making the investment in themselves, they mean taking time to become more valuable, more attractive to conduct business with.  For me, I took this as an understanding to go back to school, attend business workshops and gatherings and network with like-minded people.  Sometimes it cost me money, sometimes it didn’t.  But the fact of the matter was, I always walked away from every experience having gained something that later helped me.  A new contact, new information, an untapped resource – something.  But I had to make the investment first.
  7. Your efforts and/or business won’t disrupt any industries – and that’s okay.  In whatever you ARE doing, just make an impact.  Add value.  This goes back to number one in regards to being an asset.  Mark Zuckerberg rocked the social connecting industry, but he also made an impact (initially).  Focus more of being of essence than on being front page news.  All that builds after you’ve done something noteworthy.

These weren’t big lessons, but it would’ve been nice had someone just whispered them in my ear from time to time.  But we learn and acquired everything we need when we need it — I may not have needed to know this then, but I know it now.

Ask The Right Questions, Find The Right Clients

We put so much emphasis on finding clients.  And rightly so.  They are the bread and butter of our businesses.  Without them, we wouldn’t have a business  — we make our money  by selling products and services to our clients.   It’s as simple as that.  But not really.  Because although we may position ourselves to be of service to someone  for a fee, not everyone who needs what we have t is someone who should be our client.

Sounds a little conceited, I know, but there’s a reason to this rhyme.

Every so often I’m given a little wake up call — by my own doing or otherwise — of the certain elements I need to tweak here and there for Intel Boutique.   One of the things were brought to my attention by a colleague and long time friend of mine who asked  if I was still using my questionnaires.  I genuinely like to help people, especially when it comes to my area of expertise, which gets in me in more trouble than I like because there are instances where I’ll just drive right in.   But I needed to revisit this questionnaire to keep grounded and be more discerning.  So I ended up  re-writing it from a simpler but more direct questionnaire focusing on my needs and my prospect clients’ needs.  What is this questionnaire I’ve apparently been neglecting for too long?  It’s a client questionnaire.  It’s purpose is to help me gauge whether or not a client is worth taking on.

Yes, I said ‘worth’.  Because as blunt as it may sound, not everyone is worth the time and energy.

So, after I rewrote this questionnaire and gave it a few look-overs, I realized why I’ve been teetering with so many of my recent  clients is because  I never did a questionnaire on them to explore what they were looking for and what they really needed.  And of course, to see if the time I would put in would be worthwhile.  Needless to say, I’m glad I rewrote it.  And I rewrote with specific intentions:

  1. I need to know what the client is looking for — often people are so overwhelmed themselves, they want to unload everything onto you, making you their own little generalist.  That’s an immediate no-no.
  2. I want to find out they’re immediate pain points, what are they struggling with the most. I want to find out if it’s in my scope or not and how is it affecting their business and why.
  3. I need to know if they have a budget for outside help/vendors/services– whatever you want to call it.  I found that most people know they need someone else to help them, know they need to pay them for that help, but don’t know how much or can’t afford a lot.  And because I don’t believe in leaving  money on the table, I work within their means — but not outside my standard.  In other words —  I give them what they can afford and no more than that.  It’s not a selfish act, but a conscientious act.  I’m sure they don’t give out much for free and neither do I.  And the quality of my work doesn’t diminish, just the quantity.
  4. And of course, I want to know — how long will they need my services for.  Everyone likes long term clients, but in some cases, not so much.  Clients who start showing issues with making payments or become unbearable to work with, we want to make sure there’s an exit route for that client.

My questionnaire is about 10 questions long — not very intensive, but it asks all the right questions I need to know to make a decision whether you want to work with that person or not.  And the better prepared I am knowing what I client needs and if I’m willing to work with them, the better prepared I am in building that business relationship.

Weathering Business

Now that L.A. has finally dipped out of that ridiculous heatwave we were in for the past two weeks — in spring, no less! — it’s time to get back to business.  And speaking of business, how many small companies out there were able to sway customers from leaving their air-conditioned cars, homes and offices into their place of business?  What were some tactics business owners employed to negate the heat and still turn a profit?  Mind you, this is Los Angeles, and the weather forecast has much to do with the business forecasts as all the other elements — natural or otherwise…

One local business in LA lures customers in with the promise of cooler temps

One local business in LA lures customers in with the promise of cooler temps

“Not Interested”

No one likes getting random solicitations from telemarketing companies trying to sell them crap they already have or don’t need.  And yet, they keep calling and keep calling and calling.  Don’t you ever wonder why? Yes, some companies sell your information to others and that’s how they have your contact information.  Other times, we give it to them without even really knowing.  How?  Simple — via our website.  Actually, our domain names.  These telemarketing companies aren’t combing through hundreds and thousands of websites themselves.  They don’t have to.  Every time someone registers a domain name — actually buys it — they exchange their information, obviously for payment reasons, in order to reserve and own it.  Think of as digital real estate.  By registering a domain name, these marketing companies know who owns the domain site (us), where we’re located, our email address, our phone and whatever we were required to give up in order to buy the domain.  And because most of us don’t want to spend more than we have to, we don’t opted in to have that information hidden.  In other words, we don’t spend the extra bucks to make it harder for unwanted solicitations.  Thus, we get slammed with all kinds of nonsense from fast speaking salespeople trying to make a commission.  No beef with that, everyone’s gotta earn a living, but not at our expense and on our business line.

To better handle solicitations and to keep them from calling back, wise up:

  • Never just hang up.  Without a verbal indication from you stating to be removed from the list, they’ll recycle you back into their system and call at a later date.
  • You must say “Take me off your list” for them to take you off their list.
  • Some telemarketing companies will actually keep you on their list for awhile only to call you in a month or so and try again.  A certified letter from you to their physical business might be necessary to cease ALL calls.
  • Never say “not interested”.  You’ll just be recycled back into their system to be called at another time.
  • If your employees are answering on your behalf, instruct them to never identify your gender.  A lot of the times, these marketers have no clue who they’re calling, they just want to speak to the owner.  Identifying your gender gives them a little ammunition for when they call back later.  Trust me, if they can’t reach the owner the first time and they haven’t been told to remove the number off their list, they’ll call back later.
  • Any time it sounds like a marketer and they’re unwilling to identify themselves and where they’re calling from until they speak to the owner, immediately tell them to remove you from their list. (Do you see the running theme here?)  Cut them right off at the knees.
  • Never tell them you have someone else working for you or looking into what they’re offering.  They’ve been trained for rebuttals and that opens up an opportunity to further their quest.
  • “No, thank you” is the same as saying “Not interested”.  You’ll just be recycled back into their system to be called later.

If you find that you’re getting too many calls for solicitations and you don’t have time for all this bull**** , spend the extra bucks on having your information blocked when you buy a domain.  Stop opting in for the ‘more information’ box unless you want and can to commit to an action.  And any time you do conduct business with a third party, whether it’s electronically, over the phone or in person, ask them if they sell their clients’ information to other third parties and to be removed from that system.

Our time is precious, our fuses are short and we have businesses to run.

Annoying A$$ Clients

You know those people — they have to send us an email, a text, or dial our number every 5 minutes because they forgot to tell us something when they called 5 minutes ago.  Do they think that’s cute, because it’s not!  And we have clients who are just like this — unless you’re one of the fortunate few.  Seriously, there are clients who become very — I already used annoying in the title, so I’ll say — attached.  They cannot go a single day without texting, or emailing or leaving a voice mail making sure we’re doing our job because they want to make sure we’re on the ball.  They’re trying to lightly keep tabs on us, but in fact, they’re driving us crazy.

But it’s understandable.  I don’t necessary welcome the obsessive attention, but I completely understand where it comes from.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes, who has gone from service provider to service provider with little to no results.  Every time they change persons or companies, they have to start all over again building a relationship and trust only to be let down when it doesn’t work out.  So when they finally come to someone (us) who are actively showing more promise than all the others they’ve dealt with and paid out to, it feels almost to good to be true to them.  They become a little more hands on than they need to be because they want to make sure the progress they’re seeing is real and is going to stay real.

Now, sometimes you’re dealing with a micro-manager, someone who’s use to overseeing every little detail because they want to ensure any work done is getting done to their specifications and to their liking.  In this case, draw a line with them upfront or it’s going to be a battle till the two of your part on unfavorable terms.   For everyone else with an annoying client, but not a micro-manager, the best way to remedy this situation is beat them to the punch.  After your first couple of meetings with your client, get a feel for their expectations, their ideas and the gaps they’re trying to fill. The more often you’re able to provide close to, if not exactly what they need, the less likely they’re going to be nagging at you.  It’s really that simple.  You may find them a little frustrating to work with in the beginning, but start over-delivering and surpassing their expectations.  That annoying-ness will disappear.

You can call it good business sense, you call it Psych 101, just don’t let them keep calling you.

“Gigs”

If you’re a service based business provider (B2B), you already know how challenging it is to find new clients.  Even harder if you’re relying on them finding you.  Forget about your website, forget about your online and offline marketing tactics, standing out in the sea of all others, is the equivalent to being the needle in the hay stack.  So then, how in the world are you suppose to find clients if your business’ site doesn’t rank on Google’s top 10 or your clients don’t know who you are?

You find THEM!

One of the most simplest tactics that may turn some heads or raised a few eyebrows is browsing a site that is infamous for scandal and scam: Craig’s List.  I know, I know — but bear with me here.  Although Craig’s List is sketchy and has been known to make the headlines in a very bad way, it is also a good source to find leads — depending on what kinds of services you offer.

Under the  “Gigs” tab on the Craig’s List home site, there are a handful of categories that fall under the types of gigs people are looking for help with.  Being realistic here, you have to cast your net wide and often.  You are not the only person who is scanning to see what’s available, so the more often you frequent this section, the more likely you’re gonna to stumble on a few worthwhile chases.  Also, be aware that some people already have a dollar amount in mind what they’re willing to pay for what they need.  You can negotiate if you feel the task is worth more or you  can take what’s offered.  Up to you.  In other cases, you’ll be able to set your own prices.  Depends on the agreement.

Avoid, as with any other posting, any listing that sounds like a scam, that gives you very few details or has a link that directs you to a more sketchy site.   The goal is to reap clients from an unlikely source, not be taken by some con artist.

Craig’s List is not for everybody.  Maybe the thought of doing of business from someone on Craig’s List disturbs the holy hell out of you — that’s completely understandable.  It does take some time to feel comfortable navigating those waters.  You may want to try Freelancer.com, People for Hire or Fiverr.com.  Those sites are much more reliable, but work is harder to find because much more people are competing.  If you want to see results and change things up a bit, you’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone.  And Craig’s List does border outside the green zone.  You know what they say, “In order to gain something you never have, you have to do something you never done.”

Just sayin’.