Business: Recovery or Wholesale Change?

Recovery may not be the right word to describe it.

VoIP Supply - Get More
VoIP Supply - Get More

For the record, I’m a pretty optimistic person about most things and not siding with recovery as the answer, the end result remains upbeat. Looking back at recent history for us and most in the telecom/technology retail space, spending jumped off the cliff back in August or so.

While we (VoIP Supply) have seen some stabilization and slight upticks in revenues, far more important changes have occurred and been highly visible. The customer has changed and I’m pretty sure the old one has gone away. We may well be in the midst of a “recovery” but it is more like a rebirth of a more fiscally responsible customer. Gone are the days of spending to spend, spending to meet budgets and buying just to have the latest features and widgets. This is a good thing in my opinion.

We’ve changed and so has our customer.

Interestingly enough, the change has not been our customers running away in search of a less expensive seller (many of our competitors) as the need for value remains despite the need to spend less money. Instead of simply heading for the lowest cost, our customers are just being more careful in their selection, less in need of fancy bells and whistles and more in need of a partner that understands. Rather than drop our pricing to make sure customers are not heading away in search of lower costs, we have increased our offerings and rolled out programs for the customers that offer alternatives and configurations that meet their needs without breaking the bank. They seem to like it.

While I believe we’ve seen a bottoming in the economy, I’m not planning on a V shaped recovery here, I’m pretty sure this is the recovery phase and we’re seeing a new breed of customers. If I’m wrong, the upside is a faster recovery, if I’m right then we’ve got no worries and a lot of value to offer. If I’m really wrong and we haven’t seen the bottom, we’ll be here offering value just the same.

Business Owners Beware

Did you get snagged in the bear trap?

Relax
Relax

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in starting your own business, getting it running, keeping it running and making sure it doesn’t sink. I know, I’ve done it a few times and have indeed been caught in the trap more than once. If you are thinking about starting your own company or simply take your work too seriously, read along as it may well be worth the couple minutes of your time. If you already own and operate your own business, give this some serious thought before starting your day.

How often do you say things like “I don’t have time”, “I wish there was more time in the day” or “So much to do, so little time”?  These phrases should sound the alarm bell for a few things and might be signalling a need to make changes at work and in your personal life – both positive and negatives.

I’ll summarize in a couple of lists, feel free to ask if you want additional feedback.

Things to think about:

  1. Are you working to work, to fill your day or is each task productive?
  2. Are you working on what’s important to the future of your business?
  3. Do you remember what got you where you are and the reason you got there to begin with?
  4. When was the last time you went away and didn’t make work a priority each day?
  5. Can and will your work be completed in your absence or are you the required “secret sauce”?

What to do about it?

  1. Analyze your job, document what you do each day, drop the unnecessary tasks and focus on that which actually requires You
  2. Stop doing those things that are not important to the future of your business.
  3. Spend time to break down your tasks into basic steps, tasks that nearly anyone can complete with minimal training.
  4. Document the process and procedures you go through in order to complete your job such that a replacement could be sought and inserted should the need or want arrise
  5. Step away from work to see the big picture. More often than not people get caught up in the minutia and day-to-day, never looking at it from a distance to analyze, improve, remove or refine the role.
  6. Delegate. Get over yourself and empower others to be successful.

Find or make time to get away from it for a bit of time. Chances are pretty good that the business won’t completely fall apart and others will step up to the task when given the chance and without you as a crutch to fall back on.

Personal Brand Building and the Internet Land-Grab

The Internet called, they want to know if you’re coming to pick up your property?

This isn’t exactly a new idea or concept, either of them for that matter. Many have spent countless hours/days working on and perfecting their personal brand (on-line or off) and surely the Internet has been around for some time now. The game changer, at least for the moment, is the uptick in quantity and adoption of social media sites and applications. Just like managing your personal brand offline, there are a lot of places to manage when claiming your lot in cyberspace. More sites pop up, some will shut down, others will consolidate and until the application is created to manage them all from one place, you have a lot to keep track of if you want to do it right.

I don’t claim to be the expert on this, but from a business perspective, I see the value am taking steps to be where my customers and colleagues are, to be visible and helpful in places where they hang out and am losing the notion that the telephone and physical networking events are primary sources of business communication. Since I am not the most outgoing person in the world, networking on-line is a lot more comfortable for me than mingling at public social events. On-line, I can cast a huge net with a truly valuable offering, a recognized brand (or name) and the patience and persistence to make sure the net is noticed in all of the places that my customers might be waiting. My customers do not necessarily want to be found as they are intelligent people quite capable of finding me when they need me. It is my job to make sure that I have the brightest and largest target on my back (and front) as possible.

People like buying from their friends and from people who are helpful rather than pushy. Sure, a seasoned sales rep can coerce or bully you into buying sometimes, but customers are more and more savvy, they know what they want and they know they can get it cheaper somewhere else. This is where combing your personal brand with your business brand becomes very beneficial. It takes a long time, a lot of work and plenty of patience to achieve any sort of results, but hang in there and I’m sure you will see the long term value begin to pay off. Start with what you know and offer advice. Join, follow and contribute to groups in your line of expertise. Asking questions, meeting colleagues, working together on common problems that you face in your field will help solidify the value associated with your newly established personal brand.

Personal brand: Your name can carry a lot of weight in the search engine, particularly if you have a unique name or a nickname used by all of those who know you. Mine is uncommon enough that I was able to grab up a lot of the property associated with it and begin weaving my net between these sites. Below are some examples that I’m using to pull it all together.

  • Facebook.com: There are plenty of Ben Sayers’ out there and no really unique way of modifying the URL to your profile. But, if you search for Benjamin Sayers, i’m sure you’ll find me. If you combine my name with company affiliation, it gets a lot easier. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=766234121
  • LinkedIn.com: Much more of a business networking site and one that has been around for a lot longer than most, LinkedIn is a good place to organize your Rolodex and to expand it through introductions made through your colleagues thereby extending your personal network. LinkedIn gives you the ability to get your Name (Brand) in the URL which will help when search engines come a-lookin’. Benjamin Sayers on LinkedIn.
  • BenjaminSayers.com: This blog is a good example of a brand building tool offering the most control and flexibility when it comes to customization, search engine optimization and traffic driving opportunities. It takes time to get sufficient content and traffic to the site if you are not already well known, but posting valuable information, asking and answering questions and sharing your experiences and advice will begin to pull people towards your goal.
  • Twitter.com: A newer medium for communication combining both personal and business updates on “what you’re doing now”. This one is fairly new to me, but has provided significant value already and has opened my eyes to a lot of useful resources I would have otherwise gone without (most likely). I’ve found and now follow a lot of people in the entrepreneurial, VoIP, technology, general business and venture capital spaces. Everyday there are some exceptional tweets with tips, tricks and URLs to content often specific to my interests. I’m found at http://twitter.com/benjaminsayers, come follow along.
  • Company Blog (VoIP Insiders): Though I haven’t contributed in a while, our company blog gets a lot of traffic and is a great place to help build my personal brand. Re-posting content or writing new posts on blog.voipsupply.com that links back to BenjaminSayers.com will help with search engine rankings and help associate my personal brand with our business brand which is well known and highly respected.

There are other places out there (myspace.com, twibes.com, spaces.live.com, google profiles, ning.com) and new properties are created all of the time. If you are building and managing your brand, now is the time to snap it up before someone else with your name decides to beat you to the punch. If you are looking for help building your personal or business brand on-line (of off), the people at one of my companies, Sayers Media Group, can help. Along with creating IVR, SMS, Web, VoIP and other communication applications, our marketing team is experienced and well aware of how to build an on-line brand and drive traffic to it from all angles. If you just have questions, send a tweet, comment on facebook, ask a question on linked in or comment on this post.

Why should I care what Benjamin Sayers has to say?

Why should you care what Ben Sayers has to say?

He isn’t a well known writer, not an economist, he isn’t in politics and apparently doesn’t have much writing experience. He also isn’t that golfer from the UK.

Whether you read my content or not is entirely up to you, but I can offer this one thing. I won’t write about anything that I haven’t thought about it for a very long time, nor topics that do not affect a larger body of people than just me and those around me.

Benjamin P. Sayers is: (in no particular order other than perhaps chronologically)

  • A proud Canadian citizen living and working in the US since 1976 (I was three then)
  • The son of two very smart parent, one a Philosophy and Ethics Professor and the other a Geriatric Nurse Practitioner
  • A product of growing up on a Christian college in a town of 500 people, surrounded by rural New York townships
  • Like plenty of other Entrepreneurs, a college drop out
  • As such, I (Ben Sayers) am an Entrepreneur and have been since I was a child
  • A self-taught businessman, systems administrator and software developer, capable of learning just about anything as needed
  • A husband since 1997, she was my boss in 1991 and apparently still is
  • A father of three fantastic boys, all unique, gifted, well mannered and venturing into a promising future going wherever they choose
  • A budding social networker and master of my own “domain”

Among other things, I intend to write about my experiences as an entrepreneur and CEO, various political and business opinions, our Economy in the USA, vetting new ideas, talking about things that had an impact on me or my colleagues and plenty of other stuff I’m sure.

I’m not just writing this for my own pleasure and to occupy my time, I am putting these things out there because I truly want to hear what you have to say whether it is positive or negative. Tell me I’m wrong, it certainly won’t be the first time, nor the first time I have improved as a result of someone’s honesty. If you’d prefer to send an email or contact me by some other means, try bsayers -at- sayerstech.com or on LinkedIn.

Thanks!

Ben