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Growing: Are You Standing in Your Own Way?

Overcome Your Fear of Debt

If you’re like many women I know, you may be cautious when it comes to money. Call it “Bag Lady Syndrome”—that irrational fear that lots of us have that, somehow, we’re going to end up penniless (no matter how hefty our bank accounts currently are), but the attitude invariably carries over to our businesses.

In today’s economy, of course, a frugal approach to business might seem like a necessity. And to some degree, that’s true. But there comes a point when being frugal really means you’re being penny-wise and pound-foolish—and for many women business owners, it’s hard to tell when you’ve crossed that line.

Consider the case of Andrea Herrera, who was recently profiled on Herrerra suffered from an affliction common among women entrepreneurs: fear of debt. She had grown her 10-year-old catering company to $650,000 in sales, but her reluctance to take out a loan was hindering further growth.

A mentoring organization finally convinced Herrera it was time to bite the bullet. Three years after she obtained a loan, her company projects sales of $1.3 million, and boasts big clients including Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. With new employees handling duties she used to juggle, Herrara has time for long-range planning so her business can grow even more.

Overcoming your fear of debt doesn’t have to mean taking out a loan, of course. There are many examples where reluctance to spend on a smaller scale could be holding you back. Are you working with outdated equipment? Doing tasks an assistant should be handling? Cutting out conferences where you could meet lucrative clients because you don’t want to spend the airfare or pay for a hotel? Even sitting on an uncomfortable desk chair because you don’t want to spring for an ergonomic one can cut into your productivity.

Next time you’re considering an investment in your business, consider this: How long would it take to pay back the expenditure? If a $200 chair makes you 20 percent more productive, it might pay for itself in an hour. If you land just one client at that event, the cost could be covered—and then some. In other words, start thinking about expenses not just as liabilities, but as opportunities that could help grow your business.

Sometimes it takes someone else’s perspective to help us see the growth opportunities in our businesses. Want to talk to someone? You can get advice anytime at SCORE.

Overcome Your Fear of Debt

Rieva Lesonsky - CEO, GrowBiz Media
Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship. She was formerly Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine and has written several books about small business and entrepreneurship. | @rieva | More from Rieva


Marketing: The Value of Customer Complaints

Embracing negative comments makes you stronger

No one likes to hear complaints. You invest sweat and spirit into your company, content and products. A bad review feels like a blow right to the gut.

But rather than a punch, perhaps it is better to view a complaint as valuable training, coaching, business toughening. Customer complaints are some of the most valuable growth data you could hope for… it is free, candid, focused feedback by clients who have engaged with your company. And studies consistently show that embracing complaints with good systems and follow-up can be an effective growth strategy:

  • Dissatisfied customers are taking the time and effort to voice their opinion and uncover problems. “A typical business only hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers—the other 96% leave, 91% for good” – (Jim Barnes, “Secrets of CRM”)
  • Complaints have greater buzz. Studies show that bad experiences are communicated to twice as many people as good experiences. Add in Social Media networks and this data grows exponentially!
  • Resolved complaints build greater loyalty. Customer satisfaction studies consistently show that customers who complain and are satisfied are more loyal than those who never complain at all.
  • Listening is your best tool in complaint resolution. Most customers complain, leave and then complain to others because they feel they were not listened to. You are not likely to be able to “fix” all customer problems. But listening and giving an honest, reasonable response is usually enough to retain a positive relationship.

Your Next Best Three Steps?:

  1. Create an Open Channel (or several) for Customer Complaints.Make it easy for clients to give you feedback at many different “touchpoints” or places where they are in contact with your company or product/service.  Studies show that 50% of consumers (75% B-to-B clients) will complain to a front line person or website but less than 5% will escalate to management.
  2. Build a Response System. Track client questions and complaints and your responses. This will allow you to build a set of common responses and to see if problems are isolated or pervasive. A company customer relationship system (even as simple as shared Google docs) allows you to present a coordinated, consistent and professional response.
  3. Use the System as Key Data for Future Growth Projects. When looking at planning for new products/services, new partners or new employees, your response system is the first data you should reference. And make sure you thank those who originally “complained” for their help.
Jeanne Rossomme - President, RoadMap Marketing
Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish. | @roadmapmarketin | More from Jeanne


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