Thursday, June 11, 2015

Should You Use a Payroll Service Provider?

A rule my grandfather taught me in 1964

Walter, or TW to his friends, Kirk inspired much of my entrepreneurial passion. As far as I know he only had one business, TW Kirk and sons, which was the 2nd largest brick contractor in St Louis. I do know that during the depression (not much call for building contractors), he made money selling neck ties door-to-door and offering bridge and poker lessons on cruise ships (the rich always have money!)

He left me with many wise sayings, but this is one I have come back to over and over during my years of starting small businesses: "Don't ever do a job that you can't afford to do." He would further point out that his time was worth maybe $10 an hour in those days when labor was $1.00 an hour. There was no way he could afford to pay himself $10 an hour to do work he could get done for $1.00.  However, he went on to say that the hardest decision in starting a new business is "when to make the first hire."

Nothing has changed half a century later. It is still tough to make that first hire and take on a payroll. However, one decision should be very, very easy. Once you have three or more employees, why would you ever spend a minute figuring out payroll matters. In fact, even if you have a competent staffer making $12.00 or so an hour or a solid bookkeeper making $20 an hour, you will be paying them way too much to figure out and process a payroll compared to what an outside firm will charge.

One thing has changed in the 40+ years I've been employing folks - payroll has become more and more complex. According to these are just some of the advantages of taking your payroll processing outside:
  • Cost savings: Vladimir Gendelman, founder and CEO of Company Folders, an online service that that creates custom folders and other print marketing materials, said it’s much cheaper to use a payroll service than to do the work himself or hire a bookkeeper to do it.
  • Saving time: Katherine Niefeld, the president and founder of blink PR, estimates she saves several hours a week by using her payroll service.
  • Focusing on core competencies: Not having to spend time becoming an expert on the payroll process is what attracted David Johnson, a partner with the online Pickleball store, to payroll services.
  • Employee access: Greg Szymanski, human resources director for real estate development and home construction management company Geonerco Management LLC, said that with payroll services, his staff members can log into their accounts on their own when changes need to be made.
  • Mobile access: Ty McLaughlin, chief financial officer for Web-based application provider OnceLogix LLC, likes that he can log into his payroll service from anywhere.
  • Error reduction: David Sabot, president of, said he likes using online payroll services because it ensures no manual errors occur when writing out employee checks. He said using an
automated payroll service has allowed his company to navigate the often-complicated waters regarding payroll taxes, withholdings, insurance, profit-sharing and 401(k)s.
 We spoke to a Maya Konviser, owner of a botique payroll service in Los Angeles, CA, Accounting, Taxes, and Payroll Partners. She pointed to the benefits of using a smaller payroll company:
For the most part, when you turn over your payroll to a service company, you usually want to give them the data in a timely fashion and then forget about it. You are then freeing up your time and your energy for more important issues. Any payroll service provider can do that for you.
But there will always be times when you need to speak with someone at the payroll service provider about a payroll question. It is at those times when you will be much happier with a small company like ours. You are assigned to a highly qualified payroll tax specialist who will be your permanent contact. They will know your business and your issues. As a result, you will get fast and efficient resolutions of any issue that comes up. And that extra level of service commonly costs no more than the huge companies.
If you are currently doing your own payroll, follow my Grandpa Kirk's advice. and give Maya a call. You can reach her at (818) 436-2775 ext 103. Or if you are using a payroll company, but are not happy with their service for any reason, Maya might have a better solution.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Twitter for Small Business - What You May Not Know Could Help You

Your Tweets get found on Twitter by keywords - but not on Google

I do a lot of blogging for my clients. These blogs generally get over 10,000 page views per month. Most of those page views do NOT come from Google. They come from Twitter.

You see Google search (Bing, Yahoo, etc.) is totally clogged. The amount of content on the internet is doubling every year, and there is no end in sight. But the amount of content that can be consumed by the folks is not increasing at the same rate. This is making the competition for those eyeballs more and more expensive to acquire. Where I may have posted on a blog five years ago and seen that post on page one under some keywords I cared about. Not so today. Not without a lot of extra work or much more careful selection of the keywords. Even when successful, the readership will be less.

How do we business owners get better at reaching our clients online with that content. We need to find out how they are searching. And the search engines of the future may be more tied to social media than to the wide open spaces like Google.

Twitter's search engine only searches Tweets. If you search by a person or keyword or hashtag, it isn't going to give you results for YouTube or a website or a blog. Because not very many folks are paying attention yet, it is still possible to dominate Twitter search with a few good Tweets per day. These tweets can be linked to your blog, website, video, etc., and can contain a phone number or other ways to directly reach you.

In addition, many Twitter users have set up key word alerts that are always searching for certain words they care about. Commonly this would be their favorite sports team, their college, or their home town. If someone Tweets that there is a great party going on in Columbus Ohio, and you are alerted for Columbus, you'll find out about the party. Google has an alert system like this, but it is not nearly so popular as Twitters, because Twitters content is social and immediate.

Small business owners will find that in today's internet scramble to find new customers, the time and energy will be better spent on YouTube, blogging, Twitter, and Linkedin. If you'd like to be a part of that future, give me a call at 310-910-1848.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

An Alternative to LeTip and BNI - Networking on Steroids


Business Networking Power Groups now forming

I recommend that small businesses join local networking groups in my business books. I even used to get out of bed extra early and be ready to do business at 7:00 a.m. every Tuesday morning. During the week I would feel the pressure of bringing a tip or lead or referral. And for all that pressure and effort, I also paid a steep price for membership and breakfast. GOOD NEWS! I got a huge ROI that still brings me income years later. I am a huge fan of networking groups.


There is a better way. No more meetings. No more pressure. No more faking like you think the folks in your group are all the best at their craft. And the ROI?  No one can guarantee anything, but the potential for this new approach is staggering...I think you will agree when you hear the details.

Put together a power team of businesses who share many of the same clients!

If you've been to networking groups, many of the members are totally unrelated to your business. In fact, most networking groups advise that an effort be made to form power sub groups within the larger club. Why not start with that idea in mind? Build the networking members 100% from other non-competing businesses who already share connections with your clients.

For example:  
  • The wedding business - photographer, limo service, bakery, jewelery store, flowers, etc.
  • Real estate - RE agent, mortgage broker, insurance agent, escrow officer, etc
  • Health and fitness - gym, spa, chiropractor, bike shop, nutritionist, personal trainer, etc.
  • Building trades - contractor, plumber, electrician, landscaper, painter, interior designer
You get the idea. There are many dozens of similar type groups that you can think of easily. Where does your business fit in? How many other businesses can you think of that share your customers?

Do away with the meetings, the pageantry, and the required leads

I'm not against going to meetings, and maybe your group will decide to meet on occasion for some food and fellowship. And out of those relationships, you may choose to refer one another. GREAT!
Just one such lead a month would likely make joining such a group worthwhile, and even worth paying a few hundred dollars to belong. For most businesses, a single referral from a trusted resource would be worth at least a few hundred dollars.

Reduce the time commitment to almost zero

Most of these meetings take about about 8 hours a month of your precious time. Even if you only bill your time at $50 an hour, that is a $400 a month commitment. Add that to the actual expense! As noted above, even at that cost, my involvement in LeTip paid off big time. But what if I could get a better result, and my time commitment was around two hours a month. And what if I could get out of that two hour commitment by paying an extra $150. Now I'm down to pretty close to zero of my time.

Business Networking Power Groups are almost a miracle

All we need to make it work are these ingredients:
  1. Seven - nine businesses all sharing some of the same customers
  2. Each business must have an email list or be willing to start assembling one
  3. Each business must have 500+ connections on Linkedin or be willing to spend a bit of time or money acquiring those connections. (Under 3 hours if no connections now)
  4. Each business must write two 500 word articles per month relevant to their own business or pay to have that article written ($50 each)

We will do the rest. Here is what we promise you will receive for your participation and dues:
  • You will be showcased on the masthead of a website/blog developed specifically for the group
  • You will have additional information about your company on an inside page of the website
  • You will have multiple backlinks from the site to your website that will help your SEO
  • Your business will be viewed on that website/blog a minimum of 10,000 times per month
  • Your business will be tweeted about on various Twitter accounts 72 times per day minimum
  • Your business will be seen on the other members Linkedin updates at least once per day each 
  • Your business will be seen on email blasts that go out to all members email lists twice each month
The total impressions from the above will be at least 20,000 per month by the end of three months. We expect that it will be substantially more than that.

What would you expect to pay for 20,000 impressions per month in such a focused way?

There are all kinds of ways to pay for impressions. Some are 10¢ a piece, but those are usually not nearly so focused as these. But if we use that number, $2000 a month would be reasonable. You know what it takes for you to make that $2000 back. For some, like a real estate broker or a lawyer, it might only take one new client.  For others, like the wedding bakery, it might take 5 new clients.  

We can't guarantee anything, but we would speculate that you will get enough clients just from personal referrals of the group members to pay that $2000. Why? Because it is a power group. You actually provide a excellent service to your client if you can recommend related businesses to help them with their needs. 

Automation makes this deal a steal!

We have created a method for automating this entire effort - except for the article writing. The automation does cost us bunch to set up and then to operate. But while we could probably charge $2000 for this opportunity, we don't have to. In fact, we are highly confident that we would be turning away business if we offered the deal at $995 a month. 

We have honed the process and tested it extensively, and we are excited to be able to offer all of the above benefits: the website, the tweeting, the Linkedin updating, the email blasting, and the organization and backroom needs for much less.  In fact, for the first 25 groups that we set up during February 2015, we are able to set those dues at just $235 a month. 

Call 310-910-1848 to get started on setting up a power networking group for your business.

You could be the lucky business who gets the entire package for FREE!

We need organizers. We need someone who will round up six other businesses and get the club started. We'll help with materials, videos, phone calls, webinars, or whatever else you might need to help get those other six - nine members. (No more than nine to a group) The company who does the organizing gets all the benefits for free. Caveat - the organizer still has to write two articles per month or pay to have those articles written for them. 

If you would like to be an organizer, call 310-910-1848 Now!

Start Your own Business Network Power Groups business - we need business owners or just good organizers who'd like to start up groups as a full-time or part-time business.  Send your resume' or your Linkedin URL to

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Video Marketing Rocks! 90% of Consumers Use Video in Research


ROI on video is off the charts for most small local business owners

According to Media Post Publications:

Consumers Who Watch Product Videos Spend More on the Product

If a brand isn’t offering product videos on its website, it’s missing a potential marketing and engagement opportunity. 
About 90% of consumers watch online videos, and online shoppers are nearly twice as likely to make a purchase than consumers who do not view video, according to new research from video marketing firm Invodo.

Video is also a key opportunity because of its engagement rate. About 65% of video viewers watch videos through to 80% completion. Most videos end on a product tag or logo, so not watching the final seconds isn’t a huge loss. Consumers are responding well to videos on ecommerce sites, where most videos overall generate a 4.3 rating on a 5-star scale, a promising figure that suggests consumers do value the content in them. On average 12% of visitors to an ecommerce web page view a video when one is available. Many of those visitors often spend more money.

As an example, L’Oreal’s Kerastase hair care line runs videos about the products and then links from the videos to a shopping page. The average value of an order for consumers who viewed the hair care videos was 18% higher than for those who did not, Invodo found.

Invodo recommends integrating videos widely across a brand’s site from search results, to category pages, to landing pages, so that the video can meet the consumers wherever they are. Video can also be syndicated to partner sites, mobile apps, in stores, on reseller sites and in email.

Emails with the word  “video” in the  subject line generate 18.5% higher open rates, Invodo adds.

 My clients have the same experience.  Whether a mortgage broker, a tax resolution company, a bike shop or a personal trainer, videos make the phone ring and the door swing. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

9 Ways to Improve Your Luck in Small Business

Lucky Rabbit - Has all 4 feet

How Big A Factor Is Luck in Business Success? 

Never underestimate what the grand kids are picking up in a room full of adults.  I can distinctly remember bridge nights at my Grandparent's house.  At some point in the evening, someone would invariable comment on my Poppy's "luck."  And while I'm not sure whether his reply was forthcoming at that very moment or not, I did know his philosophy.  You make your own luck.

You see, he was lucky at bridge and poker because he counted cards and studied the game.  He was a national doubles champion in bowling because he was "lucky" enough to practice and learn to depend on his muscle memory.  He was lucky in love, parenting, and business.

This in no way should suggest that we are not all subject to the vagaries of chance.  Lightening struck my factory.  You don't have to tell me.

On the other hand, we who are in pursuit of success in any field might be too quick to check our pocket for the rabbit's foot, point to our competitor's luck, or grouse over our bad luck in the market (I own Apple at $550, and the only reason it is $400 right now is because I own it). 

How can we make our own luck.  Here are 9 ways to "almost" guarantee a luckier future:
  1. Hard work.  Poppy is speaking to us all through the grave.  Part two of his philosophy:  The harder I work the luckier I get.  He would undoubtedly have agreed that he had some advantages in life.  He was reasonably athletic, reasonably attractive, reasonably charming, and reasonably smart.  Getting lucky in the gene pool is helpful, no doubt.  But don't you know folks who are really athletic, really attractive, really charming, and really smart who are barely making it through life or worse.  Business success require extremely hard work and long hours.  More than anything, that might change your luck
  2. Do the hard things.  This is different than working hard.  I can certainly tell you of 14 hour days in my business life when all I did was stuff I liked doing.  I don't like making cold calls.  I don't like confrontation (with employees, suppliers, partners, investors).  I don't like doing long projects with a lot of detail.  There's a really long list of things I don't like to do that need doing.  Doing those things more would have made me luckier in business.  
  3. Do things really well.  My Poppy once bowled 19 strikes in a row.  You don't do that because you got up on the right side of the bed.  There is an entire industry built around the idea that you need to do something 10,000 times to become an expert.  Preparation, practice, concentration during execution will all improve luck.
  4.  Stick your neck out.  I believe that the meek will inherit the earth.  But that Biblical wisdom is often misinterpreted.  There was nothing timid about Jesus, Peter, Paul, or any of those who led the early church.  You can't sell anything that you don't offer to a potential buyer.  And you are unlikely to get lucky sitting around waiting for the phone to ring after putting your name on Craig's List.  Be bold.  Be different.  Be visible.  You luck will change.
  5. Don't be stupid.  I'm hoping that my Grand kids will remember me for this mantra.  It comes from a series I call Randy's Math Rules.  If the answer makes no sense, rethink or rework.  It is a really great way to check your math answers.  This applies to so much of life, including our business life.  Did you just come up with a solution to a problem that makes no sense?  Rethink and rework.  Are you chasing an idea or trying to sell a product or service that doesn't add up.  Rethink and rework.  Do you have partners, associates, suppliers, or employees that are subtracting from your luck.  Subtract them.  
  6. Make things happen.  You are the only person who can determine your destiny.  Take responsibility and get into proactive mode.  Is business slow?  Don't blame Obama.  And don't blame Bush either.  Don't blame anybody.  Change something, add something, subtract something, raise a price, lower a price, hit the road, do a crazy stunt, start calling people.
  7. Help others to succeed.  Your luck will definitely improve if you have helped other people to improve their lives.  Be a mentor, encourager, guide, door opener, motivator, and champion of your spouse, kids, employees, friends, associates, suppliers, and customers.  It isn't necessarily about the Karma.  It is a part of the natural order of things.
  8. Give back.  You contributions of time, talent, and treasure to your neighborhood, community, industry, church, or association will change your luck in many ways.  It will build your skill sets, your network, your confidence, and a vault full of appreciation that may be very helpful when you have an unlucky streak.
  9. Live with Integrity.  One more from my Poppy.  He literally wrote the book on bidding practices for the Mason Contractors Assoc.  Your reputation of honesty in business is a critical component of your luck. 
  BONUS - One way to change your luck is to utilize great outside resources to help with areas that you can't do yourself due to lack of time or talent.  We offer comprehensive marketing consultation for small businesses that can't afford a marketing manager or department.  And we do so at a cost that is affordable for the bakery, the solo lawyer, or the bike shop.  Call me.  We only work with 20 businesses at any one time.  As of this writing, we have 19.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Do Something Outrageous to Draw Attention to Your Business

Big, Big Balloons, Banners, Sign Spinners, Celebrity Visits, Block Parties, Tent Sales

Sorry, this post will not apply easily to those who have an office on the third floor in an office building, or those who work out of their home.  But if that's you, you might just have to be a bit more creative.

I have a car dealership near my home that takes up an entire corner on a very busy intersection.  Once a year, they have a tent sale across the street in the parking lot of a regional mall.  This tent sale is directly across the street.  What could they be thinking.  The tents and balloons and activity on the other side of the street creates a new and different draw.  No matter how big or impressive your business, eventually your facility fades into the background and might as well be invisible.

Another car dealer nearby was on a not so busy street, but the building was visible from the 405 freeway in Los Angeles.  You may know that this is one of the busiest freeways in the country.  No one passing buy would have paid any attention to his dealership had he not put giant gorilla balloons on the top of the building.

Over tax day this past April, you had no choice but to learn that there was a new tax preparer in Los Angeles, competing with H&R Block.  Weirdly costumed characters were found all over the city, and you had no choice but to look.

Many of my clients call and ask if they should spend $1000 on this print adv or $600 a month for some internet opportunity.  I have no doubt in my mind that these Liberty characters cost less than $1000 per location and were worth every penny.

So, you are in that office on the 2nd Floor.  You dental business needs a boost.  If you can't get the landlord to let you put a balloon on the roof, can you put a banner out the on the side of the building.  If that's out, too, how about checking with businesses right around you.  Can you put a sign on their roof.  They'll get some bang from the looks their way.

Or how about a truck wrap.  Most truck wraps or signs end up on vehicles that have some kind of utility other than as a sign:  Construction, home services, and delivery trucks. Why only them?  Why can't you have a moving billboard or even more than one.  Park them around on different streets at different times.  Drive them during rush hour up and down your street. 

Most wraps are around $1700. Then you have the cost of the vehicle.  Buy something cheap, but clean. 

So, I turn it over to your brainstorming department.  How can you get a huge bunch of eyeballs pointed at your building, sign, truck, or tent? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Do Something Wild and Crazy - Price - Giveaway - Hours - Delivery

Shake up the Market - Buy Right and Sell at A Crazy Price

Sometimes You Just Have to Shake Up the Market to Boost Up You Sales

A barber was having a hard time paying the rent.  His normal hours started at 10:00.  I suggested that working men can't come in between 10:00 and 5:00.  Why not open at 7:00 and see what happens.  He did and the results were instantaneous.

A bike shop was in a very competitive neighborhood, and he was tired of trying to compete on price.  He decided to try staying open until midnight.  He gathered a crowd that became very loyal.

A restaurant opened their doors and was underwhelmed with the response.  So they blanketed the neighborhood with a flier that offered a free meal to anyone from Friday at 5:00 pm until Sunday at 7:00 pm.  There was a line around the block practically the entire weekend.  According to the owners, they never had to advertise again.

Another restaurant story.  One of the most successful restaurants/diner in Los Angeles has a weekend once each year where they roll back prices to their opening week in the '50.  It is a huge draw.

It is a marketing legend.  We all took the taste test in the mall.  Who would turn down free cookies.  Mrs. Fields is still going strong decades later based on offering a small sample free.

Then there's the story of Two Buck Chuck.  The Trader Joe's chain of local grocery stores did what they had done hundreds of times before.  They carefully researched a single product, found one that was of excellent quality, but much lower than expected cost, and bought a bunch of it.  The product became legendary.

What could you do that would be wild and crazy?  Could you take a commodity product and offer it as a loss leader even for a day?  Could you offer special hours to gain fans who otherwise find it hard to do business with you? 

Remember Thrifty Drug Stores.  An ice cream cone used to be 5¢.  When?  1950?  No, at least into the '70s.  Later it went to 10¢.  Kind of hard to not go in on a hot day and get that nickle cone.

What about service.  Here was an inexpensive service touch that changed an industry.  Who would have ever thought that urban housewives would be buying bulk pet food and kitty litter.  They key to getting mom to stop buying 5 pounds of kitty litter or 3 cans of dog food at the grocery store?  Have the staff at the pet shop carry the 25 pound bags and cases of food out to the car.

A Few Rules About Doing Something Wild and Crazy

The restaurant who had the free weekend.  It had to be great food.  $2 Chuck had to be good enough wine for the uppity West Los Angeles clients that formed the base of the Trader Joe empire.  Staying open late or opening early.  You will need a massive sign and other publicity.  Call the paper.

And if your crazy price isn't crazy enough, the opportunity is lost.  50% off isn't going to get it unless it is 50% off the lowest price of a regularly discounted product.  I can remember buying a years supply of Pepsi when it went on sale for 16¢ a can.   Normally at that time it was around 35¢.

Let's walk through that one for a minute.  Let's say that you can buy Pepsi wholesale for 20¢, and that normal retail is 30¢.  You offer it for 15¢ in order to cause a stir and get traffic in the store.  You sell 5000 cans and lose 5¢ on each can for a $250 total loss.  Or maybe you sell 50,000 cans for a $2500 loss.  How many folks will be walking through your store to get to those cans in order to move 50,000 cans.  And yes, please make sure those cans or at the back of the store.

Keep in mind - Wild and Crazy.  Your competitors have to say:  "What?  Is he crazy?