Small business planning

Here are a few small business planning tips from Rhonda Abrams, author of “Six-Week Start-Up”, just released in its fourth edition and other books for small business owners. Connect with Rhonda on Facebook and Twitter: @RhondaAbrams.

1. Keep learning.

Your business can't grow if you don't. Attend trade shows, read journals, take seminars, hire a consultant to teach you new skills. Your brain is your most important business asset – add to it.  

2. Keep your priorities straight.

It's easy to keep busy being busy, but that doesn't necessarily mean you're being productive. Make a list of those few items that make the difference between succeeding and failing, both in business and in life and put your energies there.

Stay in touch with former clients.

Don’t just focus on the projects at hand because former customers are the best source of new business. Find an easy way to communicate with all your customers; past, present and future two to three times a year.

Use technology better.

Use it to master your contact lists, move more paper to digital files, and keep better control of your finances.

Know when NOT to use technology.

Technology is not the answer for every problem. Be open to the right solution for each problem, whether it's technology or paper and pen.

Throw stuff away.

Get rid of files that are 10 year old or older. Back-up your computer onto zip drives and cloud drives more often and toss all of those little slips of paper on your desk.


Business improves when you actually take time to think about it. It's easy to get so busy that you stop thinking about your business. So regularly, ideally every day, stop and think about what you're doing, what you're saying and how you're saying it. The busier you are, the more important it is to pause, catch your breath, and reflect.

Hire more help.

Sure, it takes time and energy to train employees, and money out of pocket, but evaluate whether you might actually make more money if you had someone to take over some of your non-income producing tasks.

Be more patient with employees.

I've gotten a lot better at understanding that the way to help employees grow is to let them make decisions, do things their way, and sometimes make mistakes.  

Help others.

Find ways to have your businesses help others. Make 2019 a year in which you add to the wealth of the world, not just in monetary terms but in terms of kindness, sharing, lending a hand, and giving others opportunity. We all focus on improving the bottom line, but remember, the bottom line is just the bottom. This year, let's all make a resolution to aim higher.



Google vs. live media representatives


Every week I get a few pokes from Google inviting me to become more proficient with their ever expanding suite of self-serving media optimization tools. Every few months I get a nice direct mail package, and a few times a year they call me. They’ve even paid me to attend their focus groups here in Toronto. I feel loved.

Google makes it incredibly easy for today’s agency media teams to look smart + informed when in fact Google has dumbed them down, blinding them to the virtues that exist in the wider world of media that Google does not own or operate.

Until online advertising came along agency media buyers and planners spent a lot of time with live media representatives (at the agency or in bars). I used to love going across Canada on local media buying trips where I would meet with all of the local TV, Radio and Newspaper sales representatives for at least five reasons:

  1. to learn all about the pros + cons of the media that they sell,
  2. to get the representative’s perspective on the other, competing and non-competing media,
  3. to find out what it’s like to live in the market – in general and as a user of the brand I was caring for,
  4. to find out what the people in thecommunity thought about the brands that I was buying media for, and
  5. to gather some (public domain) information about the competition’s marketing + advertising activities.

Despite the bias that each media rep brought to the table, I ended up with a pretty good feel for the market's dynamics when I compared my notes (for the 10 – 20 media sessions) at the end of the day. Those in-market-buying-trips also introduced me to a wonderful network of people that I could call anytime, and rely on for a professional perspective on their medium, the market and the local business climate in general. My network used to cover Canada and the N.E. United States.

My clients were always amazed at how much I knew about their business at the grass roots level. That local + national knowledge made my job FAR easier and enabled me to get away from the mundane “price” discussions and get them to focus on . . . 


"BETTER" as in "more effective", not cheaper!

I find doing business in today’s marcom climate VERY frustrating because 98% of those I speak to regularly confuse cheaper with better. Getting a dozen ads “cheaper” might be better for your budget, but it does not follow that it’s a “better” – or more effective advertisement or a more effective media buy. And if the ads run in cheapest, rather than the most appropriate medium, more ads in the lower priced medium will not save your brand, build your sales or save your skin.

Google is great at telling you (frequently) that you’re doing well and could do better. But they’ll NEVER tell you:

  • that you shouldn't use one or more of their media,
  • how well you’re doing compared to your direct or oblique competitors + why,
  • how their media options perform (locally or globally) by SIC.    

Their non-disclosure excuse is always the same: "privacy", when in fact it our "ignorance" is their financial "bliss".


That they use a combination of online + traditional offline media to keep their marketing funnel + pipelines full. Here's the first three lines of this post . . . sothat you don't have to scroll up:

Every week I get a few e-mails from Google inviting me to become more proficient with their ever expanding suite of self-serving media optimization tools. Every few months I get a nice direct mail package, and a few times a year they call me. Ocasionally they pay me to attend their focus groups. 

If Google use a combination of online + traditional offline media to keep their marketing funnel + pipelines full, shouldn't you?



Nothing to loose

When you’re king of the hill and you get knocked off the fall from grace is great. You feel like the world is watching you and judging you, but odds are they’re not. When you have to start over you have VERY little to lose. So why not try something different? 

Consider this little story from Steve Jobs.

"So we (Steve and I) went to Atari and said, "Hey, we've got this amazing thing, we even built it with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you." And they said, "No."

So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, “Hey, we don't need you. You haven't even finished college yet."

That’s Steve trying to get Atari and HP interested in their first P.C.



Desperation + Motivation

Traditional wisdom suggests that rabbits outrun foxes because they are running for their lives while the foxes are running for their dinners.

I recently me a woman who had moved here from Miami two years ago and was originally from Cuba. She went to Miami as a refugee where the Spanish community found her some work  in a high end furniture store in order to help her secure legal status there. When she started working there she spoke no english although the majority of the clients this company served were Americans who spoke no spanish. She secured landed immigrant status and did her best to learn a bit of English when she wasn’t working 16 hour days. A few years later she was recognized as the company’s top sales representative in a field of over 250 sales representatives from across America.

This woman's story reminds me of a quote from my own Mother, a post-war immigrant from Germany. “Desperation is a very good motivator. Believe me.”

Frankly, I don't think that those who are looking for “work-life-balance” stand a chance against women (and men) who are desperate + motivated.  



Changing + declining brand values


I grew up in a very religious Christian household. Sunday was a day of rest + worship. I got to wear my best cloths to church and read out of the books that helped parishioners keep the faith; the bible, the hymnals and the catechism.

Compared to other books in our home, the quality of these three spiritual reference books was far superior to the school books and storybooks that we had at home – except maybe our Encyclopedia Britannica – the forerunner of the world wide web.

Religious books were manufactured, distributed, used and cared for differently. Those differences helped make them special. And special = premium priced.

When I saw this box lid in the garbage, it reminded me of how fundamental religion was in my grandparent’s generation (1890 – 1970), how its hold on secular society was challenged and altered in my parent’s generation (1920 – 2010) and how it’s become deconstructed, devalued and commoditized in my generation (1950’s to present).

Along the way the “value” of many religious brands, and many other brands we once held dear, have changed, declined - or died.

Many mass produced products have become ubiquitous and can no longer defend a premium brand or price proposition because cheaper does not equal better.

“Everything Christian For Less” puts a whole new spin on the price + value of your relationship with God.