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Real Estate and Business

What is The Right Business Card for You?

Business cards are by far the most common advertising and contact management tool used by businesses and entrepreneurs throughout the world.  Your business card has more impact on your business than most types of advertising. Despite this importance, if you’re like the average entrepreneur, chances are you’ve spent very little time choosing and designing your business card.

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As President of Canada’s largest business networking group, I’ve seen just about every type of business card you can imagine.  At times I’ve been impressed, other times shocked, other times entertained and a few times frustrated.  I’ve also had the opportunity to see how others react to various business cards and the results at the end of an evening of networking.

Here are some guidelines in designing an effective business card:

1.       Decide on the purpose of your business card.  Is it to provide your contact information, to entertain, to advertise your services, to demonstrate your style or some other reason? If the card is to be given to existing customers then it is about providing contact information and other information that a customer may find useful, such as an online website or tool, even a notice. For example, you could mention that you have 24 hour service or a life-time warranty on your product or service.

2.       Know who it is that you are planning to give your business card to. If your customers and potential customers are a conservative type, then providing them with a creative, out of the box card may alienate you from them by making them feel like they can’t relate to you or simply uncomfortable. A good rule is conservative card for conservative target. If your market is more innovative and creative, such as inventors or artists, then you would want to use an out of the box design.

3.       Be clear on the result you would like to achieve by handing out the card. Do you want to catch the attention of the individual, list your services, send them to your website, establish your credibility (use credentials, brand names, appropriate titles), or remember you for when they need your services so they can call you?

As you can see there should be some thought put into your business card and how it fits into your business strategy even  before you sit down to look at its design.  Regardless, there are some tips that apply in general.

DO NOTS

1.       Use really small font. Remember most people once they reach 40 years of age have problems reading small print without their glasses. Not only will they not be able to read it, but you also have not put them in a feel good position.

2.       Use a laminated or plastic coating on front and back. Most people will make notes about you on your business card so they can remember later on. Sometimes that note is to remind them to call you or to connect you with someone you know. If they can’t write on your card they could forget and you’ve lost a lead.

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3.       Use oversized or awkward shaped cards. Remember that your card will be put into someone’s pocket and hopefully in their rolodex or storage.  If it doesn’t fit, they are likely to put it somewhere else and possible in the trash can. Keep size and shape standard and show your creativity in a different way if you have to. Different countries have different standards for business cards. In Europe the cards tend to be oversized compared to North America. In South America even more so.

 

 

4.       Use colours you can’t see in dim light. Contrast is important on business cards for a number of reasons. Yellows and lighter colours are good if they are contrast with strong colours.  If you need lighter colours try using them as filler and use the strong colours for fonts.

 

DO’S

1.       Keep your business card simple and easy to read. Business professionals are busy and they just want to get down to the facts. Most don’t even read everything on the card. By having less on your card you’re more likely to have them read what you want them to.

2.       Leave the backside blank. It is cheaper and it gives room to make notes.

3.       Be clear on what you can do for your client or the benefit you provide. Having ‘Virtual Assistant’ on your card lets people know what you generally do. However, if you were to add ‘I help you stay out of the office longer’ or ‘I make sure your customers get an answer right away’ then you’re more likely to get better results.

4.       Use language anyone can understand, unless you’re using it only among your peers. There is no use in sharing your card if the person doesn’t understand it or is bored by the words. Here is one area where entrepreneurs can be creative in using common language to describe what they do.

5.       Use a firm stock that doesn’t easily bend. There is a subconscious reaction to how a business card feels in your hand and that impression is also adopted towards the person giving you the business card.

Even if you follow these tips there is a chance that you could end up with a card that will not give you the results you want. The best tip I can give you is to test your card. Print off a few of your cards and take them to a networking event. As you hand out the first 10 stop and ask the person if they can help you with some feedback with your new business card you’re testing. But only ask them after you’ve given them the card and they’ve looked at it.  Then you ask them what you do, what they think is different about you, what kind of style you have, what catches their attention, what they would do with the card, and what other feedback they may have.

Taking this approach with the design of your business cards will lead you to look at your overall business and marketing strategy.  Having your cars in alignment with the rest of your marketing collateral and strategy will make your efforts both more effective and efficient. The process of alignment will also make it easier for you to ask the most powerful question of all, ‘What does my target market think?’

It is not about what you want to say, but about what your customers (and potential customers) will see (and hear).

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Inventors, inventions and Innovation

Throughout history the success of nations has been based on their people’s ability and aptitude for innovation.  If it were not for the English long-bow the English would not have been as effective against the French during the Hundred Years’ War, especially in the battles of Crecy (1346), Poitiers (1356), and the famous Battle of Agincourt (1415).

In modern day innovation continues to be the mechanism by which to build societies and organizations.  For example, MicroSoft’s success has arisen out of its development of a user friendly platform for the personal computer, Research In Motion built an international business and for many years has dominated the corporate cell phone market because of its innovative solution to protect the transmission and storage of data.

Innovation is about doing something better (cheaper, quicker, stronger, faster, farther, more effectively, etc.) than the way it is presently being done.  Ultimately, in the business, military and even political arena it is about the ability to outperform the competition.  With innovation comes spin-off benefits that include: improved quality of life, better safety, job creation, development of manufacturing, increased export and an overall improvement in national economy.

In many cases, it was one individual that came up with the idea behind the innovation. Such individuals are called inventors and although it may seem to many that inventors are born to be innovators, empirical evidence shows that average individuals can be turned into inventors, and managers, leaders and administrators into innovators.

Inventing is a category of innovation. Another category of innovation is found within organizations and among leaders and administrators.  Innovation within organizations is just as powerful as inventing.  Improvement in product design, delivery of services or even managing of operations can sometimes produce as much competitive advantage as creating a new invention.  Though there is a significant overlap between 1) training of inventors and 2) training of innovators within organizations the challenges and focus of the two does require two different training programs.

INNOVATION AS AN ECONOMIC TOOL

A country’s ability to design, manufacture and market innovative products is a significant determinant of its ability to compete internationally.  With the creation of new products and technologies support industries develop, such as design houses, tool and die shops, testing facilities, manufacturing facilities, repair shops, legal services, accounting services, banking services, administrative services and much more.

Often economies become reliant on a specific sector (oil) or outsourcing for foreign customers. This can lead to dependency on others and often softens the motivation to diversify business and industry. It is very important for countries to diversify their economies.  To do this, it is necessary for people to learn to be innovators of new products and services which can stimulate new business. Diversification often helps companies and even countries gain world recognition as a “go to” place for new, original and innovative ideas and services.

CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT OF INNOVATION

The ongoing debate by psychologists as to whether an inventor is born or trained is rendered irrelevant when examining how to stimulate innovation within a country. It is true that individuals like Leonard DaVinci have been able to create a great wealth of inventions and contributed to innovation throughout the ages. However, it is also true that you individuals can be trained and turned into inventors with the ability to bring products to market.  The Inventors Course, offered out of Toronto, Canada in collaboration with Venturemind Corporation offers a one week training program that promises to turn anyone into an inventor (details: info [at] metroactive.org). There is also an online version of the course for those that would like to receive the training over the internet.

Venturemind is now working with partnerships to bring both the Inventors Course and Innovation Program to countries in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa as economic development tools. These programs are a quick and cost effective way to product jobs. Proto-types for new inventions are usually created within a month of the course.

With the commercialization of new inventions, jobs are created almost instantly.  Usually individuals are contracted at first to assist with things like design, delivery, packaging and later on to help with manufacturing and even research and development for product improvements or even new products.

Innovation doesn’t just create the very tangible financial and economic returns, it also contributes to a populace that is happier, has more confidence, is more involved, motivated and with a positive attitude towards the future.  What better way to stimulate a struggling economy?

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How to Value a Business the Realistic Way

When it comes to buying, selling or investing in a business the important question becomes ‘How much is the business worth?’

As an investment banker and investor I have looked at over a thousand businesses over the last 20 years.  Those businesses were sometimes represented by a realtor, sometimes represented by a lawyer, sometimes represented by an accountant, sometimes represented by a business broker and sometimes represented by the business owner. Each one of them has their own way of valuating the business.

The business owners know the business best but are often emotionally attached which skews their valuation. Realtors often lack the business training to understand the profitability and focus on the marketing of loosely defined ‘potential’ of the business. Lawyers are masters at identifying and mitigating risk. Accountants are excellent at being able to measure profitability. Business brokers perhaps have the best reference point at any given time to put the business into perspective with what’s happening with the industry and economy.

It is no wonder that the business owner valuates the business based on what he thinks it is worth, therealtor based on what he thinks he can persuade the buyer it is worth, the lawyer based often based on the value of the assets and the accountant more likely based on the cash flow it can generate.

The above approaches are based on different valuation models:

1. Goodwill. This has nothing to do with the value of the hard assets or liabilities, rather it is based on owner’s perception of what the name of the company is worth in the marketplace in terms of attracting sales.  It is viewed as being the hard work that the owner has put into the business over the years in order to establish it as a profitable ongoing concern.

2. Book Value.  This approach looks at the value of the assets if they were to be sold right now, less the total amount of debts.  Often the owner will ask for a goodwill amount on top of this but if the business is being liquidated then the goodwill doesn’t exist or won’t be realized.

3. Cash Flow. This technique takes the average annual cash flow or EBITDA defined as earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization over the last 3-5 years and applies a multiple. The multiple can be anywhere from 1X EBITDA (for professional practices and consulting firms) to 20XEBITDA for cable and telecommunication companies. The multiple also changes as the economy, competition and other factors change.

There are other methods that valuators will use. Basically, they’re different ways to put a dollar value on the business and really have nothing to do with what the business is worth.  Unless you are planning to liquidate the business and sell off its assets, the value of the business is what someone is willing to pay for it.

Brokers, realtors, accountants, and lawyers are advisors hired by the owner to help him sell his business. Their job is to find an ideal buyer and persuade that buyer to pay the most possible for the business. The fact that they use formulas and other techniques to put a price on that business is really irrelevant, except for their attempt to build credibility that the business is worth what they say it is.

Here is my valuation for the business – a business is worth what someone is willing to pay for it!

If you don’t believe me, ask yourself what AIG was selling for at the end of the liquidity and credit crunch of 2007-2008. In January of 2007 AIG shares were trading at over $1200 each and at the beginning of Feb 2009 AIG shares were trading at $6  per share. Even after the company had been identified as being in a liquidity crunch analysts were still claiming the value of the stock was over $100 a share. The shares may have been worth that amount, but because the buyers weren’t willing to pay anything more than $6 per share for the company, it wasn’t worth more than that at that time.

Valuating a business is only one aspect of selling the business. The other aspect is the structuring of the deal. Sometimes a lower valuation can end up providing more money to the owner that is selling the business if it is structured in a way that the owner can leverage the upside. There is always more than one way to get what you want.

If you’re selling your business or buying a business and would like some help you can find me onLinkedIn (Baldo1) or on Facebook.

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