Archive for 2012

Happy New Year! A Free Gift for You from the DSEF

Happy New Year! A Free Gift for You from the DSEF

Reflections on Success - Free ebook from the Direct Selling Education FoundationThe New Year is a time for reflection, focusing on where you are, and where you want to take your business moving forward. It is helpful for business owners to take time to write down these insights, for they can help you create a road map for your business. Rather than simply “going through the motions” of the day to day tasks your business requires, you can give your business strategic direction that moves you in the direction of your goals.

With that in mind, we at the Direct Selling Education Foundation have put together a free gift for you. It’s a 30-day reflection journal called “Reflections on Success” and you can download it from our Facebook Page by clicking here. This journal helps you focus on success habits and your goals, helping you build the business you want in the coming year. We encourage you to take some time each day to focus on the daily thought, in order to develop the habits that will help you build a thriving business.

We hope that you will use this free book to build your business, and pass this link along to your friends and colleagues as well:

You’ll find all 3 free ebooks we’ve offered this year at this link, so if you haven’t yet taken advantage of our “Business Owner’s Roadmap to Success” or “Creating Your Success Mindset” ebooks, you’ll be able to download those as well.

We wish you much success in the coming year! Happy New Year!

Your Friends at the DSEF


Balance Without Sacrificing Business (How to Make Your Business More Efficient)

Balance Without Sacrificing Business (How to Make Your Business More Efficient)

MP900284939In the times when your business gets busy, it’s natural to long for more work/life balance. Too often, however, balance comes at the expense of cutting back on income producing activities. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way!

Instead of simply working less, look at your overall business strategically, and find ways to make the work that you do more efficient so you don’t wind up earning less, simply for the sake of balance. Here are some tips:

  • Review your manual processes. For example, do you have to manually enter customer information each time a customer places an order? Is there paperwork that you are filling out over and over again? Are there business information packets that you always have to stop and make? Consider ways that you might streamline these processes by keeping information in an electronic database (for easy copy/paste or import), making packets in larger batches, or storing filled out documents electronically so they can be printed when needed. Take some time to write down all the manual processes that you regularly engage in, and then see if there are ways you can make those manual processes more efficient.
  • Use technology. There are many technology tools that can help you work more efficiently. Use a simple autoresponder like Constant Contact to automatically send emails to all of your customers without you having to type in each address. Store documents in the cloud (using a service like Dropbox) and share folders so people can access the information they need themselves, without you having to stop and send those documents. Use Google Calendar and sync the calendars on your phone, computer, and iPad so appointment information is always handy no matter where you are and you don’t have to take time to reschedule appointments because you forgot about something on your work calendar. If you are not familiar with technology tools you can use for your business, turn to friends or colleagues who are comfortable with technology and ask them which tools they use.
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts. If you’re still clicking menu buttons when you want to copy and paste something, it’s time to learn some keyboard shortcuts. According to Brainscape, you can save an average of 8 days per year simply by using keyboard shortcuts instead of mouse clicks. Just Google “keyboard shortcuts” to find shortcuts for your computer.
  • Re-evaluate your office layout. Some business owners waste a lot of time simply because their office space isn’t organized well. If you have to walk halfway across the building each time you print something or want to throw something out, you may be well served by rethinking your office layout. Spend a week writing down each thing that makes you have to stop, such as getting a print-out, finding documents that aren’t handy, etc. Then, think about how you could rearrange your space to make the most-used items more convenient.
  • Get organized. Brother International Corporation conducted a survey that found that 76 hours per worker per year are spent looking for things. They determined that over $177 billion is wasted annually looking for misplaced items in the office and on the computer. If the thought of getting organized overwhelms you, start small. Set up a filing cabinet and start by sorting the papers on your desk (and getting them put away.) Think about the files you use the most that are currently a big mess on your computer desktop or My Documents folder, and set up folders on your computer for them. Train yourself to put things where they belong, rather than leaving them out, and reward yourself when you follow through regularly.
  • Plan ahead. Often a lot of time is wasted when people are together and trying to figure out what to do. So if you are in charge of leading anything from a business meeting to a class party, set up a schedule or agenda ahead of time, and pre-distribute it. That way everyone comes to the meeting knowing what will happen, in what order, and what they need to bring. The result is often shorter, more productive meetings that bring results.

Balance is definitely important, but you don’t have to sacrifice income to achieve it. Instead, look for ways that you can improve your operational efficiency. Your business will be much better off in the long run.

How do you achieve work/life balance in your business? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

DSEF & BBB: Not All Customer Reviews & Review Sites Are Created Equal

DSEF & BBB: Not All Customer Reviews & Review Sites Are Created Equal

blue_with_website-225x30022By Myriam Cruz

Looking for pre-purchase advice, more and more consumers are turning to reviews for products and services. However, not all reviews are created equal and many consumers question their validity after several reports claim fake reviews are more common than expected.

An article by TIME Magazine highlights that while various review sites – such as YelpTripAdvisorExpedia and Google – are implementing steps to identify both positive and negative fake reviews, “the system is being manipulated…and that’s all negative for consumers who are using them to try and make smart choices.”

Aside from company staff and marketers, freelance writers are also paid for reviews praising a company, product or service. In one case, a Wall Street Journal reporter plugged the name of a reviewer into a search engine and discovered the “consumer” was a communications manager at the company whose product she was praising.

Are there any consequences for such misleading behavior, you might ask?

Considering similar situations misleading, theFederal Trade Commission (FTC) revised its Endorsement Guides in 2009 to reflect three basic truth-in-advertising principles:

  1. Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading.
  2.  If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what consumers will achieve by using the product, the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected results in the depicted circumstances.
  3. If there is a connection between endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.

While FTC guidelines provide some protection from misleading customer review practices, they are only part of the solution. Consumers play a vital role when it comes to identifying and denouncing misleading practices.

As Better Business Bureau (BBB) joins the customer review industry, it provides guidelines to help identify real reviews from fake or paid praise. In the end, the best way to obtain information about a product or service is to become familiar with the review process and use review sites that have a user verification process, such as BBB’s email verification.

Do you think it’s worth looking at reviews before purchasing a product or service? Are you more likely to consider reviews for higher priced items?


DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit for more information.

Planning for a Bigger Business: The 3:3:3 Approach

Planning for a Bigger Business: The 3:3:3 Approach

If you’re like most business owners, you take time each year to look back on your business and evaluate your progress. As you review how far you’ve come, it’s great to celebrate your successes. But truly successful business owners also use their “Year in Review” to both identify key elements of success so far, and to make changes that will help build even bigger moving forward.

Here’s a process you can use for your “Year in Review” to help you focus your business activities on even greater success. Write these down, and refer back to them as needed throughout the year.

  1. Identify 3 strengths of your business this year. Did you come up with an innovative idea that led to increased business? Did you put an emphasis on personalized customer service? Write down the 3 things you feel were most important to your success. These are areas that you will continue to develop moving forward.
  2. Identify 3 areas of your business that you would like to improve moving forward. Do you need to do a better job following up with customers? Could you get more organized in your paperwork? Should you get out and do more networking? Write down 3 areas that you will focus on in the coming months, along with specific activities you will do to achieve greater success in these areas.
  3. Identify 3 goals that you have for your business in the coming year. These can be things you can measure, such as increasing your sales per customer or increasing the amount of repeat orders. They can also be something new that you’ll create for your business to drive growth, such as creating a social media marketing strategy. Starting with 3 goals keeps you focused without causing you to become overwhelmed. Write your goals down, and then make a bulleted list of the activities you’ll need to do in order to achieve each goal. Set dates to those activities to hold yourself accountable.

By taking some time to plan, you can be sure that your daily activities for your business are focused on growth.

Do you take time periodically to review the growth of your business? What tips do you have for planning ahead? We would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

To get your free copy of the eBook, click here: 15 Days to Greater Success. You can download it from our Facebook Page. And while you’re there, you can download our other free eBooks too: Business Owner’s Road Map to SuccessCreating Your Success Mindset, and Reflections on Success. They’re all designed to give you an edge in your business, and help you focus on the daily practices that lead to your goals.

Please share this link with the business owners you know:

How to Choose a Legitimate Business Opportunity

How to Choose a Legitimate Business Opportunity

The prospect of starting your own business can be exciting and nerve-wracking all at the same time! Freedom, independence, the chance to call the shots…these are all the things you hope for. But at the same time, there is risk involved, and choosing a business wisely is a huge part of your ultimate success. You have many options when starting a business…doing everything completely on your own based on an idea, investing in a franchise and following the rules laid out by the parent organization, or starting a direct selling business by purchasing a business kit and following the training plan laid out by the company and your sponsor, to name just a few.

All of these options have led to success for some people, while others have not been as successful and have lost time and money. Choosing your business wisely, therefore, is essential. And avoiding the scams that pretend to be legitimate is even more important. How do you know what is legitimate and what is not? Here are some tips:

  • Do your research – Look up the company online, and talk to people that are actually in that business. If the business has a social networking presence, find out what people are saying there. Check the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the business, and/or the Direct Selling Association (member companies in the DSA agree to comply with a code of ethics.) Realize that you may find some negative comments about any business you consider, since it’s rare to find a business where everyone who tries it is successful. Some people are just more suited for a particular business than others. But are there more positive reviews than negative? What do people who are currently in the business say? What about the people who have left it? Understanding both sides will give you a more realistic picture of what’s involved in truly succeeding in the business you’re considering, and the type of people in the business who are successful.
  • How will you learn the business? – Does the business you’re considering offer training? Or will you have to learn everything on your own? Is training included or will you have to spend additional money to learn? Remember that learning the steps you need to follow to succeed is a critical component in your overall success, so be sure there’s a plan in place to give you the education you need and that you consider it as you plan your overall budget and investment in the business.
  • Consider the investment – What is the initial investment in the business, and can you afford to lose it if you’re not successful? A franchise is going to cost you a lot more than a direct selling business, and a business you start from scratch might cost less than a franchise initially, but doesn’t give you any support at all. How much will it actually cost you in the first year, second year, fifth year, and so on? How much can you realistically make in that time frame, and when can you expect to begin seeing profits on your investment? Is it worth the amount of time you will put in? Think about how much time you can realistically put in to make your business successful, and then base the amount of money you can make on what you can earn in that time frame.
  • Make sure you understand the business – Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you understand the work involved in becoming successful (and be sure you’re willing to put the time in to do it.) One of the biggest reasons people are disappointed (and unsuccessful) in a business they start is because they did not realize what they would actually have to do to be successful. They believed the hype instead of learning the facts. Lay out on a calendar the work you would do each day in your new business, and the amount of time you will need to invest. Consider the time for finding customers, marketing,  sales presentations, learning, follow-up, etc. Will you be happy spending your time this way? Are there any questions about what you would be doing? Ask questions, and make sure you go in with your eyes wide open.
  • Does it sound too good to be true? – If you’re led to believe that you’ll make a lot of money with very little work, be wary! Legitimate business opportunities lay out clearly the work that’s involved in becoming successful, and it always takes effort. If a business opportunity sounds too good to be true, it probably is. (Do your research!)

Owning your own business can be incredibly rewarding. But be sure you go in with your eyes wide open so you don’t spend more than you can afford and wind up disappointed. With a little bit of research, you can save yourself a lot of headaches and enjoy the experience of being a business owner!

Are you a business owner? How did you research your opportunity before getting started? Considering a business opportunity? What questions do you have? We would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

How to Plan for January Business Now

How to Plan for January Business Now

December is often an exceptionally busy time for retailers and small business owners. The holiday demand for products can keep you just going, going, going until the holidays finally arrive and you’re left exhausted. Unfortunately, right after the holidays many business owners experience a slump in sales…unless they’ve planned ahead. Here are some tips to keep your business going strong right into January:

  • Use the holiday business to your advantage. Don’t just coast through the busy holiday selling season without planning ahead. Put a specific emphasis on the advantages your customers will experience by coming back to you in January. Talk it up! And be sure to make a list of all the things you can be doing with every customer to encourage them to shop with you in January, so you remember to tell your customers about them.
  • Make a list. While your customers are shopping with you during the holidays, be sure to gather their contact information, and get permission to contact them later. That way, you have a marketing mailing list you can take advantage of after the holidays are over.
  • Offer coupons and other incentives that can be used in January. Every customer that purchases from you, and hostesses that host for you, should receive a special coupon that offers additional discounts, gifts, or other offers for coming back in January. Make it a “just for you” offer that allows them to pamper themselves after taking care of everyone else during the holidays. But get your customers thinking beyond the holidays. People still need things in January. Make sure they think of your business when they need them.
  • Hold a post-holiday sale. Many retailers offer special post-holiday discounts on merchandise, and customers expect these. Think about a sale that your business can offer after the holidays, and give each customer a flyer or email reminding them about that sale.
  • Offer a January promotion related to weight loss, New Year’s Resolutions or self-improvement. One of the keys to successful marketing is talking about the things people are interested in. In January, there is always a huge emphasis on New Year’s resolutions and weight loss. think about ways your product line might fit into this. For example, if you sell candles, you might have a promotion that focuses on the resolution to make more time for your spouse (candlelight dinners, anyone?) If you sell skincare, craft a promotion that focuses on “New Year, New You” and teaches techniques for improving your skin or updating your look. If you sell cooking products, focus a promotion on healthy cooking techniques. No matter what you sell, there’s a way to tie it into what everyone is thinking about in the New Year. Create a promotion that takes advantage of this to build your business, and make sure your customers know about it now so they’re ready.

To keep your business income consistent, you need to focus on the activities that will keep customers coming back in January. By applying these tips, you’ll attract customers who are ready to shop for themselves.

What are you doing to build your January business now? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

DSEF & BBB: The Customer is Always Right – This Minute (Part 3)

DSEF & BBB: The Customer is Always Right – This Minute (Part 3)

By Lance Trebesch

Timing Is Everything

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we established that always-happy customers represent 1% of the average organization’s customer base. The other 99% are likely willing to flock to your competitors or slander you on their social networks the moment you fail to please them. Your window for rectifying the situation, addressing their problems, and proving your loyalty to them is small and shrinks quickly.

You have a two-fold strategy: first, identify problem areas and address or eradicate them before your customers have an unpleasant experience to begin with. Second, create mechanisms that allow you to instantly communicate with anyone who still isn’t satisfied.

Likely, you already know what areas are causing trouble in your business model. As Mark Hurd demonstrated, most of your customers are willing to pay more money for better service. Now is the time to invest in improvements:

  • Product Quality: Obviously, address this first. If your product or service is substandard, why are you in business? Sell something worth selling.
  • Website Design: Everything needs to load properly, be easy to use, and look up-to-date. If customers can’t interface with the site, you can’t sell online.
  • Delivery Options: Partner with a reliable company. Offer multiple options. If your product is expensive, consider whether free shipping gives you an edge.
  • Support Staff: You need smart, friendly people, familiar with all aspects of the business, able to deal with cranky customers, and ready to fix problems.

Most people with complaints would rather complain to someone who can help them, rather than barking randomly into space. Be available to hear problems. Go out of your way to make it easy for people to provide feedback. It’s far better if they complain to you than to a public website!

  • Webforms: Your website should include an easy-to-find link where customers can contact you. Any complaints should be answered immediately.
  • 800 Number: If call volume is low, maybe you only need twelve hours of customer support a day, but for bigger business, 24-hour toll free numbers are a must.
  • Social Networks: Your customers are connected. Are you? Many people head for Facebook or Twitter first. Be there, waiting for them, ready to answer.
  • Reach Out: Don’t wait for folks to complain. Customer surveys and other direct contact soliciting feedback help you provide everyone with what they want.

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visit for more information.

What Your Team Needs

What Your Team Needs

A strong team is not only good for business, but it is also essential to overall staff morale and your own peace of mind. Each individual contributes something of value to the team as a whole, so fostering those strengths is important. Your role as a leader is to provide the tools your team needs to succeed. Here are some suggestions for doing so.

  • Teach practical skills. Team members obviously need specialized skills that work specifically for your business, but don’t overlook the importance of teaching practical skills. These skills allow your team to function autonomously in a variety of tasks. Skills such as time management, problem solving, organization, and delegation are all necessary to succeed no matter what industry you are in. Teach directly when necessary and always lead by example.
  • Teach skills instead of trying to change personality traits. If you try to change who a person is, you’ll likely spend much of your time banging your head against the wall, figuratively speaking that is. If one of your team members has a shy personality and doesn’t assert himself with clients and colleagues because of that shyness, focus on teaching him tangible ways in which he can be more assertive. Encourage him to initiate follow-up correspondence with customers, prepare a script to anticipate objections, and give a firm handshake with consistent eye contact. The person will always tend to be shy, but that doesn’t mean he can’t succeed as part of the team.
  • Assess improvements continually. Be on constant lookout for improvements your team makes, both large and small. This can be done through regular meetings, informal briefings, and even frequent observation, such as sitting in on a work session. By taking a proactive role in your team’s well-being, you can help steer them in the right direction or possibly help them get back on track if they are losing focus or approaching a project in an ineffective way. Nurturing a team atmosphere requires your continual awareness of what improvements are being made.
  • Reinforce and support their improvements. Part of your job as a leader is to build up your team and recognize their good work. Positive reinforcement is an incredibly effective confidence booster and motivator. When your team is succeeding, show them that you notice with some kind words, a pep talk, or even treating them to lunch once in a while. Your opinion matters to them, so demonstrate your willingness to help, cheer them on, and support their hard work.

Team dynamics vary from group to group, so being able to recognize what the team needs is an important skill all in itself. Lead by example and practice positive reinforcement to motivate your team to succeed.

How do you provide for your team? Please share your ideas below!

Five Ways to Increase Repeat Sales

Five Ways to Increase Repeat Sales

Repeat sales can be the difference between a thriving business and a failing one. In order to increase the amount of repeat business you do, the most crucial thing to remember is that friendship is more important than sales. By treating your customers just as you would your friends, you instill a sense of trust in your business, and give them plenty of reasons to continue patronizing your business instead of your competitors’ business. Begin seeing your customers as friends and increase your repeat business in the following ways:

  • Create opportunities for friends to buy, rather than having sales. The main idea here is that you want to appeal to your friends. What is it they need or want? Think about their favorite products, what they’ve expressed interest in, or what they’d like to see more of. For example, a customer wants to purchase your organic hair care starter kit for several of her friends this holiday season, but is hesitant to spend so much money at once. Even though you aren’t planning on discounting this item in particular, offer a special for this specific customer at a price that works for you both. Your willingness to satisfy her need as well as the personalized service will encourage her to come back again and again.
  • Truly believe that your product/service helps your friend. If you sincerely believe in what you are selling, that will shine through to the customer. Think of the last time you ate at a fabulous restaurant with delicious food and an outstanding wait staff: Didn’t you tell your friends and family about it right away? When we experience something pleasurable, we naturally want to share it with others. Your products and services are no different.
  • Always deliver excellence. Aside from making good business sense, a commitment to excellence will give you a leg up on your competitors and big business counterparts. When something goes wrong, fix it. When something goes right, commend those involved and integrate it into your regular business practice. Whenever possible, anticipate issues before they arise. The best way to deliver excellence is to be proactive.
  • Keep your promises. Of course everyone makes mistakes, but failing to keep promises is a surefire way to drive people to take their business elsewhere. Don’t promise something that isn’t 100% guaranteed, like something you cannot control. If a customer inquires about an out-of-stock item, an honest answer such as, “We expect the shipment on Monday afternoon,” will be much more appreciated than, “It will definitely be on the shelf by Monday.” What if the truck is late or goes to the wrong address? What if the order is wrong? Always be honest and only promise something when you’re sure you can deliver.
  • Focus on conversation, not a sales pitch. Because you see your customers as friends, you should take a true interest in their lives. Strike up conversations that aren’t disguised as sales pitches. Ask about family members by name when possible, find common interests, and share something about yourself as well. Remember that friendship is a two-way street, so don’t forget to do your part.

A commitment to building relationships is necessary for increasing your repeat sales. Focus on your customers as friends and do everything you can to help them.

How do you generate repeat business? Please share your ideas below!

5 Ways to Build Next Year’s Business this Holiday Season

5 Ways to Build Next Year’s Business this Holiday Season

If your business is like most, the holidays are your busiest season. It can be very easy to just be swept up in the “busy-ness” of it all, and fail to take a breath until after the holidays. Unfortunately, this approach means that once January rolls around, you have to work very hard to build up business again. But by taking a few strategic steps throughout the holidays, you can put the seeds in place that guarantee a profitable January and new year. Here are some suggestions:

  • Incentivize January Purchases. When someone makes a purchase from you during the holidays, offer a special deal or coupon that can be used in January. Be sure to collect their contact information too, so you can follow up in January and remind them!
  • Reward Hostesses Well. If your business is built on parties, offer a special gift for people that host both during the holidays as well as in the early part of the new year. Folks may choose to host a party at home during the holiday, and then another at the office in January, in order to take advantage of the special deal.
  • Reward Wellness. The new year is when everyone goes on a diet, and it’s the busiest time of the year for gyms, diet and exercise programs. Consider partnering with a local gym or diet support group to offer a special discount percentage folks can treat themselves with based on pounds lost or minutes spent exercising. The more weight lost or the more minutes spent at the gym, the bigger the discount!
  • Sponsor a 5K. Again, since in January people are focused on weight loss and resolutions, consider sponsoring a 5K race that helps a good cause while helping people to get fit. Offer special discounts to participants in the race on your products as a reward for helping others. This also provides your business with great exposure as you market the event.
  • Have a New Year’s Sale. The New Year is a great time to clear out old merchandise in preparation for your spring line. Have a special sale after Christmas that you first open up to Hostesses or Preferred Customers who have spent at a certain level during the holidays (they get first dibs at the sale), and then to all of your customers. Market the sale through advertising and social media channels, as well as your email list, so that everyone knows and can take advantage.

By taking a few minutes in the last few months of the year to plan your new year’s strategy, you can help your business thrive in the new year without having to start from scratch.

What are you doing now to build your business for the new year? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.