Business Development In A Slow Economy: Small Business Is Where It’s At

Every day layoffs are in the news around the country. No one right now is feeling secure in their job. With the recession in full bloom and housing still in the tank, there will likely continue to be more layoffs. However, in contrast, Internet businesses are enjoying an uptick. The old fashion way of building a small business “brick by brick”, i.e. the brick and mortar way, requires sizable overhead investment. Starting a business online can be accomplished literally on a shoestring. If you’re struggling to make ends meet and unclear about your future, perhaps now is the time to think about building an online business.

It does take some time, understanding and work to get an online business going. However, it will pay off in spades if run correctly. In fact, it could be a profitable venture in a shorter time than trying to build an “offline” business. One way to fund your online business, if you’ve suddenly found yourself unemployed, is to use unemployment benefits to bridge your income shortfall. Of course, consider searching for a “traditional” job in parallel. Craft your strategy correctly, just like you would
if developing any business plan in the traditional world.

There are literally tens / hundreds of thousands of online business. So, it’s clear that you must think outside the box. If you’ve been an account in the past, consider offering online bookkeeping services or consulting with clients for on how to structure their accounting systems. What if you were an application developer in the past, perhaps you can offer your help through online bidding services such as Guru.com or RentACoder.com. These services are great for giving you a baseline of potentially unlimited short-term engagements.

Many people would just brush off building a business online as “too hard.” This is especially true if they’ve never done this before. But, the real question to ask yourself is “what do I have to lose, except time?” Let’s dissect a few of the components. Buy a domain name, build a website or use an existing site / blogging service such as WordPress, and start advertising. You should spend a few hours every night writing about what you enjoy most. Explain to your audience about certain techniques, what actions work best, where to get more information, etc. Once you start, you’ll find it amazing how much knowledge you really do have about the subject.

Of course, you have to realize that regardless of how small your business there will be competition on the Internet. The Internet has something approaching 400 million websites, give or take. But, the beauty of this is that you have the opportunity to check out your competition. You can figure out what they are doing right or wrong and create your own unique products and services.

On the flip side of the coin, if you are not a proficient web designer, you might hire one of these people off of the services listed above: Guru.com or RentACoder.com. These services provide ratings on the coders within their portfolio. It makes it much easier to pick a competent web developer.

Again, just like any business, be sure you know your objectives. The Internet should be a “one-action “model. Don’t confuse the issue with creating too many “personas” or themes about you or your offering. You will end up confusing the audience / paralyzing their thought process and they will end up not buying. Make sure you have quality content on your site, as well.

Marketing will be a key component to a successful launch of your business. I like to say that you can build a website, but if no one knows that it’s there, does it really exist? Remember you ARE competing with millions of other websites. At a minimum, you are competing with thousands of business in your category. How will you stand out? What are your unique selling points? Are you relevant?

Marketing your website is probably the most difficult aspect of starting a small business online. By the time you’re ready to launch your site, you need to be prepared to invest some bucks in bringing your small business to the attention of the world.

In the end; however, this small investment could be the biggest you’ve made to be in control of your own future. This is probably the best time to invest in your tomorrow’s future by developing your own business.

Read more articles from David Chan

Joint Ventures Past, Present and Future

It used to be that when people talked about joint ventures, it meant some convoluted, complex, long drawn out business relationship. Everyone was on their pins and needles waiting for legal contracts to be drawn up, lawyer reviews, back and forth negotiations, concessions here and there. Miraculously, one year later, voila, you have a new joint venture. Three months later, the relationship sours for one reason or another and the partnership falls apart.

Joint ventures, of course, are referred to by many different names, not the least of which includes: partnerships, strategic alliances, alliances, etc. No matter what you call it, joint ventures are designed with the intent to create more value from two or more entities than you would have with only one alone.

In my first year at Oracle, I created a joint venture between several technology companies: Oracle, Novell, Intel, Synoptics, etc. We dubbed the joint venture, TIE for The Integrated Enterprise. At the time, integrating solutions from several different technology providers was a difficult task. On top of that, one had to figure out how to train and support customers and resellers. The goal of this joint venture was to reduce the complexities of implementing cross – company technologies.

At Hewlett Packard, we launched a joint venture between Oracle and Hewlett Packard. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software was blazingly hot and both companies desperately wanted to be in the space. A joint venture relationship was developed, a marketing plan was drafted, a team was assembled, revenue goals were quantified and an execution plan was launched. Both companies benefitted from this collaboration because each leveraged the others core strengths in hardware / professional services and software and support.

Another example of a joint venture in the music industry was when MySpace inked relationships with the big music labels. The result of this venture was to create a new MySpace Music entity where the labels gave streaming and downloading rights to this new entity. The goal of the joint venture is shared advertising revenue, which of course, with 100s of millions of users is an advertiser’s playground.

So, what does the new world of online marketing and profit systems look like? In this new era of Internet and mobile marketing, affiliates rule the playground. The affiliates and, even more so, the super affiliates are the power brokers. Joint ventures are common in this business and move at the speed of, well, the digital network. Those who understand how to work with affiliates will see a multiplicative effect of their marketing dollars.

Joint venture brokers are also gaining in popularity. These are “brokers” who can marry the super affiliates to companies who are looking to jump start their online businesses. This is no trivial pursuit, as it requires, just like in the “offline” world, a strong product, a huge market, a business plan and lots of diplomacy and tact.

Joint ventures can be a great way to accelerate sales, as well as to reduce the complexities of going it alone.

Read more articles from David Chan