Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ten part series on starting a business - Part 5

Pricing and Bidding

One of the most challenging aspects of starting a business, particularly if you are providing a service, is determining what to charge and how to bid.  It might be best to come at pricing from two different directions.  First, if possible, do some research and see what other companies are charging for similar services.  Second, put together a budget including expected expenses and projected revenue, and figure out what you need to charge to cover your expenses.  Budgeting can be especially challenging when you are starting out, because you will not know all of your expenses or what to expect for revenues, but do your best to come to a reasonable budget. 

Study the numbers you have derived from each of these processes, and determine what you will ultimately charge for your services.  If your business is pricing a product, the process is similar, but it may be easier to find out what the market will support and what others are charging for similar products.

Often a business providing a service must submit a proposal or bid to an organization in order to gain them as a customer.  Take care to put together proposals that answer each specific requirement in the request, and be sure that it is professional.  You may find it helpful to read books or take a class on how to write a proposal. Note that each organization/project will want information in different ways.  Some will ask for an hourly rate, some will want a project cost.  Some may not tell you what they want.  Expenses will be handled differently.  For example, if travel is required, the company may pay for that separately, or you may have to include that in your costing strategy.

Competition can be tough depending on your industry and potential customers, especially when you are just starting out and trying to make a name for your business.  Do your homework, be diligent, and don’t get discouraged. 
Kim Luedke is Co-owner of
ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing and support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Don’t Forget to Feed the Monster Before it Gets Hungry

Your small business is a being. It’s a living, breathing, moving, growing, changing being. It needs to be fed in order to keep it fat and happy.

Think about how you feel when you skip a meal or don’t eat right. Your stomach gurgles, your energy level is low and your mood changes.

This is the way many entrepreneurs are with their small businesses. They work every day on what will bring them revenue today or two weeks from now and forget to feed their business with leads and contacts that will help them be full further down the road. Occasionally, they’ll stop and send out a single post card or email or post something on Facebook, but there are large gaps in between and not a good balanced meal to sustain the company’s energy, so the results are not what they expect.

Imagine instead if you devoted a percentage of your time and a dedicated monthly budget to your business. The old adage of paying yourself first applies to your business as well. It doesn't have to be a huge amount of time, or a huge amount of money. It just has to be consistent. Start with an hour or two a week and $500 - $1,000 per month.  That doesn't sound like much time or money to invest in marketing, but it can go a long way. It’s much more about getting started, being strategic and keeping it going than about how much you can do today.

If you start with a small budget and you’re not a marketing guru, invest in a consultant to make the most of that budget for you. The right consultant can stretch that amount each month into a good mix of marketing and social media to get you the best reach for your investment.

Then, invest the limited time you have into communicating and providing information about your business to that consultant and then to networking as much as possible to cultivate current connections and add new ones. The consultant can take the information and turn it into blog posts, social media posts, email campaigns and other marketing and advertising to come up with the right mix to maximize your investment and always keep you in front of your target audience.

You also must have realistic expectations. With a small investment of time and money, you won’t see huge results immediately. So don’t give up after a month with no immediate results! With consistency, you will start seeing your business and your brand awareness increase. Over time, you will solidify your brand and your network will grow. So as you have new products or services to offer down the road, your monster will be full of new prospects and potential customers to sustain your business.

Is your monster being fed a good meal consistently or is that a gurgle you hear?

__ Kerry Brooks is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing, event planning and other support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff. Learn more at

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Take Time to Pay Attention to the Simpler Things

Last week, I read a blog that made me take a break from all of the technology and contracts and stress of life and stop to think about the simpler things.

It was about how to give your 2014 kids a 1970s summer.  It made me laugh. In fact I’m still laughing. And it brought back many wonderful memories of leaving the house at 7:00 in the morning and not coming back until after playing hide and seek at dusk. Riding bikes. Bouncing from house to house and slapping together sandwiches at whoever’s house we were at when we got hungry. Lemonade and Kool-Aid stands. Cartwheels and Red Rover on the front lawn. Playing in the sprinklers. And laughter. So. Much. Laughter. Thank you Melissa Fenton and @_MommyPage for the fabulous flash back.

We thought it would be fun to take a look at what was happening with business and technology back in the 1970s too. Here are just a few kind of important things that happened during that decade:
  • Southwest Airlines made its first flight in June 1971
  • Federal Express was founded in 1971
  • The earliest floppy disks were invented at IBM; they were 8 inches wide and became commercially available in 1971
  • The first e-mail transmission took place in 1971
  • The first voicemail system, known as the Speech Filing System (SFS), was invented by Stephen J. Boies in 1973
  • On April 3, 1973, the first cell phone call was transmitted
  • Microsoft was founded on April 4, 1975
  • Apple was founded April 1, 1976
  • Oracle was founded in 1977
  • The microprocessor, spreadsheets and the C programming language were invented
  • Pocket calculators and the Sony Walkman were built
  • Microwave ovens and VCRs became commercially available
  • In 1979 e-commerce was invented

Clearly, the 1970s saw many inventions and thriving entrepreneurship. Technology grew by leaps and bounds. And it has never stopped.

Hmmm. Any correlation between that and the “forced smile-inducing, uber planned and supervised, over-the-top summer life experiences” parents are providing these days?

Technology is an amazing thing. It’s what allows us to run our business when we live in different places and our customers are in other different places. That’s not something that could have happened in the 1970s and not something to be taken for granted.

But, this article reminded me to take more moments to remember the simpler things and break the ‘rules’ more.

In fact I've just used an app to put that on my To Do list in the cloud so it will trickle down to all of my various technology devices. J

How do you take time to remember the simpler things?
Kerry Brooks is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing, event planning and other support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff. Learn more at

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Entrepreneurs: Celebrate the small victories, learn from the missteps, and don’t forget to sing in the mud

Running a small business can be like riding the world’s craziest roller coaster. There are ups and downs, twists and turns, big climbs and long drops. But there are three simple lessons that we encourage you to implement each day to make the ride much easier.

Celebrate the small victories.

No matter what you are going through today, there will be victories. Maybe you gained a new customer or a great testimonial from a happy client. Maybe you reached a milestone anniversary or maybe you just increased your followers on Twitter. Whatever the victories, be sure to celebrate them every day. Celebrating the small victories helps you concentrate on the positive things happening in your business and not dwell on the challenges. If you, as the business leader, focus on the positives, that will resonate throughout your team and to your customers. At the end of each day, make a list of the victories and celebrate them.

Learn from the missteps.

There will be missteps. You will make mistakes in business. Thomas Edison famously said “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” 

As long as you learn from the missteps you are moving forward. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new things. If they become missteps, you are learning and progressing. Don’t dwell on the misstep, dwell on what you learned from it and move on.

Sing in the mud.

Along with the wild roller coaster ride there will be times that you feel overwhelmed. There may be staffing issues or cash flow challenges or clients who may not be the best fit for your company. You may seemingly have more work to do than hours in the day.

Admiral William H. McRaven, United States Navy Admiral and Commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command delivered the 2014 commencement address at the University of Texas at Austin. His speech included ten important life lessons he learned in SEAL training. They are all applicable, but one stood out as very appropriate for entrepreneurs who are feeling overwhelmed “If you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud.” Please click here to watch that section of his address, or click here to watch the full speech – you will be glad you did.

Being an entrepreneur can be overwhelming and can sometimes feel like it is taking you on a crazier ride than you expected. These three simple steps will help you stay focused on the positives, keep learning the ways that won’t work until you find those that do, and keep singing even when you feel overcome.

What important life lessons can you share with your fellow entrepreneurs?

Kerry Brooks is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing, event planning and other support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff. Learn more at

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Reflections on Nine Years as Small Business Entrepreneurs

It’s crazy to think that it has been nine years this month since we took the leap of faith from being full time employed workers to becoming small business entrepreneurs.

Our story isn't a sexy ‘Facebook is going to buy us one day’ tale, or even a ‘We have a brilliant idea let’s build it in our garage’ kind of legend. Instead it’s a culmination of a lot of life happening, a long-time dream to work together and a ‘We’re done with the status quo’ experiment.

And we've never looked back.

Entrepreneurship is truly an amazing thing. It offers flexibility, new ventures and opportunities that can be limited when working for others. There are challenges to be sure, but you learn to go with the flow and adapt as necessary. For example, when funding challenges plagued our core industry, we adapted by changing our name, rebranding and expanding our core target to include small business. We still do a lot of work with the workforce industry where we got our start, but small business has been a natural and welcomed extension.

The other wonderful thing is there hasn't been a ‘typical day at the office’ for us. We've worked with so many different customers – from a telecommunications technology company, to a custom drilling company, to a medical coding solopreneur, to a simulation and training start-up, to many workforce-related vendors, organizations and associations across the country. And our list of tasks goes well beyond marketing, graphic design and event planning where we started and now includes other things as diverse as contract management, human resources management, logistics, magazine editors, trade show planning, office design, virtual conferences and much more.

Technology has been our best friend and has allowed us to live in different places and have customers in other different places. And we've connected with so many people we would never have met otherwise.

Most of all we are thankful - to our families and fur babies who have supported us every step of the way, and to all of you who have honored us by becoming our customers and friends and those we have yet to meet.  

We are looking forward to celebrating many more anniversaries with you.

Kim Luedke and Kerry Brooks are Co-owners of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing, event planning and other support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff. Learn more at

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Promotional Item That Spreads Your Message for 12 - 18 Months!

Look around your office. Among the normal work items in my office I see a lot of pens, a case with post-its and post-it flags, a letter opener and a few other items I’ve picked up from vendors over the years.

Most businesses at one time or another use some type of promotional item. Most of them have less than 2 inches of space to squeeze your logo into and you’re lucky if those who choose to keep them will even ever remember whose logo is on them.

Promotional items should have something to do with the business you are in or the event you are sponsoring – USB flash drive for software or IT businesses, water bottle for fundraiser walk/run and so on.

There is one promotional item that would work for any small business. A calendar. Custom design a calendar and include a special targeted message each month. Advertise an upcoming open house ahead of time, and with some strategic pre-planning, add your quarterly promotions and regular events to each month’s page. Include customer testimonials and photos specific to your business.

I know a lot of people use electronic calendars these days, but most people I know also have at least one printed calendar hanging in their home and/or office. Even my teenage daughters use them.

Think about your target audiences and how a 12- to 18-month calendar could benefit them and your business.

Kerry Brooks is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing, event planning and support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff. Learn more at

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Marketing in the 90s, 2000s, and Today

My how marketing has changed. Even in the years we’ve been in business, we have seen a tremendous change in the way we help our customers market their products and services. It's difficult to keep up with the changes and to keep ahead of what's to come.
Marketing in the 90s
In the 1990s, marketing was costly. If you had money, and you knew where to spend it wisely, it usually worked for you. The more you spent, the more it worked.
Most small local businesses used the yellow pages as their primary marketing source in the 90s. If you weren’t in the yellow pages, you didn’t exist. Each year you’d sit down with your yellow pages rep and determine how big of an ad you wanted to place (read: how much money you wanted to spend) in order to stand out more than your competition.
Local businesses also used billboards, signage, and newspaper advertising to gain as much exposure as possible. With a little extra money, you could purchase space in a local advertorial and hope to get on the front page.
A little more money bought you radio, television, and magazine marketing.
And, of course, everyone was using direct mail. We mailed post cards, brochures, letters, and more, and they actually got people’s attention.
In the 90s, most companies had a designated PR/press relations staffer who regularly communicated with local media to gain the most exposure. We spent tens of thousands of dollars in hopes of building our brand recognition.
Marketing in the 2000s
The 2000s saw a big swing in how we spent our marketing dollars. With the Internet in full bloom, we concentrated on building web sites and e-commerce sites that would draw people in and give them an opportunity to hang around awhile. We added web site banner ads and Google pay per click ads, and made sure our press releases were published on major web sites.
Email marketing was a weekly or more often occurrence and we added email newsletters to the mix. We dabbled with Internet radio and YouTube in the early 2000s, wrote as many case studies and white papers as possible, and made sure to incorporate customer testimonials into everything.
Marketing Today
Today newspapers are a dying breed, magazines are now ezines, and the PR job title and press releases are becoming extinct. Why do they even print yellow pages and drop them at our doorsteps each year? They go straight to the recycle bin!
For the most part, email replaced direct mail a few years ago, although hand-written notes are making a big comeback, and the post office is making an awkward attempt to re-invent direct mail. We are beginning to see video streaming replace traditional TV and mobile is everything, including advertising on apps for every device. Even trade show attendance is going virtual and Twitter and event apps are adding to sponsorship exposure opportunities at conferences.
Social networks have become THE source for news and information, as well as for meeting new clients and keeping in touch. Your smartest marketing investment now is finding the best way to build and continue to reach your audience. And the investment of time is the most critical investment you can make. The more you put in (strategically of course), the better your return on investment.
Marketing and media strategies for businesses will only continue to change and change at a more rapid rate over the coming years (weeks, days, minutes?). Can you even imagine what your organization’s marketing will look like by 2020?
ProfessionalEdge offers a wide range of marketing and support services to those who want to increase their business success, but are not in a position to add to their staff. They write a regular blog to help businesses navigate the world of marketing and social media along with many other helpful business topics. Connect with ProfessionalEdge at, follow their blog at, follow them on Twitter @profedge, or connect with them on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Why are so many people on LinkedIn changing jobs?

Have you noticed that an inordinate number of your LinkedIn connections are changing jobs or getting new positions and posting them? You congratulate them and recognize them and think, “Wait, isn't that the position she’s held for the past 3 years?”!

It probably is! Anytime you update your profile in LinkedIn, LinkedIn defaults to ‘tell the world’.

For example, all of the workforce organizations in Florida’s workforce system recently underwent a statewide unified branding effort, renaming all regional workforce agencies CareerSource to match the statewide brand. Of course, those associated with this change – hundreds throughout the state – updated their LinkedIn profiles to reflect the name change. Voila, a large number of perceived new positions and associated congratulations flying around LinkedIn.

There is an easy way to avoid all of the confusion. If you want to make minor updates to your LinkedIn profile that you don’t necessarily want to broadcast to the world, follow these simple steps:
  1. Login to your LinkedIn account
  2. Click on your photo in the upper right hand corner to update your Account & Settings
  3. Click on Review next to Privacy & Settings
  4. Click on Turn On/Off Your Activity Broadcasts
  5. Click off Let people know when you change your profile, make recommendations, or follow companies
  6. Save changes

If you decide later to make a change that you do want to broadcast, follow the same steps to turn the feature back on.

Happy updating!

Kerry Brooks is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing, event planning and support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff. Learn more at

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What tasks could you outsource to help support your business?

Entrepreneur, solopreneur, mompreneur... These are all words that have become very popular because the number of people owning or starting a business is at an all-time high. 

That means there are more great minds than ever available to help you run a successful business. Let’s face it, you are great at what you do, but most small business owners don’t have all of the skills necessary to fully run a business. One way or another, you need support. But it’s likely that you don’t require full time staff to conduct every area of your business.

Outsourcing some or all of the core functions of your business can provide you with a higher level of support for far less than it can cost to have someone on staff. There are many small companies available to help with your accounting, marketing and social media, IT, event planning, administration, and more. These core business services are all vital to the success of every small business. But not every small business can afford to hire all of these positions.

Here’s an example. One of our clients is a small start-up. They have 11 staff members, and all of them work on the core function of their business. It is vital to their success that they have every one of those positions. But they also work on government contracts, and that requires very specific accounting, contracting, and administrative skills they don’t possess.  Instead of hiring accounting, contracting, and administrative staff that would have to replace those 11 key positions, they have outsourced accounting, administration, contracting and marketing to small businesses that specialize in providing those services. For significantly less than what they would pay for a full time bookkeeper, they have hired an accounting consulting firm and they receive the benefit of at least five different individuals with five different skill levels, from entry level bookkeeping to tax experts and a CPA. Hourly rates paid are based on the level of skill provided. The accounting firm understands the intricacies of the business and serves as the organization’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), a function this small company couldn't afford at this stage in their business.

A marketing/social media consulting firm can provide consistent, strategic outreach to your clients and prospective clients keeping your time free to bring in new business and focus on your core business areas.

If you don’t already have IT skills on staff, it makes sense to hire an IT consulting firm to cover those skills.

The impact to your budget will be minimal but the impact to your business can be substantial if you take your time and select consultant companies for the right tasks the same way you would hire someone internally.

What tasks do you think you may be able to outsource that would help support your business?

Kerry Brooks is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of administrative, marketing, event planning and other support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff. Learn more at

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

In Pursuit of Your Dreams

Have you always wanted to get your pilot’s license, start a business, write a book or hike the Appalachian Trail?

We all have dreams. Some of us want to do something different than what we do day in and day out. Some of us want to add a little excitement to our lives or improve ourselves in some way. Some of us are working on a bucket list. But we all have the same thing in common. We all want to know where we need to start and how to get there

Recently, we held a virtual conference called Women on the Edge (of Greatness!) a series of inspirational and practical online workshops, keynotes and other sessions designed to help attendees  get started on their dreams.

We covered a multitude of topics, including business basics and resources, setting up a non-profit, networking, knowing yourself, experimenting and other inspirational sessions to set attendees on the path to pursue their dreams. The sessions covered many different subjects, but the underlying elements were consistent throughout, so we thought we’d share them with you.

Set Goals
No matter what you are pursuing – your New Year’s resolutions, starting a business, improving finances, etc. – goals are key. Set them, write them down, and stay on top of them to be sure you are on track to meeting them. This one step will greatly increase your chances of success.

Build and Nurture Relationships
Surround yourself with people who support you in your goals and dreams. Be sure you have the right people around you – people to fill the various important roles to help you on your journey. Nurture those relationships and add new people if some important roles aren’t being fulfilled.

Be Accountable
It’s hard to keep on track toward any goal if you aren’t accountable to someone. That’s why programs like Weight Watchers are so much more successful than going it alone. Find a partner or partners to check in with on a regular basis. Review your goals and progress toward achieving them with your partner to help you stay on point.

Cut the Clutter
Removing some of the busyness and clutter from your life will free your mind to focus on your dreams. Yes, life is busy and crazy. But look over your list and see if there’s anything that isn’t helping you achieve your dream. Then say no to it. It’s ok, the world won’t end. We promise.

Don’t be Afraid to Fail
You will trip up along the way. Some things will go as planned, but most will take a different journey than you expected. The only way to learn is to try and fail and get up and try again.

Above everything else, just start. You have to begin a journey in order to move along it. Will there be setbacks? Of course there will. Adjust as necessary. But one thing is certain; you’ll never achieve your dreams if you don’t start.

These steps represent the basics covered throughout these sessions. There is so much more to gain from them and all of the complete sessions are available as recordings. Contact us at to learn how you can benefit from this fabulous resource to get you started on your dream.

Good luck!

Kerry Brooks is Co-owner of ProfessionalEdge Associates, offering a wide range of marketing, event planning and support services to businesses that want to increase their success, but aren't in a position to add to their staff. Learn more at