Davinci Virtual Blog



Davinci Virtual Launches Treasure Hunt Contest

Here's a contest that's near and dear to my heart... That's because Davinci Virtual is the one launching it--and because I love a good social media scavenger hunt.

Dubbed the Davinci Virtual Code, we're running a special contest. One lucky winner will receive a full year of Davinci Virtual’s suite of services, including virtual office space, live receptionist services, meeting room space and more--for free.

Beginning this week, Davinci Virtual will release a series of clues and riddles through our social pages. We'll announce one clue each week for the next four weeks.

To enter, small business owners are invited to find the clues, then visit http://www.davincivirtual.com/contact-social/ to type in their answer. The clues are scattered across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. When you find the clues, you can unlock your ticket to potential winnings. The winner will be chosen at random and announced on Davinci Virtual’s Facebook page.

“Running a small business is an adventure. It’s full of daily obstacles, unsolvable mysteries, surprise roadblocks and--let’s face it--the occasional booby trap. Some days, the code that unlocks your success may seem like an impossible one to crack,” says Bill Grodnik, CEO of Davinci Virtual. “We at Davinci Virtual have some secrets cluing you into smarter business practices. This Code is full of insights and directions to help you surpass the obstacles and reach your business’s highest potential.”

Here is a schedule of clues:

Week 1: Find the clue on our Facebook page.

Week 2: Find the clue on our Twitter posts.

Week 3: Find the clue on Davinci Virtual's LinkedIn group, which is called "A Smarter Way to Work."

Week 4: Find the clue on Davinci's YouTube channel.

Are you ready? If so, don your sleuth cap, your magnifying glass and your social media utility belt. For the next 30 days we will reveal hints to help you crack the Davinci Virtual Code!

Protecting Your Small Business From Smartphone Malware

Are you constantly on your mobile phone? If so, you have a 30 percent chance of getting malware on your device—malicious software that could be taking money out of your small business budget.

A new report from Lookout Mobile Security found that mobile malware has increased significantly, with Android users two-and-a-half times as likely to encounter malware today than just six months ago.

And you aren’t even safe in app stores. During the first half of 2011, the number of unique apps with malware found on markets and download sites grew from 80 to 400 apps.

Lookout estimates that between a half million and one million users were affected by mobile malware in the first half of 2011 alone. What’s more, three out of 10 mobile users likely to click on an unsafe link, including malicious and phishing links, over the course of a year.

Here’s a disturbing example of a new theat. GGTracker is the first known Android malware that specifically targets U.S.-based Android users. This malware signs users up for premium text message subscription services without their knowledge, charging $10 per service to a person’s phone bill. In some cases users were charged for multiple services with total charges ranging up to $50.

Also be on the look out for what’s called malvertising. Attackers employ this tactic whereby they use mobile ads to direct users to a malicious Web site that triggers an automatic download of malware.

“As mobile devices grow in popularity, so do the incentives for attackers,” says Kevin Mahaffey, CTO and co-founder of Lookout Mobile Security. “We’ve seen the prevalence and the level of sophistication of mobile malware attacks evolve significantly in the first six months of 2011. We expect this trend to continue as more and more people adopt mobile devices.”

So how does your small business protect itself from these attacks? Lookout offers several suggestions:

  • Only download apps from trusted sources, such as reputable app stores and download sites. Remember to look at the developer name, reviews, and star ratings.

  • After clicking on a web link, pay close attention to the address to make sure it matches the Web site it claimed to be.

  • Download a mobile security tool that scans every app you download for malware and spyware, and can help you locate a lost or stolen device. For extra protection, make sure your security app can also protect from unsafe Web sites.

Check out this video on how you can pick up malware on your smartphone over Wi-Fi:


Five Reasons Why NOW Is the Right Time To Expand Your Business

Have you created a successful business and are wondering what your options are to grow in today’s ‘New Normal’? Like you, many entrepreneurs have created great businesses through hard work, innovation and simply exceeding the needs of customers in a local area. But without access to significant capital, it’s challenging to contemplate growing from a few locations to hundreds or thousands of outlets.

You’ve most likely invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to build your business, secured trademarks, developed your brand, documented processes, implemented technology, and hired staff. You have a solid foundation. But in today’s economic environment, when’s the best time to expand and do so in the smartest, risk-controlled way?

Here are five reasons why now just might be the best time ever to expand your business:

1. Expand Your Thinking on Expansion: You have a great local business. You know you have a product or service that your customers want. Eventually there comes a point when you begin to wonder how to reach more customers. The traditional approach involves raising capital to allow you to open more locations.

True, this approach can grow your brand and allow you to reach more customers, but it also means that expanding your business is all up to you. You will be securing and signing for the debt or outside equity and ultimately signing on the dotted line and taking on the increased risk of expansion.

Another avenue for achieving growth in revenues and customers, with limited capital and less risk, is through franchising, though many business owners do not consider it.

Franchising is a great vehicle to help you reach more customers, promote your brand, and increase your visibility and credibility as a brand.  Opening additional locations on your own could take hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars that are not easy to access through traditional financing today.

2. Know The Leverage Effect: In thinking of ways to leverage the large investments you have made already, franchising can be a great way to scale your brand to more markets, building upon those investments and years of fine-tuning that made your business a success locally.

Franchising links your expertise and investments as the franchisor with the capital and personal oversight of a franchisee to replicate your model in a new geographical market. You are able to leverage the passion, commitment, and capital of franchisees to deliver your goods and services to more customers across a larger geographic region. You may want to expand regionally, nationally, or globally, and franchising is the least capital-intensive (and most proven) way to do so, with less risk and more upside than any other method of brand expansion.

Launching a franchise brand still requires an additional financial commitment of several hundred thousand dollars by the franchisor to lay and build the franchise system foundation. To open more company-owned locations requires significantly more capital than opening locations through franchising.

Given that lenders are facing a stricter regulatory environment, record high and long-lasting unemployment rates, and less business collateral, creativity and innovative ideas are required to figure out the best way to expand with limited access to capital. The beauty of franchising is that the geographical expansion into new markets also uses the capital of the franchisees, in essence allowing the brand to expand using other people’s money.

3. A National Strategy, Creating Jobs Locally: It’s not just about the the money.  In addition to taking less risk in terms of capital investment, franchising mitigates the challenge of trying to take your great local business and manage it in the next state – or 6 states away.

Franchising enables great local ownership where business owners invest not just in your concept, but in the community they serve.  Franchising spreads the risk between the franchisor and the franchisee. The franchisor has invested in the pilot locations and secured their initial success.

By experiencing mistakes and fixing them to develop a solid business model that franchisees can replicate, the franchisor has developed and protected the brand and the systems that the franchisee can license and use in its business.??4. Succeed and Grow Together??Both the franchisor and the franchisee benefit from this approach. Franchisees invest capital to grow their local business, but they don’t have to spend significant amounts of time and resources to figure out the business. As a franchisor, you’re licensing your knowledge to them. In doing so, you will leverage the investments you have already made in your brand and in your systems.

In return, you earn a stable revenue stream, normally based upon the revenue results of your franchisees.??Franchising is also a powerful mechanism for accelerating growth. Franchisees provide new sources of passion, ideas, and capital. Franchisees work hard to build their local businesses and spread the word for the brand and bring great ideas back to make the business model stronger for everyone. Franchising is truly about shared success—growing smart—with less risk than going it alone. Good alone, better together.

5. Franchising: Be In Business For Yourself, Not By Yourself: The franchisee is acquiring the right to use the brand and the systems to get started much faster and with much stronger resources than they would on their own, and that right has considerable value. Essentially, to be a franchisee is to be in business for but not by yourself. The franchisor benefits in offering this opportunity to a franchisee because it helps offset past, current, and future investments in the brand and in the operating systems. When done right, franchising benefits the company who wants to expand geographically and benefits the franchisee who gets to learn the business and execute the model at the local level.??Launching a franchise system is a big step – it requires evolving your leadership and growing your business from a successful local one to a larger regional, national, or international brand.

You had the passion, skills, and determination to get you to here. Yes, you will need to learn new things to grow your business through franchising, but you can do it. You will be the ambassador within your organization that will set the tone and the passion for the huge opportunity that franchising can provide when it is done well and with absolute commitment to the interdependent relationship with your franchisees.  Franchising provides a means for you to grow and expand your business, reach more customers, empower others to own their own businesses and create countless jobs. Enjoy the journey!

Shelly Sun is a Certified Franchise Executive and CEO and Co-Founder of BrightStar Care, with over 200 locations nationwide. She is author of the forthcoming book, Grow Smart, Risk Less: A Low-Capital Path to Multiplying Your Business Through Franchising, which will be released October 4, 2011 and can be pre-ordered from www.growsmartrisklessbook.com, www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

Small Business Contest Offers $15,000 in Marketing Services

You know I love a good small business contest. Heck, it’s an opportunity to win money for doing relatively little—money that could help you hire new employees or better market your business.

The latter is the idea behind Deluxe Corporation’s Project REV, a year-long marketing lab that offers small business owners in the U.S. the tools and expert resources they need to grow their businesses. Project REV will award each winning business with $15,000 in Deluxe marketing products and services and a full year’s worth of business and marketing mentorship.

Laura Radewald, vice president of enterprise brand at Deluxe hit the nail on the head when she said today’s entrepreneurs and small business owners are passionate about their businesses and not necessarily about marketing. She says, “Small business owners are often frustrated with marketing and unsure if they are doing it effectively.”

If you win, you can spend the $15,000 on Deluxe products such as:

    • Web site development and hosting


    • Logo design and branding


    • E-mail marketing


    • Traditional direct marketing


    • Web-to-print services


    • Search engine marketing

Can you relate? Then enter to win the Project REV contest. When you do, you’ll be asked to answer a list of 13 questions about your small business. Up to 10 businesses will be selected. The contest runs through Sept. 30, 2011.


Vimeo PRO Makes Quick Video Marketing Affordable for Small Business

Have you ever heard of quick video marketing? It’s one of the most effective online marketing vehicles known to small business.

Online video continues to experience explosive growth. Consider the sheer statistics:

The “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Forecast and Methodology, 2010-2015" shows that video will account for 50 percent of all consumer Internet traffic by the end of 2012.

Nearly 60 percent of viewers watch video before reading text on the same Web page and are more likely to make a purchase, according to a December 2010 Forbes Insight survey.

And this year, 83 percent of small businesses plan to use social media channels for their business, reports eMarketer.

With the web rapidly moving from text to video, small businesses need to adapt to the shift in technology or quickly become irrelevant or less impactful to their consumers who expect to see video everywhere online. Now, Vimeo, a high quality video sharing company, has launched a professional level service that’s affordable for small businesses looking for a hosting solution for their quick video marketing materials. Dubbed Vimeo PRO, the service is now live.

"Until now, quality video hosting has been expensive, confusing, and extremely difficult for a small business owner to understand. Small businesses have fallen between the cracks of free video services and massive enterprise video solutions," says Dae Mellencamp, general manager of Vimeo. "Vimeo PRO resolves the contradiction that best-of-breed video quality and hosting can also be easy and affordable."

Vimeo PRO is priced at $199 for 50GB of storage and 250,000 plays as a flat annual fee. At that price, the idea is to help small businesses compete with larger companies. The service offers features like high video quality, customizable portfolio websites, extensive video player customization, video review pages, advanced statistics, social media sharing and broad privacy settings.

Production companies will be able to create many separate portfolios and share rough cuts with clients. Restaurants can show their atmosphere and signature dish preparation online to potential diners. Real estate agents can provide home hunters with higher quality housing previews. And, even doctors can create private groups to educate patients and medical students.

This is a step above YouTube. It might not be necessary for every small business, but if you are looking for tons of features and high-quality, Vimeo PRO is the way to go in the quick video marketing space.

Check out this video for a few quick tips on quick video marketing: