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The top entrepreneur websites for budding business owners

As an entrepreneur in today’s Web-based world, you have an endless reach of resources and insights to stay progressive. The only trick is, the Web is so big it’s tough to differentiate the good, reliable entrepreneur websites from the bad.

We want to share with you a list of the top entrepreneur websites—full of both tools and advice on topics such as legal, software, marketing, and more. All of these sites are focused on helping your business reach the level of successful you desire.

Inc.com

You might be more familiar with this site because they also publish Inc. Magazine. It provides various perspectives and extensive information for entrepreneurs looking to start or grow a business.


Forbes – Small Business Strategies

The Forbes site has a section specifically dedicated to small business strategies—sharing insights from industry experts about strategies targeted for smaller businesses. They’ll keep you informed on industry trends as well as share tips for overcoming timely obstacles current small businesses face.


Small Business Trends

This online publication will keep you updated on breaking news and any current information that might affect you as a small business owner or entrepreneur. In addition to its hired editorial staff, it shares information from an extensive list of experts that volunteer their experience and insight into what works and what doesn’t when it comes to running a small business.


Small Business Edge

This site functions like a blog and mainly features pieces written by Brian Moran. He is an accredited small business expert who has been recognized as one of the country’s leading small business influencers. Moran also provides timely advice and expands on ways you can improve your business as an entrepreneur.


OnStartups.com

Targeted to the software startup crowd, Dharmesh Sha started this site after founding and running several of his own startups—one of which is HubSpot. As a tried and true industry expert, Sha is not only passionate about software, but also about successful startups.


Startup Lawyer

You’ll find this source extremely valuable as you realize the importance of staying up to date on legal issues regarding startups. Ryan Robert’s, Startup Lawyer’s creator is an expert in the field, advising entrepreneurs on all phases of their business process.


Onevest

Offering entrepreneurs and small businesses a unique opportunity, Onevest creates a means of communicating with investors and experts in the industry of startups. Connecting you with these investors, you’ll have the opportunity to raise money and seek the help you need to lead your startup down the path to success.


Quora

This site provides a means for entrepreneurs to ask questions to other experts. The questions are answered by real people with first-hand experience. It also acts as a tool for you to create your own blog and share your own industry expertise.


Business Owner’s Toolkit

In the past, small businesses and entrepreneurs relied on expensive research and software to successfully run their business. Business Owner’s Toolkit acts as a valuable resource for such small business owners providing many how-to guides regarding startups and entrepreneurial success.


Thomasz Tunguz

Tom Tunguz writes daily about data-backed business advice perfect for the small business owner looking to improve their teams, fund raise, reach benchmarks, etc. This blog is written in a comprehensive and easy-to-digest way, perfect for a quick and valuable daily read.


This is going to be BIG

This site is ran by entrepreneurial expert Charlie O’Donnell, who has had an innovative startup career and teaches entrepreneurship at Fordham University. This is going to be BIG is an excellent resource for entrepreneurial tips and trends. For three years in a row, O’Donnell was voted one of the 100 Most Influential People in New York Technology by Alley Insider.


All Business Experts

Offering a slew of advice for small businesses and entrepreneurs, this site offers a valuable source for tips on everything business from search engine optimization, to preparing for tax season, to office etiquette.


Forte Foundation

Targeted to entrepreneurial women, this site provides all of the tools and resources needed for small business success. This non-profit organization’s goal is to launch more talented, able women into successful business careers.


HubSpot – Marketing Blog

This site offers a slew of data-based tips. As a thought-leader in the online marketing industry, you’ll find tools and insight into tips you wish you knew sooner such as ideas about improving your marketing efforts for your business online.


Davinci Virtual – Blog

Providing readers tips and best practices for small businesses and entrepreneurs. From where to host your next meeting to how to cut costs with affordable services, Davinci’s blog is constantly sharing ways to take your business efforts to the next level.

Subscribe to our blog today to always be in the know on the latest entrepreneurial tips and advice.

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5 marketing ideas for small businesses

Successful and active marketing practices are the key to staying in the game when it comes to building your business. Follow these five simple, but critical, marketing tips- perfect for reaching potential customers and building your clientele.

1. Analyze content success

Take time to reflect on past efforts. What content worked and why? If your business uses a website, dive into the site’s analytics and learn what customers like to see. On that note, is you site fresh with relevant content? Make it a resource for your clients whether you frequently update a news section of your site or maintain a blog with new/trending insights for your industry. Fresh content is key—not only for grabbing the audience’s attention, but also for giving your site more value in the eyes of Google and other search engines. The fresher, more relevant your content is, the more likely a user searching for your services, will see your site in search engine results.

2. Network via existing customers

You work hard to provide quality services and cultivate a trusting relationship with your clients. If your clients are happy with your work, why wouldn’t they refer you to their friends and colleagues? Expanding your network this way gives you a means for reaching potential customers at a whole new level—one your competition doesn’t have immediate access to. So, if you feel you have a good relationship with existing customers and have earned their trust, don’t be afraid to ask them for referrals!

3. Create newsletters

Identify your customers’ concerns and interests when it comes to your industry and write newsletters for them on that topic. What better way to receive valuable information about an industry-specific topic than from an industry expert. These topics might range from legal issues, service-related advice, or how current events might be affecting the industry. This will help you establish a trusting relationship, because it lets them know you care enough to keep them informed. Most importantly, reach prospective customers by circulating the newsletters through email or placing them as assets on lead-generation landing pages.

4. Social media

There are many opportunities for building a presence in your industry through social media. This can be done by interacting with other industry players and also targeting content to potential clients’ interests and concerns.

For example, Twitter is a great opportunity to post about industry topics by sharing insightful articles or other brief ideas. It’s also important to build a network for your business on LinkedIn. Connecting with potential customers this way is a great opportunity to let them know you’re an industry expert and your services are valuable.

5. Virtual office space and virtual receptionist solutions

Feeling like most of you budget is put toward office space leases, maintenance, office supplies, etc? Being a small business doesn’t mean you must have a fully-furnished, professional office space in order to keep up with larger competitors. There are other solutions available. For example, virtual office solutions.

Choosing a virtual office solutions package will still give you a legitimate business address to use for you business cards, website, local listings, etc. That address can also act as a destination for any mail you might receive. Davinci Virtual offers virtual office services that meet such needs for small businesses. Most of the Davinci locations have onsite staff that can forward mail to you and handle any walk-in clients that see your business listed at your virtual address.

But what about meeting with clients? If I don’t have my own office space, where am I supposed to host meetings? Davinci’s virtual office services also have a solution for just that. With your package, you are allotted an amount of time to use professional, fully-furnished business single offices or conference rooms. And if you need space for longer than the time allotted in your virtual package, Davinci rents meeting rooms for a low cost—by the hour or by the day.

You can also free up a significant amount of your own time by using Davinci virtual receptionist services. These receptionists are live, U.S.-based, professionally-trained receptionists available to handle a wide range of duties that a typical receptionist might handle such as call forwarding, customer service, voicemail management, appointment scheduling, and even outbound calling on your behalf.

Free up your budget for your marketing department by contacting Davinci today.

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How to Prepare Your Business for the Holiday Season

As a small business owner, you have probably begun to prepare for the upcoming holiday season. As you anticipate a peak in sales as well as operating costs, it is crucial to formulate a strategy to ensure that your business performance is at its peak, too.

The holiday rush can open many doors of opportunity, including expanding your business’s reach by introducing yourself to new customers. To earn their loyalty long after the season ends, it is important to provide the best customer service possible—even when you are at your busiest.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the holiday workload, but if you anticipate the challenges and properly prepare yourself, you can save a lot of time, money, and headaches.

Start early


Perhaps the easiest way to get ahead of the holiday rush is to start early. Look at last year’s numbers to anticipate the volume of orders to get an idea of how many supplies you will need, or if this is your business’s first holiday experience, dig up some research on your competitors and the standard increase in sales for businesses similar to yours during the November and December months. This way, you will have everything you need long before the rush begins so you don’t have to scramble for materials and resources later.

Don’t hesitate to get extra help


While you may think you can power through it on your own, it is wise to hire extra help to ensure that you don’t stress yourself out and each customer has a pleasant experience. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should hire a full-time employee. At a fraction of the price, you can hire a live virtual receptionist and pay only for the time your need. Virtual receptionists can assist with everything from order processing and customer service to live web chat and phone support. This way, you not only save time and money by outsourcing these tasks to a professional—you create a more professional image for your business, whether it is over the phone or through your web based commerce system.

Hiring a full-time staff member at the beginning of the holiday season is not only more expensive than virtual receptionist services, it is also more time consuming. When each passing moment could mean another sale, it is best to use your time wisely. Hiring a new employee forces you to take time training them to perform duties for your business, and then more time is lost during the employee’s learning curve. Alternatively, you can hire a virtual receptionist already trained for your industry.

Increase customer satisfaction for long-term benefits


Shopping volume increases dramatically during the holidays, which means your business is likely to be busier than ever. As you rush to process and ship orders while keeping your momentum, it is important to make the extra effort to ensure each customer is happy with their experience. By hiring a live virtual receptionist, you can make each customer interaction with your business is personal and enjoyable without losing any more of your valuable time. Virtual receptionist services include many features that can keep your customers in the holiday spirit and increase the likelihood of them returning months after the holiday season—increasing long-term profit and brand loyalty.

As a result of outsourcing this work, you save money on operating costs, increase profit, establish a highly professional image for your business as you draw in new customers, and perhaps the most important benefit of all, make more time available for you to spend with your family during the holiday season.

Make sure you are prepared for the busy holiday season with virtual receptionist services from Davinci.

 
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Nurture Your Team to ‘Super Agent’ Status

Today’s always connected digital experience enables consumers to search online for anything, at anytime, and access millions of results—then instantly make a transaction. This is where the brand challenges (as well as the opportunities) begin.

Being part of the digital ecosystem requires businesses to play by a variety of customer-driven rules of engagement. One of the most important rules of engagement is hiring and growing a team of talented chat agents. These employees are charged with personally nurturing customer relationships and providing a best-in-class customer experience. The benefits of an all-star agent team truly impact bottom-line business results.

Position your team for success


While the right technology enables success, your brand’s results will be only as good as your chat agents’ best efforts—this is where the human factor comes in! Chat agents are your frontline and can either make or break your customers’ experience.

Top customer engagements, or your most critical customer scenarios, require your brand’s top chat agents. At Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, we created a skill-based and career-path oriented employee model that allows us to recruit, train, and retain these champion employees. Chat agents graduate through our multi-tiered development program, with the ultimate status being a Davinci Super Agent.

What makes up the DNA of a Super Agent? These are our most senior, best trained, and knowledgeable sales or customer service agents. They’re armed with the most advanced and productive tools, and they have spent their career at Davinci graduating through our color-coded team levels. Davinci’s color-coding ranges from green to yellow to red and requires the employee to meet a variety of qualifications and achievements.

5 Tips: Train for the A-Team


We have created a very specific process, culture, and corporate environment to ensure that our hiring, training, and career development efforts yield as many super agents as possible. There are several areas that we found to be key to finding and retaining great people. The following are a few of our lessons learned along the way.

  1. First impressions count.You only have one chance to make a great first impression—for your customers and future chat agent team.


The decision-making factors for potential candidates include everything from the job listing, company culture, benefits, career path options, compensation, and more. At Davinci, we give qualified applicants a company tour and let them meet staff and management to reassure much of the above.

  1. Start on the right foot.Once the job starts, your chat agents’ first couple of days will set the tone for the duration and quality of the engagement. Make sure the initial training is fun and engaging. You want to develop passionate, excited agent advocates. As a starting point, Davinci provides a full breakfast and snacks throughout the first day of training, and gives employees a copy of our culture book as a gift. A company founder meets with them to explain why we built the company and discuss our overarching vision and strategy.


From there, make sure you’re meeting expectations early. Check in with new employees often to ensure training goes smoothly, initial questions are answered, and that new employees have the necessary tools to succeed.

  1. Start career path conversations early.Your new employee needs to be aware of all career options at all times. Meet with your new employee, explain the opportunities for growth within their department, and highlight qualifications along the path to success. At Davinci, we let new employees shadow other staff to get a firsthand look at what a day in that job really looks like. This allows them to gain a more in-depth understanding of the different roles that are available to them.

  2. Promote from within.You get to know your agents very well, and you want to reward them for their performance. As a result, they deserve first chance to apply for any position within your company. Make sure you review an employee’s performance often and discuss options for advancement. We review every employee once a month based on a set of parameters that include areas of performance, attendance, and participation.

  3. Culture is key!Make work fun. You want employees to tell other people that this job is the best they ever had. A big part of that has to do with the work environment and the culture. Every company has a different outlook when it comes to what this looks like. Regardless of what that might be, make sure you invest heavily in your company culture. We’ve found it’s an expense with great returns. One way we’ve fostered how employees embrace and become energized as a result of our corporate culture is through the full-time culture fairy. Her name is Katie and her only focus is to ensure that all Davinci employees are happy and engaged. She handles all Davinci-culture activities, including daily games and challenges, weekly potlucks, monthly team-building events, and charity-of-the-month programs.


People are the heart of our business


We’ve had great success attracting and retaining staff over the years. Many of our call center employees have been with the company for several years, and our employee attrition rate is extremely low compared with industry data.

Our entire management team is comprised of employees who have been with Davinci for a long time—many since our inception. They remain with the company because we’ve offered them the opportunity to grow with the business and create careers for themselves. People truly are Davinci’s greatest asset.

Sales representative Brianna Gonzales is one of Davinci's Super Agents. She recently received LivePerson's Adventurer agent hero award at Aspire 2014 for guiding a non-native English speaker throughout the entire customer journey. Watch her video below.



Martin Senn is a guest author on the Connected Customer Blog. To read more from Martin and Davinci, check out the following posts:

How are you making people the center of your business? Continue the conversation in the comments below.

This article was originally posted on LivePerson's The Connected Customer Blog on November 18, 2014.
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Four Things You Need to Know to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

Whether you are thinking about starting your own business, or you are currently a business owner, there are several things you need to know about becoming a successful entrepreneur.

Planning is key when starting a business; achieving your business goals requires a detailed roadmap for everything from budgets and time management to business strategy and marketing. Successful entrepreneurs often have a toolkit of resources that they use in their business planning to improve efficiency, reduce operating costs, and generate more revenue.

As you build your own toolkit, here are four things to consider:


  1. Plan how you will effectively manage your time




While it may be tempting to try to do everything yourself when you start a business, you may find that your performance will suffer as a result. By limiting yourself to fewer tasks, you increase productivity, quality of work, and overall satisfaction in your work, driving you to continue to succeed.

Many administrative tasks, such as answering phone and email inquiry, customer service, and schedule management, can take up a significant amount of your time. However, virtual receptionist services can benefit businesses in any industry by helping owners effectively manage their time and stay organized. Business owners that hire virtual receptionists ensure important administrative tasks are handled delicately—freeing up more time for them to grow their business.


  1. Differentiate yourself in the market




Planning how you will differentiate yourself from the competition is one the most important things to consider when starting or growing your business. You want to have the technology, quality of customer care, and click-and-mortar presence of a major corporation, but you don’t want to create huge overhead.

You can gain a competitive advantage by investing in virtual office solutions, such as virtual office spaces and specially-trained live virtual receptionists—all affordable and off-site, increasing your business’s visibility and overall presence. Virtual office spaces can include a professional company address, fully-equipped conference room rentals at your convenience, and business support centers in the place of your choosing, so you can be flexible wherever business demands. Your clients and customers will arrive at a professional office space with a friend lobby greeter to direct them and offer any assistance. Each conference room comes equipped with high-tech presentation tools, so you can spend less time preparing. And at a fraction of the cost of an office lease, you save money as you expand the reach of your business.


  1. Consider outsourcing to avoid burnout




After outlining a plan to effectively manage your time, you may find that there just isn’t enough time for some menial, though highly important, tasks, especially if you are a mother as well as an entrepreneur. While hiring a full-time employee to assist you with day-to-day needs might seem necessary, it isn’t as cost effective as outsourcing and only paying for the minutes you need.

Outsourcing work such as answering and forwarding calls, order processing and customer care, and even voicemail and schedule management can be outsourced to live virtual receptionists, saving you more money than a full-time salaried employee and eliminating additional costs of setting up another workspace and ordering more supplies. The result is increased customer satisfaction and more time for you, so you can easily balance home and work and still achieve your business goals.

 4. Manage your budget to maximize revenue


Properly managing your budget from the very beginning can determine your business’s success far into the future. By renting office space and hiring virtual receptionists only for the time you need, you can save thousands of dollars on general operating costs.

Virtual office solutions not only save you money—they help generate more revenue. Creating the professional image you want can be a costly and ultimately time-consuming undertaking. However, services provided by virtual receptionists and virtual office spaces, like a friendly customized greeting, the latest technology for presentations and customer support, and excellent customer service, ensure you will have the tools you need to project a highly professional image without breaking the bank.

Each personal touch provided by these services makes every interaction with your business pleasant and increases brand loyalty, so customers are more likely to make a purchase or investing in your business.

Virtual office solutions provide all the resources you need as you create your map to success, driving revenue and customer satisfaction and freeing up more of your time to spend as you choose.

Extend your toolkit by contacting Davinci Virtual Office Solutions today.
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