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Speaker Jane Applegate Walks Small Businesses Through the Steps to Success

The author and adviser shares four key strategies during the Montecito Bank & Trust event

Montecito Bank & Trust hosted a special business event Wednesday at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort featuring keynote speaker Jane Applegate, a small-business management adviser, syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times and author of four books on small-business success.

Jane Applegate
Jane Applegate

“You are all more successful than your competitors because you came out here tonight,” Applegate said. “One of the first secrets to success is to set your ego aside and ask for help.”

Applegate told the audience about her early life and career at the Los Angeles Times. Trained as an investigative reporter, she uncovered white-collar fraud until she found herself unsatisfied “glorifying people stealing money from America.” She told her editor she needed a transfer and took the open and unpopular position of the small-business columnist.

She used her investigative journalism skills to uncover what separates successful small-business owners from unsuccessful small-business owners. Applegate’s new book features interviews with small-business owners across the United States and strives to figure out the secrets of success and the status of small business.

The four pillars of success, according to Applegate, are alliterative: management, money, marketing and morale.

“If you don’t remember anything from this event, know that you should never, ever work with anyone who gives you a headache or stomachache,” Applegate said.`

To improve management of a small business, she said everyone in the company needs to write down their job description. She has found that most people do more of the things they like to and ignore doing what they dislike.

“You have to be nimble and be able to cover people when they’re sick, on vacation or having a baby,” Applegate said.

She described having a cross-training plan to ensure that people’s jobs can be done without them — something instilled in large corporations that she said is also a good idea for small businesses.

A magic wand was used to symbolize eradicating aggravating employees, customers and clients.

“Toxic people take up so much energy,” she said.

Applegate provided a step-by-step plan to get money into a small business as she discussed the second pillar of success.

She told the audience to list all of the money clients and customers owe, draft an old-fashioned letter — not an e-mail — stating that money is owed and offering a discount on the total balance, and send out an additional letter giving a deadline for a deposit.

“Also, it’s not a bad time to raise prices incrementally,” said Applegate, adding that she thinks people have returned to appreciating customer service and value over a low price tag.

Applegate’s marketing talking points included the importance of asking clients how they like to communicate and the role of social technology.

“It’s about connecting with people the way they want to be communicated with,” Applegate said.

Initially skeptical of social technology, she recently paid a designer $200 for custom YouTube, Twitter and Facebook pages.

“But don’t forget basic marketing channels,” she said.

She recommends surveying customers, asking them questions such as how they found the small business and their satisfaction with the service or product.

“Track everything to see if (your marketing schemes) worked,” she said.

When discussing the fourth pillar of success — morale — Applegate said small-business owners can be overwhelmed and feel overworked.

“You never work harder than when you’re working for yourself,” she said.

She stressed the importance of setting aside an hour a day for personal time and reflecting on accomplishments instead of stressing out over to-do lists.

The reception concluded with a cocktail reception and networking hour. Montecito Bank & Trust gave audience members a copy of Applegate’s new book, 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business.

Noozhawk business writer Taylor Orr can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @NoozhawkBiz, @Noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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