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Welcome to Page Three of our Small Business and Home Offices Resource listing! This page includes some interesting articles for small businesses, a search box to help you with further research on this topic, and some links to other interesting sections of SSS Online. We hope you have found this information helpful -- we are a small, home-based business ourselves, and the resources in this section are ones we have used ourselves.


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Top 10 Tips On Asking For Referrals

by Roy Sheppard

(Editor's Note:This article is taken from Rapid Result Referrals by Roy Sheppard. Visit for more information. Thanks, Roy, for letting us use this article in SSS Online!)

Successful small businesses rely on recommendations by their existing contacts, customers and clients for future business. However, most entrepreneurs - even the savvy ones, don't know how or when to ask or what to say and what NOT to ask. And they feel uncomfortable about it. You can still feel good about what you do when you know how to set the scene ethically for low cost, profitable referrals.
  1. Realise that many of your customers would love to give you referrals if only they knew you wanted their help.
  2. Make sure your business is worthy of being referred. Make any necessary improvements before implementing your referral programme.
  3. Write a profile of potential clients. Define them by age, gender, ethnicity, income level, geographic location, size of company, buying power or responsibility, membership of common interest groups, trade associations and business organisations. This will help the people you ask understand what kind of clients you would like.
  4. Target anyone you know who would want to help you. Dismiss no-one.
  5. Choose the right time to ask for a referral. Ideal opportunities are when a client offers a compliment about what you have done for them or when they are most happy with your product or services.
  6. Ask potential sources open questions such as "Who do you know who...?" rather than questions requiring a "yes/no" answer like "Do you know anyone who...?" Closed questions will not encourage them to think about who they know to refer you to.
  7. Ensure the person does not feel under any pressure to comply with your request. Give them the opportunity to say "no". If they do say "no", gently try to find out why.
  8. Always thank the source of your referral as well as the new customer. Sending "thank you" notes is a priority - an essential part of your referral system.
  9. Tell every new customer/client at the earliest possible moment in your relationship, that your entire business or service is based on satisfying your customers, clients or patients so much they choose to recommend their friends, family and colleagues.
  10. If you can't or won't ask for referrals, get therapy!
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What's Said Behind Your Back - And How To Influence It

By Roy Sheppard

(Editor's Note: This article is copyrighted by the author. Thanks, Roy, for letting us post it on our site!)

"A reputation isn't something you can hang in a wardrobe for a few months, hoping the creases will fall out," says The Tailor of Panama by John Le Carré.

Friends, colleagues, business associates and customers almost certainly talk about you behind your back. Realise it. Indeed, if they don't talk about you, your business or career is severely jeopardised. We are the gossip species. What we all say about the organisations and people we interact with matters - a lot. And it's starting to become crucial to our success.

As the global economy continues to slow down, finding a better job or new customers at lower cost is becoming essential for every business - large and small. Our business reputations, and what people say about us, our products and services, is too important to leave to chance.

You do it. I do it. Before significant purchases, we tend to 'ask around' rather than rely wholly and exclusively on what the company chooses to say about itself.

At this point, our reputation becomes a powerful partner or a formidable foe in our efforts to acquire these new customers. This reputation is the memory and summary of every experience from past transactions with you and your colleagues. Glossy brochures and attention-grabbing advertisements certainly have their place - but real experience by real people who have used your products and services will ultimately carry more weight with many prospective customers - than anything you could say about yourself. Your company is experienced directly (first-hand) and indirectly (by word-of-mouth) - by what past and present and clients are saying right now about you behind your back.

Who are the people or potential customers that need to know and think well of you? Specifically, what do they need to think about you? And who do you already know who would be prepared to speak well of you in such ways 'behind your back'? A strategic approach to this is likely to become more effective than anything you choose to say about yourself in our information overloaded society.

The Echo Valley Ranch Resort and Spa, north of Vancouver high in the Caribou mountains of British Columbia, Canada, is owned by Norm and Nan Dove. As a luxury resort they spend a fortune each year on colourful, beautifully designed marketing materials. It's expected in the travel industry. They compete against global operators with seemingly unlimited promotional budgets.

Echo Valley's guest book is full of sincere and lavish praise by visitors from all over the world. Why? Because it is a truly wonderful place, staffed by people who really care - we went there on honeymoon.

Planning a honeymoon and getting it wrong is NOT an option. Yet for me, it involved time-consuming research. In the end I took a recommendation from a trusted friend who had booked the type of vacation we were looking for. Echo Valley's marketing materials certainly caught my attention - but would they live up to their promises? The client testimonials on their website clinched it. Real people who had already experienced being there. Despite this, the travel agent actually tried to dissuade me from booking two weeks there just in case it didn't live up to its claims! They had no direct experience of the resort. So important is this direct or indirect experience - in reality it is THE trigger to buy!

We have returned to Echo Valley since. My sister-in-law has also been there. Her comment was "It didn't live up to the brochure - it was better." How often is that the case these days?

What is happening here? In this article you are reading a positive report about a luxury resort. Isn't it more powerful than anything they could say about themselves? It's because I have no commercial interest. My views are independent. I am not and will not be paid to make these comments. In making a decision to select a supplier we want the wisdom of hindsight but as foresight - we seek experience of past transactions with a company by those without a vested interest.

In light of the New York attacks and their impact on the economy, customers may start to spend less (or even less) in your particular industry. Add to this the increasing time pressures we all suffer, and choosing new suppliers and products can be too high a risk and too time consuming. Services now account for 70-80% of the economy of many countries. We are relying more and more on those whose judgement we know and trust to provide us with their experience of products or services.

Interestingly, Echo Valley's owner Norm Dove says "In the past we received countless testimonials, but asking guests for help felt really uncomfortable - we were afraid that it would appear desperate. Because they see a successful business, we also discovered that as much as they enjoyed being here, they didn't think we wanted any help! Every business does. Its only when we learned how to ask for recommendations, did we realise that so many were delighted to be quite proactive about recommending us to their friends and colleagues. It has been a revelation - and the most effective way of bringing new guests to Echo Valley Ranch."

What people say about you 'behind your back' probably deserves more of your attention and is so important to your future success that leaving it to chance could even be described as a crime against your business. So now is the time to be more proactive about encouraging others to speak well of you to family, friends, customers and colleagues.

To see what is being said about Roy Sheppard's latest book, Rapid Result Referrals, visit People Portfolio. To check out Echo Valley Ranch - visit

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