201 Great Ideas For Your Small Business

By the year 2001, worldwide revenues for the information-technology training and education market are expected to reach $27 billion, according to International Data Corp. Investing in training has become necessary because nearly one-fifth of the top U.S. information technology executives rated the lack of skilled people as the most serious constraint to the growth of their businesses, according to Ellen Julian, IDC’s research manager.

Even the worst technophobes love voice mail. For me, it’s the greatest technology ever invented. The ability to change your outgoing message every day, receive multiple messages while you’re on the phone, and call in for messages from anywhere on the planet is an irreplaceable part of doing business today. I don’t pretend to understand all the intricacies of how it works, but I know I couldn’t work without it.

The problem is, many people don’t take full advantage of the system. It takes only a few seconds to change your message whenever necessary. Busy entrepreneurs can impress clients and customers by telling them whether they are in or out of the office every day and when callers can expect a return call. This really cuts down on telephone tag.

When people know how to use voice mail like a pro, it can really speed things up. Sometimes just forwarding a message to the right person for a reply can get a problem solved quickly.

It may seem basic, but when you leave a message, remember to give your name, your company name, your phone number and the best time to reach you.

If you’ve chosen a more elaborate voice mail system with different mail boxes for each employee or department, it’s important to make it easy for callers to find the right extension or to reach a human being. I truly believe businesses lose millions of dollars in sales because frustrated callers hang up when they can’t maneuver through a tricky voice mail system.

In addition to voice mail, if you expect to put callers on hold, you might consider installing a "messages on hold" feature. These systems allow you to do everything from play popular music to review your business hours-all while people are waiting to get through to a person.

Messages on hold are annoying if they are on a short, repetitive loop. The best ones, used by many big companies tell callers exactly how much more time they have to wait for service.

Because the industry is evolving so fast, it may pay to hire a telecommunications consultant before choosing a voice mail system. But whatever system you order, use it well-to make life easier for everyone who deals with you.

Creating your own Website is a complex and demanding project that can cost you money instead of making you money-if you don’t do it right. Before you plan your site, determine whether you can afford to create and maintain

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