Hitting "refresh" on your growth strategy. As you forge ahead into the new year (and decade), now is a better time than ever to reevaluate your approach to procuring new clients. To help guide you along the way, The Wall Street Journal has posted an article on the best steps to take, the first of which is to identify your ideal customer. "Do you know your target?" asks Tom Patty, a small business counselor for SCORE. "What do they do? What do they value?" Others include zoning in on specific areas of growth (industries, as well as geographic regions), allying with other companies that can complement your services, and adopting online tools like Facebook and Twitter. Click here for Inc.'s advice on using Twitter to find customers.
Small firms find a way to land big contracts. Interesting story in today's New York Times about the small businesses that have become major players in the world of government procurement contracts. For example, when New York City's jails needed 186,000 pairs of slip-on sneakers, they called on 64-year-old Nicole Corey, whose one-woman business serves as a middleman between large government orders and the overseas manufacturers who produce the goods. For Ms. Corey, and those like her who have learned the ins-and-outs of government procurement, municipal contracts have proven to be one big cash cow. New York City alone signed 18,800 contracts for goods in 2009.
The 7 best augmented reality apps. Whether you're scanning for sweet real estate deals while walking down the street or scoping out the perfect restaurant to meet a client, there's an (augmented reality) app for that. Here's Wired's rundown on the 7 best AR apps on the market. And while you're at it, the Inc. technology blog has the details on how you can use augmented reality as a marketing tool.
Thinking about raiding your 401k to fund your business? More than 74 percent of small business owners said in a recent survey that they would borrow from their retirement fund in order to expand their businesses. And while taking on this risk has been generally regarded as a bad idea, CNNMoney reports that there are some situations in which tapping into your 401k might be appropriate. It is important to avoid putting your retirement money into a business that is losing money, but it can be a good place to borrow from if customers are taking longer than usual to pay or if you need a source of startup money and don't have children or a mortgage.
The local game space heats up. Within startup circles there's been lots of buzz about Foursquare, a social game that encourages users to tell their friends when they visit a local business. Foursquare has a well-regarded founder, a-list investors, and reams of press, but according to TechCrunch a lesser known startup is beating them. MyTown, a game made by a Palo Alto company called Booyah, "has managed to rocket past them in usage in a little over a month with little fanfare," according to the blog post. That's not to say MyTown isn't well set up. The company has raised far more money than Foursquare, $10 million from Kleiner Perkins, and was a featured app on Apple's iTunes store, which is a surefire way to attract lots of users. The company claims 500,00 users a month and six times the number of check-ins as Foursquare. Both companies are still relatively small compared to the likes of Twitter, so the next year or so should be interesting.
The life and work of an amazing entrepreneur. Anyone in need of some extra inspiration over the long weekend may want to check out the Edgerton Digital Collections Project, a website dedicated to the work and spirit of Harold "Doc" Edgerton. Among Edgerton's many titles are inventor, entrepreneur, engineer, professor, and explorer. His strobe technology created a process that freezes objects in motion so that they can be captured on film by a camera, resulting in these iconic images. Perhaps most inspiring, however, is Doc's guiding philosophy: "Work hard. Tell everyone everything you know. Close a deal with a handshake. Have fun!" Well said, Doc. (Hat tip to (Roughly) Daily.)
Staff editor KASEY WEHRUM has written for Inc. magazine on subjects ranging from the businesses behind professional bull riding to gadget inventor and father of the infomercial, Ron Popeil. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Worth, Budget Travel, and on MSNBC.com. He lives in Brooklyn.