TODAY   |  October 17, 2012

How to take your small business to the next level

There are over 27 million small businesses operating around the country, so how do you grow your company? msnbc’s J.J. Ramberg, author of “It’s Your Business,” shares tips to give you a leg up on the competition.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this morning on "today's money," bringing your business to the next level. there are more than 27 million small businesses operating around the country right now, so with all that competition how do you grow yours? msnbc's j.j. ramberg is the author of "it's your business ." good morning.

>> good morning. good to be here.

>> we're talking about businesses with less than 500 employees. make up about 50% of the private sector workforce here in the united states , but it feels like a tough economic climate right now. why is it a good time to start a small business ?

>> well, i really focus on businesses that are -- that you think of as small businesses , so the corner ice cream shop, or the laundromat. if you have a good idea, or internet startup. if you have a great idea, it's a great time to start a small business , and it's cheaper than ever now because of technology to go out there and test your idea.

>> you've got 183 tips in your new book, and we're going to go through them all right now.

>> one by one.

>> you've selected three of them, three of for you favorites. arm people with specific ways to help you.

>> this is great for anyone, not just those in business . make it easy for them. when you say that's a great idea, j.j. you'll go back to your desk and get busy and i should write to you and say, hey, willie, offer me an introduction to this person or come over and look at my financials, whatever it is and make it easy to help me if you're enthusiastic about it.

>> tap the business school work workforce. this is interesting. how do you do it?

>> when i was by the school, i did. wrote a marketing company for one company and did a business plan . business schools and professionals want real life experience so just call a business school and say i have a project. do you have a student who can do it.

>> good idea. iphones have certainly changed the way we do business but also a way to pitch yourself to somebody?

>> when i started my own good, it was before smartphones. i would print out what my website would look like and show it to people and would always have it on me. with phones keep a beautiful picture of your product. if you have a service keep your brochure on the phone, something, so when you meet somebody you can show them what it looks like.

>> our viewers are anxious to pick your brain here. we're going to go to video now. this one is from jason, and he's got a question for you.

>> like most entrepreneurs i am fueling my business startup on savings. my question is is it a good idea to go to the bank and request additional funds before those savings run out?

>> what do you think?

>> yes. the last time you want to be looking for money is when you have no more money, so absolutely start developing relationships with people now, if you think you need money later. very hard to get a loan right now's so think other places like microfinance organizations or credit unions as well.

>> let's talk about facebook , a question from kathy on "today's" facebook . how can a small unfunded company get noticed without the money for a large marketing/advertising campaign? what's the trick here because it's so hard to get the word snout.

>> when i first started my company, all from word of mouth . from social media . give people something to talk about. make yourself interesting. be an expert on something, and people will pass this through twitter, through facebook and e-mail and blogs.

>> another e-mail from susan. she asks i want to get feedback on my business from real people . how do i go about putting together a focus group ?

>> get a bunch of real people . already in business , get a bunch of your customers and say, hey, will you come over for pizza and coffee and sit around with them and ask them questions, or if you're thinking about a business , talk it people would would be your potential customers. put them in a room, same thing. one piece of advice from the book. ask open-ended questions so that you can get real feedback.

>> one more quick one we want to get in here from andrew. another video question. andrew, take it away.

>> when you enter a room at an event, how do you present yourself? had a brand do you present? how do you present your company?

>> again, we have a tip in the book about this, too, and it's basically when you go out there and you're networking, the thing you want to be is likable. so don't worry about presenting your brand or presenting your company. think about getting people to want to engage in a conversation with you and also have a good elevator pitch to explain who are you, what your company is in case you goat that point where you can explain it.

>> have to get to the 180 other tips the next time.

>> for anyone wanting to start a business .