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Phases of Your Business Journey

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I’d love to be able to tell you that there are set of linear and finite phases that every small business owner goes through while you’re rethinking and redesigning your business model…

…but if I told you that, it would be a lie.

But there are some well known phases that you might go through, sometimes circling back to one you thought you already finished, and skipping others completely. Here is a short list of some of the signposts you’ll encounter on the road to redesigning your business model:

  • I know/feel something needs to change – You find yourself pausing in the middle of the day (or worse, in the middle of the night) and asking, “Is this the business I want? Is there untapped potential in me that’s striving to get out? What’s next for me?” People report feeling restless or frustrated, knowing deep in their heart and mind that the business needs a shake-up, a new way of being in the world.
  • Getting lost in the not-knowingness – This is one of the toughest phases in business redesign, because you have to be okay with not having the solution. Some spiritual teachers call this not-knowingness “the grace of mystery.” Puts a different spin on it, doesn’t it?
  • Finding clarity on goals – If you spend time tapping into your goals for your business, and for yourself personally, you’ll find that it’s easier in the next phases to explore and choose the right business model for you. Is there a particular problem you need to solve? A particular dream you’d like to achieve? Values you’d like to express into the world?
  • Exploring the possibilities – In this idea-generation phase you explore every aspect of your existing business model, looking for places to add, modify and discard. No idea is sacred and no idea is thrown away. Even the craziest of ideas can be a springboard to a new business model. Creativity and innovative thinking are crucial keys during this phase.
  • Making a road map – This is where you design your new business and marketing model, keeping what still fits from your old model and mixing in the new ideas you’ve generated. This is also where you create your transition plan and map out where and when changes will take place, and what resources you’ll need to make it happen.
  • Taking the journey – Implementing your business model changes can happen in a week or it can be a two-year process, depending on how complex the changes are and how many resources you have at your disposal. This is often a journey through the weeds and can be rough going. Why? Because you have to continue to run your existing business (unless you’re independently wealthy!) while creating your new business at the same time. Managing change can feel like a juggling act, and I’ll talk more about it in future posts.

Where are you on the path to rethinking and redesigning your business? I’d love to hear your story, so join me in the comments below!

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Category: Rethinking Your Business
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10 Things To Do When Business Slows Down Over the Holidays

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I’m sure you’ve seen it happen every year: your business slows down during predictable times, like the summertime months or the holiday period at the end of the year.

For the self-employed who rely upon steady cash flow, this can be a disconcerting time. Should you just take a time off until things naturally pick up again? Or should you try to find the needle-in-the-haystack business that might be out there during slow times?

This year, vow to be different! Instead of languishing in no-business-never-land, get off your butt and do something to build the foundation of your business so that natural business cycles don’t affect you too deeply:

  1. Clean your office. Go through all the piles of papers and magazines that have been sitting around and get rid of them once and for all. Remember the office organizing mantra: do it, ditch it or delegate it. File all your papers, dust and vacuum your office. Reorganize your desk and your office so that you can find everything you need in 60 seconds or less.
  2. Take a mini-break from work. Walk away from your office and enjoy a day or two of renewal and relaxation. Go to a day spa. Take a weekend retreat. Go for a walk in the local park. Breathe.
  3. Get ready for tax season. If your business slows down during December, no worries! Use that time to prepare your tax files so that you can whiz through tax season (it’s coming sooner than you expect!). Tally business-related mileage for year. Estimate your last tax payment for the current year (many self-employed people make quarterly estimated tax payments; the final payment is usually due on January 15). Send your final invoices for the current year.
  4. Send business holiday cards and gifts. If the slow time falls around the holidays, use them to your advantage. Get into the holiday spirit with your clients by mailing holiday cards and gifts to them. Make specially-discounted holiday offers to clients/customers. Offer them gift certificates that they can give to their family and friends for your services and products.
  5. Do your accounting and bookkeeping. Enter all revenue and expenses into your recordkeeping system. Balance your checkbook. Set your budget and revenue goals for next year.
  6. Become goal-oriented. Take this down-time to look at your current goals, to see how you’re doing so far and to write some new goals for the next 12 months. Create an updated marketing plan and budget. Make sure your budget includes a cash reserve to cover you during slow business times. Even if this business slow time falls mid-year, you can still spend time planning for the next 12-24 months.
  7. Go back to school. List the topics you’d like to study, the classes you’d like to take, or the books you’d like to read, to keep you up-to-date with your industry and business skills. Use your quiet business times to read, study and add to your intelligence pool.
  8. Get some personal chores done. Slow business times are ideal to schedule your annual dental and eye exams. It’s also a great time to clean out the attic, garage or basement. Remember, a strong personal foundation helps to propel your business forward.
  9. Go shopping. No, not for personal items (though that’s always fun!), but for business items. Have you been putting off buying a new PC, laptop or tablet? Now’s the time to research what’s out there and determine your next computer purchase. Is your office chair uncomfortable? Spend some time at office furniture stores “butt-testing” for a quality office chair that will support you properly. Stock up your office supplies. Buy some music to play in your office to inspire you. Invest in that software system you’ve been eyeing.
  10. Spend time with family and friends. When business is busy, it’s easy to sequester yourself away to get all that work done. Now that business is slow, come out of your cocoon and visit with family and friends. They’ve been wondering where you’ve disappeared to!

As you can see, slow business times can be used productively to prepare you for the next burst of business coming your way. Renew your business, your office, your Self, and create a firm foundation for the busy business days ahead! Always ask yourself, “How can I use these days wisely?”

Will you be doing anything for your business during the holidays? I’m looking forward to the “quiet” week between Christmas and New Years Day, when I’ll be working on a new class design. 🙂

 

More from the blog:

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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Motivational Minute: Your Eyes Will Adjust with Iyanla Vanzant

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLZi9aesxqw

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Category: Running a Strong & Efficient Business

Giving Your Best to Your Customers

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Give your bestIn the small business world, where practically everyone is time-constrained, it’s sometimes difficult to give your best to every customer, every project, every task. This is what I discovered over the years: that giving your best to everything you do is so important that there’s rarely an excuse for not reaching for your highest potential.

The problem seems to come into play with competing values: you value your customers but you also value time with your children; you value creating a great service or product but you also value getting it done and moving onto something new.

I don’t believe multi-tasking is the answer. Instead, study yourself and ask yourself, “What are the things that are the most important to me in my life and business?”

By the way, there is no perfect answer to this question, and the things you value can be a moving target based on goals and events. If your child is in the hospital, then your business may take a back seat for a while. If you’re really excited about a new service or product you’re creating, you may choose to work weekends in order to bring it to fruition. If money is tight you may choose to do some parts of your project or marketing as inexpensively as possible.

Once you consciously decide what’s of most value to you, then go ahead and give it your very, very best. Don’t skimp and cut corners. Push yourself to be excellent in those areas that are important to you. It’s okay to make mistakes in your pursuit of excellence, as long as you attempt to correct them (or at least learn from them!)

As Nora Roberts says, “Flaws are acceptable, even necessary, to make us human and humble. But to serve a guest or a customer less than the best one is capable of, strikes me as arrogant or sloppy. Often both.”

The only trap you need to avoid is the one where you want to give your best to every single person you encounter, to every single task you do. Give yourself a break from perfectionism and make a choice to give your very best only to those things that are high on your “Things I Value” list. Things that are unimportant should be dealt with quickly so that you can focus your time, attention and passion on the things that need your best work.

Your customers deserve your very best efforts and they’ll greatly appreciate it. And when they’re happy, they’re more likely to tell others about your quality products and services.

I figure it this way: a good reputation is something to value highly and work towards. Doing my best brings me joy and satisfaction. Doing better than my best, continually growing and challenging myself, is one of the main reasons I’m self-employed. Is it one of your values, too?

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Category: Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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Are You Persuasive?

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Much of marketing is about persuasion. (Note that I do not say “manipulation.”)

Dictionary.com defines the verb “to persuade” like this:

1. to prevail on (a person) to do something, as by advising or urging: We could not persuade him to wait.

2. to induce to believe by appealing to reason or understanding; convince: to persuade the judge of the prisoner’s innocence.

So persuasion, especially in marketing, is all about encouraging someone to take action (call me to talk about your needs, sign up for my program, buy my ebook, etc.), as well as convincing someone by helping them to understand information, ideas and/or benefits.

CNN/Fortune Magazine recently posted a self-quiz entitled How Persuasive Are You? The quiz helps you to understand your own first reactions to a series of events, to see how much you use persuasion in your marketing and sales efforts. Go ahead, take the quiz! It’s an eye-opener!

I’m absolutely fascinated by the psychology of marketing: what makes people pay attention to a marketing piece, and more importantly, what persuades them to take action and buy. I’m reading several books on the topic right now, and as soon as I compile my notes, I’ll write more about the topic in this blog and on my ezine.

I think the psychology of marketing will make all the difference in the world to your success. I’ll keep you posted.

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Category: Marketing

How to Make the Most of a Business Networking Event

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You’re not alone. Most people are uncomfortable walking into a roomful of strangers.

Networking at business events can help you grow your business and allow you to do hands-on marketing research. Learning to mingle and follow-up with business networking contacts is crucial to your small business success. The following techniques will assist you in connecting effectively with others.

Most of these techniques can be adapted for networking online, too!

Before the Event

  • When you write the networking event (or online networking campaign) into your calendar, carve out 2 hours the next day for follow-up — so you know you have time to complete the task.
  • Know your goals: What is your purpose for attending this particular event or launching this particular networking campaign online? To meet certain people? To find prospective customers? To find a resource you need? Meet a connect with like-minded colleagues? Nurture existing relationships?
  • Come prepared with a pen and a small notebook, or your smartphone note taking app, so you can jot down who each person is and what’s important to remember about them.
  • If it’s a cocktail party, or finger foods are being served during the networking portion of the meeting, eat before you go to the event. It’s better to carry only a drink, instead of trying to juggle a plate of food and shake hands at the same time.
  • Ask the event host about dress code. Some events are Business Formal and people will be wearing business suits. Some events are Business Casual and there will be a mix of more relaxed styles. By knowing in advance what to expect, you maximize the feeling of being part of the group.

At a Live Networking Event

  • Arrive early. Get there early when the group is small and manageable.
  • Enter the room with a smile. Even if you feel nervous, “act as if.” If you have a smile on your face, you will be perceived as approachable, enthusiastic, and friendly. (And you’ll feel a whole lot better, too!)
  • Bring 20 business cards and promise yourself you won’t leave until you’ve given out all the cards. Better yet, ask for other people’s cards if you sincerely want to keep in touch with them. Not everyone you meet will be a good resource or connection.
  • Make sure you mingle. Do not isolate yourself with only the friends or colleagues you already know. Move around. Spend no more than 5-6 minutes talking with any one person.
  • Ask your host to introduce you to people that you want to meet, or to get you started in a group where you know no one. If they have a Greeting Committee or Ambassadors, find out who they are and ask for help with introductions. Reach out to people standing by themselves, introduce people to each other. (Note: if you are part of a group or association that does not have a Greeting Committee, offer to become a one-person Greeting Committee. It gives you the perfect excuse to introduce yourself to everyone who walks in the door!)
  • When you meet a person, shake hands, and repeat their name. This not only helps you remember it, but it shows that you’re making an effort to hear the name properly.
  • Wear a nametag that is easy to read and is descriptive of you. Wear it on your right shoulder so that people can easily see it when they shake your hand.
  • Create, practice and use a description of yourself and your work that can be said in 30 seconds or less. Know how to describe your work in one or two sentences. Make sure this quick introduction includes your name, the audience you serve, and how you uniquely help them.
  • Listen more than you talk. Remember that there is nothing more flattering than someone who listens carefully and shows sincere, respectful interest in other people. Ask questions and listen to the responses so that you begin to understand the person. This also helps you to identify who might be a potential client for your own products and services.
  • Take notes to help you remember what people have said as soon as you can. If you have to, take a quick break to a quiet area to write up your notes during the event while it’s fresh in your mind. When you get back to the office, put all this information into your contact management software.

After the Live Networking Event

  • Once you have someone’s business card, make sure you follow up with them within 24 hours of the event.
  • If there’s an obvious win-win connection with someone you’ve met at an event, call them up and invite them to lunch or a Skype coffee to explore the connection further.
  • Keep a spreadsheet or database of all the people you’ve reached out to, notes about that person, and dates/times you’ve communicated with them. In this way you’ll know who to follow-up with and the nature of any conversations you’ve had with them.

Tips for Online Networking Campaigns

  • Always start with your goals for this networking campaign. Are you trying to connect with prospective customers, or wanting a closer relationship with mentors and colleagues?
  • Just like in face-to-face networking, make sure you follow up with each person you make the initial contact with.
  • Read their online profile before contacting them. It’s a dead giveaway that you’re just trolling for prospects if you ask them questions that they’ve already answered on their social media profile and/or website.
  • If you see that you have mutual connections, ask for an introduction.

Always Remember

  • Sending an email or a text is fine, but the money is in the phone. Phone calls (or video conferences) are more personal and form a deeper relationship than emails or texts.

When you look upon networking events and business functions as an opportunity to meet new people, do some market research and find potential clients, it can become a joy instead of a chore. Going in with a game plan makes you feel like you can really make the most of the event.

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Category: Marketing

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