Archive for the 'Business Strategy & Planning' Category

Getting Help During Difficult, Uncertain Times

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I’ve been wracking my brains trying to figure out how to help everyone during this uncertain and changing time. I don’t have space in my calendar to work with people one-on-one, so I redesigned my existing Compass Master Program into a group mentoring program. This way you can get help quickly.

This program for small business consultants, coaches and anyone who markets directly to the small business owner. Your clients need you more than ever, and things will be a shifting business environment over the next 3 months.

The Compass group will meet twice a month for the next 3 months.

We also have a private LinkedIn group, so you can start getting help as soon as you join the program.

Our focus will be threefold:

  1. Helping you to create a business and marketing model to get you through the next 3 months — one that is flexible enough that it can change as world events change, but wise enough that it doesn’t erode what you’ve built or put you in a poor position later this year.
  2. Solving challenges that arise over the next 3 months, some we can see coming and some unforeseen.
  3. Discovering new ways you can help new and existing small business clients.

Whether you call yourself a coach, consultant, trainer, designer, or any other type of service professional, if you are serious about assisting other small business owners and solo entrepreneurs, then this program is for you.

Our first Compass group meeting is April 7.

We meet together twice a month for three months.

You will have access to me immediately through our private Compass LinkedIn group so you can get help right away.

I have been a small business consultant for over 20 years. I’ve worked with small business owners in 48 industries, all over the globe. I’ve owned 5 businesses and sold 3 of them. I bring that wealth of knowledge and experience to Compass, to help you navigate through this uncertain time.

Got questions? Let me know, I’m happy to help you determine if Compass is right for you. But first, read the Compass Master Program page where I’ve answered the most frequently asked questions.

Thanks, be safe, be well. We can navigate this together.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Rethinking Your Business, Running a Strong & Efficient Business

10 Ways to Cope with a Recession

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Whether we’re in a recession or not, the economy surely seems shaky right now. When things take a down-turn, how will you handle it for your business?

Now is the time to think strategically.

Hasty decisions often lead to poor decisions for the long term health of your business. According to Wikipedia, there have been four recessions since 1980, lasting from 8 months to 18 months. If you lived through the Great Recession which began in 2008, you know the recession officially ended 18 months later, but the economic fallout lasted for many, many years after the recession had ended.

Here are some tips on dealing with a recession for your business:

  1. Cut costs, but only if it won’t harm you later. The first thing business owners think they must do it cut costs. But don’t cut costs or decrease prices now, if it will hamper your business later. Ask yourself: once the economy picks up again, will the cost I’m cutting or the price I’m reducing put me in a worse situation than I’m in right now? Learn what not to do, from Pizza Hut’s pricing mistakes in 2008.

  2. Think sub-contractors. If you have employees, consider turning them into sub-contractors. This will help you avoid paying additional employment taxes and benefits. However, the IRS or your country’s taxing authority can be very strict about the definition of an employee versus a sub-contractor (they call them ‘independent contractors’), so check their rules. This might be an alternative to laying off your staff.

  3. Get out there and shine. This seems counter-intuitive, but now may be the time to increase your marketing; hard economic times may cause your competition to disappear, leaving the field wide open for you.

  4. Take the long view. Remember, marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. You should have been doing (and keep doing) marketing every month, month in and month out, not stopping and starting on a whim.

  5. Choose your marketing techniques wisely. You should have been tracking, historically, which techniques bring you the most business. Reduce or eliminate those marketing techniques that aren’t paying off for you, or fix them so that they do increase leads and sales. If you can’t do face-to-face marketing any longer because of the coronavirus, move to online marketing techniques.

  6. Renovate your marketing tools. For those marketing techniques that are working for you, this might be the time to revamp your marketing tools. Does your website need a facelift? Do you need to offer some new freebies to entice people to look more closely at your products or services? Do you need to change the way you phrase things when you are selling to your customers and closing the deal?

  7. Automate wherever you can. Find ways to automate any tasks to reduce the workload on yourself and your staff. What have you been doing manually that a computer system can do for you? Take a look at all your daily tasks and see if there is a computer solution to these time-wasters.

  8. Spend your time on what really matters. Consider hiring a virtual assistant or a technology consultant to help you with routine administrative, marketing and website tasks, so that you can use all your time to focus on marketing and delivering your product or service. Decide on the tasks that you are best at, ones that will directly increase your income, and delegate the rest. If you can earn more per hour than it costs you to hire help, then it’s a good use of your time and money to delegate tasks.

  9. Make do and mend. Because raw materials were in short supply during World War II, people were encouraged to “make do and mend” an item instead of simply replacing it. Consider your own expenditures and items that might be hard to acquire over the next few months or years: do you really need a new computer, or could you somehow upgrade your existing one for less money? Do you need a new smartphone or can you get by with the old one for a while longer?

  10. Reduce inventories. If you sell a product, and you believe your sales are going to decrease, this might be a good idea to reduce inventories and not restock to the same level. This is a risky strategy (what if the recession only lasts 6 months?), so be sure you know exactly how long it will take to replenish inventories once the economy picks back up.

Now is the time to begin thinking about what you’ll do if the economy affects your business. It doesn’t matter if we are in a recession now or not. Economies, by their very nature, are cyclical, and you will face lean times and booming times in the future.

It’s important that you have a plan for dealing with all types of economic realities.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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Categories for Small Business Goal-Setting

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small business goal settingOne of my mastermind group members is working on her business goals for next year and she brought up a good question: How, exactly, do you set goals for your business?

The first step is to realize there are categories of goals. This helps you to focus on goal-setting in a more structured way.

Here are the categories I use, and some of the items within each category:

Financial goals: revenue, expenses, profitability, investment, tax strategies.

Infrastructure goals: systems, processes, software, hardware, etc. that help you run the administrative side of your business. What tangible items do you need to acquire? What processes do you need to add or modify to run your business more efficiently and effectively?

Overall marketing, PR and sales goals: number of clients, number of new clients, number of renewing clients; increased media exposure. Number of prospects, number of proposals going out the door.

Internet marketing goals: website visitors, social media connections/likes/followers, email marketing open and clickthrough rates, online ad statistics.

Product/services goals: Are there any new products or services you’ll be offering next year? When would you like to launch them? What market share would you like to have among your competitors? Are there any products or services you’ll be modifying or removing next year?

Customer service goals: Is there anything you’d like to add or modify that will enhance the customer’s experience of working with you?

Team/staffing/leadership goals: Which new team members would you like to add, as employees or subcontractors? Anyone you need to let go of? Do you need to make changes to the way your team does their work or reports back to you? How is team culture and morale? Are there any team members who merit some additional mentoring?

Personal goals related to your business: How many hours of work a week? How do you want to feel about your business? Which personal values are brought forward through your business? What would you like more of? Less of? And the big question: WHY are you in this business? What’s your personal goal?

It’s never too early to begin thinking about what would make next year amazing for you and your biz! This is a great list to share with your mastermind group members if you work with small business owners.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning

Think Small and Accomplish Great Things

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Mary was ready to create huge changes in her consulting business. How exciting, having a big dream!

She had a million ideas and a solid, well-planned task lists to back up the big plan.

Except there was one small problem – Mary’s dream was dying on the vine. By thinking big she was overwhelming herself. She was paralyzed.

Mary asked me, “How do you accomplish all the things you do? Do you have some mysterious time management system that I need to know about?”

Nope. No time management system. No crystal ball. No magic wand. Just one mantra: Think Big and Think Small.

Thinking Big is about dreaming and strategic design; it answers the questions, “What do I want?” and “Why do I want it now?”

Thinking Small is about tactical planning; it answers the question, “How do I accomplish it?”

Great things are accomplished through thinking in small steps.

Anyone who has tried to stop smoking or lose weight knows you do it one day (one hour, one moment) at a time. Anyone who has attempted to do a 10-mile hike knows it’s simply a case of one foot in front of the other.

People with big business dreams often forget these well-known truths about how to tackle big things.

Mary became frustrated because things weren’t moving fast enough. She was ready to give up her dream because there was too much to do and she didn’t know which task to do first.

When she started a task, she abandoned it if it took longer — or was more complicated — than she thought it should be.

Thinking small means I’m a failure.

We’re afraid that thinking small and taking small steps forward because we equate it with being small and having a small life.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If you want the big, juicy, vibrant life you desire, you have to break it down into doable steps.

No matter how much you try, you can only really do one thing at a time.

You may think that multitasking makes you more productive, but studies show that multi-tasking actually reduces your ability to accomplish tasks. It slows you down.

Instead of trying to do five tasks simultaneously, I’m advocating this approach: put exquisite, conscious effort into one task at a time, complete it, and move on to the next.

How do you know which small step to take first?

You have been gifted with four pillars of life the day you were born: your intellect, your emotions, your intuition, and other human beings.

Start by asking yourself, “What one small thing can I do, right now, that will move me towards my big goal?”

Don’t give up if the answer doesn’t come to you immediately; have patience and allow the answer to bubble up to the surface. Trust your mind and your heart. Write down the tasks or draw them on a piece of paper and ask yourself, “Does this feel right?” Write in pencil so that you can re-arrange it until it truly feels right to you.

If the answer still doesn’t come to you, ask other people for help.

Talk about your goals and plans with colleagues and friends. Talk to supportive people who fully understand your big dream and can help you to look at the small tasks you must do to accomplish the goal.

Then do one small task at a time.

I’m encouraging you to do both: Dream Big, Think Small, and you will succeed.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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Should You Create A Product?

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Great question! I’ll work off the premise that by “product” you’re referring to anything from writing a book to creating a live or self-study training class.

Products can be a great way to sell to different price-points; if clients resist paying $400 – $1,000 a month for private one-on-one sessions with you, they might join a group or buy a book. Products are also a way to honor people’s chosen learning style. Some people prefer self-study; others prefer classes, while others prefer one-on-one mentoring.

Should you create product?

My response would be, “It depends on your business model, vision, and strategy.”

  1. If your business model is to have a multi-tiered business where you offer multiple services and products, then yes, go ahead and create product. Make sure your financial plan and marketing plan is in place, make sure you have the support of a VA or administrative assistant if necessary, and then go for it.
  2. If your business strategy is to position yourself as an expert in a certain niche, then yes, go ahead and create product.
  3. If the vision for your business is to stay compact and focused, if the strategy is to reach people on an individual basis, then a product may be a distraction to the thing you’re actually selling: your personal service.

Small business owners shouldn’t create product just to create product — there should be a business reason for initiating the product creation cycle and a business reason for creating a particular product at a particular time.

I’ve seen too many small business owners create product which has no natural tie-in to their core marketing efforts to their primary target market. It’s like they’re launching a secondary business which needs its own marketing to capture its own audience. That’s a lot of work.

For instance, in the National Speakers Association, members are highly encouraged to create product, but with one strategy in mind: that you can sell that product to the audience after giving a speech. You literally sell books in the back of the room, or promote our next webinar series from the podium. Your marketing efforts are focused solely on getting speeches; the selling of the product happens naturally following the speech.

The small business owner needs to ask:

  • Why am I creating this product?
  • Do I have the bandwidth and money to create and support this product?
  • Do I have a natural avenue to an audience to sell my product?
  • And if not, how will I reach that new audience?

Creating products opens up a lot of marketing questions and marketing work, along with the time it takes to create and test the product. (Of course, you can always hire someone to create the product for you, but that’s another story.) My opinion is that a new small business owner, or a really busy small business owner, should consider carefully whether he/she has the bandwidth in time and money to begin creating and selling product in conjunction with their core business.

But if you have a good business reason to do it, and the time and money to invest in it, then go for it! Creating products is great fun and a wonderful learning experience.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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Taking an Entire Month to Create Products

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Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more minute out of your day will render you senseless?

Like you, I struggle with finding time to write books, create new classes, and put together new information products and programs. I have a burning desire to create these things; I think about them and plan for them constantly. I guess it must be the “teacher” in me — I want to share what I’ve learned with other small business owners.

Each year our mastermind group meets in person for a live Mastermind Retreat Weekend. A few years ago, I came to the Retreat with just one burning question: How can I take a month off of work to write an updated version of a book and create a new class?

It seems an insurmountable dream and challenge. I hadn’t had a full month off work or school since I’d been in college (oh so many years ago!). A whole month off with only 2 projects to work on? Woohoo!

My mastermind group helped me to plan out a strategy for taking the month of August away from my business:

1. Figure out how much money you need to save so that you can cover your August business and personal expenses.

2. Figure out if you’d still work with existing clients, or ask them to halt work with you during August. I decided that I would work with existing clients, but not take on any new ones for August.

3. Figure out how to schedule your month off for maximum enjoyment and relaxation, and maximum productivity. After all, I was taking the month off to get 2 big projects finished. I decided to run my mastermind groups just a few days out of the month, and work on projects the rest of the time. I’d take Friday’s off work completely so that I’d have a month’s worth of 3-day weekends to relax (especially as I’d be working really, really hard during the other four days creating my class and book). I’d schedule time with family and friends during August for outings and visits, as well as some “me time” to walk in the woods or go to the beach and be in solitude.

4. Ask for support. I told my husband and my mastermind group I was going to take the month of August off; they loved the idea! I’ve also told my students and members that my hours would be limited in August, that I’d still be there to support them but that they might not get 24-hour turnaround to emails or phone calls. And then I told the world!

5. Stay present. This was a tough one for me, staying present and aware during the month of August. I paid attention to two things: how I used my time, and whether I was creating the balance between work and relaxation that I was seeking.

It was a great adventure and I’m looking forward to doing it again!

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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