Archive for the 'Business Strategy & Planning' Category

Why Redesign Your Business?

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Did you know your business runs in cycles? The key to a successful business is to begin the process of change, growth and/or innovation before the preceding cycle of success runs out.

Over the years, I’ve had an influx of prospective clients come to me with these exact words: “I want to rethink my business.”  I thought:  Cool! Me, too!

For me, I want to shake things up a bit. Running my business is too easy for me. There’s not a lot of day-to-day challenge and I don’t feel like I’m reaching my full potential. I don’t know what my full potential IS — but I know I’m not there yet. Have you ever felt like that?

A great way to keep growing personally and professionally is to keep rethinking and redesigning your business model without completely wiping away everything you’ve done in the past. Take all your experience and knowledge, plus any new goals and lifestyle changes, and make a plan for your future business.

Redesigning Your Business Model

There are lots of reasons why people redesign their business model. Here are some of the ones I’ve heard recently:

  • One of my clients needs to take her business completely virtual so that she can travel extensively with her husband, who retired early.
  • Another client said he wants to make more money so that he can send his kids to college in a few years.
  • One of my business colleagues wants to expand the services and products he offers to his customer base, to be more “full service” and have multiple streams of income.
  • One of my favorites is a colleague who wants to make her business completely based on passive income by selling educational products about her field of expertise. So not only is she redesigning what she offers her audience but her marketing model as well!
  • And last but not least, one colleague wants to completely redesign herself, sell her existing business, and take everything she knows and loves, creating a whole new career/business for herself.

Do any of these sounds like you? If yes, are there specific reasons why you’re transforming your business or marketing model, or just a gut feeling you have? I’d love to hear your comments!

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Rethinking Your Business
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It’s So Important to Take Time Off

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entreprenuers take time offEvery weekend, my husband (who is also my business partner) and I take one day off from our busy schedules, either to go somewhere interesting and relaxing, or to visit with family and friends.

We’re just like you: we run our own businesses (which could keep us working 24/7 if we’re not careful) and we have things that need to get done around the house, too. Plus the cars need servicing, the cats need to go to the vet, laundry piles up, and food shopping is a necessary evil. You know the drill.

But being so busy all the time leads to mental, emotional, physical and spiritual fatigue. We can’t be our best in our business if we are constantly doing, doing, doing.

For instance, one weekend we spent the day Sunday at the Delaware Water Gap. There are lovely sites to see here, including some stunning waterfalls. I happily spent the day snapping photos, hiking to the top of the waterfall (ouch!), and puttering around Peter’s Valley Craft Store. I didn’t think about business once.

When I came into the office this morning, my head was clear, my senses calm, and my creativity soaring. I got more done this morning than I could have gotten done in TWO days if I hadn’t taken Sunday as a rest day.

Many people think they can’t afford to take time off. Trust me: one day away from the computer, the phone, the house, the office will gain you far more than the time you took off.

Play hookey…take a day off and do something fun, inspiring, delightful!

What do you do to take time off?

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time

Choose One Project

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I’m just like you — just like every entrepreneur I know. I have a million ideas and I want to do them ALL right away!

Here’s how that’s killing your business.

I learned an important and enlightening lesson last year that I’d like to share with you. By focusing all my attention, energy, time and resources on One Big Project, I increased my income — and more importantly, I was happier and more relaxed.

I was shocked!

Even though experts had been telling me for years to focus on just one thing, I didn’t want to give up my freedom and creativity. I liked having multiple projects to work on. It made me feel vibrant and alive.

But it also made me feel unproductive, cranky, overwhelmed, and a nervous wreck. And guilty because I was having a hard time completing just one of those projects to my satisfaction. Hmmmm.

Imagine you are driving down a busy highway at rush hour. Now imagine that there are three other people in the car with you, all trying to have a conversation with you. Now your cell phone rings. In between all this talking, ideas pop into your head so you pull out your mobile device to type in some text notes.

Crazy, right? You’ll have a car accident any minute now.

Yet that’s exactly what you’re doing to your business when you try to focus on multiple projects or multiple goals simultaneously.

Multi-tasking Myth

In the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield said, “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once — but there is not time enough in the year if you will do two things at a time.”

Doing more than one thing at once doesn’t get more done and doesn’t make you more efficient. Recent studies by several research teams prove this point.

According to researchers at the University of Michigan, when you toggle between multiple tasks or multiple projects, you are using what’s known as the “executive control” process. This mental CEO has to choose priorities and allocate thinking/creativity resources. The more you switch between tasks, the longer it takes to re-focus attention and resources.

David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist at the University of Michigan said in a recent New York Times article, “Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes.” When it comes to your business, mistakes will cost you. Can you afford to lose time or money?

On a practical level, working on multiple projects simultaneously made me feel scattered, out-of-control, and diffused my intellectual and creative abilities. When I slowed down and focused on one major project for a full two months, four great things happened:

  • I felt more in control
  • I was much more relaxed
  • My confidence soared
  • I was able to get the project completed a full four weeks ahead of schedule.

It was as if I had been released from a multi-tasking prison of my own making.

Talk about freedom!

Choose One, Master It, Move On

In his book, “Getting Things Done,” David Allen suggests you create a list of “Areas of Focus.” Start by looking at the areas you manage in your business (you can create a separate list for your personal life). In business you may have these areas: marketing, sales, finances, customer contact, product/service development, operations/administration, long-range planning/strategy, etc.

Next, list all your possible projects in each of these areas. Once you have your full projects list, look them over and ask yourself:

  • Which project will most likely lead me towards my large business goals?
  • Which project will lead me in the direction I want to take for my business?
  • Which project am I ready to tackle now?
  • Which project inspires me?
  • Which project scares me?

Then choose one project that will have the biggest impact on the success of your business.

If the project scares you, ask yourself why. Figure out where you’ll need some help, education or resources in order to complete that project.

In speaking with some of my mastermind group members about this subject last week, they reminded me that you don’t have to focus on one thing for an entire year. Try it for three months or six months, and see what results you are getting, both financial and emotional.

Once you complete a project or master a new skill, then you can move on to the next one on your list. In this way, you can have both things in your life: a successful business and getting multiple things done in one year.

First, choose one project. Finish it. Then move on to the next.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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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. 🙂

 

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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A Little At a Time

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Many small business owners feel overwhelmed with what they have to do and the time constraints they have for accomplishing both big goals and everyday tasks.

I heard an interview with Zack Hample (who wrote a book about baseball). Zack has a 203 pound rubber band ball in his home. The interviewer asked Zack if he was obsessive. Zack replies,

“I started working on that thing when I was four. So we’re talking about decades here, and it’s not like I work on it every day. Sometimes I’ll add a pound a day for a week, then I won’t touch it for a year. So, you know, you work on something for a few decades, it’s going to be BIG and CRAZY if you stick with it.”

Building a business, building your dream, will take time and tenacity. But if you really want it, work on it a little every day with the knowledge that it will become what you want in time.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Managing Projects, Tasks & Time
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What’s Your Learning Plan?

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People always focus on New Year’s resolutions at the end of December, but I have a better way of ringing in the new year.

I love to learn fresh ideas and new skills. The phrase Lifelong Learning truly defines the way I live my life.

So this week, I wrote my “learning plan” for the next 12 months, in terms of business and marketing topics I want to study … I also plan to learn how to cook vegetarian meals!

By asking a series of questions, I came up with a list of what I want to study next year. This helps me to keep focused on specific topics and not run around trying to learn everything at the same time. (I can see you nodding in agreement. We must avoid Shiny Object Syndrome at all costs!)

Here’s how to create a focus for your learning plan:

  1. What are my big goals for the next 12 months for my business?
  2. What topics do I need to study to attain those goals?
  3. Of all the thing I can study, which ONE THING is the most important to start with?
  4. How long do I want to devote to studying that topic?
  5. What resources do I currently have available to study this topic?  (What do you have in your bookshelf or on your own hard drive right now?)
  6. Where can I get further resources for studying this topic? What books are available? What classes can I take? Who do I know who is a whiz-bang at this topic, so I can pick their brains?

My personal learning planning came down to one focus topic for January/February: writing and editing. My goal for this year is to write at least two books (one is already finished). Here are the ways I’ll implement my learning plan:

  • Getting thoughts on paper isn’t the same thing as a well-crafted manuscript, so I hired a mentor to look over my work and show me how to take my writing to a new level.
  • I have some writing books on my shelf, like On Writing Well by William Zinsser and Writing Nonfiction by Dan Poynter.
  • My friend, Pamela Wilson, just published her first book, Master Content Marketing, and I can pick her brains about the writing/publishing journey she went through.
  • Even better, she chronicled her journey in a podcast series for Rainmaker FM/Copyblogger called Zero to Book, so I’ll load that onto my smartphone.

By asking the right question, assets will come to mind which have been neglected. Now I have quite a few assets to explore in January and February.

Then I repeated the process to pick a key topic for all the remaining months for next year. For instance:

  • in March I’ll be studying email marketing campaign funnel design
  • in April I’ll focus on the psychology of marketing and why people buy
  • in May I’ll look at website traffic conversion

Then I’ll collapse in a puddle of happiness, with a full brain and tons of ideas to implement in June through December! 🙂

(There’s no sense in learning a lot if you don’t plan time for implementation. Don’t crowd your calendar with monthly learning; give yourself some assimilation space.)

Special Tip: Having a hard time keeping track of all the notes you take on a certain learning topic? My favorite note-taking tool is Evernote (www.evernote.com), a great web-based, computer-based and mobile app tool to help with keeping notes, including a way to tag each note with keywords for easy look-up. Your notes sync across your devices — a wonderful way to take notes on the go then have them on your work computer when you get back to the office. Neato!

Take a moment right now: What topic do you want to learn more about next year?

Best of luck to you as you design your own Learning Plan for next year! It’s exciting!!

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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