Archive for the 'Business Strategy & Planning' Category

11 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 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. Review that stack of books. I know you’ve been meaning to read them, but will you seriously finish 20 or 30 books anytime soon? If not, pick one or two you want to focus on, and put the rest back on the shelf. Commit to reading 30 minutes a day. If the average adult reads 200-300 words a minute, that means you could read up to 6,000 words in a half-hour session. Typical books are 50,000 – 60,000 words, so you could finish that book (finally!) in about 10 days of easy half-hour sessions.
  3. 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. Take your honey to lunch. Breathe.
  4. 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 around mid-January). Send your final invoices for the current year.
  5. 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, friends or colleagues for your services and products.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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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How to Imagine Your Future

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At this time of the year, we’re encouraged to set our business goals for the next 12 months and beyond. But when I speak with small business owners, you consistently tell me that you can’t figure out what the future of your business looks like. You can’t imagine a year from now, and you certainly can’t imagine three or five years from now.

I think you’ve put the cart before the horse. Instead, first figure out what you value, then design your next year to create a meaningful life and career.

Here’s an eye-opener exercise that’s sure to help:

Take a piece of paper and divide it into thirds. (Here’s a More/Less Worksheet PDF you can use.) In the first column, write down all the things and feelings you’d like more of. In the middle column, write down what you’d like less of.

Don’t try to do this exercise in one sitting. Instead, do a quick, initial brain dump of your wants and needs, then walk away and let it rest for a few hours. Come back later to review your worksheet, and continue to add items as they bubble up to the surface.

Once you feel the first two columns are complete, fill in ideas for projects that will help you achieve what you want from the other columns. Here’s an example of a More/Less Worksheet completed, to give you some guidance.

At this stage, just list ideas for any and all projects that could help you achieve what you want. If you begin to edit your thoughts, you might remove a project before you know whether it would be viable.

Slowly, your future unfurls before your eyes. By imagining what you want more of and less of, you begin to imagine a future that’s exactly right for you.

There are times when you’re not sure what you want or how to get there. That’s okay and you might find this blog post intriguing, a different way of looking at the situation.

 

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

8 Ways to Increase Revenue in 2019

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When planning for 2019, remember that there are 8 ways to increase your income:

  1. Sell more quantity of your existing offers. If you typically have 25 people in a workshop, aim for getting 30 or 40 in your next workshop. If you work one-on-one with clients, add more private clients to your roster.
  2. Increase the price of your existing offers – Without changing your offer, increase your fees. If you’re still charging the same fees as you did five years ago, it’s time to look at your pricing model.
  3. Increase the price and increase the value. Change your offer to be more complete and compelling, and increase your fees. Make sure that you haven’t increased the value by adding more of your personal resources, otherwise, the offer isn’t scalable. For instance, if you previously offered a six-session consulting package, and now you’re making it an eight-session package, you’ve just used up two extra hours of your time. Even if you charge more for it, are you actually making more income from it? Instead, consider adding something valuable to your clients that doesn’t require you to spend massively more money, time or resources to deliver. Do the math to be sure that the cost doesn’t outweigh the income.
  4. Decrease the size/quantity of your existing offers without reducing the price. You see this all the time in the supermarket – a 12-ounce box of cookies now becomes a 10-ounce box of cookies, but the price stays the same. Where can you cut back and still deliver value? Which parts of your offer are not used by your clients?
  5. Create new offers that leverage your time and resources. If you’ve maxed out of offering private, one-on-one consulting with clients, can you offer a mastermind group or workshop that maximizes your time by working with groups of clients rather than individuals? Can you create an online self-study program?
  6. Upsell existing customers to the next level of your offering. Your clients love you and they want to work more closely with you, or they’re asking for a specific resource that you can provide. When my existing consulting clients wanted a systematic way to manage their projects, tasks, and time, I wrote a book and created a class to help them. How can you serve your existing customers better and provide what they’re asking for?
  7. Go to the master level – teach others how to do your work. For instance, after 20 years as a small business consultant, I now teach people how to become small business consultants.
  8. Hire others to do some of the work for you. If you typically bill out at $200/hour, can you hire others at $150/hour do the client work, and you keep the extra $50/hour as your commission for bringing in the clients? This is especially helpful when you have limited time and too many clients to handle personally, or if you want to create an agency model for your business.

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

Demystifying the Art of Action Planning

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Do you have an area in your business that you want to grow or change? Sometimes it feels like you can’t get there fast enough.

Setting goals can seem intimidating until you realize goals are simply statements of results you want: be more profitable, finish a big project, launch a new service, or help more clients. It’s more than a mere wish list; it’s stating exactly what you want, and what you’re willing to work towards.

The trick is to get from goal setting to goal attainment. That’s where you hit potholes and brick walls. Being a planner rather than a jumper will get you quicker results.

Start with Big Picture Goals

Before you jump into details, start with big results you want for your business over the coming year. People often confuse goals with projects, and the easiest way to split them apart is to ask yourself some questions.

  • What results are you trying to achieve and why (goals)?
  • Which vehicles will you use to attain those goals (projects)?

For instance, say your goal is to launch a new class. But there’s a reason you’re launching this new class, right?

Maybe it’s a free class to build your mailing list. Your goal is to build your list; your project is to create and offer a free class.

Or maybe it’s a paid class to show your expert status and build income. Your goal is revenue generation and visibility; your project is the paid class.

By asking yourself why you want to achieve something, you get to your core goals.

ACTION STEP: Pause for a moment and write three big goals you have for the next 12 months.

Brainstorm Your Projects

Now that you have your goals in mind, let’s talk about how to achieve them. There are many paths that will lead you to the same goal. Choosing your projects wisely will help you get where you’re going.

Start by brainstorming all the projects that can help you achieve the same goal. For example, say that one of your goals is to build your expert platform and to get known. You could boost your blog audience, write a book, teach a class, do more speaking engagements, start a column in a national magazine or website, hire a PR firm, or create a podcast. All of these things will show you’re an authority in your field.

How do you know which projects are the best ones to tackle? Here’s a checklist to help you decide:

  • Which ones inspire and excite you?
  • Which ones align with your personality, knowledge and skill set?
  • Which ones match the way your audience likes to connect with you?
  • Which ones fit your budget?
  • Which ones are likely to get you to your goals the fastest?

ACTION STEP: Pick one or two projects to work over the next year.

You can always add more later, but choosing too many projects will overwhelm you and cause you to lose focus. Start the year right: don’t overburden yourself.

Tap Your Task List

Write a list of the tasks to complete for your project. Next to each task indicate whether it’s a task you will do or whether you’ll need to outsource it to someone else. Also note whether a task will require a specific resource, like hiring someone to update your website, or taking a class to learn a new skill.

Say that your project is to create a new class. Tasks might include writing a lesson plan, creating worksheets or a student guide, selecting a teaching method, picking dates for the class, setting a price for the class, creating a marketing plan for the class, etc.

ACTION STEP: Take one of your projects and begin writing a To Do list of tasks needed to accomplish that project.

Next, organize the tasks into a logical order. Let’s use the class design project as an example. You’ll need to write a lesson plan so you know how long the class is, and what you’ll cover, before you can set the price or write your marketing copy. And you’ll need to write the marketing copy before the sales page can be put up on your website.

Tally up those tasks and the timing for each one, and calculate when the project is likely to be finished. Allow for some “stretch time” in your action planning; you never know when you’ll hit a bump in the road that might delay your project.

ACTION STEP: Organize the tasks, and take an educated guess as to how long each task will take.

Get Moving, It’s Easy

You have an action plan for your project. That’s great!

Now it’s time to start implementing that plan. This is a place where many people freeze. You look at your To Do list and it feels like climbing Mount Everest. Don’t look at the totality of every task on your list. It’s not possible to do all those tasks simultaneously, so step back and focus on the very first task.

ACTION STEP: Look for one action you can take right now. Just one action, no more.

If your project is to write your marketing copy, your one action might be to write the headline. If your project is to create a profit model for your class, your one action could be to calculate your costs so you know your class will be profitable.

By breaking projects and tasks into small increments, you achieve everything – on time, on budget, and with grace and satisfaction.

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

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

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