Archive for the 'Business Strategy & Planning' Category

The Importance of Kitchen-Tested Recipes

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When a cook is writing a cookbook, he tests each recipe in his own kitchen to make sure the instructions are 100% accurate. He may also have friends and colleagues test the recipe, as ovens, ingredients and altitude have a sneaky way of affecting a recipe’s success.

Let’s relate this back to selling services and products. Regardless of your industry or area of expertise, have you “kitchen-tested” your services and products? Do you write and speak about what you know based on your real-life experience, or do you merely base it on something you read in a book? Have you tested your ideas yourself and have you asked others to test them too, before bringing these ideas to the public?

Too often I’ve seen small business owners rush a new service or product to market before really testing to make sure it’s accurate. They use their first customers as guinea pigs without warning those same customers that they’re actually testing the product or service for the first time.

Recently I signed up for a class. I was so excited to learn more about this particular topic! The class was through 100% self-paced multimedia online content. Yet, after I paid and entered the website, more than 50 percent of the content wasn’t available yet. Of the content that did exist, much of it was weak and watered down, too simple for most students. Cries of “Where’s the Content?” were heard from all the students.

Had the teacher told us that we were to be guinea pigs, had the teacher told us that the content was not tested and that new content would be rolled out over time, we could have chosen whether we wanted to be testers. In addition, much of the content was not based on the teacher’s real-life experience but on what was read from books. When asked questions, the teacher didn’t have adequate answers. The teacher came off as “not an expert,” bad news for their reputation. I definitely won’t buy another class from them again. Worse, I won’t recommend them to others.

I know when you have a brand new product or service that you’re very, very excited about it and you want to launch it immediately. Just take that little extra time to kitchen-test your ideas before you birth them into the world. It will save your reputation and your revenue for years to come.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Marketing
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Join me! Personal Branding Webinar begins April 20

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Personal Branding: Stand Out By Standing For Something

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When you sell your services in a crowded marketplace, you have to stand out from the crowd so your customers choose YOU.

In this 2-part Personal Branding webinar, we talk about creating a brand that captures your customers’ attention, and more importantly, their loyalty.

Whether you’re branding your entire business, or a service, product, class or mastermind group, this is the perfect webinar for you.

Here’s what you will learn in this webinar:

  • Define the Three Pillars of Branding for your business
  • Increase your reach and revenue with a strong brand
  • Choose your brand, your uniqueness and what you stand for
  • 16 ways to be unique
  • Determine your Big Promise
  • Craft your positioning statement and your Core Message
  • Choose your image and brand personality
  • Get known and be seen as an expert
  • Where to implement your brand and build your brand and reputation

Come with your ideas and questions, and walk away with a branding checklist to implement immediately!

Join me on April 20! Learn more about the Personal Branding class here: http://www.passionforbusiness.com/personalbranding/

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Marketing, Upcoming Classes

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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Small Business Fear, Success, and Daily Rituals

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What makes one small business owner more successful than another? Trust me, it’s not lack of fear.

We’re all afraid of failing, of our offer being rejected, of making a complete flop of a project, of screwing up a business relationship.

What’s the difference between entrepreneurs who are successful and those who aren’t? Successful entrepreneurs have an even bigger fear: fear of what their life will look like if they don’t pursue their dreams.

They aren’t willing to settle for the way things are now. They don’t sit around hoping things will change. They take action. They go out and try things.

They can’t stand the idea of missing out on the big win, or how they will feel about themselves if they don’t put their total focus, emotion and effort into creating the life they want.

Successful entrepreneurs love to feel progress; they like to move forward towards their goals. They don’t wait until they’ve hit rock bottom and are so desperate that they’re finally motivated enough to do something about their situation. Instead, they create clarity about what they truly want and then they take action each day.

Six things successful small business owners do daily:

  1. Constantly ask, “What’s next for my business?”
  2. Understand your motivations and why you want your goals.
  3. Choose one thing each day to focus on and accomplish, even if you only have 15 minutes a day to work on that one thing. Daily momentum is what creates success, not the huge once-a-year breakthroughs.
  4. Only work on projects and goals that you’re passionate about and will lead you to your ultimate goal.
  5. Know that if you follow a set of steps that you’ve outlined for your business or project, that you will achieve your goals. It goes beyond merely “believing” that these steps will create the outcome you want; you know they will at a gut level.
  6. Trust yourself and be willing to make mistakes and try new things. What you’ve done previously had a certain result. Doing that same thing again will simply get the same results. So trying new things is the only way to break out of the pattern of getting the same results over and over again.

Five morning rituals of small business success

Most successful small business owner I know have a quirky morning routine that goes something like this:

  1. Every morning, map out in your mind what you’re going to do that day. Imagine it before it becomes a reality so you can repeatedly “practice” these steps to success. Imagine what the results will look like and feel like once you’ve achieved your goals.
  2. Imagine what “a little further” feels like and enjoy playing this imagination game with yourself.
  3. Tell yourself emphatically, “THIS is how it’s going to be.” This keeps you fresh and motivated, and changes your limiting beliefs into empowering beliefs. If you see the results in the advance, you condition your mind to know what’s possible.
  4. If you can’t envision what a future success looks like, spend time remembering what past successes look and feel like, reminding yourself that you’ve been successful before and you can do so again.
  5. Don’t just do it once, or even once-in-a-while…envision your success every day. (Twice a day, if you need to!)

You can let disappointment kill your dreams — or you can take disappointment and let it drive you towards success.

People who are fearful of getting hurt, rejected or disappointed never even attempt to reach for their dreams. But successful entrepreneurs know that hurt, rejection and disappointment are part of life. They don’t try to avoid them, they use those feelings to propel them forward.

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

Who’s Minding The Store?

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After I got out of the hot tub at 8:30 the one night, I noticed the water level was a little low. Since the hot tub is on the patio, it’s easy to refill right from the outside hose.

So I dutifully trotted over to the hose, dragged it to the hot tub, and started topping it up. It takes a long time for the hot tub to fill, so I left it running and went inside to watch an old movie.

At 10:30 PM, I poked my head outside to call the cat for its dinner. Yikes! The hot tub was over-flowing!

So there I was in my soaking-wet pajamas, bucket in hand, bailing out the hot tub at 10:30 at night. All I can say is thank goodness I live in the countryside; the only ones laughing at my escapades were the skunks and the possums.

I find when I do something really, really stupid, it often has a bigger message. After I dried myself off, I asked myself, “What is this trying to tell me?”

The pattern I found, not just for myself but for a surprisingly large percentage of my clients that week, was that we were all ignoring the basic watch-dogging that needs to happen when you run a business. Things like balancing checkbooks, looking at monthly profit-and-loss statements, reviewing website statistics, planning for marketing campaigns – we were too busy with what was happening “in the moment” to pay attention to business basics.

There’s nothing wrong with being present in the moment. In fact, it’s quite enjoyable to be full present and conscious to what you are doing. As a small business owner, you also need to be paying attention to the future, while simultaneously looking at the bottom line statistics that tell you how you are doing. It’s a lot of hats to juggle, but not paying attention to all these details can be fatal to your business.

So what’s a business owner to do? Find some way to remind yourself of upcoming events and monthly tracking. I created a two-fold system for myself.

  • First, I put a monthly recurring appointment in my Outlook calendar to look at my finances and statistics.
  • Second, I write out all the steps to a project, from concept creation to marketing, and keep that checklist handy so that bits of the project don’t get lost in the zeal of creation.

I also share this project plan with my team so that they can help keep me on track.

Don’t wait until you spring a leak to discover that you aren’t paying attention to all the details. Write them down and refer to your list often so that you can stay on top of things.

And never leave a hose running into a hot tub. It’s a sure-fire setup to a night of bailing out water!

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
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The I Love Lucy Guide to Marketing

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In the 1950s television show, Lucy has one overriding goal: to break into show biz and to get Ricky to put her in his nightclub act. The thousands of wacky and inventive ways she went about trying to achieve this goal is what made the TV show so hilarious.

Here’s what Lucy can teach you about marketing: there are no silver bullets, no magical “one perfect technique” that will help you achieve your marketing goals. (We all wish there was one ideal marketing technique that will send flood of customers your way, don’t we?) I work with clients in 48 different industries and I’m hearing the same story from them over and over again: you have to use multiple marketing techniques in a coordinated, integrated fashion, because people will come to you through all those channels.

I had seven prospective client phone calls this week. Where did they come from? Five different marketing techniques!

  • One came because she’d been a subscriber to my email newsletter for several years
  • Another came because our connection on Facebook
  • One came from an article I was interviewed for, in Entrepreneur Magazine
  • Two came from people Googling “small business coach”
  • The final two came from word-of-mouth referrals from other clients

The other thing my successful clients are doing is tracking the results of their marketing efforts and making tweaks along the way. Don’t spend all your time being busy “doing” your marketing that you never step back and look at the big picture. Put on your CEO hat and be strategic about your marketing.

Ask yourself:

  1. Have my marketing goals changed, or will they change in the coming year?
  2. In the past 12 months, which marketing techniques have brought the most customers?
  3. Are there any marketing techniques that used to work well, but now are not as strong?
  4. Are my marketing techniques up-to-date, or could some of them use a tweak and a facelift?
  5. Which marketing techniques take the most time, and can I delegate some of the work to others to free myself up?

And take a tip from Lucy: if at first the results aren’t stellar, take a step back and look for another creative way to achieve your goals. Above all, never give up on what you really, really want!

P.S. If you’re spending all your time being busy doing work for your business, then you’re not acting like a business owner, you’re acting like an employee. Give yourself the gift of “CEO Time” each week to plan and implement your big goals.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Marketing

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