Archive for the 'Business Strategy & Planning' Category

Tips on Moving Your Home Office

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Moving house is stressful enough; what do you do when you also have to move your home office and be up and running for business quickly?

Here are some tips to help (from someone who just did it a two weeks ago!):

  1. Work backwards. Start by packing the items that you won’t need immediately and label those boxes, “Unpack Later.” A few days before the move, pack items that you can live without for the first week and label those boxes, “Unpack Sooner.” Finally, the day before your move, pack the items you will need as soon as your office re-opens, and label those boxes, “Unpack First.” (Colored labels help to quickly identify the important boxes.)
  2. Choose “immediate” items carefully. What do you really need during the first few days of business? Some items to consider: client files, stapler, tape, pens, telephone, notepads, computer, printer, printer paper, and a clock.
  3. Give yourself time. After you move to a new home, you need time to unpack all your personal belongings as well as your business boxes. Give yourself a week or two after the move before you start up your business again, so that you have time to do all the tasks involved without stressing yourself, your family and your pets. The fact is that house buying and selling is stressful. Pushing yourself to unpack and get back to business in a few days after the move adds another layer of stress that’s avoidable.
  4. Notify your customers. About a month before the move, begin to notify your customers that you will be unavailable for the week of the move. It’s helpful to explain to them that you will be without phone or email during that time, but that you will pick up voicemail and email starting on your first day back. Also notify your customers of your new address, new telephone number and new fax number, as needed.
  5. Write down your new phone number and keep it handy. If you’re moving out of your region and have a landline phone, you may not be able to take your old office phone number with you. Trying to memorize your new office phone number when your brain is weary is crazy-making. Write down your new phone number on a Post-It note and attach it to your computer, your phone, and anywhere else you’ll need access to it immediately. Once the “fog of the move” lifts and your brain is back to normal, you’ll easily remember your new phone number. In the meantime, a little memory crutch is a good thing!
  6. Design the layout of your new home office…and be willing to change it. Before the move, get the dimensions of your new home office and the dimensions of your furniture, and lay out a plan for where the big furniture goes. Keep in mind things like access to windows, electrical outlets, heating vents, etc. Once you’re in your new space, live with it for a week before unpacking everything. You may find that your first choice of furniture arrangement doesn’t quite satisfy you, and it’s easier to move furniture if you haven’t unpacked all the other items yet.

The energy of a new home office feels great and it’s like a new beginning! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. And try for a little humor and flexibility during your first month in your new place…you’ll need both.

P.S. Don’t forget to pack your “office cat!”  🙂

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Running a Strong & Efficient Business
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Demystifying the Art of Action Planning

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Do you have an area in your business where you want to grow, change, be more successful? Sometimes it feels like you can’t get there fast enough.

Setting goals can seem intimidating until you realize goals are simply stated outcomes: 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 what you want from life.

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

Start with Big Picture Goals

Before you jump into details, start with big outcomes you want for your business this year. People often confused goals with projects, and the easiest way to split them apart is to ask yourself the question, “Why do you want to do this? What outcome are you hoping to get?”

For instance, you might say that one of your goals is to launch a new class for your audience. But there’s a reason you’re launching this new class, right? Maybe it’s a free class to build your mailing list. Maybe it’s a paid class to show your expert status and build income. By asking yourself why you want to achieve something, you get to your core goals.

ACTION STEP: Step back for a moment and write down three big picture goals you have for this year.

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, and 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 (don’t worry at this point about committing to a project, just write down as many as possible to limber up your creative juices).

For instance, say that one of your goals is to build your expert platform. 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 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 on this 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

ACTION STEP: Take one of your projects and begin writing a To Do list of tasks needed to accomplish that 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: Organize the tasks into a logical order.

For 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. You’ll need to write the sales copy before the sales page can be put up on your website.

ACTION STEP: Take an educated guess as to how long each task will take.

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.

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 can be the place where people freeze. You look at your To Do list and it feels like climbing Mount Everest.

The problem is we look at the whole action plan and automatically think we have to do every single action all at the same time. Our intellectual brain knows that’s not possible, but our emotional brain sees it that way.

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

If your task is to write your sales page, your one action might be to write the headline. If your task is to set your price, your one action could be to calculate your costs so you know your class will be profitable.

By breaking project and tasks into smaller and smaller increments, we achieve everything – on time, on budget, and with grace and satisfaction.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning

Think Small and Accomplish Great Things

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Mary came to me to create big, new changes for her business. How exciting, having a big dream! She had a million ideas and a solid, well thought-out 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 30-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 did start a task, she abandoned it if it took longer — or was more complicated — than she thought it should be.

We live in a world of instant gratification.

It numbs us to what’s really important: to live the big, juicy, vibrant life you desire. 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.

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. So 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 what 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.

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

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. 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. 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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Are You a Jumper or a Planner?

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There appears to be two types of small business owners:Those who jump right into running their business, and marketing their products and services, with little or no planning.

And those who plan a strategy — and a service or product design — before they ever dream of offering it to the public.

Is one better than the other?

Yes and no.

Planning often allows you the time to brainstorm and think through possible scenarios before you commit your time, energy and money into your business idea. Ninety-five percent of the time, I advocate planning, especially if you’re starting a new business or launching a new product or service. The time you spend with research and working through possible alternatives, as well as the time you spend thinking about how you might handle worse-case scenarios, will reap huge rewards later on.

On the other hand, over-planning often leads to inaction. A phrase I love sums it up: Analysis Paralysis — the inability to move forward on a project because you feel you don’t have all the facts, and are unwilling to move forward until you’re 100% sure of success. (Every small business owner will tell you that there’s no such thing as being 100% sure of anything.)

When is jumping okay?

Jumping is okay if you’ve already got a solid business foundation underneath you. This means that your finances are in order, you’ve already got a working business model that brings in reliable income and steady administrative processes that support your next great adventure. Jumping is okay if you’ve done as much research as you can and have a good sense that your project is viable, even if you’re not 100% certain of its success.

There is a place for jumping in the world of small business. Jumping allows you to be flexible, and to ride the wave of enthusiasm and passion. Jumping allows you to be 85% sure and then go for it. Good Jumping is action, combined with knowledge, courage and trust.

When to put planning first?

When you don’t have a lot of wiggle room for things to go wrong, planning is crucial. Planning is a must-have when you’re protecting the reputation of your business and your brand (do you want to be known as the owner who constantly crashes and burns?). And when there are a huge number of moving pieces — and you want to eventually put all those pieces into a repeatable system, then planning is essential.

In the end analysis, a combination of planning and jumping is required of all small business owners. The key is to find a balance point.

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

Cleanup and Planning: Quarterly and Year-End Checklists

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It’s here — the end of the last quarter of the year! It’s time to do some “good housekeeping” in preparation for the year-end of your business.

At the end of the year, it’s important to both close-out the old year properly as well as plan for the new year. I recommend you start this process early so that there isn’t a last-minute rush to complete your year-end closing tasks. Even better, do this quarterly so that you remain caught-up with the tasks. Here are some ideas that you might want to add to your quarterly and annual checklists:

Year-End Cleanup and Closing Tasks (some of these can be done quarterly, too!)

  • Enter all revenue and expenses into your record keeping system.
  • Send final invoices for current year.
  • Reconcile your bank account records with bank statements.
  • 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)
  • Mail holiday cards and gifts to clients/customers
  • Make holiday offers to clients/customers
  • Clean out old files/emails
  • Create year-end accounting reports and compare to goals for year
  • Tally business-related mileage for quarter/year
  • Tally expenses by vendor and prepare 1099’s if needed
  • Contact your accountant and discuss year-end tax planning

Planning Tasks for the New Quarter/Year

  • Write a list of goals
  • Write a list of tasks that need to be accomplished in order to achieve those goals
  • Write a list of projects you’d like to start or complete
  • Create an updated marketing plan
  • Create an updated budget
  • 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
  • Schedule upcoming classes you’ll teach and distribute that Calendar of Events to clients and staff

Cleanup and planning tasks don’t just happen in December and January. If you review these tasks quarterly, they won’t sneak up on you on December 31.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning

Can You Explain Your Target Audience in 15 Minutes?

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I had a tough discussion with a client yesterday. She needs to hire a marketing manager, but would rather find a person who knows her narrowly niched target audience intimately and then teach them marketing skills.

I suggested to her that it would be easier find a marketing expert who had all the skills she needed and then to teach her new team member about her target audience. It’s too much of an uphill slog to have to teach someone all the marketing, admin and tech skills that make a marketing manager great.

I asked, “Can you explain your target audience, their needs, philosophy and psychology (to someone not in your industry) in 15 or 30 minutes?”

She said no, that it would take “days and days” to explain her target audience to someone.

What about you? Do you know your target audience so well that you could provide a high level description to your new team member in a short time? If not, why not?

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Marketing

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