Archive for January, 2012

How To Start Your Week Right

How To Start Your Week Right

Do you ever go to bed on Sunday night unable to sleep?  Are the stresses of the week ahead keeping you awake?  If you’re like most people, the thought of starting the week can cause for some degree of anxiety.  However, there are some simple steps you can take to ease the worry and get your week off to a positive, productive start.

1. Make your list.  Most of us have a running to-do list of both long and short term tasks.  Before you start your week, highlight or create a separate list of items that need to be completed in the next few days.  These will give your week focus, and by narrowing down the list, it will seem more manageable.  Tip:  Don’t wait until Sunday evening to create your list; this can get in the way of a restful night’s sleep.  Ideally, work on your list before you wrap things up on Friday. Plus, your mind is still fresh with exactly what needs to be done.

2. Plan a menu.  Eating healthy increases productivity and energizes your body.  The key to doing so is by planning a menu.  To maximize your savings at the grocery store, check your circular for what’s on sale and plan your menu around those items.  This way, when you arrive at the supermarket, you are armed with a list that will provide all your cooking needs for the week ahead.  Tip:  Prepare your food ahead of time.  If you’re always running around in the morning, pack your lunches the night before.  Also, consider cooking a few meals over the weekend, store in appropriate-sized containers, and freeze.  Now you’ll always have a meal on hand when there is just no time to cook.  Take it out of the freezer in the morning, and heat it up when you come home from work.

3. Firm up your schedule.  Perhaps you have some tentative meeting dates, conference calls, or product demonstrations.  Before the week begins, finalize those obligations so you will have a good idea of what you can realistically accomplish throughout the week.  Tip:  Don’t over-schedule.  By trying to fit too much into one day or week, you may be setting yourself up for a mid-week burnout.  Of course you always want to challenge yourself and work to build your business, but know your limits and set yourself up for success.

4. Set aside your work clothes.  If you work outside the home, dressing professionally plays an important role in your day.  Since Mondays usually set the tone for the rest of the week, take a few minutes on Sunday night to set aside what you will be wearing on Monday.  Don’t forget to choose not only your basic outfit, but any accessories like shoes, a tie, or jewelry.  Tip:  Set aside 3-4 outfits so you are ready for the week.  Some people choose to do this each night, but usually as the week rolls on, evenings get busier and busier.  Give your closet a quick scan to be sure you have a few outfits ready to go.  Doing this will also give you a heads up on any laundry that may need to be done.

5. Go to bed early; get up on time.  Nothing facilitates disorganization like a rushed morning caused by hitting the snooze button a few too many times.  Avoid this rut by going to bed nice and early on Sunday night, so you will wake up refreshed and ready to take on the challenges that Monday mornings can bring.  For the same reasons, get yourself up 15 minutes earlier than usual on Mondays so you have plenty of time to deal with any unforeseen consequences like an empty gas tank or a coffee stain on your shirt.  Tip:  If you work outside the home, plan on leaving 15 minutes before you actually have to be out the door.

How do you get your week off to a good start?  Share your ideas in the comments below!

Seven Ways to Get Others to Promote Your Business

Seven Ways to Get Others to Promote Your Business

When other people talk about your business, it increases credibility and adds value to your brand. But when people want to help you promote your business, do you know what to ask them to do?

Here are ways that other people, such as family, friends, community members, and network associates can help you promote your business.

  1. Display your literature.  Something as simple as a brochure on a table in a waiting room can pique the interest of potential customers.  If designed well, such promotional materials will attract others to pick them up, read them, and ask about them.  Other places to display information are community bulletin boards (clubhouse lobbies, libraries, municipal buildings, and online newsletters), local businesses with whom you have no direct competition, and places of worship.  Increasing your visibility can quickly add to your customer base.  Remember to ask permission from the appropriate people before doing so.
  2. Showcase your testimonials and reviews. Highlight your loyal client testimonials and reviews of your products/services in your literature, online presences and other marketing materials. People will be more likely to trust what their neighbors, friends and family say about your business than any other kind of marketing. 
  3. Reward referrals.  People who help you promote your business can provide prospects that may be in need of your products or services with your contact information, a little bit about you, how they know you, etc.  If you have an incentive system in place to reward those who give you referrals, they will be more likely to continue doing so.  
  4. Sponsor events.  When holding an event such as an open house, recruit others to donate space, equipment, advertising, or other resources needed.  This kind of help can be mutually beneficial as it increases the visibility and promotes the interests of all involved.  For example, if you sell jewelry and are running a holiday shopping promotion for corporate customers, ask someone you know who works in an office setting to let you set up in their conference room, talk up your event to coworkers, and perhaps recommend a local deli to provide finger foods and beverages.  
  5. Use social media and contests.  You most likely already have a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, blog or any combination of these set up.  One key to making these work for you is to get others to want to share your content with their friends.  Consider setting up contests, polls and games that give out prizes. This encourages sharing of your information, products, or events and maximizes the effect that word of mouth can have. 
  6. Invite you to relevant events.  Many business organizations hold conventions, workshops, and seminars for their members and guests.  Ask members of such organizations to invite you to one of these events.  For example, a workshop for interior designers would be a great place for a self-employed home organizer to meet prospects who may either be in need of their services or who regularly work with others that do.  Not only will you gain valuable information there, but you will also have a chance to meet potential customers.  
  7. Tap influencers. Seek out influencers in your community and provide them an incentive to promote your business. The difference here is that influencers generally have larger networks and/or have more credibility. The key here is again to have them share your information and provide a testimonial to increase word of mouth. 

Decide what methods you are most comfortable with in getting others to promote your business, and make a list for yourself.  Incorporate one of more of these methods on a regular basis to facilitate the growth of your business.

What have you found to be an effective way for others to promote you?  Please share your ideas and experiences below!

Helping Customers Find You

Helping Customers Find You

Think about the last time you wanted to make a purchase that required some research, whether it was a new car, a new TV, some furniture, or a bike for your child.  What was the very first thing you did?  If you’re like most people, your answer can be summed up in one word: Google.  When consumers are in the early stages of buying something, they are likely to turn to Google.  So how can you use this to your advantage?  Read on for some ways to make yourself more visible online and offline.

  • Online commenting is a very effective way to drive traffic to your website.  Write brief but meaningful comments on sites that are relevant to your business.  You can also write reviews of books about your industry on sites like Amazon or Google Books.  Participating in this type of online discourse will allow you to network with other likeminded people in your field, and eventually make your name more recognizable on the web.  Furthermore, frequent commenting on well-chosen sites can increase the likelihood that people will find you on search engines like Google.
  • YouTube and podcasts are also available resources for you to use in your search for new customers.  Do not dismiss YouTube as solely a website for young people watching viral videos.  Many businesses are now using YouTube channels to post all kinds of videos such as tutorials, product demonstrations, and mini-advertisements.  Include the link to your website so viewers know where to go for more information.  The same goes for podcasts; for people on the go, they are a necessity.  Consider using this medium to communicate with not only prospects, but current customers as well.
  • Smartphone apps are a must for any brick and mortar business.  By registering for popular apps like FourSquare, Google Places, Yell, and GoWalla, you can take advantage of the ever increasing use of smartphones by current and potential customers.  Most of these apps are available for iPhones as well as Android and Blackberry phones.  People use these apps not only to find the location of a business, but also to link to the business website and read reviews by other users.
  • Here are some more ways –
    • Signage on cars
    • Fun signage/banner/T-shirts for your clients to display
    • Testimonials
    • Online/printed Reviews
    • Follow up cards, emails and phone calls
    • Seasonal promotions for your community
    • Sponsor charities and causes in your community
    • Weekly workshops and/or presentations in community hubs
    • Partnering with other businesses
    • Referral exchange – where you refer business to them and they refer business to you.
    • Sporting/community event meet and greet
    • Offer online/offline contest and give-a-ways
    • Joining or starting organizations and clubs

Many of the methods listed above are low-cost ways to help customers find you. Make the most out of your online presence, but don’t forget to also make it easy for your local community to find you offline as well.

How else can you increase your visibility to gain new customers?  Share your ideas below!

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: Pass it on!


DSEF & Money Wise Women: Women Empower Yourselves: Understand Your Debt and Credit Report

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Women Empower Yourselves: Understand Your Debt and Credit Report

Today’s highlighted post from Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series (Click here):

Women Empower Yourselves: Understand Your Debt and Credit Report

Your credit report can be very confusing but it has great power over many aspects of your life: employment eligibility, mortgage and rental applications, utility and phone service deposits, insurance premiums and loan and credit card rates. To maintain good financial health, it is crucial for you to understand the different types of debt, the consequences of not paying, and how your debt behavior affects your credit report and score.

Hollis Colquhoun

Hollis Colquhoun is an Accredited Financial Counselor and has over twenty years of experience in the financial industry. Starting out as an institutional trader and salesperson for a Wall Street brokerage firm, she later became one of its first female partners. Hollis worked in the Corporate Bond Departments of several New York firms then moved into the distressed securities market where she helped set up a new brokerage operation for one of Wall Street’s masters of “value investing”. Three years later, Hollis stopped working to devote more time and attention to raising her three daughters. She also became very involved in local community projects and a nonprofit education foundation. Two years ago, Hollis was hired by a nonprofit credit counseling agency and received certification as an Accredited Financial Counselor and as a Certified Personal Finance Counselor. Over a two-year period, Hollis counseled thousands of clients who were drowning in debt and in need of financial guidance. She also conducted workshops on budgeting and credit for local community organizations and New Jersey State welfare-to-work programs.

DSEF proudly sponsors the free Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series hosted by Marcia Brixey, Founder and President of Money Wise Women Educational Services and author ofThe Money Therapist: A Woman’s Guide to Creating a Healthy Financial Life. The series covers topics related to business and finances and provides women the opportunity to learn from professional experts in a safe, comfortable environment.

To find out about upcoming teleseminars, visit

How Mantras Can Help Improve Your Business

How Mantras Can Help Improve Your Business

Mantras were originally meant to be repeated in a meditative manner for the purpose of finding serenity and focus. They can also be used in the business world to motivate and concentrate your efforts.  Here are some ways that implementing a mantra can improve your business.

  • Stay focused on goals and values.  A mantra is brief and memorable.  As such, it is an easy phrase for you to reflect upon and repeat in many day-to-day operations.  For example, auto rental giant Avis has adopted the mantra, “We try harder,” which clear, concise, and fully encompasses the company’s main objective.  By repeating this mantra and keeping it at the forefront of daily business dealings, you are sure to satisfy customers and keep them coming back.
  • Develop, implement, and maintain a business strategy. Let the mantra guide such important decisions from idea to finished product.  When taking on or creating anything new, the number one question should be, “Is this consistent with my business mantra?”  The answer should be yes, so that you know that this idea matches the core of what the business is all about.
  • Manage your stress levels. Owning a business is overwhelming to say the least, mostly because the buck stops with you.  Use your mantra to keep your goals in mind and guide your decisions for the benefit of the company.  Always come back to it for problem solving and conflict resolution, two other high stressors of business ownership.
  • Communicate with your customers.  Use your mantra as a liaison between your business and the outside world.  A good mantra makes it easy for others to understand what the company is all about.  By using it as a tagline in advertising and promotional materials, you make yourself memorable and edge out your competitors.  This of course can lead to increased clientele and improved sales.
  • Here are some examples:
    • Move your feet to get it complete
    • Make one more goal to go for gold
    • More No means more Yes
    • A day’s work brings pay
    • Focus on task so you can bask
    • Ready, Set and get ahead
    • No pain no gain.

Remember, to keep your mantra short and memorable. Repetition of your mantra will help you focus, reduce negative self-talk and help you accomplish your task. It can also remind you of your core business goals and its very reason for existing.  A well-written mantra can be a valuable tool that leads your business to success. Do you use mantras? Please share your mantra with us in the comments.

Know Thyself and Drink Lemonade

Know Thyself and Drink Lemonade

Know Thyself and Drink Lemonade

Guest post by Lora Kloth

“When life hands you lemons, make lemonade…”

As a small business owner you probably can relate to my recent career experience. Although I don’t have a business of my own, I had a circumstance that forced me to evaluate my career goals, personal finances, and self-discovery.

Three years ago, my career as full-time association research librarian abruptly changed—my hours were reduced to part-time.  I felt deluged with lemons.

I allowed myself a brief hiatus for frustration, but realized that wasted time.  I realized the new schedule created an opportunity for me to try new things. And then I discovered aspects of myself I didn’t know existed as I adapted to an uncertain future:

  • I enjoyed brief “stay-at-home mom” status.
  • I considered a career change to court reporting and went back to school—and failed miserably!  But in this “failure” I realized my true calling is librarianship.
  • I accepted the opportunity to teach information literacy despite never having taught anything before. But I did it, successfully, and made wonderful connections.

Here are guidelines to help become “future ready” when your career takes an unexpected turn:

Identify career goals, take stock of your personal life, and find a balance.

  • Discover your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Realize that “failure” offers experience and potential for future success.
  • Don’t underestimate what you can achieve.
  • Be flexible.
  • Try new things!
  • Know what makes you happy.
  • Interact with diverse groups of people.
  • Commit to lifelong learning.

Upon reflection, those same guidelines also apply to managing personal finances and building a secure financial future:

Become Informed.  Learn about different investments vehicles and be actively involved in financial decisions.

  • You can do it!  Don’t be intimidated by the world of money.  Have confidence in your abilities.  Ask questions and get answers!  Your credit union is a great source for advice, products and services.
  • Don’t be overwhelmed.  Commit to slow and steady progress by setting goals.
  • Make a budget. Then stick to it.
  • Reduce debt.  Establish a savings plan and whittle away at those credit card bills.
  • Consider the importance of tax planning. Seek the services of a professional.
  • Don’t forget about retirement!  Set up an IRA or other investment vehicle to prepare for your future.
  • Know your risk tolerance.  Can you sleep at night with the types of investments you have? Are you in it for the long-term?

Getting tossed a “lemon” turned into an opportunity for me. It gave me a greater sense of confidence, self-reliance, independence, and satisfaction knowing I really was in charge. In the process, I developed a contingency plan for unexpected life events.

Start your financial future now. Look back at your experiences—are you willing to learn and move ahead if you’re tossed a lemon? Are you in control of your personal finances? Know thyself! Lemonade is actually a refreshing beverage.

Lora Kloth is research librarian at Credit Union National Association in Madison, Wisconsin. She earned her M.A. in Library and Information Studies at Northern Illinois University, and her B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.  She enjoys making lemonade with her two daughters, ages 13 and 7.

DSEF & CBBB: Weigh In on Gym Membership Tips

DSEF & CBBB: Weigh In on Gym Membership Tips

Today’s highlighted blog post from the Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB)

Click here:

Weigh In on Gym Membership Tips

One big holiday, Thanksgiving, down. Add two pounds. Christmas to go. Add three pounds. Obviously in January it’s going to be time to join a gym.

Not all gyms are good for the same people. Which one would be best for you?

Begin by checking their business reviews with the BBB. How long have they been in business? Do they have complaints? What happens if they get into financial trouble and are closed down? We recently had a Gold’s Gym franchise location close but the corporate office immediately opened it up again for their members.

DSEF and Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) fosters honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. for more information.

5 Lead Generating Ideas for Small Business

5 Lead Generating Ideas for Small Business

Businesses are always looking for new clientele. The key to lead generation is providing consistent excellence and getting people to promote your business to others.

Here are some ways you can generate new leads for your business.

1. Make the most of social media. It all starts with nurturing and engaging your network of people online regularly. The idea is to provide content that will encourage people to share with their network of friends online. Create interest to draw new friends/fans and leads.

    • Post usable content that encourages sharing, like recipes, quick household tips, and reviews.
    • Post photos/videos that are amusing, informative and positive.
    • Create a contest and/or offer free stuff.
    • Post and invite people to events.
    • Post a survey/poll.

2. Seek referrals from current clients.  By providing consistently excellent customer service as well as high quality products/services, you will generate a constant flow of referrals. Implement a process to automatically ask for referrals at the end of every order. If you don’t have this process in place, just ask your customers for referrals. You’ll be surprised by how many  business owners just don’t ask.

Another way is to create a fun contest to get your customers talking about your products/services with others. This way, customers are promoting your business without the sales pitch and creating leads. Click here for more ideas on getting referrals.

3. Team up.  Find a local business that caters to a similar market as yours, and build a relationship based on mutual interests and benefits.  You could hold a joint open house, offer incentives for customers that use both of your services, and even split the costs of local advertising.  Once you have built a solid relationship, begin referring each other to your customers both by word of mouth and also by distributing mailers and business cards to your patrons. For example, one local ice cream shop hosts a blood drive periodically, and offers a free ice cream cone to those that donate. They teamed up with the pub down the street so now both businesses advertise ice cream and beer (“a pint for a pint”) for donating which generates traffic to both businesses, and also creates good will towards both businesses in the community.

4. Network with influencers. This will require you to seek out influencers in your community. Also don’t forget the influencers that you already know off and online. Support influencers in their passions and causes and establish a relationship with them. Then you can create a mutually beneficial relationship where you refer to one another. This will help you tap into their network of people and find new leads for your business.

5. Weekly face to face.  Schedule time to have coffee, lunch and/or a social get-together with customers, online friends/fans, other local business people and influencers weekly. Keep it social. This will help deepen your relationships, and naturally get you leads as they talk about their time with you.

What methods have you used to generate meaningful leads?  Please add to our list in the comments section below!

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: Pass it on!

How to Become an Expert

How to Become an Expert

Being recognized as an expert in your field can bring many opportunities to edge out your competitors and grow your business.  Once you have devoted yourself to becoming an expert, you will need to take the appropriate steps.  Read on for some ways to get started.

  • Get focused.  Even if you consider yourself an expert in several fields, especially if they are unrelated, choose one on which to focus.  You may know a great deal about scrap-booking and fashion, but the two aren’t closely enough related to tie together in your search for expert status.  Choose one area of your business (marketing, customer service, social media, etc.), and make it your job to know everything there is to know about it. Tip – Find a mentor or an individual you want to emulate. Copy what they did. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel.
  • Get learning.  Even the most respected folks in their fields are continually seeking professional development to further their education.  Read up on your subject, interview other experienced people, attend workshops, and take some classes.  You might even want to get yourself a mentor. Tip – Consider taking a certificate course to add to your credentials and experience.
  • Get writing.  After doing the appropriate amount of research required to share your expertise, publish as much quality literature on your subject as you can.  Ideally, you will want to publish in several different media, such as blogs, newsletters, articles, and mailers.  Having some published material will demonstrate your knowledge of the subject matter and act as a “pre-sell” of your information. Tip – Partner with bloggers and offer a weekly article/post or join their staff.
  • Get talking.  Begin setting up speaking engagements; there’s nothing wrong with starting small.  Begin by reaching out to your local library, community center, senior center, or chamber of commerce.  Design your talk to highlight your accomplishments and background as well what you have to offer that makes you unique.  Of course, bring some literature to distribute and use the time before and after to network and book further speaking engagements.  Word of mouth can go a long way, and if you are good at what you do, people will notice and seek you out. Tip – Promote and offer your availability to do interviews.
  • Get promoting.  You should already be used to doing this as an entrepreneur, but in order for others to recognize you as an expert, you need to promote yourself in a different way.  Contact local newspapers and cable news networks to get attention put on you and your subject matter.  Find some way that your expertise can benefit them as well. Tip – Present workshops, participate on internet radio, create your own YouTube videos, and submit to article websites, and present on community TV channels.

Experts in business have many doors open for them once they become established and respected.  With hard work and dedication, two qualities you undoubtedly possess already, you can position yourself as an expert and reap the benefits that go along with it.  What do you think it takes to become an expert?  Share your ideas in the comments below!

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: Pass it on!

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Organizing Your Financial Records

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Organizing Your Financial Records

Today’s highlighted post from Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series (click here):

Organizing Your Financial Records

Organizing your financial records provides you with a sense of freedom and accomplishment. Learn some simple steps you can take to organize your financial records. You’ll also learn what records to keep and which records you should toss. Once you’re organized, you’ll be ready to determine your net worth.

Stacey Anderson, Organized Innovations

Stacey Anderson is a Professional Organizer, speaker and author. As founder of Organized Innovations she has tackled almost every dis-organized situation out there. Her book Get Organized : Get Revitalized is chalk full of quick, easy to implement tips for those struggling with getting started. Stacey is an active member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and is currently on the Seattle Chapter board. She has been a guest expert on local radio and has been featured in many local newspapers.

DSEF proudly sponsors the free Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series hosted by Marcia Brixey, Founder and President of Money Wise Women Educational Services and author ofThe Money Therapist: A Woman’s Guide to Creating a Healthy Financial Life. The series covers topics related to business and finances and provides women the opportunity to learn from professional experts in a safe, comfortable environment.

To find out about upcoming teleseminars, visit