All posts by TheDSEF

How to Get Organized In a Week

How to Get Organized In a Week

As you may have learned during your time as a small business owner or direct seller, getting organized and staying that way are two completely different things.  Both can be daunting, but the long-term maintenance of your organization system is essential to the success of your business, and your own sanity as well.  Follow each daily suggestion below to gradually put your life in order.

  • Day 1 – Get a handle on the daily flow of paperwork.  You most likely have an inbox for mail and other documents that appear on a regular basis.  Instead of letting it accumulate to the point of overwhelming capacity, deal with each piece right away.  For example, when you open a piece of mail, only give yourself two options: file it or toss it.  You’ll be amazed by how much open space you’ll have on your desk!
  • Day 2 – Label everything.  If you get a good labeling machine, this will be an easy and even fun task.  Label anything you need to maximize your organization systems, like file folders and storage containers.  Because where everything goes will be clearly visible, putting everything in its place when you’re finished with it will take no time at all.
  • Day 3 – Sort your emails.  Using the same principle as the first two suggestions above, treat your emails the same way you would treat any piece of paper: file or toss.  In this case, filing means sorting your emails into a folder or label system that works best for the needs of your business.  Categories could include Priority, Accounting, Customer Service, Vendors, Inventory, etc.  This can be especially helpful when searching for an old email as well.  Certain email programs, like Gmail, even allow you to sort emails into more than one category if needed.  As soon as you have finished reading and/or responding to an email, either move it to one of your folders or delete.  Now, just like your desk, your inbox will be sparkling clean! 
  • Day 4 – Create a correspondence window.  Set aside a certain amount of time each day devoted solely to email and phone correspondence.  This way you’re not taking calls and answering emails all day long, which can inhibit productivity.  Furthermore, you will be able to return communications to customers and vendors in a consistently timely manner, something that everyone with which you do business will certainly appreciate.
  • Day 5 – Keep your eye on the prize.  Either at the start or end of each day, create a to-do list of 3 tasks that MUST be completed that day.  You can always add more if you finish all 3. As you work throughout your day, always refer back to that list.  Check off what you have completed and move onto another task.  This doesn’t always mean that a to-do list can’t be adjusted, but giving yourself a general outline of your day will help you stay on track.  Most people also take a little bit of pleasure in crossing off a task, so make it a regular part of your work day!

Organization requires patience and self-discipline, two qualities you most likely already possess as an entrepreneur. Incorporate a new method of organization everyday into your business so that by the end of the week you’ll be completely organized, and then make it a habit. By organizing as you go, you will find yourself with more time to focus on other areas that need lots of attention, like advertising and customer service.

How do you stay organized? What systems do you recommend?  Please share your tips in the comments section.

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: http://on.fb.me/KsIN6P Pass it on!

DSEF & CBBB: Jumpstart Your Creative Marketing Strategies

DSEF & CBBB: Jumpstart Your Creative Marketing Strategies

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

Click here:

Jumpstart Your Creative Marketing Strategies

It isn’t easy to always be at the top of your game. For most of us, even if we eat our Wheaties every day, the likelihood that we bring creative and competitively-charged ideas to work with us each morning is far-fetched.

At the BBB, the members of our marketing department pride themselves on working together as a team. I assume most of your marketing departments do the same. We bounce ideas off each other and brainstorm for new and creative ways of attracting both consumers and businesses to the BBB brand.

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. Visitwww.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & CBBB: Should I Buy Medication Online?

DSEF & CBBB: Should I Buy Medication Online?

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

Should I Buy Medication Online?

– DECEMBER 13, 2011 POSTED IN: HEALTH CARE SERVICESNATIONAL

You gotta love spam. Or maybe not. Either way, an unsolicited email from “CANAD1AN-DRUGSTORE” caught my eye this morning. It promised me “80% OFF CIAL1S-V1AGRA-LEV1TRA.”

Hmmm. I need two bottles of insulin about every three weeks in order to live. Not to mention test strips, syringes, ketone kits, emergency blood sugar tablets and other supplies. These items are very expensive. Worse than a $5 a day coffee habit. Eighty percent off would be fantastic. But…

But me being me, I’m a little leery. Here’s what the U.S. Food and Drug Administrationhas to say about buying medications online:

Good points

  • It’s easier to get products. This is helpful if you can’t leave your home or live far from a drug store.
  • You can check many different sites to check out products and prices.
  • You can ask a pharmacist questions in private.

Dangers

Some web sites:

  • May not know the cause of your health problem. They could also give you the wrong medicine for your illness.
  • Some sites will sell you prescription drugs even if you don’t have a prescription. This is against the law.
  • Don’t protect your private information, like your credit card number.

Some medicines sold online:

  • Are fake
  • Have things in them that are could hurt you
  • Are too strong or too weak
  • Are too old to work
  • Aren’t approved by the FDA
  • Aren’t made using safe standards
  • Aren’t safe to use with other meds or products you use
  • Aren’t labeled
  • Aren’t stored or shipped the right way

How can I buy online safely?

  • There is a program that makes sure online drug stores are legal and honest. It is called the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site). Websites can choose to apply or not to apply to use the VIPPS seal. Before using a website, check for the VIPPS seal.
  • Don’t buy from sites that sell:
    • Prescription drugs even if you don’t have a prescription.
    • Products that are not approved by FDA.
  • Use sites that have a pharmacist to answer your questions online. Only buy from sites based in the US. It’s against the law to buy prescription drugs from other countries. It could also be unsafe.
  • Go to your doctor or clinic before using any medicine for the first time.
  • For more information, you can contact the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, which works with the FDA to ensure drug safety, or the FDA athttp://www.fda.gov/default.htm or 1-888-INFO-FDA.

If I do decide to try to buy diabetic supplies online, it won’t be by clicking on an unsolicited email with suspect spelling, that’s for sure.

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. Visitwww.bbb.org/us for more information.

 

DSEF & FTC: Thinking about Layaway? Know the Fees Before You Shop

DSEF & FTC: Thinking about Layaway? Know the Fees Before You Shop

Today’s highlighted blog post from FTC/NCPW:

Thinking about Layaway? Know the Fees Before You Shop

November 17th, 2011 by Lisa

As Black Friday draws near, thoughts turn to holiday shopping, and how to get the items you want for a price you can afford.  If you choose to buy using layaway, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, has a few holiday tips for you:

  • First, get all the details about the retailer’s layaway plan in writing before you shop.  Look for the terms of the plan — including the time you have to pay for your items, the store’s refund policy for layaway items, minimum payments, and layaway charges or other fees.
  • Second, it’s useful to compare the costs of using layaway versus using credit.  Add up the total amount in fees you will pay at a specific store before you get your item(s) out of layaway.  Then, if you have a credit card, determine how much money in interest you would pay if you charged the same item(s).
  • Third, be sure to check out the store, including online retailers, before you shop there at all. Your state Attorney General’s Office (www.naag.org), local consumer protection agency (www.consumeraction.gov), and your local Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) can tell you if consumers have filed complaints against the retailer or online service.

Before you hit the stores, take a look at the FTC’s consumer alert on layaway plans.  Also, if a store fails to disclose important terms of its layaway plan, it may be breaking the law.  If a retailer hasn’t explained its layaway terms, or has otherwise misled you about them, file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).

For 13 years, the DSEF has been proud to partner with the FTC and other organizations to offer a wide array of education events and resources that encourage consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their rights and make better-informed decisions.

You’ll find a wealth of resources at www.ncpw.gov that will help you protect your privacy, manage your money, learn more about credit and debt, decipher advertising messages, and steer clear of fraud and scams.

Please take a moment to share the resources on this Web site with others in your communities and companies and, together, we’ll help build a nation of better-informed and educated consumers.

Charles. L. Orr
Executive Director

Direct Selling Education Foundation

DSEF & CBBB: Facebook Lottery Scam

DSEF & CBBB: Facebook Lottery Scam

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

Facebook Lottery Scam

BBB has received reports recently about an email scam involving Facebook.  The email purports to be directly from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and says you’re the winner of a million-dollar Facebook sweepstakes.  The email is a scam and it’s suspected that it’s being used to deliver malware onto consumers’ computers.  As a result, BBB warns anyone who receives it to avoid clicking any links and to delete the email immediately. 

Aside from the use of Facebook to draw consumers in, the email scam carries with it many common red flags: consumers are being emailed out of the blue, they’re being asked to click on suspect links in order to “claim a prize,” and there’s often an explicit demand for confidentiality, as well.

Should you receive an email like this, you can report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

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. Visitwww.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Become a Sought After Speaker to Grow Your List, Attract Clients & Make Your Biz THRIVE!

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Become a Sought After Speaker to Grow Your List, Attract Clients & Make Your Biz THRIVE!

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

Become a Sought After Speaker to Grow Your List, Attract Clients, and Make Your Business THRIVE!

Would you like to walk out of your house in the morning, go to a place where you know no one and come home with clients in the afternoon? If so this info. packed session is for you. You will learn: All the reasons why public speaking is the best business building strategy, how to get started to position yourself as a speaker and get booked, what to do before during and after your presentation to come home with clients.

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 http://www.moneywisewomengetsmart.com/

Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for your Business

Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for your Business

Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions for your Business

Another year is almost through, and just like most of us make resolutions for our personal lives, it is also a smart idea to make some for your business as well.  So before your pop open that champagne and watch the ball drop in Times Square, consider making a few changes to boost your business in 2015.

  1. Improve your time management.  Take an inventory of what your typical day looks like.  What areas lack efficiency? What duties can be multitasked to save time?  Perhaps your daily to-do list is too long.  Prioritize aggressively to get a handle on how much can actually be accomplished in any given day.
  2. Give back to your community.  Remember that your business is part of a community.  Giving back has an endless list of mutual benefits for everyone involved.  Make a point to find one or two local organizations with which to involve yourself this year.  You can find some good ideas here.
  3. Learn something new.  Even if you’ve been in business for decades, there are always new, exciting, affordable, and convenient opportunities to further your business education.  Consider taking a mini-course at the local community college or participating in a webinar hosted by others in your industry.
  4. Get organized.  Whether you’re dealing with actual papers in a filing cabinet or electronic files on your hard drive, organization is essential to productivity.  Now is a good time to set aside any documents you might need for tax purposes, as April 15 will sneak up on you in no time.  Maybe your customer records need updating, your finance software is inefficient, or your desk is buried in paperwork.  Focus on one aspect and bring order to it so you can start fresh in the New Year.
  5. Predict your financial future.  The end of the calendar year is an opportune time to look back on your overhead and sales volume.  Using this information, plan ahead for the coming months so you don’t spend money needlessly and you do make the most out of your current investments.
  6. Set realistic goals.  A goal that is realistic is one that is both specific and attainable.  It’s okay to think big and challenge yourself, but create benchmarks so you have a path to get there.  For example, if you want to increase profits by 50% next year, what has to be done each week and each month to make that happen?  Answers to those questions will guide you in setting your objectives.
  7. Update your website.  Do some exploratory surgery on your website, searching for things like broken or outdated links, unnecessary flash content, and information about discontinued products.  Even a cosmetic reboot may be just what your business needs to start anew in making the best use of your website.  While you’re at it, consider creating or updating your social media presence such as networking sites and blogs.
  8. Back up your files.  In addition to manually backing up files onto a CD/DVD or flash drive, most internet service providers and antivirus software companies offer free or inexpensive online storage services.  Take advantage of these because all it takes is one accident to erase years of data and hard work.  It’s simply not worth the risk.
  9. Ramp up your customer service.  In what areas is your customer care lacking?  Do you procrastinate in making courtesy or follow-up calls?  How long does the average customer usually have to wait before they get a return call or email after making an inquiry?  Make customer service a frequent flier on that to-do list of yours.
  10. Celebrate your accomplishments.  Every once in awhile, it’s important to evaluate what you have done well and give yourself a pat on the back.  As a business owner, you are ultimately the one responsible for every outcome, good and bad.  When you reach a goal or solve a problem, reward yourself by going out to your favorite restaurant or simply taking a much-needed day off.  You will feel re-energized and motivated to forge ahead and tackle the next project or obstacle.

What resolutions have you made for your business?  Please leave a comment below and have a happy, prosperous New Year!

What Small Business Can Learn From a Kid’s Lemonade Stand

What Small Business Can Learn From a Kid’s Lemonade Stand

What Small Business Can Learn From a Kid’s Lemonade Stand

The basics behind a successful lemonade stand don’t require a rocket scientist to figure out: buy cups, make lemonade, paint a few signs, sell more than it cost to make, and voila! A 7-year-old entrepreneur is turning a profit in no time.  Surely, the adult business venture isn’t that simple, but remembering the basics of running a business like the tried and true lemonade stand is an important requirement for success.

  • Focus on your local market.  Decide what exactly your local customers’ needs are, and cater to those first.  If you were running a lemonade stand you would need to consider the demographic when deciding when to conduct your business.  For the parents and kids coming home in the early afternoon from a morning baseball practice or beach outing, marketing your stand for a lunch rush would make perfect sense.  For the working parents who just finished a long commute from the office, an additional set of early evening hours would be beneficial as well.
  • Know when to adjust.  Even if your business is pulling in profits, it is important to know when it is appropriate to invest more money and when to pull back.  After a lucrative summer and early fall lemonade stand season, it would probably be ill-advised to buy more supplies for a larger lemonade output just as the colder weather moves in.  The demand will be much lower, which will make it more difficult to turn a profit.  A smart idea would be to hold off until the warmer weather returns.  Does your business have a slower time of the year, month, or week?  Use your busier times to prepare for lags and don’t sink money into it when you’re unlikely to see a return anytime soon.
  • Be an aggressive advertiser.  Budding entrepreneurs don’t simply wait for cars to drive by their stands.  They can be seen with their friends and parents on street corners throughout the whole neighborhood holding large, colorful signs and loudly announcing their businesses as their neighbors drive past.  Furthermore, 21st century kids are using their social media presence to generate customers.  Take a lesson from their spirited advertising and get your name and face out there.  And just like those kids standing on street corners, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of friends and family to put in a good word about you in their own circles.
  • Offer exceptional customer service.  Have you ever stopped at a kid’s lemonade stand?  Those adorable faces, those winning smiles, and those polite “Thank you’s” and “Come again soon’s” are enough to make anyone a repeat customer.  Make your customers feel special and important by showing them that you truly appreciate them patronizing your business.  Outstanding customer service goes a long way through word of mouth that will bring you repeat business and new clients alike.
  • Sell a high-quality product.  For as much time and effort as setting up a lemonade stand can be for a child, it would all be for naught if he or she just put some powder mix in a pitcher of water and called it a day.  Many successful children have a special, and often secret, recipe that they work hard to perfect for their business.  You should be doing the same for your product or service.  Consider what your competitors are offering, and make sure yours is a step above the rest.  This will make your business stand out and turn potential customers into frequent ones.

Did you have a lemonade stand or other business venture as a kid?  What did you learn from it that you still use in your business today?  We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

 

DSEF & CBBB: Five Business Lessons I’ve Learned From My Dog

DSEF & CBBB: Five Business Lessons I’ve Learned From My Dog

By Holly Doering

1.) If You Give Someone a Second Chance, You Are Sure to Benefit Too.

The latest addition to our family, a Blue Heeler, got in trouble at her original home for chasing livestock. Through a friend of a friend, we learned the little dog’s story and rescued her. She has a forever home with us and she seems grateful. I never expected to fall in love with an animal weighing just 21 pounds—I’ve always been a “big dog” person. But she has brought so much joy and serendipity to our lives!

Why not give someone else a second chance today—a coworker perhaps. Most people are just doing the best they can, given what they know. Forgive them for a perceived wrong they may have done you and more forward with a joyful spirit.

2.)    Focus. Focus. Focus.

Anyone who shares their life with an Australian Cattle Dog already knows—they can’t be distracted from their pursuit of their passion. With ours, it is a Frisbee. One day I got a tortilla out of the refrigerator to make dinner and she started jumping up and down. She thought it too was a Frisbee. I often think, if I were as focused about writing my novel as she is on fetching the Frisbee, I’d be published by nowHer secondary obsession is the ball–and anything that looks like one, such as an apple, or a tomato. Whatever your task is, put all your energy into it. It’ll get done faster and better.

3.)    Playbreaks Make You More Productive

Of course, you can’t stay focused 24-7. Even my dog takes naps–and when she sleeps, she is really out. When I get into writing an article, blog, or essay, I get very intense and will sit at the computer until my shoulders cramp. This isn’t good for the human body. My Blue Heeler reminds me to get up every few hours, stretch, eat something, and of course—take her outside for a Frisbee session. She is very insistent. And she’s right. You can avoid hitting the point of diminishing returns (and do your body a favor) by taking frequent small breaks. A BBB Accredited massage therapist told our office this once, but it took a dog to really drive the point home.

4.)    Multi-tasking Doesn’t Work As Well As You Think.

Ever tried to do two, three, or even four things at once? When my dog starts whining, sometimes I think I can keep working on the computer with one hand and throwing the ball for her with the other. Uh-uh. That doesn’t work. A recent study showed that the more different tasks we try to cram into the same period of time, the more tired our brain becomes. It is better to concentrate on one task until it is finished. The speaker on NPR who was referring to the study said that the most efficient way to work is to limit the number of times that you check your email in a day and to turn off those pingers! Case in point on the home front: Last night while washing dishes, something bubbled over on the stove because I had forgotten to check on it—because I just wanted to finish one more dish, and then one more.

 5.)    It’s Not All About Me.

Limiting interruptions is good. Choosing which interruptions are priority is better. It isn’t usually convenient for me to stop what I’m doing and attend to my dog’s needs. But when I make the time, she’s a lot happier—and ultimately so am I. It can be frustrating to be interrupted by coworkers, callers, and clients who need something from you. However, by helping others with their tasks and problems your own will inevitably go better. Make the time. It’s not all about you.

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. Visitwww.bbb.org/us for more information.

 

Starting Your Business Over Again

Starting Your Business Over Again

Starting Your Business Over Again

Every once in a while, you may find yourself in a business rut.  Perhaps your profits have begun to plateau or even decrease.  Maybe you have suffered a setback, which in turn has negatively affected your inner drive.  Whatever the circumstance or the reason, it’s not too late to turn your business around by starting over again.  The following are suggestions to help you do just that.

  • Embrace and evaluate mistakes.  If you had never started your business in the first place, you wouldn’t have made the mistakes that will help you learn how to succeed.  So the first step in starting over is to reflect on those mistakes.  Ask yourself what specifically it is about your business that is preventing it from flourishing.  Once you identify the problem, you can work on how to solve it.
  • Set a goal and develop a short-term plan.  If your goal is to increase your client base by 25% by the end of the year, create 3-4 steps you can take within the next seven days to begin reaching that goal.  It is also a good idea to make benchmarks for yourself along the way.  This not only keeps you on track, but also allows for self-accountability.
  • Reconnect with past clients.  When you got your business off the ground, you worked hard to acquire your customers.  Don’t hesitate to reconnect with them; they may appreciate a quick phone call thanking them for their past patronage.  Along with that, you could offer a special promotion or incentive exclusively for past clients.  You’re showing them that you value them as your clients, and you’re also offering them an opportunity to rediscover what makes your business special and beneficial for them.
  • Reinvent yourself.  This can apply to your brand, your product or service, your marketing strategy, or any aspect of your business that isn’t working for you right now.  These are tough economic times, and it may do your business a world of good to consider how things have changed since you first began.  Have your customers’ needs changed? Has your product been overshadowed by a newer, shinier version elsewhere in the industry?  Is your social media presence a time-sucker that hasn’t positively contributed to your business?  Focus on one aspect that needs a makeover and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
  • Get educated.  Millions before you have started small businesses both successfully and unsuccessfully.  Not only that, but these people have also written about their experiences.  So fire up that e-reader or take a trip to your local bookstore and do a little research that is relevant to your business.  Furthermore, a fresh perspective may be just the boost you need to recharge your batteries and spark the idea plug for your business venture 2.0.
  • Reward yourself.  Let’s face it: owning your own business is hard work.  Once you have reached a short or long term goal, enjoy it!  Something as simple as splurging on that super sweet frozen coffee drink you love or taking an afternoon to go see a movie will help you stay focused while keeping the end in sight.  Care to make it really interesting?  Put one small reward on a post-it note and throw a bunch into a hat.  When you meet your first goal, reach in and enjoy!  Most people stay the course when they know there is some form of compensation awaiting them upon completion.

What steps have you taken in the past to start your business over again? Why have they worked or not worked?  Please share with us 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: http://on.fb.me/KsIN6P Pass it on!