All posts tagged time management

Five Ways to be Unforgettable

Five Ways to be Unforgettable

Five Ways to Unforgettable from http://dsef.orgThe most effective networkers and salespeople have certain qualities that make them unforgettable. Whether you are meeting a prospective customer or presenting a new marketing campaign to your staff, it is important that you leave a lasting impression. Your impression is as important as your content, so keep the following tips in mind when you want to leave a memorable impression.

1      Maintain a positive attitude. Your own attitude about what you are saying is the first thing that people will notice. Not only must you truly believe in your words, but you must display a positive attitude and enthusiasm as well. Demonstrate this with your bright smile and light-hearted tone of voice. Most importantly, let your personality shine through, and your positive attitude will be contagious.

2      Use logic in your presentation. Using facts and reason injects logic into your presentation, and if done effectively, can eliminate any doubt or hesitation. For instance, in a sales pitch to a prospective customer about high end cutlery, one experienced representative always asks the customer to show him the drawer full of cheaper, lower quality knives that are no doubt stashed in the kitchen. The salesperson then asks how often the customer must replace the utensils and how much it costs each time. After showing the prospect on paper the amount that has been spent on low quality products over the last ten years, he then presents the cost of his product to show that because it never needs replacing, the customer is actually saving money in the long run. Numbers don’t lie, so this is an effective way to use logic in a presentation.

3      Tap into emotions. Logic will take you far, but not all the way. Your prospect needs to feel something about your content in order to take immediate action. The cutlery salesperson can tap into a customer’s feeling of accomplishment after preparing a delicious meal for her family with ease. A team leader can tap into the staff’s excitement about beating out the competition with the new marketing strategy. Do your research ahead of time to find out the best way to appeal to people’s emotions.

4      Be concise. No matter how infused your presentation is with a positive attitude, logic, and emotional appeal, it will all mean nothing if you go on for too long. Say only what is necessary, and don’t lose focus by going off on tangents or straying from the topic at hand. Be respectful of others’ time and mindful of average attention spans.

5      End with a creative idea that has impact or something visually powerful. The ultimate part of your presentation must be memorable. Don’t waste the opportunity to pack one last punch by summing up what you’ve already said. End with a creative call to action or a stunning visual that will solidify your overall presentation. The cutlery representative, for example, strategically places his different product samples throughout the customer’s kitchen during the pitch, and ends with asking him or her to take a good look at this new and improved cooking space. Having given the customer’s kitchen a makeover of sorts has a lasting impact and provides a visual that is hard to refuse.

The keys to being unforgettable are to truly believe in what you are presenting and to infuse your own individuality into your pitch. What would you add to our list? Please share your ideas below!

Eight Ways to be a Great Leader

Eight Ways to be a Great Leader

Four business executives having meeting in boardroomEffective leadership is not an easy skill to master. It usually takes years and years of experience, trial and error, and self-reflection. However, the more others respect you as a leader, the more successful your business will be. Here are a few tips on how to become the kind of leader you’ve always wanted to be.

1      Keep your word. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. If you say you’re going to do something, be sure to follow through in a reasonable amount of time. You may have unanticipated circumstances arise, but a constant pattern of not doing what you said you would do will quickly cause others to lose their trust and respect. Giving someone your word should really mean something, so be sure to follow through.

2      Be inclusive, welcoming, and make others feel safe. There is nothing worse than an intimidating leader who only seems to associate with a select few. Include everyone from entry-level employees to team leaders and executives within a work environment that rewards hard work and fosters a collaborative feeling. If others are afraid of you, their work will suffer.

3      Encourage creative thinking. You want your employees to think outside the box, so the best way to get them to do this is to model it on a regular basis. When assigning a project, give a clear idea of what you want the outcome to be, and reinforce your desire for higher level thinking and creative ideas. Don’t let others be afraid to take risks.

4      Allow people to share ideas and concerns. You most likely will not agree with many of the ideas and concerns that are brought to your attention, but it is of utmost importance that those who work under you feel free to express them. A business is not a dictatorship, and you want your employees to know that their ideas have value. Give others a voice within your business. You never know what you could be overlooking.

5      Support others and help them grow. When someone makes a mistake or doesn’t seem to be up to par with their colleagues, don’t use it as a chance to knock them down. Give them the opportunity to improve by providing practical suggestions, frequent support, and positive reinforcement when possible. The same applies to those who are consistent achievers; make sure they know you appreciate their hard work and that they have your full support.

6      Keep things running smoothly. Efficiency is the key to a successful operation, so although you may have assigned others to only focus on certain areas of the business, it is your job to ensure that everyone is working together, communicating with each other, and contributing equally to the business as a whole.

7      Maintain an exciting and fun atmosphere. Don’t let the day-to-day goings-on take over the feel of your workplace. Incorporate excitement and fun by planning team-building activities, allowing others to express themselves in a way that is professional and light-hearted at the same time, and even tapping into your spontaneous side. One office manager picks a random day of each month to reward one member of her administrative staff with an employee of the month type of award that includes a silly trinket, a funny song to celebrate, and his or her favorite lunch. Make your business a place that people look forward to working each day.

8      Hold others accountable for their actions. Bending the rules for some and not for others is a slippery slope. If your employees begin to feel that there are different rules for different people, morale will go down and productivity will suffer. When a person messes up, acknowledge it and act on it appropriately. The same goes for people who do something exceptionally well. Be sure to acknowledge it and encourage them to keep up the good work.

You can become a great leader who is well-respected by making sure you level the playing field and encourage creativity and hard work. What are some other qualities you feel make an effective leader? Please share your ideas below!

Three Quick Time Management Tips

Three Quick Time Management Tips

MP900316784[1]Managing your time can be one of the most challenging aspects of small business ownership, especially since you likely take on many roles to maintain a thriving business. However, by implementing just a few quick and easy suggestions, you will find that successfully managing your time can become second nature. Take a look at the list below to see how to start maximizing your precious time right away.

  1. Make a goal and set a time limit. This goes for tasks both large and small. For example, if you need to contact three different referrals, this can most likely be done in the course of an hour. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to complete the task, but not so much time that you wind up procrastinating. For tasks or projects that are more involved, such as creating a new marketing campaign, set short-term and long-term goals. A short-term goal might be to brainstorm a list of ideas to market your business, so give yourself an hour or two to generate a comprehensive list. A long-term goal might be holding a marketing or opportunity event, so give yourself a reasonable amount of time to plan and hold the event. By setting limits, you can allow yourself to stay focused and motivated to finish on time.
  2. Find the best way to keep yourself on task. Identify your most common distractions, such as checking and updating social networking sites, or chatting with colleagues who stop by your office throughout the day. Once you’ve figured out what causes you to lose focus, identify what motivates you. Would it be a walk around the park on a sunny day during lunch? Your favorite frozen treat on the way home from work? Find someone or something that will keep you on task by helping you minimize or eliminate distractions, and use your motivators as a reward for staying focused. This takes a good amount of self-discipline, but what could be more worth it than your own business and financial success?
  3. Know why it needs to be done and what rewards come from completing your task. After awhile, some tasks can seem truly mundane. For example, filling out paperwork, proofreading documents, filing invoices, and paying bills are types of tasks that can make anyone want to roll their eyes at the thought. When faced with dreaded tasks, keep reminding yourself of the benefits of completing even the most trivial of tasks. Filing your invoices makes your life easier because it keeps you organized and saves time in the long run. Paying bills keeps your vendors happy, your business afloat, and gives you the ability to continue doing what you love. These subtle reminders can be an effective way to keep you on task no matter what you are doing.

Managing your time well will allow you to continually improve your business and keep moving it forward. 

Looking for additional time management tips? Start here:

What are your best time management tips? Please share with us below!

Five Things You Should Do Every Week to Build Momentum

Five Things You Should Do Every Week to Build Momentum

cheerupYour business should be in constant motion, moving forward all the time. If this does not happen, your business becomes static and can eventually fizzle. In order to build momentum consistently, you can do a few simple things that maintain your progress and renew your motivation. Start with this list to continue moving your business forward.

  • Connect and follow up socially. Schedule some time during each week when you review your contacts. Connect with those you haven’t corresponded with lately, and follow up with those you may have been playing phone tag with. When appropriate, arrange a social visit with contacts such as a lunch meeting or play date with your children. Interacting with contacts in a way that isn’t always about business will help you stay in touch and will make it easier to reach out to them professionally when the opportunity arises.
  • Assess and reflect. Don’t let too much time go by in between assessments of your business. Consider taking a look at a different aspect of your business each week. For example, this week will be devoted to assessing the quality of your customer service, while next week’s focus will be your social media presence. Reflect on each element by considering what works and what doesn’t, or what could use improvement.
  • Make adjustments. Using your findings from these weekly assessments, make the necessary adjustments. If you find that your Facebook page has lots of activity, but your blog is getting very few hits because you don’t post often enough, adjust your writing and sharing schedule to fix the problem. There is no need to tackle too much at once; remember that these assessments and adjustments should happen on a weekly or even monthly basis.  If you don’t finish or get too overwhelmed, put it aside and continue the work next week.
  • Network with influencers and mentors, and partner with others. Reach out to the people who have helped make your business possible. Network with them by asking for referrals or initiating a mutually beneficial partnership. One boutique owner was strongly influenced to start up her business by an old college friend who runs a successful weight loss/nutrition center. A good idea would be for the two of them to hold a joint promotional event where current and prospective customers can find services to complement ones they are already using. These opportunities can’t happen without frequent networking.
  • Be sociable. Make it a point to socialize with others whenever the chance occurs. Be friendly, ask questions to learn about others, listen carefully, and show that you truly care. It’s easy to get so caught up in our own work environment that we don’t take the time to venture out socially often enough. Give yourself this time at least once a week.

By working these momentum building activities into your weekly schedule, you are maintaining a successful business and taking steps to move it forward. How do you build momentum for your business? Please share your ideas below!

To get your free copy of the eBook, click here: 15 Days to Greater Success. You can download it from our Facebook Page. And while you’re there, you can download our other free eBooks too: Business Owner’s Road Map to SuccessCreating Your Success Mindset, and Reflections on Success. They’re all designed to give you an edge in your business, and help you focus on the daily practices that lead to your goals.

Please share this link with the business owners you know:

Are You Making These Mistakes in Business?

Are You Making These Mistakes in Business?

MP900289918[1]Throughout your career as a small business owner, you are bound to make the occasional mistake. No matter how prepared you are, how much research you have done, or how smart you and your team may be, mishaps are pretty much a guarantee. However, the good news is that as long as you accept them, take them in stride, and learn from them, the damage will usually be minimal. Here is a brief list of some common mistakes made by small business owners to help you steer clear of preventable missteps.

  • Inconsistency – Being consistent is an absolute must, whether it pertains to your company policies, customer service protocol, or any other aspect of the way your business operates. Inconsistency equals lack of reliability and will send your customers and staff running to your competitors. For example, your staff handbook clearly states that repeated lateness to work will result in first a warning, then a brief suspension, and finally dismissal. This policy is enforced for everyone except one employee you’ve known since college. Because you and your friend go back a long way, you have turned a blind eye when it comes to her tardiness. Not only is this unfair to the rest of your staff, but it puts a major dent in overall morale. When people feel that there are different sets of rules for different people, they become unhappy in their jobs, and their work suffers. Be fair and consistent in every aspect of your business.
  • Failure to stay in contact and/or follow up – Acquiring contacts through networking, referrals, or through family and mutual friends is a great way to grow your business. However, you must do your part to maintain such contacts. Implement time in your daily or weekly schedule to make follow-up calls, send friendly emails, or jot down a handwritten note to your contacts. These can be prior customers you haven’t seen in awhile, people you’ve recently met at industry events, or even prospective clients whose information was given to you by a friend. Be proactive and keep that contact list current.
  • Lack of online presence – Here we are in the year 2013. The importance of an online presence cannot be emphasized enough. Here’s some perspective: the current generation of 20-somethings has no memory of life without the internet and has been using social media their entire young adult and adult lives. You don’t need to get on every single networking site and try to be everything to everybody, but at the very least, have a user-friendly and informational company website as well as a current profile on one or two social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. If you don’t make this a priority, your competitors will easily get the best of you.
  • Neglecting to listen and respond to your clients – Most people frequent small businesses over their larger corporate counterparts because of the personalized attention they receive. Be sure to make it worth their while by listening to their concerns and responding to their wants and needs. Even if you can’t provide everything they’re looking for at the moment, knowing that you care and that they are being heard will ensure that they remain loyal customers in the long run.

Although many mistakes cannot be avoided, certain mistakes can. Use common sense, listen to others, be fair, and follow industry trends.

What other common mistakes would you add to our list? Please share your ideas below!

Three Ideas to Maximize Your Marketing

Three Ideas to Maximize Your Marketing

beprepareAs a small business owner, marketing is one of the most important things you do to keep your business growing. Don’t rely on guess work and speculation when putting together a marketing strategy; with thorough preparation, you can spend your marketing dollars wisely and get the best return possible on your investment. Here are three ways to maximize your marketing budget and efforts.

  1. Do research on clients first, and then use targeted ads and personal messaging. You should know exactly who is patronizing your business. Create a detailed profile of your typical client, including economic and social demographics. The more specifics you include, the better able you’ll be to target your efforts toward your intended audience. Once you’ve researched your clientele, create ads targeted to that specific population. Reach out to prospects on social networks with a professional message that peaks their interest in your business. For example, an independent nutritionist and mother of four, “Cheryl,” seeks to attract clients much like herself: busy moms who want to provide healthy and convenient meals for themselves and their families. She finds that most of her clients are working moms who have the extra income to spend on such a service, so she targets her ads to this population. To maximize this strategy, she also reaches out to certain personal contacts on her Facebook page, specifically people who have posted status updates about starting a new diet or workout regimen. By researching her clientele, Cheryl can focus her time and money in places where they will not be wasted.
  2. Promote the value of what you are selling. The best way to promote value is to emphasize the versatility of a product or service and how it is the solution to a problem.  Cheryl the nutritionist knows that her services can be costly, but in her marketing, she stresses the value of modeling a healthy lifestyle and instilling lifelong healthy eating habits in our children. She offers a sample grocery list to show potential clients how they can actually save money at the grocery store by buying fresh produce to make multiple meals that are easy to cook and will last the week. Her goal is for clients to see the value of a good education about what we put in our bodies. When it comes to our children, it’s a safe bet that most people will do whatever they can to establish good nutrition.
  3. Be social, fun, and unexpected. Don’t make the mistake of relying on electronic and print ads to connect with your potential customers. Socialize in person and tap into your fun, spontaneous side. Cheryl threw a party to welcome a new neighbor to her street, and provided snacks and a meal from her personalized menu. Anytime someone complimented her on the food, she had an open introduction to point out how easy it was to prepare and how nutritious it was. Find ways to incorporate some personal flair into your business.

The goal for any marketing campaign is to spend your money wisely so as to increase revenue as much as possible. Research your clientele, focus on value, and have fun with it.

What other ideas would you add to our list? Please share them in the comments section below!

Seven Ways to Energize Your Business

Seven Ways to Energize Your Business

atargetWhen you have been doing something for a long time, it’s easy to become stuck in a rut. Routine is comforting, but it also has its downside. Sticking with the same routine for too long can cause you to become complacent and stop you from seeking continual improvement. In times like these, it is important to energize your business. Review the list below to find ways to refocus your efforts and keep your business on the path to success.

  • Establish priorities. There are likely many projects you’d like to tackle or new policies/products/protocols you’d like to implement. Getting started can be an overwhelming endeavor because it can be difficult to know where to begin. Establish your priorities by making a comprehensive list of everything you would ideally like to accomplish. Once the list is complete, choose one or two things that you can get started on right away. Choose wisely; what can be of most benefit to your business immediately? Prioritizing a list like this takes the stress off and allows you to focus on one thing at a time with the comfort of knowing where you will go from here.
  • Be as efficient as possible. For example, if you are in the midst of a project and have to stop to email a colleague for more information in order to continue, don’t waste the time you have waiting for the response. It’s tempting to take those few minutes to browse your Twitter feed or whittle the time away on Pinterest. Instead of giving into distractions, keep a running list of other tasks that you can work on. Is there a prospect that you could follow up with? A filing cabinet that could use some organizing? Although it is important to work in some down time, it is just as imperative that you maximize your time by working efficiently.
  • Combine your work with different areas of your life. This isn’t always possible, but when it is, build your life around your work. If there is a weekend-long industry convention you’d like to attend, consider making it a long weekend and taking your family with you. This way, you can attend the workshops and get in some networking. Once your work is finished, you have a day or two to enjoy the area with your family. When you can do this, you are less likely to feel pulled away from your home life by work and vice versa.
  • Actively manage your time and stop wasting it. For some, this comes easily. For others, it’s a constant struggle. If necessary, make a daily or weekly agenda for yourself. Expect to not be able to stick to every scheduled minute, but with a basic outline of how you want to spend your time, you’ll be better able to stay on track.
  • Commit to learning new things. Professional development is an investment of both money and time into your business. Without continuing your learning, you are missing out on what could be valuable tools to run your business successfully. It doesn’t always have to be a formal workshop or convention either; commit to listening to an industry expert’s audio book once a month or reading some small business blogs once or twice a week. Always be on the lookout for new learning opportunities. These will keep your ideas fresh and your business moving forward.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff. There are going to be many bumps in the road, but learn how to cope with minor inconveniences in a different way from how you cope with major setbacks. The more you let the small things roll off your back, the easier it will be for you to handle major decisions and more important stressors.
  • Laugh more. Hopefully, you enjoy what you do. Take the time to be grateful for what you have built, enjoy the people you do business with, and laugh when something is funny! Finding the humor in everyday life makes for a happier person.

How have you gotten yourself out of a rut and energized your business? Please share your ideas below!

Three Networking Mistakes

Three Networking Mistakes

Woman Talking During Job InterviewSuccessful networking is a necessary part of growing your business and taking it to the next level.  Doing so requires a certain amount of social grace, including the ability to engage people in conversation and making them feel comfortable. 

Avoid these three common mistakes when networking and stand out among the crowd in a positive way.

  • Focus on building relationships. This will allow for long-term planning. Even if this contact can’t help you in your endeavor right now, the opportunity may arise in the future for this person to offer something of value to your business. Give something of yourself when establishing professional relationships. For example, a dance studio owner/dance teacher looking to expand her clientele by offering classes for children under 5 years old holds an open house for prospective students and their parents. When speaking with some of the parents individually, she asks each one why they would like to start the child in a dance class and offers a free demo class as well as a discounted private lesson for those interested in joining her studio. The parents recognize that the teacher is giving her time and expertise so they may have a risk-free trial before committing to a year of classes. This also allows the teacher to get to know her future students and show the parents that she truly cares about their early dance education.
  • Don’t play the role of counselor; keep the conversation social and friendly. An initial introduction is not the time to offer unsolicited advice on the topic at hand. Make sure the conversation centers around common interests. The dance teacher shares her own stories about how she got started at a young age, which helps prospects relate to her on a more personal level. This is more effective than preaching her philosophy on why children should start their dance classes as soon as possible. A light-hearted conversational tone is best in networking situations.
  • Digging too deeply into people’s lives makes them uncomfortable. Although you do want to build a relationship and find out a bit more about the person, be careful not to pry into their personal lives. One mother of twins attending a demo gymnastics class with her children finds herself being asked by total strangers if she used fertility treatments to conceive. A seemingly innocent question made in social conversation is actually quite personal. Don’t make the same mistake. Let the other person guide you in how much they are willing to share, but err on the side of caution when asking personal questions.

Just like many other aspects of your business, networking takes practice. The more you do it, the better you become. You can’t avoid making some mistakes; that is to be expected. However, by steering clear of certain downfalls, you can more quickly get on the road to networking success.

What advice would you give for successful networking? Please share your comments below!

Three Ideas to Keep Your Business Growing

Three Ideas to Keep Your Business Growing

Three Ideas to Keep Your Business Growing

When planning for the long term success of your business, your focus should be on moving forward with such things as industry trends and customer demands. You’ll want to make sure you’re planning to grow your business in a realistic way. Without a focus on improvement, your business becomes stagnant and will not grow. The following ideas are simple adjustments you can make for yourself to keep your business growing.

  1. Reward yourself for positive results, not for effort. You may feel as if all the hours and creative energy you put into running your business deserves its own Nobel Prize. While it’s definitely commendable that you devote yourself so fiercely to the business, hold off on rewarding yourself until you actually see positive results. For example, you’ve spent countless hours researching how to design the most efficient online ordering system and even more hours implementing it. Now you’re ready to take that long-awaited holiday weekend trip. But instead of laying out lots of cash, the smarter approach would be to reward yourself with a latte, and then await the results that come from this new system. By doing so, you ensure your physical presence if there are unforeseen problems and you maintain your focus on quality and efficiency. Once you’ve gotten positive feedback and that increase in orders you were hoping for, then you can pack the car and head out of town.
  2. Be flexible; that’s why you have your own business. Being your own boss has allowed you to create your own work schedule and everyday operating protocol, hand-pick your team, and run this business in a way that works for you. Keep this in mind when things don’t go as planned. Your flexibility is crucial to staff morale, customer satisfaction, and the overall success of your business. One recently retired photo lab owner spent most of his career and gathered much of his success by running the lab efficiently and being knowledgeable about each photo processing machine. However, when the industry went digital and photo processing started to become a thing of the past, it was time for him to modify his whole business model to compete with big business processing chains and the at-home photo printing and scrapbooking revolution. By adjusting to these new ideas and thinking creatively, he was able to spend the final years of his career in the business that he loved, instead of shutting down like so many of his counterparts had to do.
  3. Pay yourself fairly, but not too much. You may have a pre-conceived notion about how much you want to make each month or year, but make sure this is a fair amount based on the financial state of your business. There will be times when your profits fall short of those expectations, so it may be necessary to take a pay cut. On the other hand, when business is booming, don’t be tempted to pay yourself too much. Plan for a rainy day by putting some money back into the business and/or by rewarding deserving staff with appropriate bonuses. It’s important to frequently assess your salary and adjust it accordingly.

You can keep your business growing and achieve your goals in low-cost or no-cost ways by being disciplined, flexible, and fair. Always strive for these qualities in yourself and your colleagues.

How do you keep your business growing? Please share your ideas below!



Time for a Small Business Check-Up

Time for a Small Business Check-Up

Woman Writing on Pad of PaperWhen was the last time you performed a check-up on your business? It’s an important practice. Think of it like maintenance on your car: every three months or 3,000 miles, you change the oil, rotate the tires, and possibly top off the fluids and check the engine. Doing so will help you identify and correct small problems, in order to keep your car running smoothly for years to come. The same goes for your business. By regularly scheduling a review of your business activities, you can make sure you focus on the things that are helping your business grow, while correcting things that would hold you back.

When performing your small business check-up, here are some of the elements on which you should focus:

  • Review your finances, looking for ways to reduce expenses and maximize profits. For example, you’ve been purchasing your office supplies from the same distributor for many years. Do some research to make sure you’re still getting the best price. Furthermore, reduce expenses by eliminating non-essentials. Take note of what you use on an everyday basis for about a week to figure out where you might be able to cut back.
  • Use a third party to help you objectively assess risks and weaknesses. For any risks you have recently taken or are thinking of taking, seek a third party’s perspective. They may be able to help you catch a detail you have missed. For example, one local children’s boutique owner is thinking about changing locations to gain more space for her expanding product line. She asked the opinion of a friend who lives in the area of the prospective location, who quickly informed her that although the location gets a good amount of foot traffic, most of the clientele is not her target market. This is a valuable piece of information that could have a make or break effect on the business.
  • Consider each of your business processes from start to end. What happens from the time a customer enters your business for the first time to the moment he or she leaves? Is the person greeted cordially, offered assistance and given it accordingly, served promptly, and treated with respect? Customer service is a major aspect of your business and its process deserves frequent review and improvement. Give the same attention to each of your processes when conducting your business check-up.
  • Review your overall strategy and make necessary adjustments. Is your strategy to reach the widest customer base possible? Do you strive to carve out a niche market and cater to a specific few? Whatever strategy you have laid out for the success of your business needs careful and frequent review. Create a list of what is working and what isn’t. Make adjustments where they are needed, and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback and help.

The long-term success of your business will only happen if you tend to the details on a regular basis. Some areas may need more attention than others, but reviewing these aspects often will help you avoid potential setbacks, and focus on the growth of your business.

How do you check up on your business? Please share your ideas below!