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Tools for accountability

Tools for accountability

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Every expert needs tools in order to do what they do. For example, take away their piping tips and smoother, and the cake decorator may not deliver on the design you ordered. Or just imagine the outcome if your accountant had to file tax returns without a computer. Similarly, entrepreneurs are at their best when they use tools for accountability. After all, business owners don’t have the structure a reporting system. They are entirely self-driven. And by nature, entrepreneurs are motivated and full of ideas. Which can actually be a challenge, because new projects and prospects pop up as distractions. Therefore, tools for accountability are critical for entrepreneurs to be effective and focused. Here are 5 kinds of tools for accountability every business owner should include in their workflow and routine.

What is accountability for entrepreneurs?

First of all, to clarify what is accountability for entrepreneurs. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘accountability’ is the quality of being held liable for one’s conduct and performance of duties. What does that mean for a business owner? Well, because an entrepreneur has many responsibilities, the nature of their accountability varies. Suppliers would say it’s paying invoices on time. For employees, it’s following through on paying wages, managing performance, and being responsive. Meanwhile, for the government, it’s compliance with tax filings, remittances, and permits.

Here, we mean tools for accountability that support the entrepreneur’s role as a leader. Building a successful business requires not only a strategic plan, but taking consistent action to follow it. Results don’t happen when projects are picked up and put down without being fully executed. So these tools for accountability are tactics a business owner can use to help them stay on track and organized, so that they can follow through on all their plans and ideas. 

Time Tracking Tools

Keeping track of time is a foundation of staying accountable. After all, how can targets be set when you don’t know how long things will take? This just leads to failure and frustration. For example, I coached a salon owner who was moving into a bigger studio space. When she listed all the things she planned to do before our next call, I itemised them and then asked her to estimate how long each task required. By the end of the list, she realized that there were not enough hours in the week to get it all done. By readjusting her timeframe and expectations, she avoided the stress of overwork, and that awful feeling of not getting anywhere. Having reasonable targets she can achieve creates a pattern of feeling accomplished, which builds momentum. Also, it improves her leadership skills, because she can then communicate accurate time frames when talking to her staff about the upcoming move.

  • Toggl Track is a full-scope time tracker that gives business owners data to make decisions relating to project planning, hiring, and workflow
  • Clockify has a free forever plan and excellent reporting functions

Calendars and Reminders

Our devices have tools for accountability built in. Use these free apps to streamline bookings, appointments, and reminders. These are designed to sync between mobile and laptop, so events and notes can be entered anywhere you are logged in. This prevents double bookings, missed meetings, or forgetting deadlines. For example, schedule tax remittances and government filings, and reminders for performance reviews, policy renewals, and software updates.

  • Google Calendar
  • Reminders

CRM

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software is one of top tools for accountability for owners of a service business. It’s a way to keep track of all client communication and preferences. Since building trust with customers is so critical in a service business, a CRM eases and even automates timely communication and personalization. Used correctly, a CRM has the power to level up the customer experience of a company and create a competitive advantage. It also centralizes information, which means important details don’t get lost in notes or emails. So if you agree to call a client with an update in 3 weeks, schedule it in the CRM. On the right day, the task with relevant data pops up so you can follow through to the promise made to your customer. A CRM is so valuable for staying accountable around communication and meetings. Also, a CRM allows entrepreneurs to delegate tasks to staff and monitor activity, which raises the bar of accountability across the whole team.

Recommended Reading

CRMs to try

  • Agile CRM has all the basic tools, and can grow with your business to add on more features and tools as you need them

 

  • Zoho CRM has a free plan, is scalable, and integrates with many other tools

Recommended Reading

CRMs to try

  • Agile CRM has all the basic tools, and can grow with your business to add on more features and tools as you need them

 

  • Zoho CRM has a free plan, is scalable, and integrates with many other tools

Bookkeeping

This seems obvious, but actually, many entrepreneurs fall behind on bookkeeping. Also, it’s not unusual for a business to outgrow the bookkeeping system it started out with. Or, that all the available functions are not fully integrated into operations. For example, receipts sit in an email box instead of being attached to transactions, or invoices don’t flow in a timely manner to an A/P process. Staying on top of finances is critical for business owners, because unpaid invoices and a mess at tax time is stressful. So using a strong bookkeeping system is one of the most important tools for accountability so an entrepreneur can manage cash flow, expense tracking, and tax responsibilities. 

  • QuickBooks allows for expense tracking and budget monitoring as well as robust features to integrate employee time keeping, payroll, and creating quotes for potential customers
  • FreeAgent is an easy to use full featured bookkeeping software that gives a service business owner all the tools needed to manage expense tracking, invoicing, payroll, and reporting.

Accountability Partner

Technology has transformed how we live, learn, work, and communicate. I value it and the ability to work with clients all over the world. Using the tech available is smart, but it’s not complete without the human aspect. An accountability partner is an important tactic to get feedback, clarity, and perspective. Here are 3 valuable tools for accountability that are known to elevate performance and results for entrepreneurs.

Mentoring

Mentoring can be  informal or structured. It can be a casual monthly coffee meeting with an expert in your sector. Or, it could be a structured arrangement to provide guidance through a particular project or stage of business transformation. Though many mentoring relationships are volunteer based, some are paid.  Get started by reading  How to Find the Right Mentor for You.

 

Mastermind Group

Mastermind groups are ideal for brainstorming and accountability. Like-minded people can gather to share expertise, get feedback, and stay on track with targets. Mastermind groups can be ongoing or for a specific length of time.  And of course, they can be in person or online. Read ​​7 ways to Find a Mastermind Group from the Mastermind experts at The Success Alliance. 

Business Coaching

Business Coaching is not just about strategic planning, it’s also effective as an accountability partner. I frequently hear clients tell me that they finished all the items on their action list the day before our session, because they didn’t want to show up without it done. Quite simply, deadlines work! No one likes to be the only kid in class who didn’t do their homework. Choosing the right business coach is important. Book a free call with me to chat about where you are at with your business, and where you want to be. 

Habits and Tools for Accountability

Learning new software may seem daunting. And changing habits is never easy. However, it’s worth the effort to incorporate tools for accountability into operations and workflow. Though it may take some time and effort to set up, the payoff is enormous. By streamlining tasks, setting reminders, and accessing financial reporting, business owners can stay accountable to their responsibilities as a leader and strategic planner. Also, connecting with a mentor, mastermind group, or business coach will provide all the benefits and support of an accountability partner. These tactics all combine to help an entrepreneur achieve their business goals.

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top 3 regrets as an entrepreneur

Big 3 regrets as an entrepreneur

Regrets.

It’s my personal philosophy to live a life without regrets. Which makes it a challenge to share here that yes, I have a few. 

Especially as it relates to the service business franchise system I ran for 20 years. I started from zero in a corner of my basement and built it to a 7-figure system with 5 locations in 3 cities. But even with all that success, I can reflect now and see a few things I wish I’d done differently. No matter where you are in your business journey, avoid these big 3 regrets as an entrepreneur.

1. Underpaying myself

Show me the money.

Clearly, people get into business to make money. And my business did make money. My big regret is that I didn’t put more of it into my own pocket.

Sure, pushing profits back into a business is a smart strategy for growth. 

And yes, paying competitive wages is important for building a strong team.

But how many times did I budget year-end bonuses for my management staff and employees, but skipped out on paying myself? 

Most years, in fact. And why?

There is no simple answer for that. Actually, there is. Basically a matter of where my money mindset was at the time. 

The point is, looking back now this is a big regret. Which may be one of the reasons why as a business coach I always talk about personal financial goals with my clients.

2. Working too much

Big 3 regrets as an entrepreneur

 

How much is working too much? This is very subjective. For some people, a 50-60 hour work week is normal. And they thrive with it.

For others, working more than 4 days a week is too much. 

For me, my regret is that I worked a schedule that left me little time for my own physical and mental health. My own wellness was not a priority. In fact, it wasn’t even on the list.

At the time, I was proud of myself for a strong work-life balance. Mompreneur magazine profiled me as an example of someone who was doing it all – raising daughters and building a successful business. And sure, I had the flexibility to be there when the school bus arrived in the afternoons.

But I also had the flexibility to work on the weekends, and to work after my kids went to sleep, deep into the early hours of the morning.

Most of the time, my schedule was packed with working on the business, managing my household, and looking after my daughters. There was very little time to look after my own self-care. Or to look after my marriage. And ultimately, I lost out because of it. So working too much may be my biggest regret as an entrepreneur. 

After all, having control over the schedule is one of the many benefits of owning your own business. So build a strong boundary between life and work, and schedule time AWAY from the business. This will not just improve the quality of your own life and health – it will also prevent burnout and improve your productivity for the time you do spend on your business.

2. Working too much

Big 3 regrets as an entrepreneur

 

How much is working too much? This is very subjective. For some people, a 50-60 hour work week is normal. And they thrive with it.

For others, working more than 4 days a week is too much. 

For me, my regret is that I worked a schedule that left me little time for my own physical and mental health. My own wellness was not a priority. In fact, it wasn’t even on the list.

At the time, I was proud of myself for a strong work-life balance. Mompreneur magazine profiled me as an example of someone who was doing it all – raising daughters and building a successful business. And sure, I had the flexibility to be there when the school bus arrived in the afternoons.

But I also had the flexibility to work on the weekends, and to work after my kids went to sleep, deep into the early hours of the morning.

Most of the time, my schedule was packed with working on the business, managing my household, and looking after my daughters. There was very little time to look after my own self-care. Or to look after my marriage. And ultimately, I lost out because of it. So working too much may be my biggest regret as an entrepreneur. 

After all, having control over the schedule is one of the many benefits of owning your own business. So build a strong boundary between life and work, and schedule time AWAY from the business. This will not just improve the quality of your own life and health – it will also prevent burnout and improve your productivity for the time you do spend on your business.

3. Not working with a business coach

Yes, this seems obvious, and perhaps self-serving given that now I work as an entrepreneur coach. But it is BECAUSE of my experience as an entrepreneur that I’m so passionate about the value of coaching for small business owners.

I worked with a coach when I started my last business. I’d been in a cushy corporate job which sucked the soul out of me every time I entered that grey floor of stale cubicles. But building a new business felt overwhelming. On one hand, I had such a long list of action items that I didn’t know where to start. On the other hand, I was worried that I was missing something important.

Working with my business coach gave me structure and accountability. She validated my ideas. She gave me insight and advice which pushed my business forward by MONTHS. Her perspective and experience eliminated many operational and marketing mistakes which saved me time and money. The ROI was clear.

So why did I stop working with a business coach?

Maybe I felt that I’d learned enough from her. And that I could manage the rest on my own. Now, I see that a better choice would have been to find a coach that better fit for where me AND my business was at the time. Ongoing monthly coaching calls would have given me perspective and insight which could have prevented all sorts of hassles and issues in my business.

The irony is that if I had kept working with a business coach, I likely wouldn’t have the first 2 regrets. Because a good coach would have checked in that my personal financial goals were being met. And that I was taking the time to take care of me, not just my business and my children.

Guide for entrepreneurs to avoid regret

Each entrepreneur has their own individual set of goals and expectations for being in business. There is no one list that suits everyone. Use these big 3 regrets as an entrepreneur to inspire you to reflect on your values. 

Overall, consider what you wanted to achieve when you first started your business. And not just lifestyle and income. Also think of how often you work, and what you spend your time working on. I recommend using the Vivid Vision process by Cameron Herold to develop a clear set of goals for what you want your business to feel like, look like, and act like.

Then, check in where you are now in your lifestyle, income, work schedule, and business. What doesn’t match up with that vivid vision? Use this to get clear about the gaps so you can make a list of changes to make.

Finally, when doing this review process, don’t dwell on any regrets that may come up. It’s easy to fall into that “should have” and “could have” thinking. However, what is past is past. Embrace the opportunity for change now. Remember the lesson of  hagstones, and how small changes repeated over time have HUGE impact. Celebrate that you are being proactive now in doing the work to make your experience as an entrepreneur everything that you want it to be. 

And of course, if you want structure and accountability to help you with this process, let’s connect to talk about it.

AVOID REGRET with this guide for entrepreneurs

Each entrepreneur has their own individual set of goals and expectations for being in business. There is no one list that suits everyone. Use these big 3 regrets as an entrepreneur to inspire you to reflect on your values. 

Overall, consider what you wanted to achieve when you first started your business. And not just lifestyle and income. Also think of how often you work, and what you spend your time working on. I recommend using the Vivid Vision process by Cameron Herold to develop a clear set of goals for what you want your business to feel like, look like, and act like.

 

Then, check in where you are now in your lifestyle, income, work schedule, and business. What doesn’t match up with that vivid vision? Use this to get clear about the gaps so you can make a list of changes to make.

Finally, when doing this review process, don’t dwell on any regrets that may come up. It’s easy to fall into that “should have” and “could have” thinking. However, what is past is past. Embrace the opportunity for change now. Remember the lesson of  hagstones, and how small changes repeated over time have HUGE impact. Celebrate that you are being proactive now in doing the work to make your experience as an entrepreneur everything that you want it to be. 

And of course, if you want structure and accountability to help you with this process, let’s connect to talk about it.

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Famous Introverts

Famous Introverts

It’s a myth that to succeed in business, you need to be an extrovert. Because there are famous introverts who prove that otherwise.

Surprisingly, being a leader, talking to the media, and being OUT THERE does not have to mean being the sort of person who is comfortable with that. In fact, famous introverted leaders like Oprah Winfrey and Wendy Kopp have successfully built teams, brands, and wealth.

How did they do it? They understood that the attributes of being an introvert are also the same characteristics of great leaders and CEOs. Rather than trying to change their true nature, they embraced it.

Next are 3 lessons from famous introverts which may inspire you to see the advantages of your introverted nature.

This post may contain affiliate links. I will receive a small commission if you use these links, at no additional cost to you. For the full disclosure, visit this page.

Lessons from famous introverts

1. Listen

As Richard Branson said, “listen more than you talk”. Listening to people is widely recognized as a valuable skill which contributes to business success. So listen to staff, to suppliers, and to customers. This is more than hearing the words. Listen to the intention behind what is being said, and be open to what may arise from it. In the very early days of Airbnb, Brian Chesky stayed with hosts and listened to what they liked about the platform. Those listening skills contributed to developing features and functionalities which contributed to their success. For example, the initial concept required the host to be home and prepare breakfast for their guest – that other B in Airbnb. It was against the rules to rent unoccupied space. It was only after listening to hosts share why they wanted to rent their vacant places that they changed their policies. And as they say, the rest is history.

2. Research

By research, I mean read. Highly successful famous introverts all tend to read. Mark Zuckerberg has said he likes to read about different cultures, histories, and technologies. Mark Cuban credits reading 3 hours a day with gaining a competitive advantage early in his career. He researched everything available about the sector he wanted to succeed in so that he was the most knowledgeable person in the room. And of course, Oprah Winfrey leveraged her love of reading to build her brand and expand her media empire. Oprah’s Book Club selections launched careers and bought houses.

3. Reflect

Famous introverts teach us that ideas and innovation comes from taking the time to reflect. Inspiration is often found in the quiet spaces between thoughts. The famous “eureka” moment came when Archimedes was lounging in the bathtub. Newton was contemplating alone under a tree when that falling apple inspired him.

Bill Gates has his Think Weeks where he turns off technology and takes time to process. He takes a whole week alone to reflect on what he has read, learned, and experienced. Going away for a full week is not available for everyone. There are many strategies you can build into your regular schedule so that you gain the advantage of regular reflection. For example, meditation, yoga, walking, and my personal favourite – journalling.

These 3 attributes work together, combining as a superpower for introverts who can leverage these into competitive advantages to build their business.

Famous Introverts

Best books for introverts

These are the best books for introverts who are at any stage of entrepreneurship. 

by Susan Cain

This book changed my life. If you’ve ever thought that you have to be an extrovert to be successful, this is a must-read. Her research into the physiology and brain chemistry of introverts reframed my perspective of myself.

by Dr Jennifer Kahnweiler

This book is less data and more action plan. She sets out a specific strategy to succeed in a world seemingly designed for extroverts.

 by Sophia Dembling

A happy balance between the last 2 books, this one is motivational and encouraging. Reading this will support self-acceptance, and boost appreciation of the advantages introverts have.

by Marti Olsen Laney

Let’s face it. This is a world where extroverts get the attention and pull focus from highly capable people who just happen to be introverts. Read this book to learn strategies and tactics for how to cope and succeed in a room of extroverts. 

Conclusion

For all the famous introverts on the covers on business magazines and doing high-profile media appearances, there are countless other entrepreneurs who have leveraged their introverted nature to build success, out of the spotlight. Overall, it’s most important to embrace the attributes of what makes you, you – and use these superpowers to achieve your entrepreneurial dreams.

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What is body doubling

What is body doubling

If you’ve wondered what is body doubling, read on to understand how it’s a thing that can transform your productivity and focus. I’ll be honest. When I first heard the term, I thought it sounded like something out of science fiction. As in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” – some form of nefarious replacement of humans with something….else. But I soon learned that it is a radical and very post-pandemic method of working that every entrepreneur and business owner can benefit from.

Why I looked for body doubling

First, I’ll share how I discovered body doubling. It was summer of 2023 and I had left my home base in the UK to travel full time as an entrepreneur coach. My routine back in London had been to spend the day at a coworking space. This had a number of advantages. It gave me a workplace separate from my home, which is so valuable for mental health and balance. Although working from home has many benefits, it can also be challenging to have a life and a business in the same space. It’s healthy to create a boundary between the personal and the professional.

What is body doubling
My favourite spot at my London coworking space

Also, it gave structure to my day, because this coworking space had only hot desks available. Which meant that if I arrived  first thing in the morning, I could pick my favourite spot by the window, near the water cooler. But if I procrastinated and rolled in later, I could end up squished in a corner seat. Therefore, it motivated me to stay on schedule and show up on time.

And finally, the energy of being in a room of people all working online was invigorating. Sure, people work at a coffee shop, but there are also friends talking and the noisy chatter of small children. It’s social. At a coworking space, it’s all about work. Certainly, people have friendly conversations. But the whole purpose of being there is to work. Which is a great space to focus and be productive.

Finding body doubling

Therefore, in the summer of 2023, my first task as a full time digital nomad was to find a place to work. And to create a routine and structure that would provide all the benefits of my co-working space in London. I spent my first month on the road in Tunis, where I did find a charming coworking space in the medina. Then I went to Canada to spend time with family. And this is when I learned about body doubling.

Although there were co-working spaces in the city where I stayed, nothing was a good fit. Because there was no parking, or it was a long commute. All the usual reasons why people choose to work from home in the first place. Also, some were not friendly for the needs of a digital nomad, and required a long contract.

So I pivoted, and started to search for alternatives. I don’t know what combination of words I used in Google. But when I came across “what is body doubling” I was immediately curious. And then relieved that it wasn’t something out of science fiction!

What is body doubling
Near my coworking space in the ancient medina of Tunis.

What is body doubling

I soon learned that body doubling is the online version of being in a co-working space. That it’s a digital room where people can show up to work. Think of a Zoom meeting, but more purpose and structure. Sessions are scheduled throughout the day to accommodate all time zones. There are 60, 90, 120, and even 180 minute sessions available. Each session has a host who leads the 5 minute block at the start and end of every session. These are the 5 minutes when everyone in the session can share what they are working on. It’s a powerful method to create accountability. It’s subtle, and it works. Because joining a body doubling session for 1 hour and stating your goal does help a person stay focused. If only because it is so satisfying to mark that goal complete at the end of the session.

My body doubling experience

My very first experience with body doubling was late summer 2023, when I joined a Flow Club session. What I loved first was its very open and accepting culture. Everyone there was free to do what worked best for them. The camera can be on or off. Share your goals out loud, or use the chat window. Listen to whatever music the host is playing, listen to your own stuff, or work in silence. And most of all, it was inspiring to see the many ways that people were using body doubling to be productive and get shit done in their life and their business.

For example, there were people starting their day, using body doubling to keep them on track with a morning routine of exercise, meditation, and journaling. Then there were people following an evening routine of reflection and planning. Some used a session to focus on administrative tasks or to finish a specific project. Others were students working to meet a big academic deadline. Which made me wish I’d discovered body doubling when I was finishing my MBA. I am sure it would have saved me from hours of stressful procrastination! 

Flow Club for productivity

Of course, there were other entrepreneurs, just like me. Running a business can be isolating, so this is another benefit of body doubling. Flow Club is a group of people who work online for one reason or the other. I soon discovered that by joining sessions regularly, I’d see the same people. Seeing familiar faces gave me the same sense of community I experienced going to the coworking space. It’s the same vibe of being friendly, yet also focused on the tasks at hand.

Overall, I honestly believe that Flow Club has transformed how I work. When I plan out my week every Sunday, I book sessions around when I have coaching calls with clients. This creates focused blocks of time to work on client projects. It also creates space to work on the important tasks of analysis and planning that every business owner should spend time on. When I really want to create accountability for my schedule, I host a session. Because the responsibility of being a host will certainly get me to show up and get into the flow of working.

If you are an entrepreneur and ready for a safe space to work productively ON your business, I highly recommend you check out Flow Club. There are over 1,500 weekly sessions to choose from! The focus and accountability of body doubling gives a huge return for owners of small and medium size businesses. Completing tasks, getting confetti, sharing frustrations, and hearing the encouragement of others is priceless. 

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Best Habits for Entrepreneurs

Best Habits for Entrepreneurs

With 2023 coming to a close, talk tends to turn to New Year resolutions. Personally, I see each day as the start of a new 365 day cycle. Essentially, every day is an opportunity to begin a transformation. However, I do appreciate how the crispness of a fresh year is motivating. To inspire your 2024 resolutions for your business, here is a list of the best habits for entrepreneurs.

What are habits?

First, let’s get clear on the definition of habits. Habits are behaviours and choices you make regularly. These are frequently automatic, unconscious actions, like scrolling through your phone while having that first cup of coffee.

According to James Clear, the author of the groundbreaking Atomic Habits book, research has shown that habits account for about 40% of our behaviours on any given day. And each individual small habit may seem insignificant on its own. However, as it is repeated again and again over time, the aggregate effect is enormous. Think of a leaky tap. It’s just one drop at a time, but after enough hours pass, the sink would overflow and flood the room.

This is what I find so inspiring about hagstones – they are proof that small actions over time have the power to create breakthroughs and significant change. Which is why these best habits for entrepreneurs are valuable for service business owners looking to level up in 2024.

Best Habits for Small Business Management

Keeping on top of business management functions is one of the best habits for entrepreneurs. When these tasks slide, it creates problems which can be costly and stressful to resolve. Therefore, it is important to maintain these regularly.

1.Bookkeeping

Ok, this is boring stuff, but it is important. When bookkeeping is updated monthly, financial reports can be reviewed to track budgets and monitor results. This includes monthly and annual tax filings for employee remittances, government tax submissions, and any required reporting.

2. Journaling

The habit of keeping a journal creates space to reflect and brainstorm. It’s useful for small business management as a safe place to record ideas and vent frustrations. 

For more, read How to start a journal to increase success as an entrepreneur

3. Taking a break from business

Certainly, it seems counterintuitive to say that taking time away is a good habit for small business management. However, burnout for entrepreneurs is real. So making a habit of time for fun, rest, and relaxation benefits the business. After all, when an owner is exhausted, it negatively impacts their ability to manage effectively.

Best Habits for Team Building

Even a small team benefits from team building. Doing these activities regularly will create stronger communication and cooperation, which improves productivity. 

1. Hold regular meetings

This could be a monthly review of KPIs, or weekly share of projects and priorities. Keep it short and meaningful to boost staff engagement. 

2. Build a feedback loop

To create a supportive environment, make sure there is a feedback loop to hear from your team. While a structured annual performance management review is valuable, also make regular check-ins a habit. Monitor mood and performance for changes. Give them an opportunity to share concerns and ask questions. 

3. Reward and recognition

Does your team know when they are doing well? Make reward and recognition a habit. This can be as simple as sharing when someone has gone above and beyond. Also, you could build a structured system of earning points to be redeemed for paid time off, a cash bonus, or a gift card. 

Best Habits for Strategic Planning

It is not unusual for business owners to be so involved in daily operations that no time is spent on review and analysis. The best habits for entrepreneurs in 2024 include these strategic planning activities.

Best Habits for Entrepreneurs

1. Monitor KPIs

Not sure what this is? Read What are KPIs.

How do you know how your business is doing if you don’t monitor metrics? Numbers don’t lie. Make it a habit to regularly review performance, output, quality, and financials. Compare current results with last month or last quarter, and also look at the difference year over year. This is a valuable habit of small business management which drives decision making. 

2. Competitor analysis

Make it a habit to keep track of what competitors are doing. For example, if part of your growth strategy relies on a specific competitive advantage, that may shift depending on what your competitors are doing. Smart strategic planning requires understanding what similar businesses are doing. Otherwise, how will you know how to stay competitive, and spot opportunities to grow?

3. Review market and sector

Also, regularly check in with trends and changes in your sector. Consumer expectations shift over time. And changes in technology impacts productivity and profit margins. Therefore, make it a habit to stay informed and up to date with political, technological, and societal changes that impact your strategic plans.

Overall Best Habits for Entrepreneurs

As shown above, actions repeated regularly over time creates meaningful results. By making these activities a habit, entrepreneurs develop strong business management skills. Remember that where your business is now is a direct result of habit and behaviours of the past. Finally, embrace these habits in 2024 to level up and grow your business.

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Can entrepreneurship be learned

Can entrepreneurship be learned?

Can entrepreneurship be learned? This is a thread of the timeless argument of nature vs nurture. Can someone be taught how to start and grow their own business, or are entrepreneurs just born this way? A scan of founder bios suggests the latter.

Afterall, Shopify was started by a photographer, a coding guy, and a jock. Also, Airbnb was founded by two industrial designers and a software engineer. Not one business degree between them. But the answer is not so clear-cut. Because though someone may have entrepreneurial qualities in their nature, it is often due to nurturing that they achieve success.

The Entrepreneurial Nature

First, what does it mean to be entrepreneurial, or to have an entrepreneur mindset? Academics have studied what is different about entrepreneurs, and what they all have in common. Many psychologists use the 5-Factor model to explain personality traits.

Usually known by the acronym OCEAN, it’s Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. The idea is that all personalities can be expressed as a blend of these 5 factors. As shown below, the key behaviours of being an entrepreneur can be explained by the OCEAN model, which supports that the entrepreneurial nature is hard-wired into our personalities.

Risk Taking

All entrepreneurs have a high tolerance for risk. After all, there is never a guarantee of success when putting up cash and capital to build an offering and a team. Being comfortable with a constant level of uncertainty is just part of being a business owner.

According to the OCEAN personality model, this requires a high level of Openness and Agreeableness. Additionally, accepting risk requires a high level of emotional security, which means entrepreneurs tend to score low on Neuroticism.

Self-Motivating

Entrepreneurs make things happen. Especially in the early stages of growth, there is no external force or set of expectations. Businesses are built driven by the motivation of the entrepreneur. This aligns with a high level of Consciousness. Also, with Extraversion, since the process of setting up a business requires getting out there to communicate with new people.

Creative

Most of all, entrepreneurs are creative. After all, entrepreneurship has been defined as “a creative process of identifying and pursuing value-creating opportunities, often in the face of uncertainty and risk.” That involves being curious and coming up with ideas that fill consumer needs and market gaps. As a result, according to the OCEAN personality model, entrepreneurs have a high level of Openness.

Successful Entrepreneurs Who Never Went to Business School

Also making the case for nature vs nurture are the success stories of these entrepreneurs who never went to business school. Clearly, success in business doesn’t require training in business.

Anita Roddick

At one time, she was the wealthiest woman in Britain due to the global success of The Body Shop. Previously, she ran both a hotel and a restaurant. Unsurprisingly, she grew up in an entrepreneurial family. Her mother owned a little cafe in their town, where Anita worked many hours as a teenager.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart

Not everyone knows that Martha was a Wall Street broker with a degree in history and architectural history. Her first company was a catering business, and her entrepreneurial nature leveraged her skills in cooking, decor, and design into a global empire. From the first book in 1982, Martha developed a brand identity which is now synonymous with style and good taste.

Jeff Bezos

Back in 1994, Jeff left his career as a hedge-fund manager to open an online bookshop in his garage. Obviously, this grew to become the global marketplace Amazon. While he studied computer science at Princeton University, he clearly had what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Particularly, his ability to be creative and tolerate risk. He kept expanding Amazon even though it didn’t make a profit for the first 5 years.

Mentoring and Entrepreneurship

Clearly, it is possible to be successful in business without training in entrepreneurship. However, many high performing entrepreneurs credit mentoring for their success. For example, Y Combinator runs programs which bring expert advice and connections as well as cash to high-potential new businesses. AirBnB, Stripe, and DropBox were once just fledgling startups until the support of Y Combinator nurtured them.

Also, as we’ve seen from shows like Dragon’s Den and Shark Tank, it takes more than cash investment to scale up a business. The input and guidance of someone more experienced can shortcut a path to success. Clearly, mentoring and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. 

Can entrepreneurship be learned?

In my view, entrepreneurship can be learned. Specifically, it can be nurtured and developed. However, there must be a foundation of an entrepreneurial nature and mindset. It’s the same with any set of skills and abilities. For example, a vocal coach can help someone become a better performer, but only if they have a good voice to begin with.

Afterall, even with all the vocal coaching in the world, I can’t carry a tune. Similarly, with training and practise individuals can win Olympic medals or sports championships, but only if they have a baseline of athletic ability. Essentially, any talent can be improved with training. And entrepreneurship is a talent which benefits from mentoring and business coaching.

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Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs

Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs

Networking. Although we increasingly live, work, and interact online, in-person networking is still a thing. And for service business owners looking to land more customers in their community, networking is powerful. Old school face time makes connections which opens up opportunities for business growth.

However, this takes more than a fresh order of business cards. Prepare for success with these networking tips for entrepreneurs that work for both virtual and in real life situations.

First, Set Goals

Before registering for an event or joining an entrepreneurship organization, be clear about your networking goals. What outcomes do you want?

Specifically, what outcomes meet the needs of your business? For example, are you looking for an investor, a mentor, a new graphic designer, or to connect with the decision maker of a certain company? In all cases, check that networking goals align your business strategy. After all, networking takes up precious time and energy. So that investment should lead to measurable results. 

Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs

For business owners, networking is different than for people who have jobs. It just is. Because entrepreneurship is a totally different journey than progressing along a career path. As a result, expectations are different. Therefore, these are specific networking tips for entrepreneurs to gain the most benefit for your business.

Be strategic

Be strategic about what events to attend, and which networking group you join. Though it may seem that more results will come from more exposure, this isn’t always the case. First of all, burnout is real for entrepreneurs, with rates as high as 42%. Additionally, networking is a long game of making meaningful connections. Showing up to all the things for 4 months and then disappearing off the scene is not as effective as consistent attendance to a small selection of events all year.

Basically, it’s quality over quantity. So consider the audience and the timing to select events that line up with your goals and schedule.

Be selective

Don’t expect to meet all the people at an event. Racing around to shake hands with everyone in the room is not productive. Be selective, and connect with people in a natural way.

For example, you spot someone you know chatting in a circle, and approach them to say hello. This will lead to introductions to the others in the circle. Let those conversations flow naturally. Others may join the group, resulting in new connections. By the end of the event, you may have met only 10% of the people in the room. However, meeting a few in a meaningful way is more beneficial than a passing introduction with many.

Be human

It’s recommended to have an engaging and effective elevator pitch ready to go. However, don’t over prepare and have an entire script memorized. Be human. Meaning, let each conversation and interaction unfold naturally. Engage with each individual as a person and not according to a sales agenda. Being tied to a structured series of blurbs comes off as robotic, and not authentic.

Be curious

Ask about family, recent vacations, and hobbies. Although the ultimate goal may be to land a pitch, an introduction, or a customer, this all starts with making a connection on a human level. Finding common ground with someone builds a foundation for trust and communication. Furthermore, it may open up an opportunity to be of service. And giving a referral, suggesting an article, or recommending a podcast really establishes a bond and makes meeting you memorable.

Be of service

As explained above, being of service is an excellent networking tip for entrepreneurs. So keep your ears open for opportunities to provide value. This can be offering to make an introduction, or giving a recommendation. Also, it can be personal, like suggesting a gluten-free recipe for a school function or a great new novel to read. First of all, it is very satisfying and rewarding to be helpful. And of course, it’s an excellent way to start off a friendship, collaboration, or business relationship.

Be balanced

When a skilled networker approaches you with questions about your business and recent holiday experience, it’s easy to just keep on talking. After all, research shows that 40% of our speech is about ourselves. Furthermore, many people feel anxious when meeting new people, and being nervous also causes excessive talking. Therefore, make an effort to be aware of this, and be balanced. Be sure to stop answering questions, and start asking them. 

Final advice

Though what happens at a networking event is important, the real results come from what happens afterwards. Essentially, remember them and look for opportunities to be of service, provide support, and give value. Use a CRM to keep track of who you met and highlights of the conversation. Also follow on social media channels. Then followup and engage in a meaningful way.

For example, liking and commenting on their content. Or sending them a link about a topic that relates to their business or something you chatted about.

With these networking tips for entrepreneurs, meaningful connections can be made which will support business growth and success.

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Community Involvement for Entrepreneurs

Community Involvement for Entrepreneurs

Corporate philanthropy isn’t just for the big brands. Clearly, a small business can’t manage global projects in the billions of dollars like The Coca Cola Foundation or the  Nike Community Impact Fund. However, it is still possible for a small business to make a positive impact on the world. Community involvement for entrepreneurs can take on many forms so both the community and the business benefits.

Benefits of community involvement for entrepreneurs

Obviously, contributing to charities and participating in social causes benefits the community. Additionally, there are many benefits for entrepreneurs. For any business owner considering becoming involved in their community, read on to learn reasons why it’s worthwhile.

Friendship

After all, when spending time with like minded people, friendships will form. Community involvement for entrepreneurs opens up a whole new social circle outside their usual networking crowd.

Personal Development

Giving to others is an opportunity for personal development. Learning about a cause or an issue broadens the mind and provides more perspective on your own life and business.

Leadership Skills

It’s also possible to develop leadership and management skills. For example, when I was President of the Board of a women’s shelter, I dealt with issues like governance and staff performance, which built my communication and mediation skills.

Good Karma

Sure, it may be a little cheesy. But doing good things for others is simply a good thing to do. It feels great to be of value, contribute, and help others. This creates a positive feeling which can flow over into all areas of life and business, and attract more positive things.

Networking

In addition to making friends, community involvement for entrepreneurs is also valuable for networking. After all, there will be other business owners out there with the same goals, and people doing corporate volunteer programs. So it’s a chance to make new connections and expand your network.

Brand Visibility

Sometimes, community involvement allows for more brand visibility. For example, sponsoring a fundraising event in exchange for displaying the company name and logo.

More ideas are in the next section below, Ideas for Small Businesses.

Tax Writeoff

Donations in cash and in kind may create tax savings for your business. Check with an advisor to see what is available in your area.

Business Awards Nomination

This should never be the only reason for contributing and volunteering. However, it’s a fact that these activities may help a nomination package for a business award. After all, social responsibility is valued, so award panels prefer to recognize entrepreneurs and businesses who make the effort and investment to help others. For more on this, read “Are Business Awards Worth it?

Team Building

The opportunities for team building is another benefit for a small business. For example, signing up for a charity fun run as a team. Or teaming up in pairs to work a shift serving food at a shelter. Also, involve staff in the decision making and planning of the company’s community involvement. This lets them share the positive experience and benefits of contributing. Working on this project develops teamwork and bonding which will benefit their on the job communication.

Be strategic

As shown above, there are many benefits from community involvement for entrepreneurs. It’s best to be strategic about selecting the what and how.

Naturally, it’s important to pick something that is meaningful for you. It just doesn’t make sense to devote time and energy to a cause you don’t deeply care about.

However, it is recommended to align with your brand and customer avatar. Consider what your clients would feel good about supporting. For example, if your company provides products or services for pets, then a Humane Society or animal welfare organization is a good fit. Or for a business related to home decor, repair, or maintenance, then a homeless shelter or Habitat for Humanity is a good choice.

In Canada, it’s part of the culture for families to stop at Tim Hortons before or after (sometimes, before AND after) doing activities together. Which is why their Timbits sports program is such a brilliant example of strategic corporate philanthropy. They help children participate in sports, which benefits their physical and mental health. And the Timmies logo is on every kid on the field.

Be open to ideas

Community involvement doesn’t have to be donations or sponsorship. My last company participated in Cleaning up the Capital, which improved the appearance and safety of neighbourhood parks and playgrounds.

Overall, consider your business as a way to help people. Perhaps there is an opportunity to provide training or employment for people with disabilities, like through EasterSeals.

Strategic Community Involvement for Entrepreneurs

Ideas for small businesses

First of all, it doesn’t have to be a charity, like a foundation searching for a cure. Consider all the needs of the community where your business operates. For example, senior homes, schools, homeless shelters, food banks, halfway houses, animal welfare, accessibility, and environmental causes. Here are some ideas to help find the right fit for your business.

Board of Directors

Non profit boards are unpaid, and they always need committed people to keep the organization going. Joining a Board is a meaningful way to contribute time and skills.

Volunteering

There are many ways to be hands-on for a cause. Include employees to make it a team building exercise. Or, reward staff with perks earned by volunteering to a cause they care about.

Sponsorship

Many events have a range of business sponsorship opportunities that will get the company name and logo different levels of exposure. For example, website listing and link, banners at the event, menu sponsor, and table sponsor. Also consider golf clubs, since they often organize fundraising events and rely on business sponsorships to boost the donation.

Matching Donation

Run a campaign to raise funds for a specific cause and pledge to match donations from customers.  

Customer Selected Donation

This is another way to make a donation and engage new customers at the same time. At the point of sale or contract signing, give the new customer a choice of donation. For example, I knew a plumbing company who allowed customers to choose where a $5 donation would go, giving 3 different local charities as options. Pausing to make that decision really connects the customer with the donation process, and it’s a positive experience knowing that in hiring that company, they are also helping a cause they care about.

Silent Auction

Help raise funds by donating products or services to a silent auction. Attend the event if possible, as a way to learn more about the cause and meet new people.

Conclusion

Overall, there are many benefits from community involvement for entrepreneurs. It can raise brand visibility and awareness. There are many opportunities to network, make connections, and build friendships. In fact, it’s a learning experience which can grow leadership and management skills. Also, it’s a chance to develop closer bonds among employees. But most importantly, it’s just good karma to help others. All business owners should consider how to contribute to the needs of their community.

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What it’s like to win a business award

What it’s like to win a business award

Any entrepreneur would love to be named “Businessperson of the Year” or win “Company of the Year. I mean, who doesn’t want to be recognized for all their hard work? I certainly did. When I was growing my last company, I made business awards part of my strategic planning.If you’ve wondered what it’s like to win a business award, read this to get a glimpse of the experience, and how to prepare to make the most of it.

First - Setting the goal

When I left my cubicle corporate life to start my own company, I immediately became involved in the local business community. I joined the Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau, and networking groups.

Not surprisingly, this involved going to lots of meetings. As in, old-school, get in the car to drive and park and walk into a room of strangers meetings. One event was a gala evening for the Businesswoman of the Year Award. Champagne flowed. There was swag and glitter and local media with cameras. It was a very high profile event in the capital city where I lived. And as I watched the winner go on stage, I set a goal. That one day, I’d win Businesswoman of the Year.

Next - Long term planning

By the time I submitted my 10 page nomination package to the Businesswoman of the Year Award committee, I’d adjusted my expectations. Several years had passed. I was more seasoned both as an entrepreneur, and with award programs. I already knew what it’s like to win a business award. My company had been a finalist for Company of the Year,  and twice won the Torch Award for Business Ethics. Also, I’d been named to the coveted Forty Under 40 list for my city. Although these were rewarding and fun experiences, they were also part of my long term planning.

Actually, these awards were strategic, to boost my nomination package for Businesswoman of the Year. Because by this time, I knew how much publicity and prestige the finalists received in the run-up to that gala event.

Therefore, my goal was to get into that final 3 for the Entrepreneur category. And I did that by building my resume and accomplishments to deliver what they looked for. I evaluated the award criteria and compared it to the profile of the winners.

Accordingly, I made choices which had immediate benefits and also served to support my nomination package. For example, taking on a volunteer leadership role for the board of a local women’s shelter.

Then - the preparation

Every business award event involves preparation. After all, you can’t just roll in like it’s a casual breakfast meeting. These things do tend to be gala evenings. Expect black tie, a 4 course meal, and cameras everywhere. Also, because it’s such a high profile event, there may be local celebrities and dignitaries. So if you’ve ever wanted to shake hands with the mayor of your city, this is a chance to do it. 

Without a doubt, the runup to the Businesswoman of the Year Award was the most exciting preparation I experienced. First of all, there was a photoshoot by a famous Canadian photographer. Coincidentally, that photographer was the very same woman I watched win the Businesswoman of the Year Award all those years earlier – the inspiration for my goal. Also, there were interviews with local media. However, my favourite part was going to a high-end jewellery store to select items to wear on the big evening. These beautiful and expensive pieces would be loaned for the night under very tight security.

What it’s like to win a business award

At last - the Gala

The day of the gala evening was like the run up to a wedding. A tuxedo for my husband. Hair and makeup for me. And a huge sense of anticipation. The loaner ring on my finger cost more than my first car. It felt like a costume party to be so dressed up and out on a school night. We shared my table with friends from the business community. It was genuinely a good time, mostly because I had no expectation of winning. After all, I’d reached my goal. It was this – the publicity and credibility of being Finalist, and the fuss and celebration of the Gala. Another Finalist in my Entrepreneur category had been in business much longer, and I believed she would win.

Finally, the moment for my category arrived. From the podium, in front of hundreds of people, my bio along with the 2 other Finalists were read out. Meanwhile, footage of pre-recorded interviews flashed on the big screen above the stage. The moment they broke the seal on the envelope, I knew they’d be calling my name. And then, they did. They called my name. Immediately, everyone at my table jumped to their feet, and a TV camera was in my face. I made my way to the stage reaching for balance in my high heels and for words to say. I had not prepared a speech. Meanwhile, from the table, my friend and marketing expert Deanna White quietly clicked “send” on a press release. The news of my win hit the inboxes of key media contacts before I even got to the podium.

Being the winner

The next couple of days were surreal. In large part to Deanna’s preparation and marketing expertise, my win was covered by local media. Taking my youngest to school, the crossing guard called out “Congratulations!”. Several parents and teachers approached me to say the same, and ask questions about my company. Floral deliveries arrived at my office. My email was flooded with congratulations from almost all my contacts, and from people I’d never met.

Naturally, by the time the flowers were wilting, everyone had moved on, and things went back to normal. Nevertheless, I had the pleasure of keeping the Businesswoman of the Year Award in my office for a whole year. And like the Stanley Cup, my name is still on it. Though it was truly a surprise to win, it was a deeply rewarding and affirmational experience.

What to expect from participating in business awards

There are many reasons to include business awards in your strategy. Perhaps it’s to raise the profile and visibility of your brand. Also, it may be used to strengthen a pitch for investors, or attract a buyer. In any case, here are some tips on what to expect from reaching the short list or finalist stage, and what to expect from winning a business award.

More sales pitches

As soon as you and your company hit the list of nominations or finalists, expect more email and calls. Some will be spammy, because bots scraped the web and added you to email lists. However, many will be local, and personalized. From SEO specialists to investment advisors to graphic designers, you are now on the radar of businesses looking for new clients. Be open to these opportunities to expand your network. After all, a higher profile is one of the reasons to get involved in business awards.

More work

If you thought preparing the nomination form and submission package was the end of it, think again. This is one thing about what it’s like to win a business award; it does create more work. So expect more leads and customer enquiries. Clearly, this is one of the benefits of doing it in the first place. Therefore, prepare ahead so there is capacity for this extra work. Furthermore, there is the work involved to fully leverage your win. For example, updating marketing material, social media profiles, and client communication.

More attention

You may hear from people you forgot you knew. Of course, the level of attention correlates to the profile of the award, and the skill of your publicity person. Regardless, expect more attention from people seeking a mentor, business advice, or to ask about your business.

More expenses

Being part of a gala evening costs money. So in your strategic planning, build that into your business budget. After all, the tickets are not free. Buying a table is the norm, so you can share the event with a spouse, business partner, key employees, friends, and colleagues. There may be babysitting costs, transportation, hair and makeup. Obviously, there is the wardrobe. Men have long had formal wear rental options available. Happily, this is now available for women with companies like Rent The Runway, which has a category just for award season.

A slump

After the rush and excitement of the award ceremony, the win, and all the attention, expect a bit of a slump. After all, there may have been weeks or even months of anticipation and buildup. Especially if the awards had been part of your long term strategy. And just as there are post-holiday blues, the same deflating feeling may creep up. Seek the support of your inner circle, and look for a new project to occupy yourself.

Preparing to win a business award

Clear time in the schedule after the winners are announced. Have your marketing plan prepared and ready to go. Prepare to bask in the glow of the winning spotlight. Also, create the space to take advantage of the opportunities your award brings. Book those meetings to expand your network. Broadcast the win across all social profiles. Add the award to marketing material and messaging. Oh, and prepare a speech, just in case. For a full list of how to leverage your win, see “Are Business Awards Worth it?” 

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Are Business Awards worth it?

Are Business Awards Worth it?

Hollywood has the Oscars. Music has the Grammys. What do entrepreneurs have? Actually, alot. There are many opportunities for recognition and celebration. Because there are national, regional, and city-wide award programs for entrepreneurs at all stages of business. Perhaps you’ve noticed these in your community – the gala ceremony, the local press. Are business awards worth it? Based on my own experiences with it, I have answers. So read on to learn if business awards should be part of your strategic planning.

Types of Business Awards

Generally, there are 2 types of business awards. Not in terms of categories or sector, but the method the award winners are chosen.

Judged Awards

Most business awards are annual programs run by organizations like a local government, chamber of commerce, networking group, or lobby group. Though many are city-wide, there are also regional and national awards also, such as the RBC Canadian Woman Entrepreneur Awards. These are annual events managed by staff or volunteers. Usually, there are several categories.

For example, “Best Small Business”, “Best New Business” and “Best CEO”. The criteria for each award is quite clear, with a set nomination and selection period. Finalists and winners are selected by a panel of impartial judges who carefully review the submission of each candidate. Then the winner in each category is announced at a gala event which is usually well attended by the business community.

Voted Awards

Also, there are awards given based on the results of a public vote. One of the biggest is the Community’s Choice Awards, run in over 160 cities across the United States. Just like the American Choice Awards, there is a simple nomination process for business owners to submit their company. Then surveys are sent out to the public, and the ones with the most votes gets the award. Additionally, there is the Consumers Choice Award, with an award process that scrapes social media to learn what consumers think of the nominated companies.

Benefits of business awards

Obviously, given the popularity of business awards year after year, there are many benefits for participating. Are business awards worth it? Generally, the answer is yes. And here are the highlights:

Marketing

Clearly, winning the top award is ideal. Then this can be added into marketing messages. After all, a logo saying “Best Company, 2024” looks pretty cool on a business card, flyers, signage, and vehicles. Leverage a win and include across all marketing channels and customer communication. For example, email footer, website, and social media profiles.

Credibility

An award gives a business credibility. Either it’s an external, impartial assessment that your company has achieved excellence. Or, it’s proof that your business has done such an amazing job pleasing customers and developing a strong brand image that the public has voted it the best. Clearly, both options are a public and official title to show potential new customers that your business is credible and can be relied on.

Affirmation

Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely journey. Building and managing a business takes a huge amount of energy, time, and effort. Being nominated, shortlisted, or winning a business award affirms that all that hard work is paying off. Having that recognition is affirmational. At the end of the day, this is an opportunity to pause and reflect on your accomplishments as an entrepreneur.

Team building

Any award that includes a gala is an opportunity for team building. Bring your team and enjoy the night as a celebration of everyone’s hard work. And not just key employees, either. Consider bringing suppliers and contractors you work with. For example, sales rep, bookkeeper, virtual assistant, or social media manager. 

Networking

Are business awards worth it? It could be, just for the benefit of networking alone. Participating in an awards program creates many opportunities to connect with other business owners and decision makers. Clearly, the actual gala event is a night to schmooze and mingle. But even before that, the publicity around your company being shortlisted will generate interest. Don’t be shy about posting the nomination or finalist status on social media, in a newsletter, and on LinkedIn. Then expect people to reach out to get to know you. 

Free PR

Lastly, there is free PR. There is usually some level of publicity involved with being a finalist for a business award. The organization running the award program will promote it through local media and online. Also, there could be a profile or mention in the local news, or business publication. Anything that mentions your business or tags your company website or socials is valuable for SEO and brand awareness. So just reaching the finalist stage may be worth it for this benefit.

Are Business Awards worth it?

Free PR

When I won the Businesswoman of the Year Award, I sent the details to my alumni association. Carleton University included it in the alumni magazine, and I was featured on the website homepage for a couple of weeks. So consider all opportunities to leverage being a finalist or winner of a business award, including where you went to school.

3 Tips for business awards

By now, you may have decided if business awards are worth it for your company. There are some quick tips for participating in a business award program:

1. Be deliberate

Don’t apply for every available award. Consider the options available and be strategic with what is going to benefit your business the most. 

2. Plan ahead.

When you have an eye on a particular award, observe the cycle for this year. Attend the gala award ceremony, if you can. Review the award criteria, and then look over the profiles of the finalists and winners. This gives you a strong idea of what it takes to win. For example, if all winners are involved in a charity or community work, then plan ahead to start that in your business. 

3. Plan the timing.

This isn’t the Oscars. Usually, an award can only be won once. So think about what timing works for your goals. For example, if you want to sell your business in 5 years, then consider going for Company of the Year in 4 years time.

List of business awards for entrepreneurs

As shown below, there are lots of options for business awards. This list is mostly national award programs in the UK, Canada, and United States. When it gets down to the regional and city level, the list is enormous. Just about every major city in all 3 countries has at least 1 business award program. They may focus on recognizing women in business, or be the local event for a major award like the Forty Under 40. Overall, there are lots of options. Start with these links, and also check out your local Chamber of Commerce, BBB, and networking groups.

Are business awards worth it?

It can be, yes. Especially for a prestigious, well respected award that gets a lot of publicity in the area a business operates in. Furthermore, for an entrepreneur with an exit strategy of selling, the recognition of a business award can help attract buyers. As shown above, there are many benefits for building brand awareness, marketing, and free PR. Additionally, participating in a business award program is an opportunity for brand building and networking. So if you’ve been wondering if business awards are worth it, now you can decide if this fits with the strategic planning to grow your company.

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Examples of Company Culture for Entrepreneurs

Examples of Company Culture for Entrepreneurs

It’s well understood that culture influences how we think, what we say, and how we behave. Anyone who has travelled far from home experiences this first hand. And it’s true in business, also. Every company has its own culture, which impacts how employees treat customers, and how they treat each other. What we know for sure is that companies with strong cultures perform well financially. It’s so linked to revenue that when Peter Thiel invested $150m in AirBnB, he told the founders “don’t f&ck up the culture.” No matter what stage of your business growth, it’s never too late to make culture a priority. Read on for examples of company culture for entrepreneurs, and don’t miss tips to use in your small business.

Understanding Company Culture

One thing to understand about company culture is that it’s deeper than what can be seen and observed. It goes beyond team meetings and staff events. It’s less about what is said, and more about what people think and believe. For example, the leader of one non-profit organization I worked with said all the right things about having a collaborative working environment. The public message was that everyone on the team was empowered to deliver their best.

However, the reality was that every small decision required his approval. Also, key stakeholders were blocked from attending some meetings. This is because the assumptions and values were that each department worked alone as a closed group, with no transparency or communication with the others. For more on the 3 levels of organizational culture, read How to build company culture in a small business.

Examples for entrepreneurs

Many “best of” lists are of huge multinational corporations. And frankly, that isn’t much help for entrepreneurs running their own company. So I’ve collected these few examples and explained exactly what lesson you can use in your small business

Clio

This Canadian technology company provides software for legal firms around the world. They highlight their focus on creating a supportive and inclusive work environment throughout their website. In fact, it’s part of their branding. And clients feel good about working with a company that takes such good care of their team.

After all, engaged and happy employees provide service! What entrepreneurs can learn from this example is that culture comes from the top down.

As a leader in your business, be sure your behaviour and words support and are consistent with the values and culture you want to build. For example, Clio founder Jack Newton wrote a book on The Client Centered Law Firm. No, you don’t have to write a book! The point here is to walk the walk and talk to the talk. For example, don’t complain about customers to your staff and expect them not to do the same.

Zappos

This American clothing and footwear company is a pioneer in creating an outstanding company culture. Way back in 2009, they were ditching old corporate rules to be fully transparent with staff and empower everyone to do the right thing for customers.

They are so passionate about the link between culture and revenue that they offer advice to business owners with their Insights program. What entrepreneurs can learn from Zappos is to embrace the individuality of each employee. A strong team doesn’t have to be clones of each other, with identical personalities and profiles. After all, there is strength in diversity. What matters is that everyone you hire is committed to customer service and sharing the same set of values as the company.

Prezi

This Hungarian software start up transformed how students and businesses created presentations. What is unique about their story is that they created a positive and engaged company culture which adapted to the needs of introverts and extroverts. So instead of making busy and loud company conferences mandatory, they allowed introverts to interact in their own way. What entrepreneurs can learn from Prezi is that building an amazing company culture doesn’t need parties and enforced social interaction. What matters is communicating values and creating a safe space for all employees to thrive and feel fulfilled by their work.

Tips for your small business

Though the companies described above may not look much like your business, they are still great examples of company culture for entrepreneurs. Setting aside the size of the budgets and the team, there are tips for your small business in these examples.

Hire the human, not the resume

Yes, job experience and education matters, especially depending on the business. Obviously, you can’t hire someone with no training to be a vet technician or a plumber. However, it’s also a mistake to focus so much on the resume. After all, it’s the human who is going to be showing up to work, so their outlook, engagement, and communication skills matter. Creating a positive company culture is more than a set of policies. It’s the attitude of the people on the team who can make or break a work environment.

Don’t micromanage

Certainly, policies and procedures are important for maintaining service standards and quality levels. However, it’s a slippery slope because an operating manual can easily turn into a burden that restricts staff from doing the right thing for the customer.

Don’t keep it a secret

If your company culture is thriving and staff are engaged and happy, don’t keep it a secret. First of all, it will help attract more staff, and cut down on recruiting costs. More importantly, it helps gain consumer trust. People love to be part of something good and positive. Also, people love to receive great customer service, and that is more likely when the staff are empowered and committed. So include it on your website, in newsletters, on social media, and in other customer communication.

Be you

These examples of company culture are meant to spark ideas and be aspirational. However, just because something worked for a successful company doesn’t mean it’s a fit for you or your small business. So reflect on what sort of company culture makes sense for you, in your community, with your type of business. Most importantly, feel free to be unique. For example, the founder of Prezi is an introvert, so he made that part of the company culture.

Lessons for entrepreneurs

Overall, there are lots of positive examples of company culture available. Don’t dismiss them because the size and scope of these examples are so different from your own business. Remember that many of these companies started out small, with just 1 or 2 founders working together to build their vision. No business is too small to have a company culture. So be inspired, and be intentional with creating the kind of business environment you want for your company.

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How to build company culture in a small business

How to build company culture in a small business

I recently witnessed an ancient fire ceremony on the banks of the Ganges River, in Varanasi, India. Which got me thinking about how rituals are integrated into culture, in all aspects of life and work. Even when we are not aware of it. And culture is overlooked by many entrepreneurs because they are focused on revenue. However, this is a mistake. All entrepreneurs should understand how to build company culture. Read on to understand why, and learn steps to get started with creating culture in a small business.

Understanding company culture

First of all, to explain what company culture really is. Our understanding of it can be traced to the groundbreaking work of Edgar Schein at MIT. He introduced a model for organizational culture which has influenced business leaders for generations. This 3-level framework is shown as a 3 level pyramid.

Assumptions are at the base, which demonstrates that these unconscious patterns drive the perception, thinking, and behaviour of people in the company.

Next is Values, which are the reasons and rationalizations for how people in a business behave the way they do at work.

At the top is Artefacts, which is the visible, physical aspects of a company. For example, the dress code, technology choices, office layout, and employee handbook.

Scheins model of company culture

Why company culture matters

It’s not unusual for an entrepreneur to make deliberate choices about the artefacts of their business. Which is important. Because not only does it build a sense of teamwork, but the customer-facing stuff contributes to brand building.

However, as shown in Schein’s Model of Company Culture, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Er, pyramid. Why company culture matters is found in the deeper layers. The feelings and perceptions of employees influences their mindset and behaviour. For example, when company culture is positive and customer-focused, then staff will be patient with customers and do their best to resolve any issues. However, if the culture is negative, staff may do the bare minimum required and not be invested in customer satisfaction.

Basically, weak company culture means low loyalty and engagement, and the consequences of this for an entrepreneur is:

  • Poorly engaged staff
  • High staff turnover
  • Less attention to detail
  • More mistakes
  • Higher absenteeism

And all of this negatively impacts KPIs for quality, customer satisfaction, referrals, and retention – all of which means less revenue. To see examples of KPIs for different business sectors, read What are KPIs or watch the video on YouTube.

Steps for how to build company culture in a small business

Clearly, culture matters. And though the topic of organizational culture is complex and nuanced, it doesn’t have to be for an entrepreneur. Just follow these steps for how to build company culture in a small business.

1. Commit

Company culture isn’t a set it and forget it thing. It’s an ongoing process of evaluation, awareness, and communication. So the business owner and leadership team must be willing to make time for it when making business plans and decisions. Furthermore, to commit resources to implement projects that will build company culture. For example, if an employee feedback survey is introduced, be sure there is a budget for the time and money to do something with the results.

2. Evaluate current culture

Make no mistake – every small business has a culture. Because rituals, values, and assumptions form any time people interact. So the next step is to become aware of what the current culture is. Use a simple 3 column table to note artefacts, values, and assumptions. Use anonymous feedback surveys to learn how staff feel about their job, customers, and manager. 

3. Find a Role Model

Next, pick a company to be a role model. Ideally, this is a business in the same sector. But it doesn’t have to be. Look in your local community and to larger national companies. Find a business that you’d like to model your own after. This gives some specific ideas and targets for what to incorporate into your own company.

4. Review and decide

In many ways, entrepreneurship is like cooking. And just like a great meal doesn’t come from dumping everything from the fridge into a pot and hoping for the best – a great company isn’t built by throwing all the great ideas at it. Therefore, take time to review and decide. How to build company culture is a process of strategic decisions that are sustainable for the business. For example, deciding that every employee should get a paid holiday on their birthday with a gift card to a spa may seem like a great idea. And this may work for a large corporation like Google who has the budget and the resources to cover workload. However, for a small business, this may be a costly perk that doesn’t actually contribute to employee engagement.

5. Plan and implement

Furthermore, now that there is a list of initiatives and projects to build company culture, plan how these will be rolled out. Work within the reasonable limits of available time and money. And don’t overwhelm the team with a dozen changes and announcements in a week. Introduce one thing, and let everyone get used to it. Be open to feedback, and measure what impact it is having on KPIs and the overall vibe of the workplace. 

Company culture ideas for entrepreneurs

These ideas won’t be a fit for every business. Each entrepreneur gets to choose what suits their vision for their company, and what is appropriate for their sector and business model. Here are just some ideas for inspiration for how to build company culture:

  • Staff performance management to support their training and career development
  • Posting all new jobs internally
  • Transparent communication with staff about strategic business decisions
  • Leading by example to demonstrate values (ie, positive outlook, own mistakes, be accountable, creative problem solving)
  • Open plan office space
  • Staff newsletter 
  • Acknowledging staff birthdays
  • New employee orientation and onboarding processes to share company history, org chart, vision for the future

Entrepreneurship and company culture

As shown above, company culture impacts quality, customer satisfaction, profits, and sales. Having a strong team of loyal staff matters to every small business, no matter what size. The steps for how to build company culture doesn’t have to be a massive project. Having an ongoing awareness and intention to create a positive workplace is the first step. Then going forward, make it part of the business planning and decision making process. The effort and investment will certainly pay off in better performance and bigger revenue. For more inspiration, see Examples of Company Culture for Entrepreneurs.

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Myth of Multitasking

The Myth of Multitasking

For a long time, I believed in the myth of multitasking. I carried around my exhaustion proudly. Every chance I had, I waved it like a flag to show that I was doing many things, all at the same time. And our culture rewarded that. Friends called me a hero. It encouraged me to add another spinning plate. But gravity always wins, and so it all came crashing down. If only I knew then what science has shown us about what multitasking does to our brain.

The meaning of multitasking

First of all, to clarify what I mean by multitasking. Strictly speaking, talking to our kids while we drive is multitasking. Or cooking dinner and listening to music. These routine life activities are not the topic here. This is about entrepreneurs multitasking activities that grow and manage their business. For example, doing bookkeeping while listening to a marketing podcast. Or scanning email while listening to a pitch from a potential new supplier. Also, working with two monitors, so that financial reports and resumes from job candidates can be reviewed at the same time. As shown below, this multitasking doesn’t save time at all, and in fact may actually hurt the business in the long run.

Multitasking in Western culture

The myth of multitasking runs deep in Western culture. It may have its roots in the Protestant work ethic. Generations were raised hearing that “idle hands make for idle minds” or similar expressions. As a result, it’s a commonly accepted notion that it’s good to do multiple tasks concurrently is a good thing. There are blog posts and Reddit threads suggesting TV shows and movies to multitask to. Also, it shows up as the Supermom trope in movies and advertising. With multitasking normalized, we just push ourselves harder to get more done.

Multitasking and entrepreneurship

Meanwhile, multitasking and entrepreneurship go together like bread and butter, or cheese and wine. Also, coffee and doughnuts. You get the idea.

Obviously, you just can’t have one without the other, right? And this makes sense because being an entrepreneur is not one role. It’s all of them, simultaneously. This is true for all sizes and stages of a small business. Because even when there is a team of staff, the entrepreneur oversees them all.

Ultimately, the business owner is responsible for the strategic direction and ultimate success of the whole company. Therefore, the ability to juggle a number of projects, ideas, and decisions is important. After all, within any given hour, an entrepreneur may have to deal with a variety of tasks across all business functions. And being able to switch between marketing, operations, sales, and human resources is a skill that benefits all business owners. However, the problem comes when we try to do more than one thing at one time.

The science of multitasking

As shown above, our society values productivity and efficiency. Obviously, these are desirable goals for an entrepreneur. After all, saving time means saving money, which can make the difference between being profitable or not. Especially for new business owners. However, science says we have it all wrong. As a neuroscientist at MIT explained it, “people can’t do multitasking very well, and if they say they can, they are deluding themselves.” Here are 3 big reasons why multitasking is not effective.

1. Brain Overload

Basically, multitasking causes brain overload. Because it takes energy to switch from one task to another. Doing that again and again over the span of a workday tires the brain in the same way that repetitive movement can cause muscle strain. Scientists call it cognitive fatigue. Daniel J. Levitin did groundbreaking research on the topic of multitasking. He explains that prolonged multitasking leads to “a depleted state in which, after making lots of insignificant decisions, we can end up making truly bad decisions about something important.” 

2. Increased stress

Switching focus from one task to another causes our brain to release cortisol. This important hormone has a purpose. It’s designed to help us cope with stress. However, it’s meant for emergencies only. As in, a bear is chasing you, so here is a boost of energy to cope with it. Therefore, experiencing regular cortisol boosts is not good for the body. Humans simply were not designed for that. Over time, it has many negative effects, like insomnia, weight gain, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

3. Impaired learning

Lastly, multitasking impairs learning. Specifically, learning new information as part of a multitasking session will stunt the ability to remember it later. This is because studies show that the brain will send new data to the wrong part of the brain. Basically, if you are making dinner while also trying to learn new software, the new information will be sent to a file storage area in the brain that is harder to access later. This makes it more difficult to recall, which slows down the learning process. So when improving skills as an entrepreneur, give the material your full attention. This is an example of the myth of multitasking, because focusing on learning is more efficient for your brain to retain the new information.

Lessons for entrepreneurs

Overall, what can entrepreneurs learn from all this? First, look at how the myth of multitasking shows up in your life and business. Multitasking may be a habit so ingrained in your routine that you don’t even notice it anymore. So spend a week tracking your work activities. Be aware of the times when you are bouncing between windows and devices. Make note of when you are focused on one task. Use the results as a blueprint for how to make changes in how you work. This could be physical, like removing that extra screen from the desk. There are many ways to create more focus. And accountability is important, which is why I highly recommend Flow Club. Scheduling a block of time to work with intention and be with like-minded people is powerful. I often host sessions, so come join me in the Flow!

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Entrepreneur Dos and Don'ts for a Home Based Business

Entrepreneur Do’s and Don’ts for a Home Based Business

For many entrepreneurs, a home based business is the dream. Certainly, there are many benefits to running a business out of the same place you live. However, it can also be the source of all sorts of issues. Both professional and personal problems can easily come up without careful planning and consideration. Read these entrepreneur do’s and don’ts for a home based business to avoid hassles and make everything run smoother.

Benefits of a home based business

First of all, there are many benefits of a home based business. All these reasons fall into two categories – time, and money. And this is significant, because both time and money are valuable resources. So managing them effectively and efficiently is worthwhile. Therefore, choosing to run a business from home may be the ideal choice for many entrepreneurs.

Benefits of a home based business: Time

Benefits of a home based business: Money

Benefits of working from home - childcare

Blending business with raising a family

When my business was still home-based, I had my second baby. She was born upstairs from my work space on a Sunday afternoon. The next morning, I was back at my desk. And holding my newborn while making client calls. Blending business with raising a family worked at the time. However, it was very challenging, and blurred all boundaries between work and life. 

Entrepreneur Dos for a Home Based Business

1. DO check local bylaws and legislation regarding home offices

Every jurisdiction has different laws about a home based business. Be sure to follow rules about signage and parking to avoid fines and hassle from neighbours and authorities.

2. DO schedule regular working hours

First of all, this gives more structure and routine to your business day. Also, make your hours clear to customers, suppliers, and employees. Just because your office is in your home doesn’t mean you’ll be answering business emails at 11pm. Besides, that isn’t scalable. Though it may be possible when you are just starting out, and customers may be thrilled with your 24/7 responsiveness – it may be impossible to keep up in a year or two when the company is bigger.

3. DO establish expectations with family and friends

For example, just because your business is in your home doesn’t mean you are available to host a lunch or babysit a nephew at the last minute. Be sure your loved ones understand what your working hours are. And ask that they respect the importance of having dedicated blocks of time to focus on running your business.

4. DO set up a secure space for your home business

Especially if your business has any inventory or stock. Ideally, your work area can be locked and separate from the living areas of the home. Also, install an alarm system and cameras to monitor things when you are not there.

5. DO follow data protection and privacy protocols

Be sure to protect sensitive information about your business and confidential data about your customers. Cybercrime costs trillions of dollars globally, so follow tips to protect your home based business.

Entrepreneur Don’ts for a Home Based Business

1. DON'T multitask life and work

Quite simply, don’t try to  multitask personal life stuff with running your home based business. This is a tough one, because it is very tempting to do when your life and your company share space. Full confession – in the early days of building my franchise system, when it was still a home based business, I did this. Alot. So I know from personal experience that blending life and business all day just results in feeling there has been no quality time for either. Besides, we now know from studies that multitasking is not effective because it drains neurological resources.

2. DON'T overlook setting up a proper business structure

Just because it’s a home based business doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be registered and official. In the UK, setting up a business is easy with 1st Formations, and the team can guide you on what is best for your situation.

3. DON'T forget about insurance

Don’t neglect to update home and business insurance policies. Insurance companies just love a loophole to get out of paying a claim. Therefore, talk to your agent about your home business set up and be sure that you are covered in case of a flood, fire, or other unfortunate event.

4. DON'T mix personal and business finances

Regardless of the business structure, all company money should flow in and out of its own bank account. Because keeping money separate makes it easier to track revenue, calculate profits, and report taxes. Specifically, this can mean doing two payments at the cash register. For example, when buying printer ink and other office needs, you also pick up art supplies for your kids. When paying, check these out separately, using your business bank card and then your personal bank card. Partly, this step saves time on bookkeeping. But also, because in case of an audit, seeing a receipt for crayons and Spiderman posted through your business bank account is going to cause a world of hassle.

5. DON'T miss out on tax benefits

There are many opportunities to reduce taxes and maximise profits with a home based business. Check with an accountant familiar with the rules in your country, state, or province. There may be all sorts of rules and allowances you can use to minimise taxable income for yourself and your business. From writing off business use of home, to gas mileage, it can all add up to more money in your pocket.

Entrepreneurship at home

As shown above, there are many entrepreneur do’s and don’ts for a home based business. Overall, entrepreneurship at home can be a challenge. Because it’s easy to mix up life and business, and have no clear structure and routine. However, for those who set up strong systems and boundaries for their home based business, they benefit from saving time and money. 

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What is Pivoting, and Steps for Entrepreneurs for How to Pivot in Business

What is Pivoting, and Steps for Entrepreneurs for How to Pivot in Business

Sooner or later, an entrepreneur will find themselves wondering – do I need to pivot? After all, few businesses never need to change strategic direction. Frequently, changes in technology and consumer behaviour require adjusting how we do business. In fact, it can be argued that companies who fail to pivot end up, well – failures. Blockbuster is a famous example. By sticking to DVDs and ignoring the rise of digital streaming, they went out of business in 2014. To understand what is pivoting, and steps for entrepreneurs for how to pivot in business.

What is pivoting

Essentially, a pivot is a significant change that impacts the way a business is conducted. A pivot is strategic, not tactical. For example, changing the colour of employee uniforms or redesigning business cards is not a pivot. However, if those changes were part of adding a product line to target a new customer base, then it is a pivot.

Examples of a pivot in business

There are many ways to pivot in business. It could be a subtle shift in pricing strategy to attract a different market segment. Or it could be a major transformation, like eliminating product lines to focus on something entirely new. Here are some examples of a pivot in business:

Implementing new technology

Technology should be upgraded regularly. But sometimes, a bigger shift is required. Like switching from a paper based system to digital processes. This can be a big learning curve for customers and staff who are used to the old way of doing things.

Adding products or services

This is a pivot because it impacts operations, staffing, and marketing. For example, a hair salon decides to offer tanning. A cake shop adds a gift bag package to make party planning a one-stop shop. Or, a landscaping company expands its services to include eavestrough cleaning. Sometimes, these pivots can be achieved with a sub-contracting relationship or collaboration with a local company.

Eliminating products or services

Sometimes a pivot is letting go of something. Like discontinuing a product or service. There may be many reasons for this. If demand declined, it’s easier to just stop offering it. However, it could be supply chain issues or rising material costs which makes that line unprofitable. Then, the pivot would be replacing it with an alternative source of revenue.

Changing existing processes

Pivoting can be changing existing processes in any area of the business. This could be connected to using new technology, like switching to a chatbot instead of using live support agents. Also, it could involve shifting away from automation to a more personalised customer experience. Like, sending out a sales rep to meet a potential customer instead of offering an online quote.

Shifting target market

Another pivot is when a business decides to focus on a different sector of the market. Perhaps this is to differentiate, because there are just so many competitors going for the same target audience. So with a new pricing strategy aligned with updated marketing messaging, an entrepreneur may focus on a different niche. Though the market may be smaller in that segment, often the higher profit margins means it’s better for business.

What is pivoting a guide for entrepreneurs

Recommended Reading

There are many examples of a company achieving huge success only after changing direction. Sometimes, these pivots totally transformed the business.  For more inspiration and ideas you can use, read “Famous Pivots in Business.

What is pivoting a guide for entrepreneurs

Recommended Reading

There are many examples of a company achieving huge success only after changing direction. Sometimes, these pivots totally transformed the business. For more inspiration and ideas you can use, read “Famous Pivots in Business.

How to pivot: Steps for Entrepreneurs

Ok, so now that you understand what is pivoting, you may be wondering how to implement in your company. These 10 steps for entrepreneurs will walk you through how to pivot in business.

1. Acknowledgement

First, recognize that it’s time for a change in direction. This starts with acknowledging that something isn’t working in the business. Maybe revenue has flatlined, or profits are shrinking. Or staff turnover is rising, and customer retention is dropping.

2. Acceptance

This step is all about mindset. It is important to accept that the business is going to change. This can be a challenge for entrepreneurs, because a pivot may move them away from their initial vision for their business. Resistance to change is a huge barrier to a successful pivot. So take a moment to lean in and fully accept that things are going to be different.

3. Agreement

Every business has its own structure and culture, so this step looks different for everyone. Essentially, it’s about making sure that key stakeholders are on the same page. Key decision makers should be in agreement about making a pivot in the business. Otherwise, it makes implementation very difficult. This step is about leadership and communication.

4. Brainstorm

Next, it’s brainstorming. Ideally, all stakeholders will be involved in this step. And also, it’s good practice to get some outside perspective. A mentor or a business coach will offer fresh insight and ideas. Step outside the day to day of the business and turn off the phones. Be creative and open to fresh ideas. This step is about getting a list of ideas for how to pivot the business. Also, be clear about the issues the company is facing, and the business goals.

5. Evaluate

Now that there is a list of ideas, it’s time to evaluate. Research market conditions and do competitive analysis. Do a risk assessment of each pivot idea. As much as possible, identify costs, barriers, and problems. All of this data is a guide for entrepreneurs for decision making and implementation.

6. Decide

After considering all the information gathered in Step 5, it’s time to make a decision. As with Step 3, key stakeholders should be involved in the decision making process.

7. Commit

Next, commit. Meaning, fully embrace the decision, and be ready to see it through. There are many failed pivots because entrepreneurs went into it half-hearted. For example, new software was purchased but not all the functions are being used. Or a new product is added without a new marketing strategy to promote it. So commit to the decision and have a positive mindset about a successful pivot.

8. Plan

Now that a decision has been made, it’s time to plan to roll out the pivot. Project planning is a skill, and this is a step which may benefit from some outside help. It is important to have a workflow, a checklist, and a timeline of each step and action to roll out the change in the business. After all, a failure to plan is a plan to fail!

9. Implement

Finally, it’s time to implement the pivot. Depending on the scale and scope of the project plan, one person should be responsible for managing this. Because change is difficult. And implementation involves many steps and moving parts. Communication is so important, so that suppliers, staff, and customers understand what is happening at every stage.

10. Measure

Lastly, measure the results and outcomes of the change in direction in the business. Was the pivot successful? This depends on how success is defined, which links back to Step 1. For example, if the issue was no revenue growth, and revenue increased in the months following the changes implemented, then the pivot was a success.

Conclusion

This summarises what is pivoting, and steps for entrepreneurs for how to pivot in business. Following these 10 steps will guide any business owner on how to identify, choose, plan, and implement a strategic change of direction. A pivot is not a decision to make quickly. Taking the time to analyse, research, and plan will increase the success of a pivot to reach business goals. 

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Famous Pivots in Business

Famous Pivots in Business

Think “pivot”, and many may think of the legendary episode of Friends. However, for entrepreneurs, this word means something else entirely. Afterall, there are many times when yelling “pivot!” is exactly what is needed to get a business back on track. Pivoting in business means a strategic change in direction. It could be discontinuing a product line, rebranding to reach a new audience, or adjusting a concept to meet demand. There are many famous pivots in business. These stories are inspirational for entrepreneurs ready to make changes and level up their company. 

Examples of famous business pivots

Making a strategic change in direction can be scary for entrepreneurs. Knowing that pivots are a healthy part of business transitions can be comforting. Read these famous examples of successful business pivots and learn lessons you can apply.

Estee Lauder Branding

Branding is about creating a distinct identity for a business. This is more than the logo and tagline; it’s the whole style and voice of a company. Surprisingly, the iconic branding of Estee Lauder is the result of a famous pivot in business. Back in the 1960s, ads in newspapers and magazines were the main way to connect with consumers.

However, Estee Lauder was still a growing business, and its marketing budget could not afford colour ads. Contrary to the advice of everyone around her, Estee decided to embrace black and white ads.

Certainly, this was a pivot. After all, who would think to advertise cosmetics without the use of colour? But Estee Lauder did.

And this differentiated their ads from all the competition. The ads stood out as a unique style and became part of the brand identity.

In fact, it became so associated with the Estee Lauder brand that used black and white ads long after they could afford colour. Discover more lessons from Estee Lauder in this article. 

Wrigley’s Gum

See the name Wrigley’s and immediately, we think gum. However, William Wrigley Jr. never intended to be in the chewing gum business. Actually, he started out as a traveling salesman for his father’s soap company. Later, he offered baking powder as a free giveaway for every box of soap. Seeing an opportunity, he started a side hustle of selling baking soda. And what was his giveaway? Yes – chewing gum. When he noticed how popular the gum was, he pivoted to focus on developing more flavours. So that pivot built a multi-billion dollar chewing gum brand.

Airbnb

This controversial company disrupted the hospitality industry and transformed how people travel. Ever wondered how the business got its name?

It started as the idea to host guests visiting town for a conference, by offering a bed (using an air mattress) and breakfast. Air bed and breakfast became Airbnb.

In fact, this was such a part of the brand in its early days, that it sold boxes of cereal as an innovative marketing campaign. Then, a host asked about having guests stay in his apartment while he was out of town for work. Initially, founder Brian Cheskey was against the idea. Afterall, the whole concept of Airbnb was to be a host, serve breakfast, and answer questions about the local area. However, his co-founders thought differently.

And this led to one of the most famous pivots in business. By listening to their hosts and changing the rules, the potential of Airbnb exploded across the United States, and then the world.

Nintendo

Although Ninendo is now synonymous with video games, back when the company started, computers were not even a thing. Ninendo’s story begins in 1889 as a card company. Actually, this is a great example of a business pivoting to new products and niches as the marketplace changes. At one point, Ninendo sold ramen noodles. Later, it was a vacuum cleaner company. However, it was only in the 1980s when they pivoted to video games and created iconic games like Donkey Kong that they became a global brand.

Play-Doh

This is a classic pivot: take an existing product, and find a new audience for it.

Back in 1912, Play-Doh was actually Kutol, and was sold to homeowners as a way to clean soot off wallpaper. And it was wildly successful, a global leader.

But then, in the post-war 1950s, the use of coal decreased. Homes were now heated with electricity and oil, which just didn’t create soot. So the demand for Kutol was falling fast. A strategic business pivot was needed before revenues fell to zero.

Fortunately, it was around this time that a woman related to a Kutol owner noticed that her kids enjoyed playing with the soft, moldable putty. The company embraced this opportunity, and pivoted the product to become a children’s toy. Rebranding as Play–Doh, they launched in 1956 and became an iconic part of childhood for generations since.

Lessons from famous pivots in business

Overall, these examples show a willingness to embrace change.

For example, when hosts suggested using Airbnb as a way to rent out vacant spaces, they let go of their ideas of what the platform was for. In doing so, they opened themselves up to a wider audience and experienced enormous success. Because Ninendo remained open to trying new products, they hit gold in the 1980s as an early player in the new video game market. The lessons here for entrepreneurs is to stay open to new ideas of what their business can be. As shown above, a pivot can create enormous success. Want steps on how to pivot in your business? Read this guide for entrepreneurs. 

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How to protect your business from employee theft

How to protect your business from employee theft

Small business owners understand the importance of using secure passwords and not opening suspicious attachments. Certainly, cyber crime is a risk, and protection measures are important. However, few entrepreneurs realize the biggest risk of theft comes from the inside – their own employees. I recently shared my own story of employee fraud. Here, read about how to protect your business from employee fraud.

Employee Theft

Did you know there is an Association of Certified Fraud Examiners? Yep, occupational theft and fraud is so common that investigating it has spawned an entire profession. According to a global study the ACFE conducted in 2022, almost 50% of employee theft comes from accounting, sales, operations, and senior management. And the numbers are staggering. It’s estimated that businesses lose 5% of revenue to fraud, which amounts to $4.7 trillion annually. 

And this problem is getting worse. Due to the pressures of post-pandemic inflation, employee theft is on the rise. In the UK, employee theft is up 75%.

Types of Fraud

Fraud falls into 3 general types. There is theft, financial statement fraud, and asset misuse. Clearly, theft is the biggest source of employee fraud. Because there are many ways to steal from a company. It can be as simple as taking cash or inventory. Or it can be padding expense reports, or timesheets. Also, it could be from misrepresenting expenses, like claiming an expense for a personal purchase. 

Also, asset misuse is another form of employee theft. Company cars, computer equipment, and other technology are used for personal reasons. Meanwhile, the cost of upkeep and maintenance is paid by the company.

Employee Theft Risks for Entrepreneurs

Small businesses have a higher risk of employee theft, for a few reasons. First, a small business may not have a sophisticated software system of checks and balances. Secondly, an overwhelmed entrepreneur is more likely to know and trust their staff. So tasks are delegated and not monitored as closely. Thirdly, there may not be any fraud recognition training in place, or structured systems in place. Finally, smaller teams means less supervision and cross-checking. When only one person is responsible for a task, it gives more opportunity to commit theft.

How to Protect your Business from Employee Theft

Although entrepreneurs running a small business are at greater risk for theft, there are ways to manage it. Learning how to protect your business from employee theft will save time, hassle, and money. Follow these tips to reduce the risk in your business.

1. Separate business and personal

Don’t let employees do company business in their personal space. Specifically, this means no customers using their own phone number, email address, or social media profile. Also, no storing company documents, files, or notes on their devices, Drive, or iCloud. Make sure all their work is done in company spaces you have full access to, and control over.

2. Limit Access to Information

Do front line staff need to know strategic planning and budget forecasting? Nope. So limit access to information, according to a strict need to know policy.

In addition to reducing the risk of employee theft, this also prevents management problems. For example, I know an entrepreneur who had a big morale issue when someone discovered the salary of a co-worker. All because the employee offer letter was in the company Drive.

Though it wasn’t in a place where this person would normally be – people are curious creatures. And a simple search can pull up all sorts of information buried deep in folders. So separate out documents into different Drives, and give staff access only to what they need.

Protect passports to prevent employee theft

3. Protect Passwords

Use secure passwords, and update regularly. Never share passwords and access points to sensitive data like bank accounts, payment processing gateways, website host, domain name registration, and utilities. Furthermore, protect them in a safe, gated place that only you have access to. 

4. Have Approval Processes

Essentially, set limits for staff. Even the managers who deal with all the daily operational stuff. Set limits on spending, and have approval processes in place. Be sure there is more than one signoff required. Don’t just hand over a business credit card for them to use. Setting limits and approvals means better oversight over the small tactical decisions.

5. Set and Monitor KPIs

Consider what Key Performance Indicators are appropriate for each employee. Tie these to business objectives and strategic plans. Then, monitor these KPIs regularly, and discuss openly for a culture of transparency. Examine all the information carefully to look for patterns. Don’t take any data that is self-reporting at face value. Implement random fact checking. After all, when the team sees the boss paying attention to the numbers, it makes it more difficult for staff to commit fraud.

6. Cross Check

Clearly, the whole point of having staff is so that, as an entrepreneur, you can work on your business to grow and scale. Delegating tasks and then checking on every detail defeats the purpose. However, having team members randomly cross checking activities introduces a measure of accountability. It reduces the risk of fraud because one person can’t operate in isolation.

7. Regular Audits

Conduct regular audits of transactions which are at risk for fraud. Refunds, gift card purchases, and expenses should be monitored regularly. Watch for any changes in patterns. For example, if shipping charges jump one month but revenue hasn’t, audit the posted expenses. When staff see that financials are being reviewed and audited this closely, it reduces attempts to steal from the company.

8. Investigate

Check into every red flag, no matter how small. Though it may seem unlikely that your star employee is lying to you, it’s a mistake to not investigate. Get proof, and check the facts. Follow up every suspicion and report. It’s easy to get too trusting with long serving staff and top performers. 

Protect your Business from Employee Theft

Knowing how to protect your business from employee theft is important for entrepreneurs. As shown above, there are several strategies to minimize risk. Remain sceptical, and keep a close eye on all transactions and employee activities. Don’t let personal friendships get in the way of a healthy level of mistrust. Also limit access to sensitive information. Additionally, introduce systems and processes for auditing, cross-checks, and investigations. Finally, set limits to what employees can access. 

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My Story of Employee Theft

My Story of Employee Theft

Do you trust your employees? You must, right? To some extent. Because they have keys to the office, or the store. Also, they have access to customer files, or the stockroom. Certainly, they know proprietary information about how your company does business. And you like to think you are a good boss. Understanding, and fair. So when bad employees happen to good entrepreneurs, it cuts deep. But it happens. I know, because it happened to me. My story of employee theft is like so many others – a cycle of trust and betrayal. 

Because like the proverbial frog in a pot, I didn’t know I was being boiled. My trusted general manager slid from superstar to fraudster, and I didn’t even see it happening.

Employee Theft Facts

Sadly, this happens more than we think. According to the US Chamber of Commerce, 75% of employees admit stealing from their employer at least once. And this is bigger than some office supplies. Reportedly, the median loss for a company is $117K. For example, one family business lost $400K when their trusted bookkeeper spent 6 years funnelling money to herself. Clearly, this can be damaging, and in fact, up to 30% of business failures are linked to employee theft. 

Surprisingly, this isn’t all front line staff sneaking home cash or stock, either. A study by The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners shows that 11% of employee theft comes from executives and upper management.

My story of Employee Theft

I’ll start at the beginning. I hired Chuck (not his real name) in the early years of building my last company.

From the start, I knew I wanted to expand and franchise my concept. So when it came time to delegate front line customer service and staff management tasks, Chuck was the obvious choice.

After all, he had been working out in the field and knew all the tactical details. Although he had no education or training to be a manager, the dedication was there. Initially, it worked well. I developed structures and processes. Then he executed and maintained them. I came up with branding initiatives and marketing strategies, and he managed the influx of customers. We worked together well to brainstorm and resolve the little fires that pop up in daily operations.

t was all so golden. Until it wasn’t.

Growth and Change

Skip ahead a few years.  My company was now franchised to a few cities, and turnover had reached 7 figures. As a result, the head office team had grown. Chuck was still my key manager. And now there were more staff. To manage scheduling, supervise staff, and lead training. 

Also, the business structures and systems had grown as well. Weekly reports monitored important KPIs tracking sales and service quality. Franchisees used software to log their monthly reports. Our team met regularly to review performance, resolve issues, and discuss opportunities to continuously improve productivity and effectiveness.

Seems like I was doing everything right, right? Later, when doing my MBA at Durham University, I did look back and reflect on business decisions I’d made. And I can honestly say that I made solid strategic decisions based on data and analysis.

But I did make one big mistake. Actually, two of them. I trusted Chuck. And I didn’t hold him to the same standards and expectations of every other employee.

Because the systems of checks and verifications that covered staff and franchisees didn’t include him. I didn’t see the need. I trusted him. We were friends. I thought he had my back, and that included doing his job well. But that gave him the opportunity to take advantage.

Seeing the Cracks

Company culture changes with growth, and time. With the team now 30+ people, Chuck and I didn’t work together with the same closeness. Truthfully, we were also both dealing with some personal family issues. So any shift in our relationship seemed to be about the deadlines of client contracts and stresses at home. 

Then, Chuck needed to be a caregiver for a family member. I was understanding. Patient. When he spent the afternoon out for hospital appointments, he told me he was working on his laptop in the waiting room. He told me he was working evenings and weekends to cover everything. And I believed him. So he stayed on payroll, at his usual wages. Even though I didn’t see him for days at a time. 

Honestly, I was seeing issues by this time. Small mistakes that never used to happen. And the lack of engagement and involvement in the business started to be a problem. A meeting would be carefully scheduled to accommodate his caregiving responsibilities. Only to be cancelled last minute because of a new hospital appointment.

Entrepreneurs and Employee Theft

Breaking Point

It was a difficult situation for me. Chuck was a friend, my trusted right-hand man. By this point, we had 10+ years of history. He was going through a terrible time. The stress and worry of a sick family member is a heavy burden. And there was always this promise that things were about to change. That after the next treatment, he’d be more available. Or starting next week, he’ll be at his desk every morning.

However, this wasn’t happening. Not long before the illness, Chuck had moved into a new position, to focus on franchise support. I was covering many of his tasks. And the business was feeling the pressure of paying out a decent salary for someone who wasn’t doing the work to earn it.

Then came the breaking point. Chuck’s own health hit a wall. Of course! After all, that level of stress over many months is going to have an impact. 

Therefore, Chuck had a doctor’s note to go off on medical leave. He’d come off payroll, and get on government benefits.

The End

It was a huge shift, to have Chuck out of the picture. Calmer. Fewer unknowns. More control over the schedule and activities. Also, I learned a few things.

First, I learned that I could complete all his job responsibilities in about 10 hours a week, which made me question why I was paying him a full time salary.

Second, I learned that most of his time had been spent backfilling to complete the work of the person who sat at his old desk. Because this new manager wasn’t managing. Chuck was covering for him. And why? It was his son. Yes – another mistake. See #2 in the list below – never hire family members of existing employees.

Clearly, this was the end. Though my company was successful, we were not Amazon. We did not have the reserves to cover the full salary of someone who hardly worked. So after getting some good legal advice and putting together a fair package, I fired Chuck. His position was eliminated.

Then, Things Get Ugly

Ironically, Chuck’s fraud only came to light when he sued me for wrongful dismissal. Because that led to a full audit of his activities. And wow, that was illuminating. Banking hundreds of dollars a month in mileage when he didn’t have any out of office meetings. Scheduling his daughter for client service calls, doing them himself, and paying her anyway. And the list goes on. It was mostly time theft, padding paycheques, and misrepresentation. 

It was a breach of trust. And it was theft. Once all this was presented to his lawyer, the suit was dropped.

Meanwhile, things got ugly. Chuck and his son were saying horrible things about me on social media and online. I received nasty and vaguely threatening messages from past employees. My company suddenly had many 1 star Google reviews from school friends of Chuck’s son. All fake reviews, because they were not customers. For more on that, read 5 Strategies for How to Handle Bad Reviews.

Eventually, all that settled down. Some more staffing changes streamlined operations. All the errors were fixed, and gaps were closed. The employee who replaced Chuck and his son was more efficient and accurate. Business continued, until the pandemic hit, which changed everything. 

My Story of Employee Theft Recommend Reading

Project your business from employee theft

For specific strategies on how to protect your small business from employee theft, read this article. 

Reflections

Overall, what did I learn from this experience? If I could roll back the clock and have a do-over, these are 4 things I’d do differently:

1. Keep a boundary between friendship and business

It’s ok to be friends with employees. But make clear that there is a line protecting the needs of the business. And that your personal relationship is separate from their performance as an employee.

2. Never hire the family of existing employees

Even when qualified. For a small business, it’s a big risk. In my case, a family illness impacted 3 people on staff, because they were all in the same family. The only exception would be if family members work in different departments, and not directly together.

3. Never trust self-reported data

Always verify information, even with senior level trusted staff. Basically, just don’t trust trust. Make sure there are mechanisms in place to confirm and verify.

4. Impose strict approval processes

Be sure that any financial transaction or purchase decision is within strict limits, or is personally approved by you. 

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What is CX

What is CX

Buzzwords and acronyms come and go in business. So if you’ve seen CX and not known what it means, you are not alone. CX means Customer Experience, and it’s not a trend. It’s a foundation of good business, because it impacts customer purchase decisions. Also, strong CX creates referrals and repeat business. Additionally, it builds revenue because studies show that customers are willing to pay more when they have a positive customer experience. Clearly, it’s important for entrepreneurs to understand what is CX and how to use it strategically.

Understanding CX

First, to explain what is CX. CX describes the overall perception and feelings a customer has when, well – being a customer. From the first interaction to completing a purchase, the customer journey includes many steps and stages. Understandably, this is different for every business. Because for a retail store, an attractive entrance and welcome greeting is the first impression. Meanwhile, for an e-commerce business, the ease of finding product information matters first. Therefore, it’s important that every business considers the journey their own customers experience.

Customer Journey Mapping

And what is customer journey mapping? It’s a visual of the stages, touchpoints, and emotions a customer experiences. It’s looking at your business from the viewpoint of your customer. From awareness to the decision process, then receiving the product or service, and on to the post-sales relationship. The goal is that every customer has a positive experience and is not only a loyal, repeat buyer, but an advocate. Meaning, that they give your business positive reviews online and refers you to family and friends.

What is CX - Customer Journey Map

CX for the Entrepreneur

Due to the importance of CX on purchase decisions and customer retention, it’s become a separate function for most large corporations. After all, it’s been measured that improving CX by 1 point can mean millions of dollars in revenue for many industries. So a CX department with trained professionals is a worthwhile investment. (Note: I completed the Professional Certificate in Customer Experience course at The CX Academy)

However, the reality is that most small businesses don’t have the resources to hire a dedicated CX professional. Like with many aspects of entrepreneurship, CX is a DIY activity. Rather than getting into a complicated framework of explaining and measuring CX, I’m going to explain the foundations of what is CX for small businesses. Quite simply, understanding customer experience are these 4 elements:

1. Deliver Promises

Be sure that the reality of what your customer experiences matches what is being presented with your brand messaging. If your company is putting itself out there as being professional and informed, then staff shouldn’t be in a torn uniform, or poorly trained. If a 30 minute sales call is booked for Monday at noon, show up and complete it in 30 minutes.

2. Clearly Communicate

Information gaps and errors loses consumer trust – fast. And people talk more about a bad experience than a good one. So clearly communicate – in emails, on the website, and in any customer facing documents. Don’t be vague, as in “respond soon”. Instead, say “respond before the end of the next business day.”

3. Be Consistent

Document processes and monitor KPIs so that standards of service are maintained at all times. Because every customer should have a quality experience, every time, Someone shouldn’t have great service on a Monday and terrible service on Friday.

4. Reduce Effort

Finally, a pillar of good CX is to reduce effort for your customers. Quite simply, make it easy for them to do business with you. This covers alot of ground. For example, automating processes to update their payment information or contact details. Or providing online options to reschedule appointments at their convenience. It may mean reducing the number of clicks required to place an order on your website. Implementing a 1-click checkout transformed Amazon into the ecommerce giant it is today. Essentially, view everything from the perspective of your customer, and brainstorm ways to make interactions easier and faster.

Examples of Good CX

Surprisingly, good CX is often because of what doesn’t happen. As in, there is no frustration, no wrong information, or no long wait. Alternatively, good CX is created from small acts of communication and appreciation that add up to just feeling good about buying from that business. Here are a few examples of good CX:

Clear Communication

  • A service call is booked for Tuesday at 2pm. An email on Monday morning reminds the customer, and provides a link to reschedule if they require it.
  • Emailed updates or tracking links so customers can monitor the processing of deliveries and returns.

Appreciation

  • Tucking a branded notecard with a handwritten thank you when packaging orders.
  • After renewing a snow removal service for another year, the customer receives an email thanking them for their loyalty. It includes a discount code for a local home decor store. This is a powerful collab! For more examples on how to use collaborations to grow your business, read this article..

Recognition

  • A customer calling to talk about their lawn cutting service doesn’t have to give their full name and address, because their customer profile pops up on screen by keying in the phone number they are calling from.
  • Arriving at a salon and being greeted by name, before offering your usual order of black coffee.

Examples of Bad CX

Unfortunately, there are many examples of bad CX. Primarily because companies have not done the work required for understanding customer experience. Remember, CX is as much about perception and emotion than fact. It may only be 5 minutes on hold, but if the customer was expecting to wait 1 minute, this will be a negative experience. Examples include:

What is CX Examples

Online

  • After reading the FAQ of a website and needing more help, you click on “Contact Us” which just leads back to a Help Section and the same FAQ page.
  • An item listed on sale for $19.99 gets added to the cart for $24.99.

In person

  • Changing rooms are locked and no staff person is around to unlock them.
  • Items are not tagged with the correct price. Or are missing tags and signage.

Communication Gaps

  • Sending in an enquiry or question and being informed that a representative will respond shortly. What is shortly? 1 hour? 1 day? Lack of clarity is bad CX.
  • The sales rep explains the service will take 3 hours and the technician will arrive at 9am. Then the technician arrives at noon and says the work requires 6 hours.

CX and your business

As shown above, CX can positively or negatively impact revenue. Strong CX contributes to customer retention, repeat business, and referrals. However, just one bad CX experience can cost you a customer forever, negative reviews, and word of mouth. Now that you have a solid understanding of what is CX and why it matters to your business, here are some ways to start making improvements. Look at your business from your client’s perspective, and consider:

  • How easy is it to find contact details?
  • How long is the wait to connect with a person?
  • Do customers ask questions that are not covered in the FAQ?
  • Are there gaps between what is being promised and what actually happens?
  • Are delays or changes clearly communicated?
Overall, make CX important when making decisions about customer communication, ordering, payment processing, and delivery. 

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What is a CRM

What is a CRM and why every service business needs one

If you are an entrepreneur running a service business without a CRM, you are missing out. Truly. A CRM is a Customer Relationship Management software. They can be fairly simple or very sophisticated. In all cases, it’s a powerful tool to manage customer communication and relationships. Read on to understand what is a CRM and why every service business needs one.

CRM explained

Essentially, CRM software is a database. It’s a hub to centralise all available information about customers. Though this includes basics like contact details, it also captures purchase history, preferences, and past communication.

Features of a CRM

Next, let’s look at the key features of a CRM. Understanding its functionality will make it clear the value of using it in a service business.

1. Analytics and Reporting

Because smart business decisions are based on data, tracking KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) is very important. However, without software, this can be tedious and time consuming. Therefore, the reporting capabilities of a CRM is a valuable feature. Furthermore, these can be customised to fit each individual business. And this makes it easy to run reports on measurements that matter to your business.

2. Automating Communication

Since many CRMs have email marketing features, this allows for client communication to be automated. For example, setting up a happy birthday message to send on the right date means less administrative work. Also, this feature can be used to build loyalty and boost sales. See the next session for specific examples to implement in your business. Even if a CRM doesn’t have its own email marketing function, it can connect to MailChimp, FloDesk, or Klaviyo using Zapier.

3. Scheduling and Reminders

Use the scheduling feature of a CRM, and never forget a followup call again. This can be short term, like a post-service call for next Tuesday. Also, it can be long term, like setting a call for when a customer returns from vacation in a few months. Either way, it means centralising customer activity into one software. This is streamlining, which saves time and improves focus. Overall, it is smarter to use a CRM than crowd a calendar with tasks or search through a jumble of notes.

4. Customising and Centralising Data

CRMs offer many ways of tagging and categorising customers. Also, they usually allow for custom labels, so you can personalise for your business. By uploading files, photos, and documents, all information about a customer can be centralised. This cuts down on paper filing, as well as flipping through online folders and email boxes. Keeping all customer data in one place cuts down on administration time, and powers opportunities to build loyalty and drive sales. More importantly, it empowers all staff to have access to the same information.

5 Ways to use a CRM in a service business

5 Ways to use a CRM in a service business

Next, here are some real examples of how to use a CRM in a service business. Remember that when selling services to customers, the relationship they have with your company is critical for success. After all, when there are many options for landscaping, or dog walking, or house painting – then it’s their feelings and experience as your customer that determines whether they will buy from your business again. So here are 5 ideas you can use today:

1. Build Customer Relationships

For a service business, consumer relationships have a huge impact on the bottom line. Acquiring a new customer can be costly, so building a base of loyal, repeat customers provides stable revenue. When a business is starting out, it’s easy to keep track of customer details in a notepad online, or on paper. But as the client list grows, it’s impossible to remember it all. So use a CRM to record everything your customers care about. Did someone mention it’s their son’s birthday next week? Add that to their file in your CRM! Because a year from now, when you casually pass along Happy Birthday greetings in an email, their mind will be blown. This is a powerful way to build customer relationships. 

2. Build Customer Trust

Consumer trust is another factor that matters in a service business. Trust can be lost so quickly, which is why the data management function of a CRM has so much value. Every opportunity to demonstrate attention to detail builds consumer trust in your business.

Here is an example. In my last business, a customer once called in very upset because she’d been expecting services that day – but no one had shown up. She wasn’t even on the schedule! It looked like a screw up on our side, which would have hurt the relationship.

However, a quick scan of her file in the CRM showed that a month earlier, she had emailed in to cancel service for that day. Which she forgot about. After a gentle reminder of this, the situation immediately turned. Instead of being angry, she became apologetic. Using the CRM to record customer communication transformed the situation and prevented loss of trust.

3. Encourage Repeat Business

Use a CRM to leverage whatever seasonal cycles happen in your business, and craft a communication to encourage repeat business. If spring is a peak time for your window washing business, then use your CRM to filter everyone who booked that service last spring – and send them a message inviting them to book again. Reminder emails like this can be set up to go out at appropriate intervals. Alternatively, it can be automated to be sent a certain number of weeks or months after their last purchase.

4. Close More Leads

No business closes 100% of leads. Whatever the closing rate is, a CRM can be used strategically to increase it. Just connect the CRM with email follow ups to automate and streamline the sales process.

Personalise the messages using the data you have about the lead. For example, the email can be set up with fields for first names, address, service description, and the price quoted. When the potential customer receives that followup, they have all the information they need to make a decision and take action, without having to dig through their own records.

5. Upsell

For businesses offering multiple service lines, use the filtering capabilities of a CRM to upsell customers. For example, a landscaping business can send its lawn cutting customers emails inviting them to book leaf blowing. Or a hair salon sends information about colour treatments to customers who have never booked it. Knowing customers and what services they have used is an opportunity to promote the other services you offer, in a meaningful way.

CRM and Service Businesses

In summary, a CRM is a powerful tool to manage customer information. It centralises data, which streamlines processes and cuts down on administrative time. More importantly, it enables personalised communication which builds customer relationships and loyalty. And finally, it provides a way to generate reports that drive analysis and smart business decisions. For these reasons, every entrepreneur with a service business will benefit from having a CRM.

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5 Strategies for How to Handle Bad Reviews

5 Strategies for How to Handle Bad Reviews

As consumers, we know the importance of online reviews. As entrepreneurs, our relationship with them is, well, complicated. Because nothing feels better than getting positive feedback from a customer. And nothing can ruin our day quicker than a bad review. But the reality is that despite all your hard work and good intentions, bad reviews happen. Here are 5 strategies for how to handle bad reviews.

The influence of online reviews

As business owners, it’s impossible to ignore the influence of online reviews. Surveys show that 70% of people use ratings to filter out what local businesses they even consider. And over 92% of consumers rely on reviews to make purchasing decisions. A McKinsey study found that a small shift in rating makes a big difference. Just moving from 4.2 to 4.4 stars has the power to boost sales. So every review matters, and asking for feedback should be built into the customer experience journey.

The problem of fake reviews

At least 10% of online reviews are fake. The World Economic Forum estimates that fake reviews influence USD$152B of global online spending. From bots to review farms, it’s big business to create fake positive reviews to boost sales, and fake bad reviews to bring down competitors. Governments now recognize this problem, and in 2022 the UK announced reforms to protect consumers. More recently, the US Federal Trade Commission also proposed new rules. But legislation takes time to roll out, and enforcement can be challenging.

In the meantime, there are actions you can take to cope with the soul-crushing experience of negative reviews. Here are 5 strategies for how to handle bad reviews.

Strategy 1: Create a Boundary

The first thing to do is create a boundary to protect yourself from the impact of negative reviews. This means setting up the communication flow so that you don’t get dinged with the notification of a bad review just as you are about to head into an important meeting, or out for dinner with friends. 

This can be done using email settings, to send all review platform notifications to a special folder. Or, you can set up a new email, like “listen@company.com” or “reviews@company.com.” Use this email in all the places where your business is listed for reviews. Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Booking.com, OpenTable -whatever makes sense for your sector, in your area. 

The point is to create a boundary between your usual activities, and review notifications. Then you don’t get your workflow destroyed by a 1 star review popping up and stealing all  your attention. Instead, you can build into your schedule time to check in on reviews, and deal with it in a methodical, controlled way. Or, if your company has a bigger team, monitoring reviews can be assigned to an operations manager, administrator, or marketing manager.

Strategy 2: Don’t Make it Personal

This one is tough. Because when it’s your business, it feels personal. But you are not your business. And sometimes, people leaving bad reviews are frustrated by more than whatever just happened as a customer of your business. They may have experienced a whole list of crappy things, and that small mistake set them off. People need to vent, and leaving a bad review online can release stress and annoyance. Accept that, and build up your own system to support you. Journaling is an excellent way to vent. Share with other entrepreneurs, who will certainly have their own stories of nightmare fake reviews and heartbreaking negative comments.

Strategy 3: Respond to Every Review

Yes, even the bad ones. How you respond to reviews is an opportunity to demonstrate the ethics of your company. Reasonable people know that things are not perfect 100% of the time. Therefore, how you handle problems and complaints can be a deciding factor in whether someone wants to buy from you. 

 

While it’s ok to have a standard line like “please reach out to our customer care team at care@email.com” don’t cut and paste the same response to every review. The point of the review is to show that your company is paying attention, and your team genuinely wants to do right by your customers. Using the same response for everyone looks like it’s automated and doesn’t come off as authentic.

 

For example, when I was running my household management franchise, a disgruntled former employee went on a binge with his young mates on a Friday night, leaving 3 1 star reviews within the space of an hour. In my response, I stated that we had no records of booking services for them, suggested they had left the review for the wrong company, and invited them to contact us to discuss. We actually landed a client out of this – she told us that the reviews seemed fake and that she respected the professionalism of our response.

bad reviews online

A real life example

Here is a story. When I was running my household management franchise, a disgruntled former employee went on a binge with his young mates on a Friday night, leaving 3 1 star reviews within the space of an hour.

In my response, I stated that we had no records of booking services for them, suggested they had left the review for the wrong company, and invited them to contact us to discuss.

Actually, we landed a client out of this! She shared that she felt the reviews were fake. And that she respected the professionalism of our response. The way we handled that bad online review built trust with our target audience and turned into sales.

Strategy 4: Research and Investigate

Sometimes, it is easy to spot the real reviews from the fake ones. Specific details may be clear that it was left by one of your customers. Be open to this opportunity to learn and improve. Research and investigate the circumstances. Even if it mentions a staff member that you think is a star. Because everyone can have a bad day. The review could indicate a chance to improve your processes, or training. And include this in your response, to show that you are taking steps to ensure the situation doesn’t happen again.

Strategy 5: Build Other WOM Tactics

As explained at the start of the article, online reviews are an important part of the customer decision process. But social proof and word of mouth (WOM) can come from other places. A referral program to encourage your customers to tell people about your business is effective for bringing in more revenue.

Also, be aware of positive feedback from your communication channels. If you deal with customers in person, on the phone, or over email, watch out for comments expressing satisfaction and happiness. Ask them if you can use their comment, and share it on your website, social media, and marketing materials. Finally, be proactive and create a customer feedback survey. Include this in after sales followup, or in newsletters. Statistics like “98% of our customers would recommend our company” can be pulled from survey data, and this is a powerful social proof for your audience.

The Bottom Line

To conclude, it is impossible to avoid bad reviews. It’s just a fact of doing business. So these 5 strategies for how to handle them are valuable.

First, protect yourself from the flow of reviews to your phone and desktop. That way, you can control when you sit down to look at them, and prevent the stress of a surprising 1 star review when your focus is needed elsewhere.

Secondly, understand that it isn’t personal, and build your own support system. Then, respond to every review. This demonstrates your professionalism and willingness to do the right thing for your customers. And this can also highlight the fake reviews.

Next, take a moment to investigate, to see opportunities to improve processes, systems, and training.

Finally, build your own sources of testimonials and feedback. Customer surveys and normal customer interaction can provide a wealth of data that can be used across different marketing channels. This gives authentic, positive information for consumers researching their purchase decisions.

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4 assumptions that can hurt your business

4 Assumptions That Can Hurt Your Business

We move through with world with sets of assumptions. And thank goodness! Because society needs them. It makes life easier. When we drive a car, we assume the drivers around us know the rules of the road. At a good restaurant, we assume the food will be fresh and prepared in a clean kitchen. As entrepreneurs, we assume our staff are doing their best and that our customers will pay their invoices on time. But as with everything, there are limits. Here are 4 assumptions that can hurt your business. Read these and consider if you need to reevaluate your beliefs and expectations. 

1. Assumptions about staff: thinking employees are as dedicated as you are

Remember that for them, it’s always a job. When a company is new and scrappy, it often feels that everyone is in it together. But when the business grows, it’s not unusual for staff to feel resentful. They see the owners getting a bigger slice of success than they get. Even with a competitive salary, perks, and a bonus, there may still be a sense that you are benefiting more from their hard work than they are.

Tips on how to manage this assumption:

  • Recognise the imbalance between owner and employee, and never assume staff are as dedicated as you
  • Document all tasks, policies and procedures so new staff can step into roles with minimal disruption to operations
  • Keep all business activites (email, documents, files) in company drives and systems
  • Don’t let staff do any work for your business using their personal email
  • Benchmark their compensation to confirm salary and benefits are in line for their role
  • Share compensation data so they see they are being paid fairly
Assumptions that can hurt your business example

Here is an example. I know a CEO who puts in 50-60 hour weeks, often steps in to fix staff mistakes, and has significant personal investment in the success of the business. The employees are paid well with full benefits, flexible hours, and work from home options. I just happened to be waiting at the company head office to meet with this CEO for a coaching session, when I overheard one of the staff say “I’m the only one who works around here.” 

2. Assumptions about pricing: thinking your rates are too high

It’s a natural reflex. When sales are slow, or a lead goes nowhere, it is easy to assume that the price is too high. You may actually hear prospective customers say that your rates are too high. But instead of slashing prices and giving away valuable profit margin, take a step back. Because is cutting rates really the answer? Or are you just not reaching the right audience?

Tips on how to manage this assumption:

  • Research the market and chart what competitors are charging
  • Clarify where your brand is positioned and how you compare among competitors
  • Know your customer avatar. Use this worksheet!
  • Review marketing message and placement to see if it aligns with your branding and target customer
  • Analyze all marketing data to see if you’ve been reaching your target customer
  • Readjust marketing if necessary
  • Adjust prices only if it better aligns with branding and target customer

3. Assumptions about suppliers: thinking you have the best deal

All businesses have suppliers. It might be parts for manufacturing, software to keep a product operating, or items used by staff. Supply chain management is a bigger task in some sectors than others. However, every business has some dealings with other businesses. Sometimes, there relationships are set up and then left alone, for years. 

Tips on how to manage this assumption:

  • Add supplier review to your annual strategic planning
  • Check in on quality and pricing every year
  • Monitor their financial health and customer ratings
  • Forecast growth for the coming year and confirm your supplier can keep up
  • Stay aware of who competes with suppliers. A small firm that wasn’t a fit 2 years ago may have grown and be able to better meet your needs now
  • Talk to your network for referrals and feedback

4. Assumptions about customers: thinking you know what they are thinking

It’s always thrilling to get a positive review from a customer. Personally hearing great feedback can make you feel on top of the world. But don’t think that all your customers feel the same way. That assumption closes down opportunities to make changes and improvements. 

The fact is, not everyone shares feedback. And when customers like you, they are less likely to speak up. Here is an example. When I ran my household service franchise, we introduced a new quality control review process. That revealed one particular employee who wasn’t meeting standards. When we approached the customer, they shared that they “liked him and didn’t want to say anything.” So we thought the customer was happy, but she was actually tolerating sub-standard services for the sake of being nice. But we were losing out on referrals, and it explained a couple of cancellations. That assumption cost us money. 

Tips on how to manage this assumption:

  • Include a feedback loop into the customer experience journey that is easy to complete. Digital forms can be added to email footers and invoices. 
  • Allow anonymous feedback surveys to get full honesty
  • Investigate every compliment and complaint to fully understand what is working, and what is not working, in your business
  • Monitor all sources of customer feedback, appropriate to your business. This may be Google Reviews, BBB, TripAdvisor, Yelp, TrustPilot, OpenTable

Questions for entrepreneurs to check assumptions

questions for entrepreneurs to check your assumptions

Do you have KPIs that you use to monitor the output and quality of your staff, or do you go by what they tell you and what you observe?

Do you provide customers with an anonymous evaluation process, to gather their honest feedback about their experience with your company?

When was the last time you asked staff for feedback on your performance as a leader?

Have you checked benchmarks for your industry to see how your business performance compares? Profit margins, year over year revenue growth, clickthrough rates?

Have you mapped out workflows to check for duplication, gaps, and opportunities to improve efficiency?

How assumptions can hurt your business

These are just 4 assumptions that can hurt your business by causing a loss of revenue, profits, productivity, and opportunity. Being aware of these expectations and biases is valuable for keeping your competitive edge. Include this awareness and these questions in your regular strategic planning process. This will help keep you open to change and improvement. 

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What are KPIs

What are KPIs?

We just love to take shortcuts. As humans. Why say 3 words when we can just rhyme off the first 3 letters as though it were a word itself? Acronyms are everywhere, especially in marketing. All entrepreneurs should understand what are KPIs, and how to apply them in a meaningful way.

Why?

Because the information that comes from tracking the right KPIs can help make better business decisions. Basically, it can mean the difference between a good year and a bad year. So this article will explain KPIs, how to use them, and what KPIs should be tracked for different kinds of businesses.

Key Performance Indicators

KPI means Key Performance Indicator. There are countless data points in running a business. Just looking at finances, customer service, and marketing can yield dozens of measurements. Profit margins, response time, customer satisfaction surveys, click-throughs and orders from a social media campaign – the list goes on and on! 

Specifically, the purpose of using KPIs is to cut through mountains of data to focus on the measurements that matter most to a business. And what metrics matter the most? It depends. It depends on how long a business has been operating, its size, its sector, and its strategic plan. A plumbing company will want to track different information than a hair salon; an e-commerce business won’t care about the metrics that matter to a law firm. Accordingly, a new business with one employee won’t get value from tracking the information that a huge corporation does. 

The top KPI categories are:

  • Finance KPIs
  • Operations KPIs
  • Marketing KPIs
  • Sales KPIs
  • Performance KPIs

Benefits of Using KPIs

First, let’s look at the benefits of using KPIs to understand the importance of tracking key performance indicators.

The quote “what gets measured, gets managed” has been attributed to Peter Drucker, though this may just be paraphrasing his work. The point is, information matters. Being successful in business without tracking important metrics is like asking a pilot to land on the runway while blindfolded. And this is the thing about numbers. They tell the truth. Because people are prone to emotion and interpretation. 

Additionally, tracking and analyzing KPIs provides direction and accountability. If the goal is to grow, then by how much? Set a specific target. Monitoring the metrics on a regular basis gives entrepreneurs the information they need to know exactly what is working, and what is not.

Example of Using KPIs

Benefits of KPIs

Here is an example of why KPIs are important to a business. The owner of a retail shop calls in on Sunday afternoon to see how things are going. Staff say it’s very busy and they are run off their feet. The owner rightly thinks that means sales are booming. Based on that bit of information, what decision might she make? Perhaps ordering more stock, or scheduling extra staff the following weekend.

However, a look at the KPIs tell a very different story. Daily sales reports show that revenue was 3% lower than the previous weekend. Sales per employee ratios show that one person booked almost zero. When armed with this information, the owner asked staff more questions. She learned the store was busy with many customers returning a particular item. Several people browsed and chatted with staff for ages, before leaving without making a purchase. 

Therefore, with this information, the shop owner will be making very different business decisions. This is the power of data and KPIs.

How to Use KPIs

As mentioned above, the right KPIs for one business may not be right for another. There are 3 main steps to follow for using KPIs.

Know Your Strategy

It all starts with the strategic plan for your business. KPIs measure the aspects of performance that have the biggest impact on reaching goals. If the priority is to increase audience, then social media and marketing KPIs like reach, follows, and signups must be tracked closely. If the focus is to increase sales, then sales per employee and conversion rates matter most.

Share and Engage

Don’t keep KPIs a secret from your team. Share and collaborate. Engage them in the reasons why this information is being tracked. This may be a strong motivator for improving their own performance, when KPIs are tied to compensation, bonuses, or perks. At the same time, keep an open mind for ideas that come from your staff.

Monitor Regularly

Just having KPIs are not enough, just like having a gym membership isn’t enough. Likewise, you have to show up, pay attention, and do the work. So monitor your metrics regularly. This could be 30 minutes weekly or an hour a month. Then, on a quarterly and annual basis, set aside time for a deeper dive and analysis. This information you gather is valuable for forecasting, setting targets, and making decisions for the coming year.

In general, all entrepreneurs should track revenue, expenses, profits, quality, customer satisfaction, staff performance, and the effectiveness of marketing activities. In addition, here are KPIs for specific sectors.

KPIs for Service Businesses

Service businesses don’t sell things – they sell time and expertise. This ranges from house cleaning, painting, landscaping, pet grooming, graphic design, tutoring, nutritionist, fitness training, and more. Though these may operate out of a brick and mortar office, half of the businesses in the United States operate from home

Without inventory to track and a storefront to maintain, here are the top KPIs for services businesses:

  • Customer satisfaction rate – valuable to use in marketing!
  • Service delivery time – important for scheduling and controlling labour costs
  • Acquisition cost – the marketing spend to land a new customer
  • Referral rate – how many customers are here from word of mouth?
  • Retention rate – how many customers return?
KPIs for Service Businesses

KPIs for Retail Businesses

Obviously, running a retail business is not what it used to be! Now that ecommerce has changed shopping habits. But there are still locally owned shops, especially in niche markets. Businesses like hair salons, barbers, massage therapists, and nail salons have a storefront, employees providing services, and may be also sell products to their customers. The top KPIs for retail businesses are:

  • Sales per product and Gross profit per product – to monitor what sells best and earns the most
  • Walk in traffic – how many customers came in without an appointment
  • Repeat customers
  • Product sales per employee

KPIs for ECommerce Businesses

Shopping online has been growing since Paypal started in 1998, but then the pandemic lockdowns seriously changed our buying habits. And many e-commerce entrepreneurs are home based and use drop-shipping to manage inventory and fulfilment. So, these KPIs are all about inventory and tracking the pennies on every product.

  • Sales per hour, day, week, month, quarter, year – to know the peaks and valleys to prepare for the future
  • COGS – cost of goods sold, by SKU (stock-keeping unit)
  • AOV (Average Order Value) – valuable for making marketing decisions
  • Shopping cart abandonment rate – to direct email campaigns
  • New vs returning customers
  • Conversion rate – how well is the site converting visitors to buyers?
  • Product affinity – what products tend to be ordered with other products? Can drive cross-promotion.
  • Inventory levels – to know what sells fast and what isn’t moving
  • RPV (revenue per visitor) – how much on average does each site visitor spend?

KPIs for Professonals

Next, the professionals. From accounting to tax advisors to mortgage brokers to lawyers, these businesses are often legislated and overseen by a professional body. Therefore,  running a professional corporation requires a close eye on details. Accordingly, here are specific KPIs for professionals:

  • Number of customers per professional 
  • Billable hours and non billable hours per professional per month – to monitor performance
  • Overhead costs as a percentage of gross revenue – to ensure these expenses don’t grow unless the income does
  • Average fee per client
  • Length of accounts receivables – to ensure customers pay on time
  • Conversion rate per professional – to see who closes more leads
  • Cancellation rate – how many customers cancel appointments?

KPIs for Trades

Though lots of tradespeople work solo, many are entrepreneurial and establish a brand with employees working for them. Also, there are franchise systems in furnace repair, plumbing, and electrical. In all cases, tracking time and workflow is important for customer satisfaction and to maximize profits. Here are important KPIs for trades.

  • Average service time per tradesperson – to benchmark performance and set schedules 
  • Completion Rate – percentage of customer requests completed on time
  • Service response – average time between customer request and booking the service call
  • Variable costs as percentage of gross revenue – especially for costs of equipment and maintenance
  • Complaint rate per services completed – to measure quality and performance
  • Complaint resolution rate – how well are issues being fixed?
  • Quote acceptance rate – of quotes given, how many customers book the work?
  • Net profit per job – tracking revenue against cost of labour and supplies

Conclusion

Basically, knowledge is power. As a result, knowing the facts about strategic elements of their business can show what is working, what is not, and what changes to make. Therefore, understanding what are KPIs for their business gives entrepreneurs specific targets to focus on. So stepping away from the day to day to monitor and analyze key performance indicators is especially important for entrepreneurs. 

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How Subliminal Affirmations Can Help Entrepreneurs

How Subliminal Affirmations Can Help Entrepreneurs

It’s not woo-woo. If you think affirmations in general, or subliminal affirmations in particular, are in the outer edges of reality, prepare to be surprised.

Subliminals have a long history of use in marketing, and many scientific studies have validated their effectiveness. Positive thinking and affirmations have the power to transform thought patterns, lower stress, improve health.

Most importantly for business owners, it also increases productivity, critical thinking, and decision making. Many top performers in sports and business use affirmations. As Jennifer Lopez says, “your thoughts create your life”, and subliminal affirmations can help entrepreneurs achieve the mindset and confidence to succeed.

What are affirmations?

First, let’s clarify what I mean by affirmations. Affirmations are really just statements, or sentences, that are used to reinforce a message. Affirmations are meant to be empowering and encouraging. These can be general, like “I am successful” or “I have what it takes”. They can also be very specific, to address whatever challenge an individual is facing. So if there is some public speaking coming up, then a good affirmation is “I am capable of speaking in front of an audience and what I have to say is valuable.”

I will resist the urge to share the whole backstory of positive affirmations – which is tough for me, because I am a history geek. What is important to know is that this isn’t new, or New Age. Many people first learned about positive thinking in 2006 with the explosive popularity of “The Secret” documentary about the law of attraction. But 50 years earlier, Earl Nightingale recorded an essay called The Strangest Secret about the “truth” that “we become what we think about”. Fun fact – this album is the first to reach Gold status by selling over a million copies. Even earlier, Napoleon Hill published “Think and Grow Rich” in 1937. The power of positive thinking has ancient roots, seemingly discovered anew by each generation.

The Power of Positive Thinking

The books I mention above are just a few of the countless ones written over the years about the power of positive thinking. Many share anecdotal stories of high achieving individuals who credit affirmations for their success. 

Mindset doesn’t just impact productivity and creates success in business – it makes a difference to our physical health. Studies at Johns Hopkins in the US show that among people most at risk for heart disease, those with a positive outlook are 13% less likely to have a heart attack. In fact, there is a growing body of science supporting the link between our internal dialogue and outlook, with brain function and physical health. 

The most successful entrepreneurs I know are optimistic. It’s part of the job description.

Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe.

Whether you think you can or you can’t, you are right.

Positivity breeds positivity.

What are Subliminals?

Subliminals are messages directed for our unconscious mind to absorb. These may be a single image included in a video which our eyes don’t see, but the brain detects. Most commonly, subliminals are communicated through sound. Though the conscious brain hears music or nature sounds, the unconscious brain picks up messages being spoken in the background. This allows the information to bypass the logical, rational mind and access a deeper part of our brain processes. 

So subliminal affirmations are positive messages that are in the background, masked by music or some other soundtrack. But your brain is capable of absorbing the information, which makes this a powerful and effective way to transform attitude and outlook.

How Subliminal Affirmations Can Help Entrepreneurs

How Subliminal Affirmations Can Help Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurship can be lonely and isolating. Carrying all the responsibility and financial risk is a weight that can easily take its toll on our energy level. Which is why maintaining good health through self care, nutrition, and exercise must be a priority for every entrepreneur. But being fit and having vitality doesn’t mean that there are no doubts or insecurities. Being a business owner means dealing with many challenges, problems, and complaints. These carry their own weight and easily create uncertainty and indecision. This is how subliminal affirmations can help entrepreneurs. It is a passive way to transform our inner dialogue and support a healthy outlook. 

5 Ideas for Using Subliminal Affirmations

Listening to subliminal affirmations on a regular basis can help guide thinking towards a positive mindset. Repetition is key. After all, you don’t expect to get fit after one visit to the gym. And you don’t learn a new skill by doing it once. So with consistency, over time, subliminal affirmations can transform your mindset. Here are 5 ideas for how to incorporate this into your daily routine.

I don’t recommend you listen while driving, because it can have a very relaxing effect, and you want to be fully alert when behind the wheel.

  1. Listen while falling asleep
  2. Use headphones and listen when walking outside or on treadmill
  3. Play in the background while working
  4. Listen during touring tasks like dishes, meal prep, laundry
  5. Include in a mindfulness or meditation practise

Conclusion

There are no absolutes in this world. Yes, positive thinking is powerful, and it works. Subliminal affirmations are effective for helping to align the internal dialogue of our brains to the goals and actions we want to achieve. But the reality is that we all have crap days. And affirmations can’t erase challenges to our physical and mental health. Nutrition, sleep, and other aspects of self-care are critical for everyone – especially entrepreneurs who have big plans for their business. 

I have created two subliminal affirmations specifically for entrepreneurs. One is for people just starting out, to help them embrace the entrepreneur mindset. The other is to support business owners who have hit a wall or are preparing to level up. Purchase the MP3 files from my shop, or listen for free on YouTube here and here.

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What is CTA?

What is CTA?

Recently, I mentioned to a client that their website needs a stronger CTA. And they asked me, what is CTA? Which stopped me in my tracks. Because I realized two things.

One, I dislike speaking in acronyms, and wasn’t aware that I was doing it.

Two, I had made an assumption, which is never a good thing. I assumed my audience knew what a CTA is. But as a new entrepreneur, they hadn’t heard of it before. So here is this post, to explain what is CTA, what it means, why it matters, and examples of how to use it in your business.

CTA Explained

CTA is an acronym for Call To Action. It’s common jargon in marketing. Because when people find themselves saying something dozens of times a day, they tend to find a shortcut. Call to Action describes a prompt or invitation to encourage your audience to do something. Essentially, whether it’s a basic “buy now” to a creative “give me the details”, it directs what action you want your audience to take. Read on for more examples later in this post.

Why does CTA matter?

Basically, doing a marketing campaign without a call to action is like trying to drive a car without a steering wheel. You have no direction, and get nowhere fast. 

A CTA encourages the action you want a customer to take. Consumer behaviour has been studied for decades, and one constant truth is the need to ask or instruction potential customers to do something. Though technology has changed how we interact with brands and gather information to make purchase decisions, human psychology hasn’t evolved. We still follow the basic framework that marketing dudes from the late 19th century talked about – Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action, or AIDA. That Action is the CTA – call to action.

What is CTA?

Tips for Writing a CTA

At this point, we have a solid understanding of CTA. Next, let’s look at tips for writing a CTA for your business. As well as words, a CTA is also colour and image. Because the use of photos, video, movement, colour, and makes the message stronger.

  • Be on brand

Firstly, be sure the appearance, message, and tone of your CTA matches your brand. For example, if your brand colours don’t include yellow, then don’t use a yellow button to say “Order Now.” However, if your brand is quirky, fun, and playful, then don’t use a serious and formal call to action.  

  • Be specific

Essentially, tell your customer exactly what you want them to do, and when. Creating a sense of urgency is a proven way to encourage action. A CTA should be specific, as in “Shop Today” or “Start Now”. Another way to be specific with a CTA is to add numbers. As in “Signup to get 50% off.”

  • Be concise

Don’t write a whole sentence, when just a few words will do. 

  • Be strategic

Also, create each CTA to align with the goal of the marketing campaign, which in turn should connect with your strategic plan. For example, if your business is aiming to build brand recognition, then the call to action should be “Learn More” to get more visitors to your website, or “Follow Now” to grow your audience and increase visibility. 

  • Be emotional

A CTA which creates an emotional response is effective for encouraging the audience to follow through. Use a CTA that connects to the desired outcomes of your target customer. This could be “Start improving your health today” or “Yes, I want to be more productive”

  • Be consistent

If sales is a numbers game, then marketing is about repetition. And consistency. So use the same CTA across all channels for the same campaign. Don’t use one on TikTok and another one on Facebook.

However, an exception to this rule would be if you are doing A/B Testing, which means running the same ad to the same audience with one modification – like different call to action phrases – to measure the response rate. 

  • Be Flexible

Finally, monitor the conversion rates of your marketing, and be flexible with making changes if the response rates are low. Measure how many people followed through on your CTA, and if that rate is very low, consider changing the CTA to see if the results change. 

CTA Examples

What is CTA?

As explained above, CTAs should be on-brand and connect to the strategic objective of the marketing campaign. Therefore, an ecommerce business has different CTAs than a non-profit organization. Next, here are some CTA examples by sector and purpose:

Building a community

Subscribe, Join Now, Sign up, Refer

Selling products or services online

Order Now, Buy, Shop, Add to Cart, Learn How

Blog

Learn More, Read More, Discover, See More

Generating a Lead

Request a Quote, Get Started, Contact Today, Get in Touch

Lead Magnet

Download Now, Free Download, Claim, Get Code

Building reach on social media

Follow us, Share This, Save This

Non-Profit Organizations

Donate, Support Us, Volunteer, Give Today, Adopt, Help Us

What is CTA and Why it Matters

Clearly, entrepreneurship has its own set of acronyms and abbreviations. Certainly, this can be intimidating as a new business owner. But just as every big company started out as a small company, everyone had to learn the terms and lingo of being in business. All in all, understanding CTAs is valuable for getting the best results from marketing and customer cmmmunication. Overall, marketing is about consistency and repetition, so once you craft a strong CTA, use it throughout your website, email, ads, or direct mail.

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Reasons to not have your business online

Reasons to not have your business online

Most of our lives are online. From basics like banking and bills, to communication, to entertainment; we use the internet every day. For some of us, all day every day. Same goes for running a business. I’ve rarely heard an entrepreneur say that they don’t need to be online. Even an offline business needs to be online. There are clear benefits for this.

But.

Does everyone need a website, social media channels, and a Google My Business profile? Here are reasons to not have your business online.

First, to share a story of why an offline business benefits from having an online presence. Recently, one of my daughters needed something, just hours before getting on a plane. It wasn’t urgent, or even a necessity. More of a comfort thing. Because it’s practical to remove the acrylic nails for graduation parties before backpacking in Europe with friends. But schedules and then a bank holiday got in the way, and suddenly it was the day of her flight.

So it was time to use Google to find a nearby business that’s open and can book an appointment within the hour.

Though I usually spend time checking reviews, this was urgent, so the first place that could book her was getting the business. Salons with Google My Business had the competitive advantage. Businesses that didn’t answer the phone lost out. There was the salon who said yes, we can take you, come on over. But when we arrived, there were 4 people waiting for service and the receptionist avoided eye contact. I’ll never go back.

Finally, there was the business who said yes, and did the service at the time we booked. I’ve since gone back to that nail salon, and would happily recommend them. All from answering the phone, being pleasant, and following through on what they said they would. These are critical for all service businesses.

 

The point is – this nail salon gained potentially hundreds of dollars in revenue just from me, because their offline business has an online presence. So what are the reasons to not have your business online?

What is being online?

Firstly, to clarify “being online”. Did you know that of the 1.12 billion websites in the world, 82% are inactive? Having an inactive website is just about the same as being offline. When information isn’t updated on a website, it isn’t giving an accurate representation of your business to prospective customers. Being online means:

    • Regularly updating a website for performance, loading time, accuracy, and site health
    • Configuring a website content for SEO to rank on search engines
    • Setting up Google My Business and updating the listing with contact details and operating hours
    • Posting to social media channels (Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc)
    • Monitoring incoming enquiries from online contact details (direct messages, phone calls, emails, website forms)

All these activities require time, energy, and a level of expertise. Many businesses will have someone on the team who handles it full time, because they are essential functions. E-commerce is an example of a business which must be online and doing these activities as part of their normal operations. What I’m talking about are the offline B2C service businesses. Nail salons, landscaping businesses, massage therapists, dog groomers, fitness instructors, child care centres – all the in-person businesses who deliver services in real time. If this sounds like you, there are reasons to not have your business online, and they may surprise you.

Reason 1 - Revenue growth is not a goal

Wait, what? Isn’t this the point of starting a business? To build revenue, maximize profits, and meet personal financial goals?

Most entrepreneurs want to increase their revenue. But this isn’t always the case.

Often, this is because they haven’t adjusted their targets. For example, someone starts a business with the goal of earning a certain amount, and calculates the revenue required to meet that. Then they meet it. And so they stay there. They don’t do the work on their business to see the opportunities to expand and grow, and to set new revenue targets.

I had a franchisee like this.

She had met her personal revenue goals and was happy with where her business was. She didn’t want to manage more staff or run a bigger business, so her revenue was flatlined.

Reason 2 - Capacity is maxed

At any given moment, every business has a limit on its output. For that nail salon, their capacity is limited by how many staff they have working, which is also limited by how many chairs they have in their place of business.

In a service business, capacity is dictated by staffing levels. When selling items, capacity is influenced by production levels and distribution channels.

When your capacity is maxed and you can’t handle more customers or orders, then you may not want to be online generating leads. Stepping away from online while you build up capacity is ok. But this can be a slippery slope. I’ve seen entrepreneurs turn off all marketing efforts because of maxed capacity, only to hit a slump later.

Reason 3 - Limiting beliefs

After all, Oprah said that “you don’t become what you want, you become what you believe.” So consider if your limiting beliefs holding you back from growing your business. For example, when you started out with the goal of your business looking a certain way. You worked hard and you’ve built what you imagined. You climbed the mountain. As a result, you don’t see the potential for more. More sales, more business, more profits. Another product line, another location, another set of services. Essentially, your limiting beliefs may not let you imagine yourself with a business that is bigger than where you are now, or to imagine yourself owning multiple businesses.

Reason 4 - Personal lifestyle goals

This reason is even more personal. Every entrepreneur gets to build a business that fits with their own lifestyle goals. This looks different for every person. And it changes depending on the age and stage you are at. When raising young children, this may mean setting a work schedule around school dropoffs and pickups. It could be embracing a 4 day workweek, as described by Timothy Ferriss in his book. For those of us with a passion for travel, this mean running a business that is not location-dependent and enjoying the benefits of being a digital nomad. The bottom line is that your personal lifestyle goals have a huge impact on business decisions, which is one of the reasons to not have your business online.

Reason 5 - Low customer turnover

Some businesses need to run a constant lead-gen process to keep revenue levels even. Others have very low customer turnover and enjoy a stable foundation of revenue year round. Once they acquire a customer, they just keep them for a long time. This depends on the sector and the average revenue per customer. I know an entrepreneur working in a tech field where landing a B2C customer meant a 3 year contract of 6-figure revenue. In a case like this, lead gen is more about direct sales and building relationships. Posting regular social media content and updating a website isn’t part of the strategy.

Reason 6 - Strong referral program

I know successful entrepreneurs who did zero marketing because they built a strong referral program. Providing outstanding value and customer experience is a must. But to follow it up with a customer appreciation process and ask for referrals? Every business benefits from putting the time in on this. Add an incentive, like a points system, a share code, or a referral gift. This doesn’t have to be sophisticated or high-tech. I know an entrepreneur who schedules an hour a week to send thank you notes to customers. A simple handwritten “thank you for your business” is powerful and stands out, especially when most of our communication is online. This leads to referrals. Then, writing a note to say “thank you for recommending us to…”  and including a gift card will almost guarantee that more referrals will come your way.

Conclusion

Obviously, it’s a digital world. As a result, it’s easy to feel that a strong online presence is necessary for a business to be successful. But the best thing about entrepreneurship is having the freedom to create a business to suit each individual person. Therefore, investing in an expensive website and posting frequently on social media is not right for every business owner.

As has been noted, for a service business operating locally, a basic site with Google My Business and a strong customer retention and referral system is of value.

By the way, if you are looking for a way to get your business online fast, I personally use and recommend IONOS for a simple web builder that is low cost and easy to manage.

Finally, align actions to meet your specific business goals, rather than copying any general formula for business. 

 

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5 signs you need to spend more time working on your business

5 signs you need to spend more time working on your business

These 5 signs you need to spend more time working on your business can make the difference between long term success, or failure. Entrepreneurs juggle a lot of responsibilities, so it’s tough to stay balanced. It can be a challenge to make the time to review results, see the bigger picture, and check in with yourself. But it’s so important, and this post explains why. 

1. Books are not updated

Bookkeeping may be your idea of a good time, but it is a critical part of running a business. Because without updated financial reports, how will you know key metrics like profitability, and revenue growth? 

Futhermore, if books are not updated, it makes it hard to know what tax remittances to make, what bills need to be paid, and what invoices haven’t been collected. This creates stress, losses, cash flow problems, or even business failure. Given that government tax agencies have extensive power and can even close a business, clearly bookkeeping should not be neglected. Make bookkeeping easier with technology. When I ran my franchise system in Canada, I used QuickBooks. In the UK, I use and recommend FreeAgent. All bank transactions are updated so there is no manual entry. It makes reporting and tax filings so easy, with very little administration time. 

Ask yourself:

Are bank statements reconciled?

What is the status of tax filings for the business ? Remitting sales tax, payroll tax, and tax on profits? 

Did I file my own personal taxes last year?

Are my business finances separate from my personal finances?

2. Website is out of date

Clearly, most companies have websites. While for some it may be more information, for others it is transactional. For businesses that rely on a website for orders, sales, or bookings is more likely to be updated and maintained on a regular basis. However, for other businesses, a website is essentially an online billboard. It’s just a way to present information, and not directly tied to revenue. Therefore, it’s less of a priority to when spending time working on your business.

However, even if your company website isn’t how you make your money, keep it updated. One, it’s a powerful way to connect with your audience. This is how they may find your location or your contact details. Two, it’s an important step of the decision making process. If I see great content on social media, I click through to the website to learn more about the product or service. If the site is outdated, or inaccurate, or has a 404, this doesn’t build trust, and this can negatively impact my decision to purchase. Sometimes, starting a new site from scratch is faster, easier, and less money than cleaning up the code, content, and plugins of an old site that hasn’t been updated for awhile. The IONOS website creator makes it easy.

Losing a website - a true story

Here is an example. Years ago I knew a small business owner who got so busy servicing customers that he didn’t spend any time working on his business. Administration, marketing, website maintenance – it was all ignored. He didn’t do it, and he didn’t outsource it to someone else to handle. And then, he hit a slump. Projects were completed, so he needed more customers. But there were no calls or emails coming in. That is how he realized that his website was down. Not only that, but his domain name had expired, and a competitor had purchased it. So when people searched for his company name, they were directed to a website owned by a direct competitor. 

 

Ask yourself:

Is the copyright year on the website accurate?

Does my website have current prices and services?

Are names, addresses, contact details accurate?

When were internal and outbound links last checked?

What is the site speed?

How is the site ranked for SEO and SERP?

3 - No marketing campaign

Are you super busy with your current workload? Great! But things change fast. In order to avoid a revenue drop, keep the marketing activity flowing. Also, keep track of results, so that you know what marketing channel and message is most effective. It’s best to review marketing results from past quarters and years to see not just how many people responded to your ads and outreach, but how many became customers. Because who knows what this analysis will reveal? You may find that what worked well before is not yielding the same results. 

Ask yourself:

Do I know my customer avatar?

Am I reaching my customers in all the right places, and with the right frequency?

What is the cost acquisition for new customers?

Which marketing channel gives the best return on investment?

How does the conversion rate compare to last quarter, or last year?

4 - Unanswered emails and messages

In a perfect world, all channels of communication would be clear and empty by the end of every business day. However, that isn’t realistic for most entrepreneurs. But if your unanswered emails and messages are piling up each day, and spilling over into new weeks and months, this is a sign to spend more time working on your business. 

After all, many entrepreneurs juggle it all – sales, support, and marketing. But more established business owners have usually delegated these tasks. So here may be front line staff to respond to customers, and a social media manager to deal with DMs. Amazing. However, having a team means questions for the boss, and a bigger business means more communication. Therefore, what is going on with your email and messages is an opportunity to set up processes and systems to keep up with communication and administration.

In our digital online world, we don’t often pick up the phone and make a call. But when we do, we expect a response. Don’t send your customers (or potential customers!) into the void of voicemail. Answering services are professional, prompt, and can use the language and messaging you want your customers to hear. I recommend Ruby to my clients in the United States, and in the UK I love the services of MoneyPenny.

Ask yourself:

How long do customers wait for a response?

Am I responding to emails at night, or on weekends, when I could be more present with family, friends, and fun?

Do I use technology to make communication faster? Auto responders, automations, pre-written responses?

Have I ever missed something important because it was buried in email, WhatsApp, or DMs?

5 - No strategy

The last of these 5 signs you need to spend more time working on your business is not having a strategy. Basically, this means winging it week to week, quarter by quarter, without a specific strategic plan. By all means, this doesn’t have to be polished, pretty, or posted on a wall. It can be a sketch in a journal or bullet points on your phone. The point is, do you have a roadmap to follow to direct your business activities?

After all, it’s easy to get into the groove of managing things day by day.  The administrative tasks of regular operations like fulfilling orders, managing staff, or dealing with suppliers is a busy schedule. And it can be exciting, and feel satisfying. This is ok for a little while. But as weeks and months slip by without spending time on strategy and leave your business lost and without direction. 

Ask yourself:

Is revenue and profits reviewed regularly to compare from quarter to quarter, and year to year? 

Do we track performance metrics that are meaningful for our business and customers? Things like quality, response time, delivery time, satisfaction levels, referrals, retention?

What are specific goals for the coming year?

Why these 5 signs matter to your business

Clearly, bookkeeping, website, marketing, communication, and planning are all important elements of working on a business. If these are all up to date, it’s a sign of a well managed business. However, when these activities are set aside to mostly deal with day to day stuff, it can quickly pile up into a mess that creates problems. As shown above, not spending time on a business can lead to big problems, like losing a domain name! 

Therefore, step out of the flow of daily operations and work on your business to get better performance and profits. For more direction on what to focus on, that this quick 2-minute quiz to get personalized feedback. 

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The benefit of joining an entrepreneurship organization

Joining an entrepreneurship organization

It takes a special kind of person to be a business owner. Owning and managing a business needs the right mindset, commitment, and a deep passion. Studies show that business owners are at higher risk for entrepreneur loneliness, stress, and burnout. Being part of a supportive community protects against these downsides of being an entrepreneur. This is the benefit of joining an entrepreneurship organization. Read on to understand what these are, how to find them, and the benefits of being a member.

This post may contain affiliate links. I will receive a small commission if you use these links, at no additional cost to you. For the full disclosure, visit this page.

What are entrepreneurship organizations?

It’s like a club, but only for business owners. They are generally designed to provide entrepreneurs with support, communication, education, and networking. These can be very broad, or segmented. For example, an entrepreneurship organization may be very local or regional, just for people living in a specific geographic area. Or, a group may only accept members based on certain criteria. Perhaps the group is just for women. Or members must have been in business for a certain number of years, or have reached a threshold of annual revenue.

Why join an entrepreneurship organization?

If you are still wondering if it’s worth it, here are the 4 top benefits joining an entrepreneurship organization.

1. Networking

Connect with people who share common ground. Maybe they are in the same sector but in a different geographic market, so you can freely share tips and ideas. Or they are a provider or supplier with expertise that your organization needs. At the very least, you have entrepreneurship in common. Also, networking develops relationships and connections, which creates business opportunities and growth experiences.

2. Mentorship

Many entrepreneurship organizations have structured mentorship programs. This could be a set number of meetings with a mentor selected for you, based on their experience and background. In addition, there may be informal guidance programs to help members start, grow, and scale. Also, being introduced to a mentor who can steer you through the challenges you face is a key benefit of joining an entrepreneurship organization. 

3. Education

Education is key at every stage of growing and managing a business. Obviously, books are helpful to build skills and grasp new concepts. Additionally, workshops, keynotes, and conferences are valuable opportunities to learn and grow as an entrepreneur. Many entrepreneurship organizations offer education programs to showcase the expertise of members and develop the skills of the whole community. 

4. Money

Certainly, businesses need access to more money at some stage. Some entrepreneurship organizations facilitate introductions to government grants, loans, or venture capital investors. 

How to find an entrepreneurship organization

Although social media and Google can help find an entrepreneurship organization, here is a list of groups to consider to help you get started. 

Entrepreneurs Organization

The EO calls itself the world’s only peer-to-peer network exclusively for entrepreneurs. Their mission is to transform the lives of those who transform the world.

Federation of Small Businesses

This UK organization is dedicated to supporting small businesses achieve their goals. They offer advice, financial planning expertise, support, and advocacy. 

National Small Business Association

For American small businesses, this entrepreneurship organization provides access to services, benefits, and resources. 

US Small Business Administration

With a focus on providing access to loans and grants, the SBA is dedicated to supporting small businesses as they start and grow. 

British Organization of Women Entrepreneurs

This UK organization is a member of the international FCEM, which has 5 million members in over 120 countries. Founded back in 1945, they are dedicated to connect entrepreneurial women for solidarity, friendship, and education. The organization in the USA calls itself a one-stop resource for women business owners. 

Young Entrepreneur Council

The tagline of this group is “Driven by ambition. Empowered by community.” They take a holistic approach to provide its members with skillbuilding and support both professionally and personally. 

Startup Grind

This organization is for the global startup community. They have chapters in 600 cities across 125 countries. Their goal is to give startups education, opportunities, and access to the resources that will support their growth. 

BNI

Business Networking International provides weekly networking without competition. Each chapter allows only one member per category of business. This provides a wider range of networking opportunities and ensures that all referrals for your product or service will flow to you.

It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed.

Conclusion

Overall, business owners can expect many benefits from joining an entrepreneurship organization. As shown above, it creates opportunities to access  information, ideas, support, and funding. Therefore, the return on the investment of time and money is well worth it. Furthermore, being part of a community of like-minded people can build friendships, networking and business opportunities. 

 

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The loneliness of entrepreneurship

The loneliness of entrepreneurship

When I started my first business in 2001, I was not prepared for the loneliness of entrepreneurship. I’m an introvert, so escaping the corporate cubicle hive of my HR career was actually a relief. I didn’t miss the office politics and forced social situations. Working alone in my home office suited me perfectly. Building all the bits of pieces of a service business was fun, and I loved the creativity and freedom. Then there was the exhilaration of hiring staff, and landing my first clients. I also joined a local entrepreneurship organization for networking and collaboration. 

The days were busy. I dealt with people all the time. So where does the entrepreneur loneliness come in?

It creeps up. 

It does, even for an introvert. And here is why:

1. Isolation

Entrepreneurship is isolating. There may be a team and a community, but there is just one seat for the driver. 

And this isn’t natural, for humans. Being social is our genetic heritage, going back millions of years. Studies credit it for our development of language and technology and all the stuff that allows you to read this on whatever little gadget you are holding right now. 

But it takes more than being social to combat the loneliness of entrepreneurship. We need a sense of belonging. A feeling of connection with like minded people. Unless you are lucky to have fellow entrepreneurs in your family or household, this is tough to find.

As entrepreneurs, it is easy to feel isolated because we are often the “other.” Though all our time is spent with people, we are never in a peer group. There is always an exchange involved. In our business, we are the boss and have a responsibility to lead. With clients, there is the responsibility to serve. Then with suppliers, we are the clients negotiating a deal. And in entrepreneurship organizations, we are representing our brand to network and collaborate. All these interactions are transactional, not inclusive. Spending all our time in these professional relationships without a feeling of inclusivity is a key reason for the loneliness of entrepreneurship.

2. Image and Identity

By nature, entrepreneurs multitask and juggle many projects, tasks, activities, and responsibilities. It’s part of our identity. We are a leader, and the boss. It’s always a public role, on a large or small scale.  Every business is different, but all entrepreneurs are involved in some level of marketing and promotion. It could be local TV and radio, print publications, social media, public speaking, billboards, or podcasts. One way or another, entrepreneurs are out there to build their business and increase brand awareness. This requires presenting an image of strength and confidence. 

However, that strong public image and identity leads to isolation because it doesn’t leave room to connect with people on a personal level. As explained earlier, relationships tend to be transactional. People engage because they want to be your customer, or land you as a client. And because of the responsibility to represent your brand and maintain the image of strength, these interactions are all professional. If someone asks how things are going, the answer must always be positive. Even if you are in the middle of a terrible, stressful, challenging week.

3. Confidentiality

This is another reason for the loneliness of entrepreneurship. The matter of confidentiality is a barrier to connecting with people. Not every business has high-value intellectual property to protect, but every business has reason to want confidentiality. Entrepreneur loneliness creeps up because we can’t talk honestly about our issues and challenges with other business owners. Vulnerability is necessary to bond with people on a personal level, and this isn’t possible when confidentiality is a concern.

An inside baseball talk about your sector and market is fun, informative, and provides a valuable sense of belonging. This is why there are thousands of industry conferences every year in the US alone. It’s a safe space that allows for personal connections to develop. As a franchisor, I attended a few Canadian Franchise Association conventions. These were valuable for 3 reasons. The workshops and keynotes built my skills and inspired me. And I met amazing people who understood the joys and challenges I was facing. Shop talk about franchising was enjoyable, and I made one very good friend that way.

However, these kinds of conversations can reveal sensitive information. Details about strategic plans, weaknesses, or pricing strategy require confidentiality. If this knowledge were to get out, it could negatively impact valuable competitive advantages. This creates another barrier that leads to the loneliness of entrepreneurship. It doesn’t feel safe to share freely because of the need for confidentiality, and this prevents the feeling of connection and inclusion.

Personally, I found that the people I trusted didn’t have the knowledge or expertise to provide meaningful feedback and support. And the people who could help were competitors, or close friends with competitors, or just untrustworthy gossips. 

4 ways to cope with the loneliness of entrepreneurship

There are many strategies to help prevent entrepreneur loneliness. It comes down to building connections outside of the circle of employees, suppliers, and customers. This is a little tougher for introverts, but there are some great books which can help with that.

1. Mastermind Groups

Online or in person, mastermind groups are a safe space to connect with other entrepreneurs. There is generally a code of confidentiality, and often groups don’t have competing businesses, so you can be free and honest. Also, mastermind groups are a way to access a broad range of ideas and expertise, which can give you valuable perspective on your business.

2. Mentors

Having a mentor is a powerful way to prevent isolation as an entrepreneur. It’s a chance to brainstorm solutions with someone who knows your sector. Because sharing freely, feeling heard, and being encouraged are all effective for creating a sense of inclusion.

3. Fitness & Fun

Getting out of the bubble of our business to have fun is a healthy way to stay balanced. After all, the mental health benefits of exercise and laughter is well known. Taking time for fitness and hobbies that you enjoy gives the brain a break and creates opportunities to connect with people. 

4. Entrepreneurship Organizations

Finally, a benefit of most networking groups is that memberships usually allow only 1 business per sector. Not having a competitor in the group opens up the possibility to develop friendships. Joining an entrepreneurship organization is more than learning and referrals – real connections can be made. I actually married someone I met in my BNI Chapter!

Book recommendations to cope with loneliness

As Taylor Swift said once, “The scary news is, you are on your own now. But the cool news is, you are on your own now.” This is especially true for entrepreneurs.

It can be lonely at the top. This book shares tools and strategies for women leaders and business owners.

Conclusion

As shown above, it is very common for entrepreneurs to experience isolation and lonliness at one time or the other. Clearly, this is challenging for mental health and productivity. However, there are strategies that can help business owners cope. Specifically, joining mastermind groups, having mentors, taking time for fitness and hobbies, and joining an entrepreneur organization can help prevent the loneliness of entrepreneurship. 

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Lessons from Estée Lauder for entrepreneurs

Lessons from Estée Lauder for entrepreneurs

Before Estée Lauder was the name of a global billion dollar brand, she was just a girl with passion and a dream. Sound familiar? Back when she was born in 1908, in New York City, the world was very different. Women couldn’t even vote, for one thing. Estée got her start selling skincare products that her uncle, a trained chemist, developed in a make-shift lab. She then created a face powder, a lipstick, and then a perfumed bubble bath that transformed the cosmetics industry. Estée Lauder was an innovator and a disruptor who changed consumer behaviour. Valuable lessons from Estée Lauder for entrepreneurs will inspire and motivate you as you build and manage your small business. But first, let’s look at the reasons why she was so influential.

 

This post may contain affiliate links. I will receive a small commission if you use these links, at no additional cost to you. For the full disclosure, visit this page.

3 Top Reasons Why Estée Lauder was influential

Daily life, marketing tactics, and business operations were very different back when Estée Lauder was building her brand. But there are 3 top reasons why Estée Lauder was influential. Technology, society, and consumer behaviour may be different, but much of what she did is timeless.

Estée Lauder was a marketing genius

Here – have a sample, and try out this new cleanser. Though it’s common practice now, when Estée Lauder was building her brand, this wasn’t a thing. She introduced using free samples as a marketing tool. It’s a smart and effective way to reduce barriers to purchase. Giving customers the opportunity to use, try, and test a product or a service establishes consumer trust and positively influences buying decisions. This tactic is still used today, across all sectors – even in e-commerce! There are free trials of software services, free returns of products within 30 days, and Amazon has introduced a Try Before You Buy program.

Basically, Estée built her brand with word of mouth campaigns. She understood that people telling people about her products was more powerful than an expensive billboard or newspaper ad. “Telephone – telegraph – tell a woman” was her mantra. And as a marketing genius, she put herself in the shoes of her customers, and considered their perspective and experience. This approach is still recommended by top business schools and marketing experts. 

Estée Lauder broke barriers for women

Equality and empowerment for women were embedded in the company culture from the very start. In the 1960s, Estée Lauder was a place of employment and opportunity for women, at a time when women were still expected to consider “housewife” as their only career. Today, the company still makes history.  Over 50% of the leadership team at The Estée Lauder Companies are women. Most notably, almost half their Board of Directors are also women – at a time when on average, corporate boards only have 25% women.

Estée Lauder built a multi-generational business

Have you heard of the 3-generation myth? There are different expressions for it, which all express the same concept – the father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells. Note that all these expressions use the male gender. Patriarchy runs deep! 
And here, Estée Lauder was influential. She built her global brand as a multi-generational business. The company was privately owned by her family for decades, right up to 1995. Her children and grandchildren are billionaires and still have shares of the now publicly traded company. Top leadership still includes Lauder family members, so they remain involved and active in the company Estée built.

I was unstoppable, so great was my faith in what I sold.

3 lessons from Estée Lauder for entrepreneurs

She has been described as having a “challenger spirit”, which makes sense. For a woman to build a powerhouse brand using her name when women were usually secretaries and receptionists – she must have been a force of nature! The times have changed, but these 3 lessons from Estée Lauder for entrepreneurs are as valuable today as they were decades ago. 

Lesson 1: Keep the message simple

First of all, she kept her message simple – every woman can be beautiful. As a tagline and as a concept, it’s timeless. No matter what trends come and go, that simple message has an impact. It’s a message that fit when she started out with just 4 products, and still fit when  Estée Lauder grew to be a global brand with many product lines. This is a great lesson for entrepreneurs today. In this age of information we are flooded with content, and attention spans are short. Consumers today can be easily distracted by shiny things, so a complicated message gets lost. Keep it simple. As Simon Sinek says in his  must-read book for entrepreneurs, start with your why.

Lesson 2: Don’t let barriers be obstacles

In the 1960s, Estée Lauder wanted to scale her business and start marketing. However, colour ads were beyond their budget. Clearly, that could have been an obstacle. Alternatively, she could have overextended their financials and bumped up to colour ads. Instead, she saw this barrier as an opportunity to be unique. They ran with black and white photos, and embraced it. Black and white ads became part of their brand. This “Estée Lauder look” helped the brand differentiate from competitors. The lesson here is that sometimes, instead of overcoming something, you can go around it. The beauty of entrepreneurship is that we (mostly) have the room to be creative and innovate.

Lessons from Estee Lauder

Lesson 3: Innovate to differentiate

As shown above, Estée Lauder was a disruptor who knew how to innovate. When she was building her brand in the post-war 1950s, the cosmetics industry was pretty small. Perfume was only worn for special occasions. Women were gifted perfume for birthdays, anniversaries, or holidays. Simply, it just wasn’t a social norm for a woman to buy perfume for herself. As a result, Estée knew that if she could give women a reason to buy scent, the potential market would explode in size. So in 1953, she created a scented bath oil, with a fragrance designed to last a full 24 hours. This innovative product was called Youth Dew. When it launched, it “Middle America went bananas for it” and sales reached 5,000 units a week – astounding for the time. This innovative product not only set the Estee Lauder brand apart from everyone else, it boosted revenues, transforming the small business into a million dollar company. The lesson for entrepreneurs is that instead of copying what everyone else is doing, look for ways to innovate and create something unique.

 

Conclusion

Estée Lauder may have been born over 100 years ago and did business in a very different environment. But her groundbreaking marketing tactics, and committment to creating leadership opportunities for women had lasting impact. She stuck to a simple brand message, never let a barrier be an obstacle, and innovated to differentiate – which are all valuable lessons from Estée Lauder for entrepreneurs.

 

 

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journaling tips for entrepreneurs

Journaling Tips for Entrepreneurs

It seems like journalling is everywhere, and for good reason. Studies prove that people who keep a journal experience many positive outcomes. These benefits include improved mood, lowered blood pressure, and less anxiety. This sounds great as a business owner, but I believe journalling is more than that. It’s a practise that, when done right, can increase success as an entrepreneur. To gain these benefits, read on for these journaling tips for entrepreneurs.

Journalling Benefits for Entrepreneurs

The benefits of journalling for entrepreneurs are widely recognized. Many successful founders credit keeping a journal as an important part of their journey. And this isn’t new. For centuries, creatives and entrepreneurs have kept journals. Prolific inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci left behind about 50 notebooks of observations, notes, and ideas. Scientist Marie Curie kept journals, which are now stored in a lead box – because they are still radioactive. And arguably one of the most famous journals was kept by businessman and old-school VC investor Samuel Pepys

I’ve been journalling since I was about 8 years old. Of course, the methods and purpose of journalling changed throughout the years. When my children were small and I was neck-deep in building a brand and franchise system, my journal was both a comfort and a coping strategy. Some days, I journalled to celebrate wins, and record what I felt great about. Often, I used my journal to process thoughts during challenges. It was helpful to write out my feelings and rationale when making big decisions in my business. These are just some of the journalling benefits for entrepreneurs.

Here are 3 strategies for using a journal to increase success as an entrepreneur.

Separation between personal and business

Entrepreneurs generally have few boundaries between life and work. Journalling allows for more separation between personal life and business. A journal is a safe space to express feelings and frustrations. Being a business owner means keeping on a game face for staff, suppliers, and customers. It just isn’t professional to vent about staffing problems to clients. This is a key cause for the loneliness of entrepreneurship.

Of course, there is the love and support of family and friends. But that has limits. Because really, how often do they want to listen to you blather on about the same issues? Start a journal, and have a private place to vent. Write about all the frustrations of the day. It’s a free-style stream of consciousness. There is no need to explain yourself. You can write about the same problem again and again, without judgement. Then you can leave it behind and be present with family and friends. This allows for more separation between personal and business, which is very healthy. After all, anything that supports your mental health will increase your success as an entrepreneur.

“The starting point of discovering who you are, your gifts, your talents, your dreams, is being comfortable with yourself. Spend time alone. Write in a journal.”

Stress management

Let’s face it, being the boss is hard. There are challenges from customers, staff, and suppliers. Things don’t always go to plan. People make mistakes, and technology fails. As the business owner, it’s usually up to you to put things right. Expressing thoughts and emotions provides a release of anxiety and worry. Using a journal to process feelings about what is going on in business is an effective way to cope with stress.

Entrepreneurship can be brutal. In fact, many founders have shared stories of the burden of responsibility that comes from starting and growing a company. And for every celebrated successful business, there are countless stories of founders struggling to pay the bills and dealing with overwhelm. Start a journal and have a new strategy for stress management. Also, a 2018 study showed that expressive writing about stressful or emotional events improved physical and psychological health.

Insight and understanding

Good business management involves reviewing performance metrics and reports. Journalling isn’t a replacement for that. It’s a way to level up and deepen your understanding. Analyzing reports is an important part of working on your business. However, these don’t show what actions and events contributed to those numbers. Start a journal and track the thought processes behind decisions, and the timeline of changes. This gives you insight and understanding into what is driving the results you are seeing.

In addition to recording behaviours and actions, also share your feelings and hopes. For example, if you decide to change a supplier, note down all the reasons why you are making the switch. Also, write about why you selected the new provider, and what benefits or advantages you hope to gain from the new relationship. This is an effective method for tracking the outcome of decisions you make in your business.

3 Steps to start a journal

Next, here are 3 steps for how to start a journal 

First, select what method of journaling works best for you. There are many options. After all, the global market for paper notebooks is USD 21 billion, and still growing. You can pick your favourite colour from the line of classic Moleskine books. Or you can choose something specific for entrepreneurs, like this intention setting and gratitude journal. If you want to shop local to support a small business, there are options on Etsy and local bookstores.

As much as I love beautiful notebooks, there are many benefits to choosing a digital journal. Penzu is a secure online journal that gives you options to personalize fonts, colours, and backgrounds. There is a free version, and paid plans

Once you’ve chosen what kind of journal you want to keep, here are ways to get started.

1. Schedule time

This may seem obvious. But adding a new activity to your routine requires intention. Until journalling becomes a habit, schedule time for it. Though journaling doesn’t have to be daily, consistency is key. Think about what makes sense for you and your schedule. For example, if Fridays are really busy in your business, it may not be realistic to expect to make time to journal. However, to leverage your journal to increase success as an entrepreneur, aim for at least once a week. Block 30 minutes in your schedule and give yourself that space to record, reflect, and vent in your journal.

2. Set goals

Take a moment to think about your intention for journalling. Is this mostly a way to manage stress? Or is it more important that you record your decision making process? Setting specific goals for journalling gives you more purpose. This is motivating and helps you form this new habit. Also, be flexible. It is possible that you’ll start out expecting to use your journal in a certain way, and it will evolve. Moreover, be open to how journalling will change and adapt over time.

3. Categorize

Structure your journal for your future self to use to reflect, review, and analyze. Use categories to make it easier to access information in your journal. If using a digital, online journal, then use titles for entries so they can be searched. For example, create an entry for “New Ideas,” one for “Marketing,” and another for “Customer Service.” Journal on these topics and date each one, so your future self can review thoughts, ideas, and decisions in these categories. If using a notebook, use post-its to separate the book into sections. Alternatively, have separate notebooks for different topics.

Journaling tips for entrepreneurs

Learning how to journal is more than developing the daily habit. Journalling is a powerful way to increase success as an entrepreneur. How? I’ll explain.

Essentially, it’s an opportunity to review and reflect. Journalling has the immediate benefits of expression and processing. However, the real power of a journal is to increase success as an entrepreneur. Incorporate reading your past journal entries as part of of working on your business.

Certainly, you may not want to read every line of a stream of consciousness about that time an employee makes a big mistake. However, if you have titled and categorised your entries, then you have valuable information to help you improve your business. Scan over the past weeks and months, and see what patterns emerge. For example, if you notice that you write about your bookkeeping stress every month, it may be time to upgrade your software, processes, or hire help. Or if there are many entries about staffing stress, then revisit your hiring process, training program, or performance management system.

Overall, starting a journal takes some structure, planning, and time. However, there are the immediate benefits of stress management and better separation of work and home. But the real power comes from being intentional with your journal writing and revisiting your entries to spot ways to improve your business. And as business owners, every opportunity to increase productivity and profits are a good thing.

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Business ethics and boundaries

Business Ethics and Boundaries in Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurs are very driven people. After all, we work towards something no one else sees. And to build our vision, we work harder and longer than we ever did at a paid job. Many successful brands have wild stories of risk and sacrifice. Before becoming the billionaire known for Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberté was a street busker with a huge bank overdraft. The founders of Airbnb were living on cereal with maxed out credit cards while they were pitching investors to believe in their idea. Recently, entrepreneur Erica Rankin admitted that she sold an unused designer purse she’d been gifted, so she can make rent and keep cash flowing for her business. So it seems we’d do anything to achieve success. A question every business owner should think about is – what are your business ethics and boundaries?

This post may contain affiliate links. I will receive a small commission if you use these links, at no additional cost to you. For the full disclosure, visit this page.

Ethics in business

I’m an optimist. Even during my darkest moments, I believed in a silver lining. I had hope. So I like to think there is a basic level of ethics in business. That companies have a genuine intention to do their best, for customers and for employees. To provide the best possible service and quality products. And to be honest and transparent. Business ethics is a whole field of study which applies to culture, leadership, organizational processes, policies, and personal behaviours.

Basically, I believe good ethics in business is to cause no harm, because businesses are run by people, and people are inherently good. But I also know that isn’t reality. Even good people do bad things, and there are simply just bad people in the world. A bad person tried to cause me harm when they lifted my MacBook from my bag on the Metro in Barcelona. But then he handed it back to me – after I chased him down the crowded platform to confront him with a loud yell and a chest-thump. And I was immediately surrounded by kind people checking in to see if I was ok. There is always good with the bad.

Ethical boundaries as an entrepreneur

As individuals, we have our own belief systems, morals, and values. These have many influences, and may evolve throughout our life. We start with what we learn from the family who raised us, and the society we grow up in. There may be religious and spiritual teachings. Later, education, travel, reading, and personal development work may shape how we see the world. As a result, this all impacts how we live our lives, engage with people, and identify  ourselves. Also, our ethics may cause us to identify as a member of a particular policy party or religious group. Ethics drive our decisions as consumers, causing us to buy organic or sustainable. I ask you to consider – what are your business ethics and boundaries?

Knowing your boundaries in business

Though this isn’t a traditional part of a business plan or marketing strategy, I recommend that entrepreneurs put some thought into knowing your business ethics and boundaries. These will shape decisions you make about how you operate your business. Do you want  your business to match your personal ethics? Great – but do a reality check. For example, if that means shopping local, check if local suppliers can provide what your business needs. Or if you want to use only sustainable materials, how does that cost impact your margins based on your pricing strategy? Knowing your boundaries in business may require that you make compromises, somewhere. This may mean pricing higher and targeting a different market segment in order to stick with your personal ethics of only using renewable resources in your manufacturing. Or it could mean that you work with an overseas provider, and pledge to donate a portion of profits to an environmental non-profit.

Making ethical choices

My boundaries were tested recently. Someone contacted me to get help with a business plan. This is just my sort of work, and I’m looking for work. Then I learned what the business plan was for. This company is delivering a service to an audience whose politics and beliefs do not match mine. I won’t name names. Suffice it to say that I grew up in Canada, voted for the Green Party, and believe that human rights includes the rights of the LGTBQIA2S+ communities. And this American business was, well, on the other side of the aisle on all counts.

So I had an ethical choice to make. Take the contract and do the work on this business plan, whose purpose is to support and connect beliefs that oppose mine? Or do I or walk away? It took me about 1 second to know my decision. Though I’m focused on getting more coaching clients, I have ethical boundaries. I will not cross them, not even for revenue, reach or referrals. Clearly, I will not put my time, energy, education, and experience towards helping a business who was so actively against my ethics.

Love being an entrepreneur

Business ethics and boundaries influence decisions around marketing, operations, customer communication, human resources, suppliers, and collaborations. Enjoying your business and feeling good about being an entrepreneur is more than performance metrics and revenue numbers. Making ethical choices in your business which align with your personal values and beliefs are important to feel fulfilled and love your life as an entrepreneur.

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Collaborations for Entrepreneurs

Collaborations for Entrepreneurs

Collaborations are not just for social media influencers. marketing. Though that  tactic works, it isn’t right for every business. But good news – there are many other ideas for collaborations for entrepreneurs which can boost reach and revenue. So read on for inspiration from famous collabs, learn the benefits of collaborations, and then see a list of specific ideas and examples you can use.

This post may contain affiliate links. I will receive a small commission if you use these links, at no additional cost to you. For the full disclosure, visit this page.

Famous Collaborations

First, some examples of famous collabs in business. Co-branding has been used for brand building in different sectors and industries for decades. Musicians collaborate all the time. When Lady Gaga recorded old standards with icon Tony Bennett, it boosted sales of jazz albums. Here are just a few examples of product collaborations.

Betty Crocker and Hersheys

Baking brownies needs chocolate syrup, right? The Betty Crocker brand launched a brownie mix which namechecked Hershey’s chocolate syrup as an ingredient. Betty Crocker endorses Hersheys by including the Hershey’s logo on the package. Hersheys gets more visibility and sales; Betty Crocker sells more brownie mix to chocoholics who love the taste of Hersheys. This is an example of ingredient co-branding.

Collaborations for Entrepreneurs

McDonalds and Oreo

Another great food example is McDonalds co-branding McFlurries with well known and loved cookies and candy. When you order an Oreo McFlurry, Smartie McFlurry, or Maltesers McFlurry, you know what you are getting. What McDonalds did here was create a product and let the brand recognition of its collaborators do all its marketing. If the flavour was just “Chocolate McFlurry”, McDonalds would have had to overcome the barrier educating us about what to expect. With these collaborations, a detailed sales pitch is not required. Ice cream and Oreos, all blended together? Yes please.

Nike and Apple

This is a perfect example of a creative collaboration to find synergy with a common audience. Nike wants to sell more running shoes and workout gear. Apple wants to sell more technology. Creating an Apple Watch Nike and Nike Sports Bands encourages people to spend more time exercising, and using Apple products. More recently, they are expanding their collab to create sports content for Apple TV.

How businesses benefit from collaborations

Right, so you are a small business owner and these are big brand examples. How can collaborations help you? There are many ways to use collabs to grow your business. 

1.Reach a new audience

A key benefit of a collaboration is increased exposure for your brand. This may be more visibility for your logo because it’s being seen by a whole new group of customers. Or it’s getting your content viewed more because it’s been tagged or posted on an account that has bigger reach than yours.

2. SEO

Depending on the type of collab, an outcome of reaching a new audience may be driving more traffic to your website or ecommerce store. More traffic to your site helps your SEO and builds site authority.

3. Improve profits

Collaborations for entrepreneurs is not always about marketing. Another angle is controlling or minimizing costs. A collab that gives you access to a product or service at a reduced cost can improve your profit margin.

4. Improve offer to your customers

Providing value to your customers should always be the priority. Innovative marketing will only take a business so far. The quality of the product or service and the value proposition for people is what builds a sustainable, profitable business in the long term. Consumer benefit is a key reason to explore collaborations. Offering something extra to your customers or improving their experience builds loyalty, repeat business, and referrals – and all of this grows revenue.

5. Make a friend or find a mentor

One of the fun parts of being an entrepreneur is meeting so many interesting people. All your amazing customers, of course – and then suppliers, providers, and other entrepreneurs. Working together on a collab may lead to friendship. Or a mentorship. This isn’t the goal when setting out to build a collab for your business, but it could be a benefit you find along the way.

6 Ideas for Collaborations for Entrepreneurs

1. Blog Exchange

This is a classic collab idea. Contribute a blog article, and in exchange post one on their site. Do this strategically and sparingly. You don’t want your site to become cluttered with guest writers. And you don’t want any topic which isn’t relevant for your brand. A hair salon with a guest post about productivity software makes zero sense. However, a post from a dermatologist talking about scalp health does! 

2. Newsletter article

When a mailing list is important to a business, then providing great content matters to them. Offering your expertise as a newsletter article gives your collab partner meaningful content for their readers. And it can showcase your knowledge and link back to your website. An example is a dog obedience school sharing an article of expert grooming tips. Or a nutritionist doing a deep dive on protein sources for a gym or personal trainer.

3. Co-branded product or service

A co-branded item is an effective collaboration idea for entrepreneurs. Holidays, events, and special occasions are great opportunities. If your business makes hand-poured candles, co-brand with a home decor store to create a unique product line they will showcase for the winter holidays. The trick here is to make sure it’s on-brand and the collab makes sense. So if you run a fair-trade coffee shop, then co-brand with a local artisan for a line of reusable bags or mugs instead of sourcing from a factory overseas.

4. Samples

f your business is suited to offering a sample, this is an effective idea for collaborating. For example, say you have a skin care line. Then gift samples to a spa to hand out to their customers. Or if you make bath bombs, make a mini version and gift samples to massage therapists, chiropractors, and physiotherapists to give out after treatments. 

5. Discount Code

Consumers love saving money. Reducing the price on the first purchase encourages people to try something new. If your store sells workout gear, collab with fitness trainers. Doing a cross-promotion and offering a discount code connects your shared audience and generates sales.

6. Customer Appreciation Gift

Businesses that rely on repeat business and referrals love to show customer appreciation in a big way. The bigger the sale, the bigger the gift. Offering your product or service free or at a reduced rate gives them a unique and meaningful gift, and get your brand in front of your target audience. For example, when I ran my household management business, we collaborated with real estate agents who gifted one of our services to their buyers. When closing day came and they got the key to their new home, they’d walk into a freshly cleaned house with a thank you card from the realtor, branded with our logo and contact details. 

Conclusion

As shown above, there are many benefits when businesses partnering up to cross promote or bundle products or services. These ideas for collaborations for entrepreneurs are all about finding synergy between brands. It starts with knowing your target audience and being creative with opportunities to connect with them. Overall, the focus is to think of how to add value for customers of both businesses. 

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Best books for a startup business

Best books for a start up business

Whether you are starting your first business, or your fifth, it’s always good to review the basics. Operations, systems, marketing, customer experience – the foundations of a successful business in all sectors. Sure, there are loads of resources out there. But who has time for all of it? So here are the best books for a startup business to remind you of fundamentals as you develop your new idea.

By Michael E. Gerber

This is a classic, and for good reason. Yes it dates back to 1985 – LONG before we ran businesses online.

So WHY is it still relevant today?

Technology may changed the mechanics of how we do business, but this book gets into the structure of how a business runs.

The E-Myth Revisted explains why so many businesses fail.

Basically, just because an entrepreneur has passion or expertise in something doesn’t mean they will be successful running a business doing it. 

For example, someone is excellent at bookkeeper, so they start a bookkeeping business. However, they know nothing about running a profitable bookkeeping business.

There is very good reason why Simon’s original “Start with Why” Ted Talk has been viewed millions of times. He effectively he cuts through all the talk of tactics to get to the core purpose of why a business exists. 

However, I highly recommend owning this book to get the most benefit. 

Because knowing the WHY of running your business is transformational. Not just for you as an entrepreneur. But also for your staff and customers.

And also, being connected to the PURPOSE of your business creates opportunities for more PROFITS.

Get your copy of The Lean Startup to have a blueprint handy for the innovative Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop.

Yes, all business has risk. Especially start ups – studies show that 90% of startups fail. 

So this book outlines a scientific approach to measuring and monitoring performance to guide business decisions. 

For entrepreneurs stuck in analysis paralysis, this book will help you get going and get launched. It’s a useful framework to get your ideas out there so you can improve and develop using real data from the marketplace and your target customers.

This list of best books for a startup business wouldn’t be complete without one about consumer trust and customer experience (CX).

I must admit my bias here. Since I spent 20 years running a B2C service business, I have a deep appreciation for value of CX in building revenue and profits.

In fact my passion for CX led me to do my MBA dissertation on how Airbnb retains customer trust online.

The book Extreme Trust explains dull academic concepts in a highly engaging way. By  using real-life examples, every entrepreneur can learn lessons to apply to their own business.

So if you are working on pricing policies, terms of service (TOS), and marketing copy, this book will help you see how that all connects to building strong CX – which translates to healthy profits.