Archive for the ‘Starting up’ Category
Respect commands itself and can neither be given nor withheld when it is due. –Eldridge Cleaver
Showing respect is a basic skill that for most people comes easy, but obtaining respect seems to take a little extra work. Whether you are the boss or a team member, your ability to earn respect from those you do business with will determine the depth and length of your success.
When I first started my financial service business, I was given tremendous amounts of advice on how to retain clients and increase revenue. While most entrepreneurs believe going above and beyond for clients is the way to retain and build revenue, I opted to take my own approach in the belief that respect would sustain my business best of all. Our ability to earn respect is a direct impact on a business owner’s revenue. I never bought into the idea that the customer was always right. It’s true that what you are willing to do for a client is important, but what you will not do is just as important. Always offer an opinion or strategy that is supported with facts. To be respected in business you don’t have to be fancy, you have to be right
Ask yourself, “what does respect mean to me?” My perception has always been that if you’re providing a great product or service that is needed, clients will come. If they like you, they will sign on with you but only if they respect you will they stay. Respect can mean different things to different people.There is a huge difference between catering and influencing. Catering to is when you deliberately do only what you know your clients will agree to. Influence requires the client to respect and value your opinion.
Our actions teach others how to treat us. Doing everything to please the client is not good service, and eventually causes clients to have less respect for you. Respect from clients like any good thing is earned. Have a set of guidelines or procedures and stick to them. Establish your competency of the field you work in. But the ultimate test of respect is the result of your everyday actions. Carry yourself with the utmost respect and clients will acknowledge it.
Remember: Not everyone will respect you. Agree to disagree with those who don’t show you respect, and focus your efforts on those who do.
Success Isn’t always About Greatness. It’s About Consistency. Consistent Hard Work Gains Success.
All new endeavors are started with the best of intentions. Starting a new business is full of emotional highs and lows. When you find yourself facing more lows than highs more often or not, what gives is the consistency of your work ethic and strategy. To establish yourself as force in your field you must develop a habit of consistency. Your service may be good, but it’s consistency that will make you great. Commitment to time, effort and continued refining of your services results in a constant flow of customer who embrace your business.
The character of your brand is your most valuable asset. What you say, what you do and how you do it should always be constant. If your conversation and behavior is built around chaos, you will lose value among your peers and potential customers. Chaos eventually leaks into business decisions and partnerships, as it’s only the chaotic who are drawn to chaos. Following through daily is a must in growing your business. Business growth requires a track record of successful experiences. You can’t build a track record if you do not have a consistent strategy that you follow. Potential customers need to see a predictable flow from you in order to trust you. The more consistent you are in business the more you will be valued, the more valued you are the more you will grow.
Consistency in what you say: Develop and maintain good communication skills.
- Always be clear about what your business does and does not do. Gray areas only lead to confusion.
- Develop written outline of your company’s services. Have a verbal discussion and be sure new customers have a copy.
- Follow through with phone calls and emails. People wont work with someone they can’t keep up with.
- Don’t assume anything. Keep clients /staff up to date on projects. Hold weekly/monthly meeting in person or virtually.
Consistency in what you do: People pay attention to what you do. Consistent value speaks for itself.
- Focus on doing your best every time. Avoid cutting corners or making do.
- Plan smart. Take the time to research and build a powerful plan for each project. The smarter the plan, the smoother the process.
- Get to know your customer and their business. Understand how you can give e the highest level of service to them.
- Stay ahead of the pitfalls that your customer could face. Make your customers look good and they will keep coming back.
- Always meet deadlines. Time is money, and if customers feel they are wasting money on delays they will part ways.
- Go the extra mile. Add a special something (specific to their business needs) that the customer may not have been expecting.
- Have regular brainstorming sessions to develop new ways your company can service customers.
It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are held accountable.
Every business is a brand, whether yours is good or bad is up to you. Successful entrepreneurs know that their business will flourish when they’re accountable. They take the time to not just ‘get the job done’ but to get it don ‘right’. When leaders take responsibility of their projects and processes, they create an environment that demands accountability.
Customers flock to work with businesses that consistently go above and beyond (everyday). An accountable business doesn’t just happen overnight, but the foundation must be put in place from the start and carried throughout the life of business relationships. Here are three key ways to build an environment of accountability in your business.
1. Take Ownership
Establishing clear roles and processes removes confusion in the work place. Support the input of your team. Make sure they have the resources, knowledge and assistance they need to successfully complete projects. Obligate your team to participate in the solution process. Ask them to give and receive feedback on various aspects of the business. For your business to be accountable, members must be comfortable taking on new roles and increasing their skills. This builds confidence and ownership of assigned tasks.
Plan for progress: Have a detailed growth plan for every team member. Specify what their career goals are and what steps they will need to take to obtain it.
Measure progress: Keep detailed track of your team member’s progress. Have regular progress meetings that applaud the team’s commitments but speak to areas where they are lacking as well.
2. Establish Core Values
When businesses consistently fall short of promises, it’s saying to the customer, “we’re not committed to you.” Lack of commitment directly results in low or no accountability. Be prepared to call out members who don’t follow through. Leaders who value their customers work hard improve and maintain the integrity of their business. No team member can achieve any professional goal to customers, if they don’t personally hold themselves accountable from the start.
Don’t point fingers: Never tolerate your team to point fingers and blame each other. This is the beginning of chaos and will not produce any responsibility within the team. Only team members with integrity will Acknowledge and correct themselves first before lashing out at others.
Own Strengths & Weaknesses: Accountability in a business trusts the business team to acknowledge both strengths and weaknesses. Just as you are confident in projects you know your team will do well, be just as accountable when it’s a project that you know you can’t do well. The integrity of your business will be rewarded when you honestly do what’s best for the customer.
3. Consistently Drive Improvement
Accountable businesses are always growing and improving their services, products and processes. For a business to grow, the team must have regular access to education and training to develop new skills. Business owners must be able to map out exactly what the teams needs to drive improvement. To do this a leader must know what’s working and what isn’t.
Routinely evaluate: Have the team take self-assessment test on a monthly or quarterly basis. Have the team share their results and brainstorm about what positive changes they each could make going forward. When people are forced to recognize their short-comings they’re more likely to correct them.
Ask, how are we doing?: Just like the bumper stickers you see on trucks that say “How’s My Driving?”, Invite the outside in to help improve what your business is doing. Perform regular customer surveys (potential customers too) and share the results with the team. Again, have the team brainstorm what changes need to be made and the best way to get it done.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. ~ Benjamin Franklin
When I start working with a small business’s finances I always begin with their budgets, and the budget that 90% of business owners want to tackle first is almost always their marketing budget. It makes perfect sense, marketing is what will get the word out about your new business and start driving profit. The biggest cost for any new small businesses is competing against larger companies who have marketing budgets much larger than theirs. This does not have to be negative; any size budget can effectively be used to generate great marketing results.
The most important step to make the most of a small budget is researching and choosing the correct avenues to market through. Once you have determined your target customer, put a solid strategy in place and start your marketing activities be sure you regularly visit your marketing activities and its results.
There are 2 types of budgets:
- An Operating Budget which is a prediction of all expected revenues and expenses over a 12-month period. It projects your gross and net sales, along with your net profits or losses. An operating budget allows business owners to explore different assumptions that the business may go through in a one year period. The focus of an operating budget is to ensure there are sufficient funds to maintain the operation of the business, and that those funds are distributed in the most cost-efficient way.
- . A Cash-Flow Budget is based on actual revenue. Positive cash flow means the business generates enough money to pay all the bills through out the year. With that being said, it’s important to remember that a business ca be profitable yet have cash flow problems. This is an issue for business that purchase inventory upfront and will not receive a profit from the sales for 30 days or more. In these cases a cash flow budget is best because it allows owners to see where revenue gaps are and to have alternate financial resources in place to keep the business running smoothly.
Step 1: Build a Strategy
To be effective you must first answer the question, “what do I want my marketing to do?” This is what you will measure your results against. Brainstorm a few ideas, and decide which idea will best reach your customers. Next, you are ready to build a strategy around your idea. Some questions to get you started might be:
- What specific theme will you focus on? (will this include print & video)
- How will you make your theme or message most relevant to customers?
- How you will measure the results of your marketing?
- Will you have assistance from an outside PR/Marketing agency?
- What social media networks can you market on (Paid & Free) to build customers?
Step 2: Build a Budget
Developing a good marketing budget is the most important part of your marketing plan. A solid budget allows you to make realistic choices as to what your business can do to increase revenues. Without a budge your business will be in a financial rut from the start . Leave room in your budget for last-minute changes or updates to your marketing plan. As your business grows or shrinks, it will directly affect the budgets you have in place. Here are some steps you can take to development a marketing budget that won’t eat up your finances:
- Do an overhaul of your finances to determine how much revenue your business generates each month.
- Subtract your monthly expenses from this revenue, this is what your actual working revenue is.
- Determine what percentage you want to focus your marketing on. For example; if you’re doing print and email, will you split it 50/50 or will 80% go to email and 20% to print?
- Look at your current marketing strategy and find ways to expand on it with the least amount of funds. If you choose new marketing avenues, be sure to use a small portion of your budget until you’re sure it’s working for your business.
- Always seek business to business marketing opportunities that will cost you nothing but a few hours of work services.
If you’re overspending on your marketing, then you’ll never see the additional revenue that you’re working so hard for. Remember, the only purpose of marketing is to generate more revenue. If your marketing strategy is not bringing in new revenue, you need to let go of your strategy and try something new. Talk to business owners that are not your direct competitors. Use the information they give you as a financial benchmarks for your business. Whatever marketing strategy you choose, be sure to build a budget around it that will allow you to reach your business goals.
Equality doesn’t exist in this universe. Either one prevails and the other follows, or both negotiate their differences and create a greater partnership. ~Harold J. Duarte- Bernhardt
Today women entrepreneurs represent nearly 50% of all privately held businesses make in the US. There is no secret that men have a huge head start when it comes to entrepreneurship but statistics support the theory that women led businesses survive and thrive more than male run ventures. Many well-known, successful women admit to having a male mentor who played an important role in their career. This leads to the question; how can men make great mentors to women, yet women entrepreneurs are more successful?
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur I worked in corporate banking. The majority of my career I was surrounded by male colleagues, managers and customers. Now, looking back I view the experience as the perfect platform for entrepreneurship. I absorbed the different qualities that men bring to the table. Men have a different approach to business leadership, problem solving, and negotiating. I am a huge advocate of women entrepreneurs, and I strongly believe that women must support each other as much as we can. However the uprising of the women’s self help movement may sometimes facilitate lost advantages of women seeking help from, and in some cases a partnership with men. Studies prove that men and women are taught differently from childhood how to lead. Now days a lot of that teaching is changing, but if we learn and appreciate the differences women and men have in business, we would have more successful collaborations and more successful businesses.
Men vs. Women in Business
Male entrepreneurs view their businesses as a well oiled machine, while women entrepreneurs put more of their personal values into the business making it their number one priority. Women are known for their great improvisation skills. Which is a huge part of successful entrepreneurship. Women are more focused on the sustainability of the business. Women don’t have a problem with leading from behind, not making a lot of noise but orchestrating behind the scenes. By nature men have larger egos and love giving orders to others. Leadership in women comes from the ability to attract and inspire talent, not having to be the talent yourself.
Though men and women think, listen and speak differently, the result is the perfect combination to a well-rounded business structure. The law of nature speaks for itself, yen and yang work. If you’re starting a business or have a business and are considering a partner, don’t go for the obvious go for the opposite.
Reference: Businessweek: Men Dominate, Women Orchestrate
If you’re looking to maximize your enjoyment while have the freedom and security that comes with knowing you have full control of your life, then a lifestyle business may be exactly what you need. – Sean Ogle
As the owner of my financial consulting company, I wear a lot of hats and do the majority of the work myself. The one thing I want to achieve everyday is the satisfaction of waking up and doing what I love. Because it’s my business my priority is to serve my clients by going above and beyond their expectations. But, I also understand that my business must serve me as well.
Some might say designing your business around your lifestyle is unrealistic. But, I say it’s unrealistic to believe you will be successful in business if your lifestyle suffers.As a business owner we know that our day rarely ends at 5 o’clock. It’s up to us to decide how much of our lifestyle is affected when balancing it all. Ask yourself what is important you, and take the steps to make sure these things are accomplished by designing your business to fit your lifestyle.
Start by asking questions that define your business
- What do you want to achieve in your business?
- Do you want to work alone or with a team?
- How fast or slow do you want your business to grow?
- What type of relationships do you want with customers?
- What sort of impact do you want to make in your industry?
Ask questions that define your unique lifestyle
- How much revenue do you want to generate?
- Do you want to work from home or an outside office?
- Do you want to travel? How much or how little?
- Do you like want to work year around or have certain seasons off?
- Do you want to build relationships with customers?
To successfully combine business and lifestyle, you must spend more time working on your businesses, not in it. Decide exactly how you will execute your daily task. Identify what is important to your customers and apply an extra touch that makes you unique. The most important thing with business and lifestyle is mindfulness of time. When I worked full-time in corporate banking, there never seemed to be enough free time. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of carrying their work schedule from their job into their business. Outsource or delegate task you do not specialize in. Creating time to enjoy your desired lifestyle will keep you enthusiastic and creative about your business, which ensures unlimited success.
Some benefits of building your business around your lifestyle
- Fast profit – When you work for yourself, your overhead is lower.
- Location flexibility – You can choose to work from home an office space.
- Less stress – Though there’s a lot of pains when you’re a business owner, it’s less stressful when you’re not working somewhere for someone who you don’t want to.
- Flexible projects – You can stick to one thing or expand into as many different things you want.
What’s unique about all successful businessmen and businesswomen is that they have built their work around their lifestyle. Don’t force things that don’t come naturally for you. This almost always leads to frustrations and disappointment. If you have chosen to start your own business, take the time to build an action plan that supports your unique lifestyle.
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached quickly, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps. – Confucius
When your starting a business or any new life adventure the number one piece of advice you will hear is “start out with baby steps.” Yes, is true you don’t want to set yourself up for failure by doing too much too soon. You also don’t want to do too little too late. So take small steps, but be grown up about the steps you’re taking. Put time and thought into each step.
Have a plan
First decide what your end goal is. Begin by thinking about where you are now, where you want to be and how you’re going to get there.There’s no point in starting a journey if you don’t know where you’re going. Once you’ve set your goal, build a plan how to get there. What is important to you, what are your key values? What are your strongest career skills? What is your ultimate career goal?
Build steps around your plan
Even baby steps can make a huge impact on your success. Be sure that your steps are well thought out and calculated to your best advantage. Plan trips, events and meetings around the stages you’re at. Plan each small step so that it takes you to the next big step. Start networking in your field. Keep learning and building strong relationships.
Don’t let go of your goals just because it’s taking longer to get there. The journey is part of the reward. With every hardship along the way, never take your eyes off the original goal. You may have to adjust your actions and take baby steps, but keep the goal in sight. Well thought baby steps can make a great impact when you’re wearing grown up shoes.