Posts Tagged ‘accountability’

Does Your Business Have A State Of The Union – 2018

business state of the unionStarting in 2009, I took it upon myself to develop a Business State of the Union. My company had been growing since its inception in 2008, and with the way technology was changing all the time I felt I needed to have everything in one place. I needed to have information available to me or someone I trusted in case something were to happen to me.  Articles have been written that touch on pieces of what was going through my mind. In fact, there was an article from the NY Daily News about having a social media will.

But it is not just about social media. Think about your entire business. The infrastructure, the access, the passwords, the chain of command. What happens to all of that if something unexpectedly happens to you?  Who has access? Where are the passwords?

Setting up your own State of the Union (SOTU) is an essential part of running your business. I am on my 10th year of doing so, and remind everyone annually at this time. So let’s go through the basics of what you need to do in order to set up your own personal SOTU.

Step One: Collect all the data.

  1. Business Systems – what technology do you have in place that is a vital part to running your business? Is it a specific software or database? Who has access? Where are the passwords? Does someone else understand how it works? A common one that comes to mind is Quickbooks. But this can also include any type of industry software that helps you run your business.
  2. Social Media –  As it stands, Facebook will not give you access to your loved one’s account when they pass. They will “memorialize the account” so only confirmed friends can see and still post. Now for most people this may not be that big of a deal, but what if you have a lot of Facebook Ads tied to this account? Pictures? You cannot access this without the name and login.  There are types of legislation the will assist in certain cases, but why not avoid it altogether and have your login and password accessible to the person that will need it? This of course also applies to Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it. Gather your logins and passwords to all the social media sites you frequent and list them on your SOTU.
  3. Email – Where is it hosted? What are the passwords? Do you have access to all of the machines, such as home or work laptops, phones, iPads, etc.  where you can log on to the email?
  4. Websites – Again, where is it hosted? What are the logins and passwords? How many domain names do you own, and when do they expire? Where did you register them? This is especially true if your livelihood is tied to your brand and website.
  5. Internet/Back Ups – Gather your logins and passwords to deal with our internet account. Do you know your wireless network password? Do you have a guest account with a password? Do you have a Time Capsule or other back up hard drive that is password protected? You need to know what these are!
  6. Cell Phone Accounts – Again, having access to logins, passwords, and plan information is vital. It is extremely rare that anyone has a land line any more, so you need to be able to get on the carrier’s website and adjust whatever is necessary.
  7. iCloud/iTunes – Apple is typically very helpful in retrieving someone’s music if they have passed, but if you have access to these accounts and can relieve a lot of extra work and aggravation.

I could go on and on with the list of different programs, products, services like PayPal, Amazon and various people like lawyers and insurance agents, but you get the idea.

Step 2: Where To Store It

Now that you have all of this technical data in one place, what do you do with it? First, I recommend using an encrypted system to store all of your vital passwords. I use and recommend Passpack. Passpack.com is a password management system that will allow you to manage and organize your passwords, create accounts for family members or team members, and it is all encrypted and secure.

Next, it is time to create the official SOTU: a Word document or Excel spreadsheet that lists the physical location as to where to find your important documents, such as wills, life insurance policies, bank accounts and so on, and then also include your Passpack account information. This document can be as simple or as thorough as you want it to be. Then you find a place to put it.

Last year I even placed everything “in order of importance” to the best of my ability, just to make it easier on my executor. I have placed my SOTU onto Dropbox, which is not only accessible to me and my executor, but makes it easy to update the information. I also have a printed copy that I keep with the wills in a safety deposit box – just because I am anal like that.

Step 3: Update on an annual basis.

For me, that just happens to be every July or August. Set a date on your calendar – one that you will stick to. It only takes me less than an hour to go over any changes to passwords, business systems, bank accounts, etc. Just a small amount of time can really save you a lot of grief and struggle in the long run.

The SOTU is very personal since everyone utilizes technology and social media in different ways. Honestly – you don’t need to be a business owner to have one. Everyone should. Get your info together and then pick a person in charge. I make all of my Accountability Program clients do this.

So consider this your annual reminder! How many of you have a SOTU? Am I the only one? Did I get your wheels spinning? What are your thoughts?

Six Tips For Business Owners To Survive The Summer

survive the summerSchool is out. The pool is open. It is a beautiful day. But you have to still run your business. And you still have to make money. I find the summer time distractions are the hardest ones to overcome as an entrepreneur. What is a girl to do when all you want to do is sit poolside with your fruity beverage? How do you stay focused? So I came up with a list of tips last year that I found helped me. I have since learned more and wanted to share them with you!

1. Adjust Your Schedule
One of the main reasons most of us became our own boss is to have the ability to make our own schedule. When I coach clients however, I often see them still adhering to the 9-5 that they left. I, myself, have fallen victim to the guilt if I am not pulling the eight hour day during a specific time. Let me let you in on a little secret: you can work during hours other than 9-5. Shhh…..

Seriously though. Maybe you get up earlier in the day and work a few hours, take breaks for the kids, and then work some more. Maybe you work in the morning and the evening, but take the afternoon off. What I typically do is put the summer schedule into the calendar, and then book my appointments and times I need to be in the office around it. There are more hours in the day than just 9-5, so use them!

2. Make A To-Do List
I am a HUGE fan of lists. Lists help me stay focused on my tasks. They help me remember every detail. They hold me accountable to the things I know I HAVE to get done. There is something about seeing it on the list that really motivates me to get it done so I can do the best part: CROSSING IT OFF! I know we have a lot of ways to keep lists, but there is something so empowering about physically crossing off an item on your list. I feel such a sense of accomplishment when I do it. It also serves as a reward! I got everything pertinent on the list done, now I can be poolside! A way to do this online is to use Trello. Big fan of this one too.

3. Take A Look At Your Technology
So you want to take a break but you are still waiting on that ever important email. With all of the technology available to us today, you can make your office mobile any time you wish. But you have to have the right technology in place to do it.  Take a look at your smart phone, is it up to the task? If not, now would be a great time to upgrade.

How are you saving your documents? Do you utilize cloud based services like Dropbox to access your documents from anywhere? Cloud based systems are often free or low cost so you don’t have to be beholden to your desktop or laptop. Just access them from your smart phone or iPad and move on.

4. Take A Class
Sometimes, a little knowledge will go a long way. I find that taking an online class or webinar that will teach me something renews my goals and helps me focus on my vision. Clients definitely will be thrilled that you are staying current with your craft. Knowledge is power. Another reason this one works well is that a lot of entrepreneurs experience a slow down in business due to clients being out of town. So take advantage of the time and sign up for a class and learn something new. It will motivate you to stay on target, and who knows? Whatever it is you learn will help you make additions to your current offerings which equals more money! Who wouldn’t want to make more money?

5. Friday Fun Day
Don’t underestimate the ability to just take a moment and enjoy what life has to offer. Friday Fun Day is what we call it in my house. Every Friday, I try to schedule something fun for the kids and I to do. It means if I get my work done, I can have a reward. Friday Fun Day means a well deserved break, even if I just can’t make poolside happen during the week. I try to mix up what we do with fun outings or some sort of fun activity at home if the weather is not cooperating.

6. Get An Accountability Partner
I have talked about this many times, but it is especially important when you have extra distractions going on. You can adjust your schedule, make to-do lists, examine technology and take classes all you want – if you actually DO THEM. Big ideas are great – but the success lies in the EXECUTION. An accountability partner makes sure you stick to your goals and helps you to have skin in the game. I have one – you should too. I would be happy to help you as well.

I would love to hear some of your tips. What gets you motivated in the summer? What helps you stay on task so you can take some time off and enjoy the weather? Post your thoughts in the comments below! Happy Summer everyone!

8 Effective Strategies for Beating the Business Blues

Recently, I was  featured on The Executive Blog as a contributor to the article, 37 High-Converting Sales Tips Straight Form The Experts. It was an honor working with Jimmy Rodela, so we collaborated on another set of useful tips for the business owner: strategies for beating the business blues. I find this to be very timely – especially with the weather getting nicer. Makes it hard to stay focused! Let us know what you think!

As much as many of us would hate it, sooner or later, we all find ourselves in a rut — whether you’re going through the same day-to-day tasks grudgingly, or running low on inspiration — it’s only human for us to feel this.

And so the question becomes, “What do you do in these situations?”

Allow me to share with you eight strategies that can help you with beating the business blues.

1. Refresh Your Mindset

A pessimistic viewpoint won’t help much in inspiring a better outlook translating that into poor performance.

Experts tell of several ways to achieve this, through meditation, reading a book or psychological hacks, your renewed perspective will serve to be a good launchpad to run your business better.

2. Take A Walk

When experiencing mental and emotional blocks simply take a break and walk around. Take your work out to new places. This way you might even spot opportunities and inspiration from experiences you haven’t felt before.

3. Get A Pep Talk


Join a seminar or watch videos featuring people from varied industries, gain a fresh perspective on how they tackle similar problems you have.

Sometimes the voice inside your head is your enemy; you have to drown it out with inspiration from outside sources.

4. Revamp Your Workplace

Have you seen the offices of the most famous software giants?

Your office may have turned too bland to produce a happy working environment. Add a bit of color, rearrange desks, throw out clutter, you’ll be amazed how some of these adjustments can change moods.

5. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Try your best not to micromanage, find tasks that you think you can delegate to others.

At times, your problems may not even be caused by the overall nature of your business but may be of the nitty-gritty things.

6. But Relish The Small Wins

Acknowledge that even the smaller wins contribute to the overall betterment of your business.

Did you save up on operations expense? Celebrate it! Did you find an app that can make your business run smoother? That’s another reason to be happy.

7. Identify Your Stress Points

Your daily energy is also a limited commodity.

Learn to identify the other causes of your energy drain, whether relationship problems or health problems, solving these issues first could help boost your mood in the office.

8. Streamline Your Time

The other limited commodity is time. Pinpoint what the industry calls organizational drag, wherein the company identifies the non-essential things in the company spends time on.

You need to be proactive about getting yourself out of your business blues. These strategies will help you first pinpoint the cause of your blues and find ways to solve it.

So, get moving. Put these points into action as WHEN you take your first steps is crucial as what steps you would take.

Have other suggestions or strategies of your own? Do let us know if this article helped you out and sent it to anyone you think may be going through this challenges.

**Jimmy is a freelance writer and the Digital Marketing Manager of EBCallCenter.com. He owns GuildofBloggers.com. He has contributed to Yahoo, SearchEnginePeople, SEMRush, and Business.com.**

Want A Thriving Business? Focus on Three Things

thriving businessWho doesn’t want a thriving business? For the small business owners I coach, there are always three things that I preach that get you to this goal. If you follow these three things, you will achieve success.

The first one is DISCIPLINE.

You and I both know there are certain tasks that must be done daily, weekly or monthly. If you don’t do them, your situation can quickly spin out of control. I understand this can be hard for a solo-preneuer. For myself, I have a schedule that I follow to the letter. Every day, week and month I have a deadline of some sort. And I follow it. I figured out what represented my company the best and I ran with it. For me, this is STILL networking face to face, social media/email blasts and treating the people that know and love me with respect to keep the referrals coming. That is the discipline. But I am a crazy, super Type A individual and actually enjoy this level of organization. I am not not normal.

What do you do if  you have some discipline, but simply not enough hours in the day. I totally get this. It happens. I am no saint, sometimes I am late on the marketing deadlines I set for my company. I hear excuses from my clients and colleagues all the time as to why something is not getting done. Excuses and whining WILL NOT GET YOU THERE. Yes, I said it. STOP WHINING. If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen. 
(Delegate is not a dirty word people.)

The second one is CONSISTENCY.

All the tasks that I was referring to above require some form of consistency. Rome was not built in a day. You have to have patience and perseverance. Test and measure. Take the time to understand why something did not work and try again. You cannot expect your business to grow if you are one of those people that throws things at the wall and waits to see what will stick. Have a plan, and work the plan over time. Consistency is a big key.

Being disciplined and consistent also means knowing your limitations. No one can do everything. I delegate plenty. If you can’t be the one to get them done – then you have to delegate.

The third one is ACCOUNTABILITY.

In order for a small business to succeed, you need to have someone holding you accountable. This can be a business coach, peers, virtual assistants, etc. who will not only help you accomplish tasks, but push you to the next level.

Want a thriving business? Formulate a plan, name the goal you are trying to accomplish, devise a strategy and timeline to achieve your goal, and determine who is going to do what and when. Then have someone hold your feet to the fire. This type of DISCIPLINE, partnered with CONSISTENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY is really the secret to any business’ success.

Final thought – don’t get caught up on hiccups. Life is full of hiccups. Roll with it. Don’t let delays, failures, or flat out not knowing how de-rail you. Find someone who can help you. Google it. Do whatever you have to do. Just get back on the horse. I believe in you – you should too.

Who Is Your Accountability Partner?

accountability partnerHow many of you seem to get caught up in daily life and get pulled in a million directions? Before you know it, the day is over and you have not accomplished half of what was on your to-do list? This is is a pretty normal situation for small business owners that don’t have an accountability partner. All it seems to take is one phone call or one email to derail the entire day’s agenda. The to-do list just keeps growing because you put things on the back burner that really need to get done.

But the fact of the matter is you have to get all of those things done. You have  to focus on all the tasks at hand – especially the revenue generating tasks. The ones that have the potential to push the business onward and upward. Often these are the tasks that get pushed back the most. They are usually time consuming, and possibly expensive, and sometimes even scary.

I bet you thought that when you went into business for yourself you would never have to answer to anyone. That is simply not true. There is a reason larger companies have a board of directors or some sort of management – the business needs structure and accountability. There has to be a person, or group of people, to be there to nudge you in the right direction when you are not accomplishing the projects that should be your main focus.

But how does one go about creating an accountability plan or finding an accountability partner? In the past when I am asked to speak for organizations,  I have explained to my audience specifically about forming your own Board of Directors. This is true of any business, not just small ones. However it also does not necessarily need to be a large group. It could be one or two people. However you decide to set it up, you will want to focus on some key elements:

  • Choose someone or a few people who are not afraid to tell you the truth – no matter how painful.
  • Book at the very least a monthly accountability session with them. 
  • Find someone who has strengths where you have weaknesses so they can guide you where you need the most help.
  • Take a look at the systems that run your business. Are they helpful or disruptive and expensive. 
  • Determine what is not your skill set and either learn what you need to become better – or delegate and MOVE ON!
  • Work with them to establish SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely)
  • Establish a DEFINITIVE timeline AND deadline for those goals. 
  • Create fair consequences for not achieving those goals. Punishment is not necessary – but there are ALWAYS consequences.

Accountability is a must have for every small business owner. So get comfortable with being uncomfortable. The longer you run from someone holding you accountable, the longer it will take for you to achieve your goals and put your business in the position you want it to be in.  I, personally, have someone who holds me accountable because I practice what I preach. I also provide accountability services for my clients.

As entrepreneurs, the end of the year or the beginning of the year is typically the time you re-evalutate what is working and what is not. You think of trying something new and you get excited about new prospects, or say good-bye to what didn’t quite work out the way that you wanted. If you are like me, you probably have a million ideas in your head about what to do next and can get what is commonly called “analyzation paralyzation.”  Don’t let this happen to you. Call me today so we can get you on the road to achieving your goals.

 

How To Prepare Blog and Marketing Content For 2018

marketing content for 2018My mind has already been on 2018. What did I learn this year? What can I do better? What did my marketing efforts of 2017 actually accomplish? I ask myself, and my clients, all of these questions as I sit down to prepare what I plan to take on for my marketing content for 2018.

First step: Get your calendar ready. I prefer to keep things simple. I have a very simple spreadsheet that outlines the twelve months of the year and I brainstorm different events or anniversaries that make sense for me to comment on.  It is basically a “big picture” approach about the kind of content I feel would be relevant to my readers and clients. I take that information and formulate the various blog posts I want to write about that make sense with certain times of year. I am always open to move topics around to adjust to current events and moments in time that have events where the need for a little shuffling is in order. Always remain flexible and have the ability to capitalize on current events.

If you are not into spreadsheets or documents, another great place to organize your calendar is on Trello. I have mentioned Trello in the past. It is a FABULOUS online tool that multiple people can log onto and all of your team members can brainstorm content for the following year. This is a great one if you have a team, or if you want to share it with your business coach. **hint hint***

A lot of my clients – and other business owners – like to put their topics and ideas on their actual calendar. Having your due dates in front of you when you can glance at it and prepare for it weeks in advance allows you to prepare for it so you are not running around at the eleventh hour trying to meet a deadline.  You can either color code your online calendar, but quite often it is even very useful to do it the old fashioned way – with post its and stickers! Below is a the folks at CoSchedule who make a WordPress plugin for an editorial calendar, and they are still using sticky notes! Whatever works for you – do it!

But what does one do when they sit down to a calendar and come up with nothing but a blank piece of paper? One resource is from Authority Hacker entitled 13 Creative Ways To Find Blog Post Ideas.

Another list I will highlight my favorites from is a great resource called CopyBlogger, and their article “50 Can’t Fail Techniques for finding Great Blog Topics” but make sure you click here for a the full list.

1. Google alerts – setting an alert with some of your industry’s key words. This can give you an endless supply.

2. Riff on a popular post. Post your reaction and thoughts to a popular blogger’s thoughts and a hot topic and you can gain some power packed link benefit!

3. Try a new medium. Check out YouTube videos, podcasts, or one of MY personal favorites: watch some TV for inspiration. Shark Tank is one of my favorites!

4. Do an interview. Do you have a favorite person you like to follow online or connect with at networking groups? The answer is no unless you ask them for an interview! I am sure they won’t mind the free publicity!

5. Take an entire day off.  I love this one. Recharge your brain for a whole day by doing something you love. Go focus on your hobby and enjoy yourself. Giving your brain a break may be just what you need!

6. Do a product review. Is there something in your business you use every day that you just LOVE? Write about it and spread the love with your readers! My husband, who runs an IT company, does a great post every December on his picks for  Holiday Technology Toys as an example.

7. Recruit a guest. When all else fails, call for back up and schedule a post of someone you respect that you can feature on your blog. Make sure their content is what your readers are looking for and it makes sense with the overall feel of your blog. But don’t get lazy and rely on them every month!

Lastly, you will want to set some sort of alert and an accountability system in place so this task actually gets completed. If alarms work for you, wonderful. If you need an accountability partner to make sure it gets done, then set that up. You will be amazed how much you get done when someone else is watching!

So I want to hear from you! What is your preferred calendar method and where do you get most of your blog topics?

Using QR Codes to Market Your Business Is Now Easier

For those of you that need your memory jogged, a QR code (Quick Response Code) is a type of barcode or label that contains information about what it is attached to. QR Codes have been around since the 90’s, but have never really taken off in the United States. Up until now, it was perceived as a bit of a pain to use them since it required a third party app to scan them. Most people will not take the time to open a separate app to scan a code. I am completely guilty of this. I know, how lazy is that, right? Well now you don’t have to any more thanks to Apple.

With the release of their new iOS 11, you can now use your built-in iPhone camera app to scan a QR code, which will take you directly to where the QR code wants you to go – no more third party app required! Given how popular iPhones are, this suddenly makes the use of QR codes much more feasible for companies looking to share information with mobile phone users.

So this begs the question: will more companies now start taking advantage of the technology of the QR code? I certainly think they should! So here are some suggestions that business owners can use to utilize QR codes to market their business or products.

  1. Direct Mail Piece. It is so hard to squeeze all the info you want onto a postcard or brochure, isn’t it? Instead, you can put a fancy QR code on that piece that will give your target market all the information they need without the restrictions of space. Simply put the QR code on the postcard with a few nuggets and a call to action and you are good to go.
  2. Utilize Video. Have your QR code take them to a video on your website that is either informational or instructional. Everyone loves video and a quick “how to.” Or, if you are trying to promote a product or an event, this is the perfect way to do it. Have the QR code open to a video with you personally inviting them.
  3. Promotional items. I have seen where companies put QR codes on their promo items. Maybe consider a t-shirt or mug or something that has plenty of space to display it. Then that will take them to your website where they can learn more about you!

Not sure how to make a QR code? No problem. QR Stuff is a great resource. You can also create custom QR codes that are more eye catching and match your logo as well.

Two quick things to mention. If you are going to utilize QR codes, make sure they have an email capture form so you can get their information. They are obviously tech savvy, so you want to grab their email so you can keep in touch. Also, wherever the QR code is sending them MUST be mobile friendly. Nothing is worse than not being able to read or see the content on your mobile device. Over 90% of information consumed is on a mobile device, so make it a pleasant experience. If you need help with any of these things, don’t hesitate to ask!

So, does this new technology have you wanting to give QR codes another try? What do you think? Leave me a message in the comments!

 

Does Your Business Have A State Of The Union?

business state of the unionStarting in 2009, I took it upon myself to develop a Business State of the Union.Our company had been growing since its inception in 1997, and with the way technology was changing all the time I felt I needed to have everything in one place. I needed to have information available to me or to my husband if something were to happen to either one of us.  Articles have been written that touch on pieces of what was going through my mind. In fact, there was an article from the NY Daily News about having a social media will.

But it is not just about social media. Think about your entire business. The infrastructure, the access, the passwords, the chain of command. What happens to all of that if something unexpectedly happens to you?  Who has access? Where are the passwords?

Setting up your own State of the Union (SOTU) is an essential part of running your business. I am on my 8th year of doing so, and remind everyone annually at this time. So let’s go through the basics of what you need to do in order to set up your own personal SOTU.

Step One: Collect all the data.

  1. Business Systems – what technology do you have in place that is a vital part to running your business? Is it a specific software or database? Who has access? Where are the passwords? Does someone else understand how it works? A common one that comes to mind is Quickbooks.
  2. Social Media –  As it stands, Facebook will not give you access to your loved one’s account when they pass. They will “memorialize the account” so only confirmed friends can see and still post. Now for most people this may not be that big of a deal, but what if you have a lot of Facebook Ads tied to this account? Pictures? You cannot access this without the name and login.  There are types of legislation the will assist in certain cases, but why not avoid it altogether and have your login and password accessible to the person that will need it? This of course also applies to Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, you name it. Gather your logins and passwords to all the social media sites you frequent and list them on your SOTU.
  3. Email – Where is it hosted? What are the passwords? Do you have access to all of the machines, such as home or work laptops, phones, iPads, etc.  where you can log on to the email?
  4. Websites – Again, where is it hosted? What are the logins and passwords? How many domain names do you own, and when do they expire? Where did you register them? This is especially true if your livelihood is tied to your brand and website.
  5. Internet/Back Ups – Gather your logins and passwords to deal with our internet account. Do you know your wireless network password? Do you have a guest account with a password? Do you have a Time Capsule or other back up hard drive that is password protected? You need to know what these are!
  6. Cell Phone Accounts – Again, having access to logins, passwords, and plan information is vital. It is extremely rare that anyone has a land line any more, so you need to be able to get on the carrier’s website and adjust whatever is necessary.
  7. iCloud/iTunes – Apple is typically very helpful in retrieving someone’s music if they have passed, but if you have access to these accounts and can relieve a lot of extra work and aggravation.

I could go on and on with the list of different programs, products, services like PayPal, Amazon and various people like lawyers and insurance agents, but you get the idea.

Step 2: Where To Store It

Now that you have all of this technical data in one place, what do you do with it? First, I recommend using an encrypted system to store all of your vital passwords. We use and recommend Passpack. Passpack.com is a password management system that will allow you to manage and organize your passwords, create accounts for family members or team members, and it is all encrypted and secure.

Next, it is time to create the official SOTU: a Word document or Excel spreadsheet that lists the physical location as to where to find your important documents, such as wills, life insurance policies, bank accounts and so on, and then also include your Passpack account information. This document can be as simple or as thorough as you want it to be. Then you find a place to put it.

Last year I even placed everything “in order of importance” to the best of my ability, just to make it easier on my executor.

My husband and I have placed our SOTU onto Dropbox, which is not only accessible to us both, but makes it easy to update the information. I also have a printed copy that I keep with the wills in a safety deposit box – just because I am anal like that.

Step 3: Update on an annual basis.

For us, that just happens to be every August. Set a date on your calendar – one that you will stick to. It only takes us less than an hour to go over any changes to passwords, business systems, bank accounts, etc. Just a small amount of time can really save you a lot of grief and struggle in the long run.

The SOTU is very personal since everyone utilizes technology and social media in different ways. Honestly – you don’t need to be a business owner to have one. Everyone should. Get your info together and then pick a person in charge.

So how many of you have a SOTU? Am I the only one? Did I get your wheels spinning? What are your thoughts?

6 Systems Or Processes That May Need Updating In Your Business

systems or processes that may need updatingIt is easy to get stuck in a rut with your systems or processes while running your business. All to often do I see business owners with the mindset “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” But that is not wise for entrepreneurs. The world we live in is nothing but constant change. There will always be a new program, new app, new service that could possibly be serving your better, or maybe even saving you money. I just finished reading a great article that got me inspired to double check some of my processes. This in turn got me thinking – what else could maybe be improved? I have pulled together a list of six things that you should check on that you may not have investigated in a while that could improve productivity AND profitability.

Website

When is the last time you went really took a good hard look at your website? When is the last time you changed the content? When is the last time you had someone reach out to you based on your website? If you can’t remember the answer to any of the above questions, this one definitely needs to be a priority. So much has changed with website platforms, SEO, mobile optimization, and lead generation. Websites are so much easier to manage now, and the old SEO rules definitely no longer apply. (Check out 18 SEO Myths You Should Leave Behind from Hubspot – GREAT suggestions to help get you started on this front.) Your website is definitely your first impression – so make your first impression your best. Call your web guy to start a refresh. If you don’t have one, I recommend this guy.

Server vs. Cloud

It used to be that small businesses had little choice when it came to centralized data storage or application sharing. They had to buy an expensive server and pay someone to maintain it. Then every few years buy a new one and start over. The reality was that most small businesses would hold on to a server for many years past the time it should have been replaced – and they would not pay to have it maintained anywhere near as much as they should have! The great news is that with mobile devices and cloud technologies, the need for small businesses to maintain a server of their own has been significantly reduced. Many small businesses that do fairly standard “office” tasks with their technology are great candidates to retire their old server and take advantage of a variety of cloud-based services that can offer many advantages to even a brand new server. If your business has an in-house server sitting lonely in a closet somewhere, it is highly recommended that you review the functions that server provides and evaluate if certain cloud services can be a safer and more cost-effective option for you.

FYI, technology has moved very fast and a lot has changed in the last several years, so don’t dismiss cloud services out of hand. A lot of misinformation gets shared by people who simply are repeating what others told them – and it’s often outdated and/or no longer relevant. Seek out qualified advice from a technology professional who is fluent in the many cloud technologies available. There are IT firms out there who are behind the times themselves and will still recommend servers to small businesses that would do better without one.

CRM

There are a lot of CRM programs out there. In the beginning, they were all very cumbersome and hard to set up since you had to put a lot of work into the set up. Truthfully, a lot of small businesses don’t even really need all the functions they provide, and you end up spending a lot of money on a program that you only use a fraction of. Based on your need and the size of your business, I recommend checking out this article which covers pricing, features, and the type of support provided for small business, very small business, what is free, and what is best for start-ups. I also found this article helpful, and showcases even a few I did not know about. Personally, I find a lot of usefulness out of using Trello, which is also free.

Email Newsletter

When is the last time you updated the look and feel of your newsletter? Is it still the same template that you started with years ago? While continuity can be a GREAT thing in many cases, you also need to be up with the times when it comes to visual design. People are really drawn to images and video.  Take a look at your newsletter template and see if you think it really grabs the end user like it used to. You don’t want people to just scroll past something – you want to catch their attention.

Credit Card Processor

So much has changed in the credit card industry over the last 10 years. The mobile device revolution spurred a variety of mobile card processing services such as Square. It is now almost trivial for any small business to process credit cards. The reality is that customers look down upon those businesses that do not, so it is in the best interest of a company to make sure they can take credit cards – even if they only run a few per month. The question, however, is which credit card processor to use? Traditional credit card processors have some overhead costs that the newer generation of processing services do not. However, the per-transaction costs of the newer services are higher and eventually those fees add up to cost more than a traditional processor would. So what is a business to do?

The best advice is to find a person you can trust to give you good information regarding credit card processing. There is usually a fairly defined break-even point for most businesses where the fee structure of a traditional processor starts to save them money. Additionally, the costs associated with a processor can fluctuate over time so it is a good idea to make sure your current processor is still offering competitive rates. A trusted credit card professional can evaluate your costs and advise you if you should stick with who you have or look at another processing company. Ask around your area to find someone trustworthy, or if you need help, I can offer some referrals to trusted professionals my company uses.

Accountability

It is easy to get caught up in the day to day tasks and not think about the next level. When is the last time you sat down and mapped out the next 90 days of what you wanted to accomplish in your business? Last month I sent an email out to my list promoting my 90 Day Plan that I teach my clients – and more importantly hold them accountable to. Typically this should be done quarterly – but I say it is never too late to make a plan. So what it is mid July. It is never too late to map out a plan, set goals, examine processes to achieve those goals, and have someone help you stick to it. I encourage you to do it, and if you need help, please call me!

These are just the first six that popped into my head, also some that I have witnessed for myself from some other businesses. I am sure there are many more. So think about it – what systems or processes do you need to take a look at? What have you not paid attention to lately that you should? I highly recommend giving your business a tune up. You never know how much money AND time you could be saving.

 

Advice to My Daughter About Getting Her First Job

Advice to My Daughter About Getting Her First JobDo you remember your first job? My daughter went on her first job interview yesterday and it has started an avalanche of memories of where I was, and what my first “real job” was when I was her age. My friends have all chimed in as well, recounting the crazy things they did to earn a buck – all before technology really existed for most people.

As the daughter of two entrepreneurs, she has never known what life was like for her father and I when we were not business owners. We started our company full time when she was a baby. She has grown up knowing the lingo of the entrepreneur. Client meetings, networking events, customers coming and going to pick up their computers, this is all very normal to our kids.

But the truth is: entrepreneurship really did not kick in for me until my late 20’s. I had a lot of jobs including waitressing, telemarketing, secretarial, government, corporate, retail, grocery store, and I was even a chiropractic assistant. It’s not that I was a job hopper for no good reason, but that I was constantly in search of what was going to make me happy. What was going to make me be excited to get out of bed for every day? What would motivate me so much that I would spend money, time and energy to do it?

That’s the rub, isn’t it? What would I say to her? How do I counsel her on this? So I made a list of all the things I learned throughout my many jobs and throughout my youth that I wish someone would have told me.

Intern or shadow someone.  If you are truly interested in doing something for a living, no matter what it is, go find someone who is doing it right now. Get to know the industry, the clients that come and go, the exciting tasks and the mundane tasks. Dig in while you are young and can see without bias or the pressure of making money. It will save you later if you find out that this is not something you want to spend the rest of your life, or a good portion of it, doing. The last thing you want is to spend your first two years in college majoring in something you hate. That is the mistake I made.

Are you good at it? So what. Just because you are a really good at something, doesn’t mean that is what you need to build your career around. I am really good at a lot of things, but I don’t necessarily enjoy them. Don’t get pressured into taking a job that you will eventually hate that will kill your spirit.

Ask a million questions. Don’t be afraid. People love to talk about themselves and what they do. Ask friends, family, neighbors, whomever. Interview a wide variety of people.

Don’t be afraid of risks. I took the easy road a lot of the time out of fear. What a waste of time. You are young. Take risks. If you hate it, you move on.

Don’t let your age hold you back. You are so lucky the Internet is what it is today. Kids today are becoming millionaires on YouTube doing what they love. And that is awesome! You are coming from a place where the world is your oyster and all you need is a good smart phone and Internet access to make a name for yourself. You are never to young to make money.

Buy your name’s URL. This is just good advice. Thought I would add it.

Surround yourself with people that know more than you. This is really the only way to grow and learn. If you are not learning from people you are around, it is time to move on.

As I put this list together, it occurred to me that this is also the list for anyone who wants to start their own business. Every single point applies to that scenario as well. Isn’t that funny? That the very thing we are trying to teach our kids about following their dreams we should be doing ourselves? I’m just going to let you take that in for a moment…..

So it is with great hesitation and also great pride that I push my baby bird from the nest and let her test her wings. But if you find yourself wanting to open your own business, and you need someone to give you a little push from the nest, give me a call.