It 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do 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.
Last week I was at a business conference where the whole purpose was to learn how to make more money. Now obviously, the topic tells you why I was there, but what it doesn’t tell you is what else happened.
I got a swift kick in the pants. I got slapped upside the head. And I knew I would – which is precisely why I went.
Being a business coach, I knew that I needed to get back on track. I knew that I am no different than anyone else who has ever run a business that has fallen victim to focusing on everyone else and not themselves. I am sure it is the same for you. How 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. 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. But the truth is: what you resist, persists. What you focus on grows.
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. Most recently, it was the ALL the people at this conference. The presenter, as well as my peers. Pushing me out of my comfort zone and forcing me to look in the mirror.
But how does one go about creating an accountability plan or finding an accountability partner? However you decide to set it up your accountability plan, 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 for every small business owner. Why? Because isolation is the enemy of wealth and success. 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 am thankful this weekend provided me with a swift kick in the behind. I once again have someone who holds me accountable. I also provide accountability services for my clients. It is one of my most favorite things I do.
You know the beautiful thing about accountability? It means you are not alone. It means there are people there to help you.
I would love to help you.
What works for you as a small business owner? What are some ways you have inserted accountability in your business?
I am about to celebrate 15 years of being in business with my husband. Our company, MB Tech, Inc., is a technology company that has seen a lot of changes over the years. Since we are planning a lot of fun surprises and taking a walk down memory lane, it has brought up a lot of memories of how we made it this far. Amidst all the planning, the remembering back, and even the day-to-day operations, there is still only one question that I get the most often:
What would you say the secret to your success is?
That’s easy. I can answer that with two words. The first one is DISCIPLINE.
When we first started running our company, we naturally fell into our prospective divisions. He handled all the IT stuff and I handled the sales and marketing. We both had to grow with the technologies that allowed us to do our jobs, but we still stayed focused on what we needed to accomplish in order to make our company grow.
So as the marketing arm, my duties have really grown over the years. I started out networking all the time – at every event I could find. We did not have a brick and mortar – still don’t – so getting out there and putting in the face time was key. Then came email marketing, then came social media, and now the most prevalent – video marketing. Somehow, business owners are expected to maintain a marketing presence and still do whatever it is their business does.
I understand this can be hard for a solo-preneuer. That is where the discipline comes in. Myself, I have a schedule that I follow to the letter that I follow. Every day, week and month I have a deadline of some sort. And I follow it. I figured out what represented our company the best and I ran with it. For us, this is STILL networking face to face, social media/email and treating the people that know and love us 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.
The fact of the matter is most people are not disciplined to this degree. But what do you do if you simply can’t be everywhere? You have some discipline, but simply not enough hours in the day. I totally get this. It happens. I am no saint, sometimes we are late on the marketing deadlines I set for our company.
This is where the excuses come in. 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. If you can’t be the one to get them done – then you have to delegate.
Discipline also means knowing your limitations. No one can do everything. I delegate plenty. In order for a small business to succeed, the next thing you need is to have is someone holding you ACCOUNTABLE. This can be a business coach, peers in your or complementing industries, virtual assistants, etc. who will not only help you accomplish tasks, but to push you to the next level.
I am not suggesting jumping into something blindly. I am saying have a plan. If you need help, call me, call a coach, call a trusted colleague, just call someone. Formulate a plan, realistically plan who is going to do what and when – and then actually do it. This type of DISCIPLINE, partnered with 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.
I recently wrote several posts on how to utilize video to market your company. Already in 2017 we are seeing massive strides in the way companies are using video to market their business, as well as the platforms making changes allowing you to take your video to the next level.
Just last week, Facebook announced new ways to watch videos on Facebook that include bringing sound to the videos in the news feed as you scroll, adjustments to make the videos shot vertically look better on mobile devices, a new watch and scroll feature that allows you to keep watching the video but allowing you to keep scrolling through your feed, and a new app for watching Facebook videos on TV with the use of an Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Samsung Smart TV.
YouTube traffic expanded more than 40% since last year, and continues to have a billion users watching millions of hours every single day. The thing you have to remember is that these are not super high quality edited videos by professionals. These are quick and easy videos that people are simply using cell phones to shoot in many cases. But that is getting it done. The content is out there, you are creating a relationship by being in front of them and it is increasing your credibility.
It is also rumored that Google and Bing are both testing video incorporation into their search results – meaning your Google ad or other content will get better results if it is a video. That is awesome!
Video is really leveling the playing field when it comes to marketing your company. For a small business, video is an inexpensive and relatively quick way to get in front of your target market. It allows you to connect with your audience in ways you never could before. You can answer frequently asked questions, showcase new products, interview happy customers, demonstrate your products, the list goes on and on.
So what are some more ways you can use video to market your business?
- Add video to your marketing emails. Studies show it will boost your click through rate by 200-300%
- Embed videos on landing pages of your website. This will help boost your website’s SEO. Sixty-five percent of people will visit a website after viewing a branded video they find online or via social media channels.
- Start utilizing the Facebook Live video feature. Facebook gives more attention to live video and will therefore make sure it shows up in a person’s feed. For those of you using this feature already, you may have noticed a recent spike in views thanks to this change in their algorithm. Don’t forget to save it to your camera roll on your phone so you can upload it to YouTube for additional exposure.
I recently read a quote that said “To not have any kind of video support and/or strategy that lives with and/or complements your existing communications would be a fool’s errand. It’s time to learn to love video.”
I completely agree. The age of using video to market your business is definitely here and I am sure we will see a lot more this year in technological advances that will make it even more simple to do. Time to quit dragging your feet and get started.
I was recently approached by several people about coming to speak at their event about networking. It is very common this time of year to re-focus your efforts on networking and analyzing where you should be spending your time to grow your business. Rather than tell it like it is to a small group, I am choosing to lay it all down and put it out there – the COLD, HARD, UGLY TRUTH about networking.
- Everyone’s process is a bit different. Most people shy away from networking because they think this means going to some boring mixer, drinking your glass of wine, passing out business cards, all while collecting some for yourself. Ugh. This IS NOT networking. This is wasting time. Networking does not just happen in meet and greets. Networking DOES NOT have to happen in a certain way. It can be anywhere. I network just about in every situation I am in. The grocery store, the school pick up line when I am getting my kids, chatting with other Moms, talking with the neighbors, all my friends on social media, you name it. Technology certainly has opened some doors for us to keep communicating. The point is – choose strategies that appeal to YOU. Maybe it is face to face events, or a lively LinkedIn Group, or simply making an amazing blog and staying in touch with your followers that comment. The point is – you will shine if you are having fun. People will be drawn to you, and that is really what you are after.
- It’s not all about you. It’s about building lasting relationships. This takes time. I once had a job many moons ago where I was required to return with at least five business cards from people I had “connected” with at an event. The proverbial “get in, get out” method, or as some may call speed networking. This will get you no where. You cannot expect to get serious leads EVERY time you go out. Networking takes time and patience. You have to go into it with the mindset of building relationships. Start conversations with questions. This takes the spotlight off of you in the beginning and allows you to learn something about them in the process. People love to talk about themselves. Then you turn your focus on “what can I do for you” by doing the following:
Share who you know. This means everyone you have ever met. It is as simple as that. During your chatting, really listen to what the people are doing, involved in, trying to accomplish and think about if there is anyone in your circle of influence or database of people that you think they should meet. People will remember you for making the connection.
Share what you know. This means your life experiences, your observations, what you just read on Facebook, tips from email newsletters you subscribe to, etc. Share the knowledge that you think will help them in their agenda.
Share how you feel. Sharing your compassion will always bring you the greatest rewards. Show concern, show empathy. It will not only help you with your bottom line, but also knowing that you are following your heart and your integrity.
- You MUST keep in touch. Otherwise, this networking thing is a complete waste of time. This is also the number one thing most people will not do. They make quality connections, work on building relationships – and then….nothing. Work gets busy, life gets busy, or they simply get lazy. Such a shame. Create a system for yourself and stick to it. I like to use Trello to give myself a to-do list, where I include time in my schedule for a keep in touch strategy. Regardless of how you remind yourself, you have to follow through.
Networking in some form is a must. On the bright side, it can be in many forms. Just stick with what works for you, make sure it’s not all about you, and you will do just fine. Approach every event/encounter with an open mind, making new business contact, and maybe even a friend. You never know who knows who, who they can lead you to, and what can come of that new face from across the room. Those kids that invented the Kevin Bacon game were on to something. Six degrees is not very far. Good advice to take with you to every networking opportunity in the future.
What is your favorite networking strategy? What works best for you?
It is safe to say that 2016 was quite the year for everyone. Whether you are focusing on politics, pop culture, the economy or simply your own life, I am sure if you take the time to take a look back at your calendar or some of your emails you could refresh your memory on some major events and life lessons that help to make you who you are today. For entrepreneurs, this is a very important task. If we are not learning – we are not growing. We must do what makes us uncomfortable in order to grow and thrive in our business. So I did just that. I took a look at my emails, and my social media posts and here are some great reminders – that I often say to myself – that I think everyone should say to themselves as they embark on the New Year.
Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle. — Abraham Lincoln
This is so true. All too often we get caught in a routine or the new normal. We are stuck in a rut of just doing what is on the schedule and and we lose sight of a goal or a dream. A lot of people have ideas or vision – but not nearly as many actually take the time to get out there and find out what it takes to accomplish that vision. My advice? Time will pass regardless, so why wait on achieving your vision? Right them down your goals and post them in your office. Start at the end and work your way backwards. Get help. Ask questions. Study those who have done something similar. Hustle means, well HUSTLE.
Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it. – Dr. Laura Schlessinger
I think a lot of entrepreneurs are guilty of this one, including myself. I know it is easy to become gun shy when you mess up. All of the sudden that is the only thing you can focus on and then you spend all of your time focusing on how not to do THAT again. I am here to tell you – don’t waste your time with that. Mistakes are an important part of learning. It is just as important to learn what NOT to do as it is what TO do. When you start to focus on the negative, all you are doing is putting the energy out there that will attract more negativity. Mistakes are simply part of life. Don’t let them hold you back.
A strong spirit transcends rules. — Prince OR Either I will find a way or I’ll make one. — Philip Sidney
This one is one of my favorites. I have built my entire company on finding a way. When my husband and I first started helping people with their technology back in 1995, very few people even knew what the Internet was. We had to make up the rules as we went along. We were literally learning as we went. Think about how far technology has come in the last twenty years and you can understand why we were flying by the seat of our pants most of the time. We had to learn as went, come up with programs and packages based on what our clients needed, and find a way to make money at it. Was it scary? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. I have written about this before: the answer is always yes, and then you find a way.
Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow. – Carrie Fisher
Courage and confidence does not mean there is an absence of fear, but rather there is something more important than the fear. Heard that somewhere, but it is very true. My coach Michael Port always said “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” A little fear never hurt anyone, and I am certain that many successful people still operate with an element of fear. But this quote could not be any more poignant. Just do it. Confidence will follow or possibly a mistake – but you will learn and grow.
You can reach your goals a hell of a lot faster when you have help. — Lou Bortone
Love this one from my friend Lou. And he is so right. I, myself, was once afraid to ask questions. I was scared to reach out for help. Once I signed up with my first coach, all of that disappeared. If you are waiting to ask someone for help – then STOP IT. Not one person on this earth can possibly know everything, but for some reason I continually see entrepreneurs trying to do everything themselves. INVEST IN YOURSELF. Invest in your education. Whatever it is you need help with, then go get it. Maybe it is mapping out the steps to your next big thing. Maybe you just need some motivation or a slap across the face. Whatever it is – just do it. This is exactly why I created my Accountability Program. Contact me to learn more. Even if it is not me – just contact someone.
The key to success is learning how to monetize what you had to learn the hard way. — Danelle Brown
Every entrepreneur I know has to learn something the hard way. There is no definitive map to success. It is full of twists and turns that you have to overcome and learn from. Whether it is figuring out how to launch a new product to the masses, writing a book, coming up with a new program, or simply paving the way on something that does not exist yet – if you have the knowledge, then figure out a way to package it and sell it to people that want to do the same thing. Life is full of mentors who went on to teach others how to do what they had to struggle to learn. You could be next.
I could go on and on with inspiring quotes, but I believe you get the idea. 2017 needs to be a game changer for you. I am excited for all of us. So share with me and my readers – what is the next big thing for you? Post it in the comments and let’s all cheer each other on.
When I first started my coaching business almost eight years ago, I have to admit I was crazy scared. Even though I had been running a successful company for the past seven years with my husband, I had my fears and doubts about being as successful with this new branch to our company. Every entrepreneur has doubts and reservations, but what makes a successful one is the one that has the ability to not let the fear prevent him or her from pushing forward. Having been coaching entrepreneurs for the past eight years, I am seeing a trend of the types of fear that tend to hold people back, thus preventing growth and success.
Fear Of Change
I know what it is like to not want to change anything out of fear that something will not work, and thus cost you money. But change is inevitable. You have to roll with it. Let’s take technology for example. The world is moving at such a rapid pace, it is imperative that you move with it so you can remain competitive. Don’t let your website become stagnant and outdated. Invest in your technology infrastructure so it is easy to do business with your target market. Learn the best platform of social media so you can speak directly to your audience and form relationships. All of these things can be frightening. I have seen many a business not want to change their website or infrastructure because they are afraid of possible hiccups. Let me be clear – if you don’t stay up to date, your customers or clients will find someone that is.
Fear Of What Other People Think
This has happened to me multiple times over the years. Let’s take my website for example. I have never really been a fan of my website. I always put together what I thought was the “proper” business site that would attract my target market. Boy, was I wrong. I was stifling my creativity and my personality. And I did it repeatedly. I thought if I did what I wanted, I would scare off would-be clients. I was completely wrong. I finally stopped caring that I was going to upset someone and embraced what I teach my coaching clients: THE RED VELVET ROPE POLICY. RVR, in an extreme nutshell, means you only work with the clients that energize and inspire you, and motivate you to do your very best work. So I changed my website – from top to bottom. I put together a site that I feel will attract the people I am meant to serve. And I could not be more excited about. But it took guts. It took getting over the fear of what other people will think when they see my website for the first time. Some people may not like it at all – and that is OK! I am clearly not meant to work with them. AND THAT IS OK! You are never going to please absolutely everyone, so stop holding back something you are wanting to do out of that fear.
Fear Of Growth
This is a big stumbling block I see with business owners. They want to grow, but are afraid of what comes along with growth. With growth comes greater responsibility, new systems to learn, new employees, new processes and new challenges. It is easy to sit back and maintain the status quo – but that will never get you anywhere. My advice is that you assemble your very own “Business Dream Team.” If you are taking on growth, you need a team. Schedule appointments to talk with your banker, accountant, tech person, whomever you need, and formulate a plan to move forward. Most importantly – have someone hold you accountable to get it done. That is where I see most business owners mess up. They have big plans, know all the numbers, but get side tracked by life or FEAR and never accomplish their goal. Don’t let fear hold you back. If you need help, get help. You can do it.
I spent a lot of years being fearful and trust me – ain’t nobody got time for that! Embrace your fear head on. Maybe you will mess up. That is okay. At least you have learned what not to do. Don’t let your fear of what could happen – make nothing happen.
Starting 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. 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
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 hand written 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?
Recently my husband and I celebrated our 14th year in business, and I have been doing a lot of reflecting on what has made us successful entrepreneurs. During that time, I have poured myself in everything I could get my hands on from blogs, online classes, in person classes, certifications, webinars, books, networking events and just plain evolving with the times. We have definitely had our teaching moments that included some bumps and bruises along the way! So with that in mind, I would like to share some of my favorite teaching moments and tips with you in hopes that I can help a fellow entrepreneur.
This is number one for a reason. It is easy to get caught up in the day to day operations and to let some of your tasks slide. Running a business requires having a lot of balls in the air and sometimes, certain important aspects will inevitably get put on the back burner – on then to never get moved to the front burner. It is imperative that you have someone holding your feet to the fire to get all the important tasks done. Not only that, you need someone to hold you accountable for your “Next Big Thing.” In order to be successful, you have to grow. In order to grow, you need an Accountability Partner. Typically this is a business coach of some sort that is trained to help you put processes in place to grow your business, or perhaps and investor. A great book on this topic you can check out is called No More Excuses: The Five Accountabilities for Personal and Organizational Growth. Nine years ago I new I need help to grow so I called a business coach. Every successful entrepreneur has someone that is holding them accountable. If you don’t, it is time to get one. I would love to help.
A mentor is not necessarily the same thing as an accountability partner. A mentor, however, is definitely someone you look up to, admire, and want to emulate. I find that when I get stuck in a rut or am maybe feeling a little lost that a visit to my mentor will help get me energized and re-motivated. Your mentor could be anyone. A peer in business, someone that was in your field that is not retired, a family member, a teacher or professor of some sort, or anyone that energizes and inspires you to do your best work. Could even be someone you admire from afar but watch how they run their business (a/k/a Barbara.) Take a moment to think about who that is, and pay them a visit.
A Dream Team
In my book that I wrote for couples that work together, I refer to this as my “Board of Directors.” Entrepreneurs that are getting it done will surround themselves with people who know more than they do – and can help them in the areas where they are lacking. Some suggestions are your technology guy (because there is no successful business without successful and seamless technology), your banker, your accountant and your lawyer. It should also include someone who has knowledge that can help your business specifically depending on your trade. Then at least once a year minimum, get these people together for a board meeting and let them know how you are doing and what you need help to do next. Have them brainstorm with you. Don’t assume if your business is small that you can’t act like a larger business. These people are here to help you grow. So let them.
A State Of The Union
This one is a topic that no one ever likes to talk about. But the reality is, you will not be here forever and someone needs to know how to get to the important documents, passwords and processes that run your business. Put all of this information into a document or system that someone can have access to. That’s right: every password, every login, every program you use should be documented somewhere so the person you trust does not have to jump through hoops to help deal with the day to day of your business. This is here for your protection, as well as your family. If you are in an accident and are going to be out of the loop for a while, you will want someone to be able to be YOU. If this person is not your spouse, then it should be someone who is there that you can trust. Sit them down once a year and go over your “state of the union.” Make sure they have access to everything. Trust me, you do not want to wait on companies like Google or Facebook to release information when time is of the essence. Plan ahead.
I never dreamed I would be an entrepreneur, and quite honestly went kicking and screaming along the way. But through my many stubborn years of learning the hard way, I managed to pick up these plus many more golden nuggets that have contributed to my husband’s and my success. And now I cannot imagine my life any other way. But I want to hear from YOU. What are some habits that you feel have made you successful as an entrepreneur? Share them in the comments below!