Has Success Stopped You from Growing Your Business?

Twenty Years From Now You Will Be More Disappointed By The Things You Didn’t Do Than By The Ones You Did Do -- Mark Twain

An evergreen quote

…yet one we should heed as entrepreneurs.

Time slips away and our dreams will, too, if we don’t continuously reach beyond the daily routines of small business…

You became an entrepreneur for the challenge of freedom and exploration.

Don’t settle just because you have pride of accomplishment. Keep reaching to the next level.

Or, 20 years from now… 

SMB Owners: Don’t Get Bogged Down in Your Bookkeeping

You Can't Afford NOTto Delegate

Franchisees and small business owners of all kinds:

Business suffering because you’re bogged down with administrative mess? You say you didn’t sign up for bookkeeping when you dreamed of your new business?

Not focusing on what you love is a BIG mistake.  And guess what? There are people out there who LOVE bookkeeping. Yes, it’s true! And, thankfully, they are ready for hire.

EVEN IF YOU KNOW HOW

You choose a business because you are following your bliss, your passion, your venue to champion your skills. My guess is you never gave a damn about bookkeeping, ordering, payroll, maintenance, or many of the duties that are so necessary to run a successful business. Just because you know how doesn’t always mean you should.

I bet you’re still mowing your own lawn, too.

Time for a wake-up call

So why aren’t you hiring people to do those tasks? Or at the very least, delegating it to the person on your staff who does enjoy and excel at that kind of work?
The excuse I hear over and over is that you can’t afford to hire another person to handle those chores. You can’t afford NOT to!

Start with part-time help

There are many people who are taking on clients like you on a part-time basis:

  • Virtual Assistants
  • College Interns
  • Stay-at-home Moms/Dads who are dying to talk to adults and keep their fingers in the work  world part-time
  • consultants who want to make their own hours, and more.

Yes, you will have to monitor their work, but do hire someone to do what you hate or is eating up quality time in your business. Get back to your business at hand. You will be less stressed without those duties hanging over your head and they will do a better job with the full focus you need. That is what THEY love to do.

Social Media – a Record of Visceral Reactions

Boston tweets and posts Sprout Social 2013-04-16

Just how valuable is Social Media in tragic times?

In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings, April 15th, 2013 – Patriot’s Day, Social Media reminded us of how important it is to maintain our human connection – especially in times of tragedy.

If I hadn’t had my Facebook account open on my laptop while working in other windows, I wouldn’t have noticed a friend’s notification about the 2 bomb explosions. She is a runner and a police officer, and was keen on the event and therefore a reliable source. Yes, I went to my television to see the live coverage, but I had my laptop with me as I wanted to continue learning more from any social media updates while I was still working. I knew that at least some of my social media friends, followers and connections might have loved ones or someone they knew participating or attending the marathon, or, actually living in Boston. So I also opened my Sprout Social management tool so that I could follow Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook messaging and keyword search feeds all on one page.

It’s about getting closer to the reality

Reading tweets, posts, and updates is not just informative, but it is a keen indicator of the visceral reactions of anyone who has any connection to the incident and the reactions of anyone worldwide who is “listening” on these platforms. Live TV gave the visuals and the reporters updates, but my social media accounts gave me the heart and soul of America – and the world – on the most human level possible.

  • Did you track your social media accounts during this horrific incident?
  • What value was it to you vs. traditional reporting avenues?
  • Did social media offer comfort because of the direct connection to the event?

2012: Email Marketing is Dead; Now Email Marketing is King – HUH?

Keep Calm and Keep Emailing

All through 2012, the buzz was “E-Mail Marketing is Dead!”

Now, most articles are about why Email Marketing is Supreme for Small Business!

HUH?

Actually, Email marketing is perfect for small business.

But let’s discuss the why of the mixed messaging and why you, as a small business owner, need to pay attention.

1. Social Media platforms grew exponentially over the last few years.

Soooo, “they” assumed, that because the growth was so rapid, social media platforms would soon replace email and all other traditional forms of marketing and communications.

While that might be true in major metropolitan areas and college campuses, there is still a huge population out there that doesn’t own a SmartPhone or that  only accesses internet through a desktop.

But, email is universal.

Everyone sits down at home and work and checks their email…

Another assumption was that because Social Media platforms are “Free,” that it would be nonsense for anyone to ignore it as a marketing avenue. Again, you can pick up a hammer, but that ain’t gonna make ya a carpenter!

Sure you can create an account for free, but time is money, and it takes time to maintain a social media business page, not to mention at least basic marketing skills. Nothing wrong with that, – all marketing comes with a cost – but that has to be considered.

Then, when it comes to attracting fans, many of those fans are laggers in social media who only use it for sharing funny cat pictures and playing application games. So, getting fans to pursue your page is another form of investment – a good offer to like a page, the giveaway, someone to manage the comments and likes, someone to engage to grow fans… And don’t believe those hucksters claiming to bring you from 0 to 40,000 fans! Fake profiles = fake fans = no rise in insights or revenue.

Now, why was email getting badmouthed:

2. “Free” Email services were springing up all over the place.

Why pay for email service when you can get it for free? Again, because FREE is never really free! You pay a price eventually – think of the hidden cost to you when your email goes to a spam folder and never reaches your intended recipient?

So, if you were judging the effectiveness of free email vs free social media… neither one will bring results so that comparison is probably moot.

They are both an investment in Time and time costs money.

OK, so now what should you invest your time in? Social Media or Email Marketing?

If you are asking this question, it tells me you don’t know your customers or clients. Face it, most of you small business owners have poo-poo-ed SoMe and Email.

Why don’t you let your customers tell you where you should invest your time?

  • Have you noted whether your customer is tapping away on a mobile while they are waiting in line?
  • Have you asked them what platforms they use?
  • Have you invited them to join your email subscriber list?

Stop being an employee of your own business and market your business. How?

  • Find out which Social Media platforms are appropriate for your business and demographic – Start with one and do well, then move on to others.
  • Invest in an email service that fulfills your needs for marketing and has integrated social media tools for efficiency and broader distribution that will attract new subscribers. (want to play around with one for free for 60 days? Click here!
  • And pay Freaking attention to where your customers live online! ASK THEM. SURVEY THEM. TALK TO THEM.

3 Small Business Technology Resolutions for 2013 (pt.2)

In my previous post, I tried to drive home the notion that if you didn’t collaborate in your business in 2012, then you didn’t see growth. And 2013 isn’t going to be any better if you don’t change something.

Labor of Sisyphus
Labor of Sisyphus

I also promised a list of tools to help you make real world productive changes that are also HUGE time savers…

So without further ado…

1.  USE a Shared Calendar:

Having an item posted on a calendar makes it REAL for all involved. It also eliminates the need to send out notices, reminders, make calls, etc.

Google calendar, Microsoft Outlook, and others can create a separate or existing calendar for shared use. You can also configure them to send a notice and reminders to all invitees.

It’s a one time task of entering meetings/events with all accessory tasks automated – notes, additional information, agenda, etc. can be included in details and everyone has all the information instantly accessible in one location without having to print or search the inbox. Even telecommuters, out-of-state hires, … anyone can have access without a separate function to be performed.

2. Save Everyone’s Time via Teleconferencing:

You don’t have to have an on-site meeting every time to be productive (although I would suggest an occasional face to face helps with bonding). Giving your people the freedom to call in to the meeting from the comfort of their home or office is a huge win-win. And this may sound crazy but, record, but do not share the option for your attendees to listen later. If people know they can listen to a recorded version, they will have an excuse not to attend and therefore won’t be participating or providing valuable input. Furthermore, they may never get the time to listen to it later or they will get time sensitive material too late. Have well-planned mandatory monthly meetings with an agenda that include anyone who “touches” a customer.

Options: These are just a few that have both free and priced options:

freeconferencecall.com/

join.me

skype.com

webex.com

3. VIDEO onsite meetings:

Yes, make a video of your meetings. Give a friend or family member a perk to do the job – or hire a college intern or fix a mount or tripod.  If attendees desire, you can conveniently post the video to a DropBox or SugarSync shared account for all who attend these meetings (too large a file to email). All can use it to self-critique performance, review feedback, and monitor success.

Keep your meetings short – 30-45 minutes max – and stick to that time frame for every meeting. You’ll have better attendance and better attention. (Videos will help you see why meetings run amuck!)

Options:

For file sharing – yes, Virginia, this is the cloud…:

dropbox.com

sugarsync.com

For Video:

Your SmartPhone

Countless new inexpensive palm-size video devices (that can be placed on a tripod).

YouTube Capture

Vimeo

YouTube Channel

OBVIOUSLY, there are many other options out there and many more to come. But those above and many like them have the benefit of being accessible with most any device you (and anyone else) may already own – and often free!

Now go hit some of these links and make 2013 better!

Damn! I don’t want to go back to my office to remember why I’m here in the kitchen!

English: Unit diagram for the free-forgetful a...
I have no idea what this all means …. but it looked like a good match for my post today! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does all this multitasking fry the brain?

I work from my home office. I have 2 monitors, a big desk, a computer desk, files, bookcase, everything to keep me focused and organized.

hahahahahahahaha :)

So with all these tools, why do I still lose my brain occasionally!?%#(*^)#*

And since my home office is in the back of the house – supposedly to help keep me distraction free :s – when I think of something I need elsewhere in the house, I tend to wait until a good time to break from working to go get it.

Why don’t I just get up and go get it? I work for myself… at home… no boss but my clients… and yet I don’t like to stop my work to do it. Can we say OCD?

ADD and proud of it? Whatever…

Problem is… when I finally get up to go to the other side of the house to get that all important thing that I had to force myself to stop working for, by the time I get there, I have thought so much about what I want to do when I get back to my desk that I FORGET WHY THE HELL I WENT TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HOUSE TO START WITH.

I have decided it’s not age. I have decided it’s not incompetence. I also have decided that it’s not … um, I forgot what I was going to say :D

At any rate, I have determined that it is simply the curse of multitasking. I wait and wait until I can take a break from all the things swirling around in my head to complete, and finally force myself to break away, and BAM! Mind block on my side mission because I want to think only of what I had to interrupt to get “whatever I needed” so badly to interrupt my work to go get it. HUH? And of course, the only way to remember is to go back to my office to trigger the memory of the need… And then the cycle starts again!

It’s obviously a habit, maybe a bad habit. I tend to refuse to break away to do what I need to do when I am on a good roll at my work – which is like, all the time and hard to stop. Like right now, my coffee cup has been empty for a while and I REALLY want some more. But, I am obviously on a roll here…. and don’t want to stop. The worst habit is not even stopping to relieve myself (i.e. PEE!) .

Is it addiction to my work? Is it hyperfocus? Is it just plain stubbornness?! Who knows.

I reallllllly need to stop and get some more coffee and … I reallllly need to make room for it! LOL

Thanks for letting me rant!

Imho – What is the #1 reason for business failure among small business owners?

I ran across this question by www.linkedin.com/in/davetteharvey in LinkedIn Answers

English: Findlay, Ohio, September 20, 2007 -- ...
English: Findlay, Ohio, September 20, 2007 — Gilbert Yingling, a representative with Small Business Administration (SBA) makes calls to local business owners from a local chamber of commerce business directory as part of an SBA outreach program. He then follows up with person to person meetings with the business owners. John Ficara/FEMA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Although there has been an increase in support services for entrepreneurs and small business owners, the percentage of business failures in America is still pretty high. Across industries it is averaged that 56% of businesses will fail within the first four years. In some industries, it is estimated to be as high as 86%. All of these businesses may not have had outdated products or underperforming services. Again, what do you think is the number reason for entrepreneur and small business failure?”

As I work exclusively with small businesses, I chipped in with my own answer because I see how many of these failures could have been stories of success. 9 to 5 has done a lot of harm to those of us with entrepreneurial potential. Being an employee for someone else can push you to forgo your own ideas for someone else’s in many cases. You may get used to letting go of responsibility in many ways, as in some companies, you are actually penalized for thinking outside the box, and are asked to settle into the status quo of the management mentality.

What does that mean in regard to these failure rates? In my opinion (I have a lot of those!), many a creative, entrepreneurial minds have been dumbed down by the “Peter Principle” experience of corporate work. So even when those same minds finally break loose and go on their own, they have ingrained habits that keep them in an employee mentality. That is why I wrote this answer to Davette Harvey’s question in LinkedIn Answers and hope that by sharing it with you, it will help one less SMB from failing.

Here is my response to Davette’s question. I’d love to hear what you think as well.

“If you own a small business, and don’t think beyond today, then you are nothing but an employee of your own business.

I used to train new retail franchisees as part of my corporate job with a franchisor and so many of them stunned me in regard to the lack of due diligence they executed before purchasing the franchise. In addition, very few of them had retail experience. Coming from a desk job, no matter how high the level, is not immediate qualification for running your own business.

Now I consult for them – and often they call me in far too late.

Yes, passion can take you far, but if you are like many small business owners, the inability to delegate the details is where you begin to lose the passion that drove you there to begin with.

Start out of the gate with lining up the right people for the various jobs and it will be the best ROI you can imaging. If a business owner tries to do it all, they lose the momentum of the opening due to being sucked into the daily operations that should be handled by those best suited. You need to have continued vision, oversee those who work for you, and market your business through networking and planning. If you are working in your store full time, you cannot do any of that.

The perceived lack of funding to delegate to employees is a result of waiting until business slows to recognize the errors. Customer service suffers, control over inventory suffers, marketing suffers… it all suffers including the owner who, by that time, is burned out.

Think of your well chosen staff as an investment in your business just the same as the brick and mortar building and the inventory or tools you placed in it. Then you will be free to oversee and grow it, you will prosper.

All too often I see the staff is the first to go when things slow down. They should be the last tier of the business to be let go. Check your operations, customer service, inventory, scheduling, etc.

And most of all, ask the staff, they know more than you oftentimes. Most common observation I hear from staff? “if the boss would just get out of the way and let us do our jobs…”

Please feel free to share your opinions….