Celebrate Christmas in July by Thinking about Holiday Marketing

freestocks-org-k-Rp0V0XWWU-unsplashDecember might seem far away, but the stores will be in full holiday mode starting in mid-October (whether you like it or not), and that’s less than 90 days away. Since there’s not much worse than trying to rush a marketing campaign during the busiest shopping season of the year, July is the perfect time to start turning the wheels on how your business is going to make waves this year.

While you have time to get the details together, here are five things you can get started on today:

Talk to Your Team

It’s no secret that some of the best ideas can come from your staff. Your team members interact with your customers, they know your products (and your competitors) and they have their own buying experiences. They can be a treasure trove of ideas. If you don’t have a large or heavily engaged team, consider incentivizing ideas by rewarding those employees who submit the ideas you decide to implement.

Set Timelines and Deadlines

Even if you’re not into promoting the holidays before Halloween, your competitors might be. Consider the best time to roll out your individual holiday promotions and work backwards from that date to make sure you have everything ready to go without rushing. Make sure your team is aware of the timeline and make whatever schedule or project adjustments are needed to meet those deadlines. Also, if you are taking holiday orders or selling items online, be sure to set “to receive your items by Christmas…” timelines for your last-minute shopping customers.

Start Working on Custom Imagery

Great marketing starts with great images, which might mean hiring a graphic designer. Put together a list of all the places the art or image(s) should appear, including print marketing materials, your website, social media posts and cover images, and anywhere else you’d be sharing content around the holidays. Make sure you have catchy, but matching, imagery for every platform. Even if you aren’t ready to pull the trigger on exactly what you want included the art, it helps to find a designer early and give them time to brainstorm. Also, if you have products that are specifically holiday themed (see the next bullet point) be sure to get great images of those items for your promotions.

Plan for Custom Packaging

Getting custom holiday packaging is something you’ll want to think about sooner rather than later, because you’ll need to design and order anything you want available for the holiday shopping season. This can mean something simple like ordering shopping bags that add some holiday flair alongside your logo, but it could also be things like holiday-themed gift certificates or or deliberate holiday packaging, especially for smaller items you’re able to turn over quickly. Bonus points if your designer can help with this too, but don’t wait – you have to order that packaging early to be able to get it into place in time!

Consider Creating Gift Bundles & Offering Extras

People are in a hurry and gifts can be difficult to buy. If you have popular, smaller items that can be bundled into a gift set, or if you are able to offer something in addition to a gift card (like a mug or product samples), it may be the incentive your customers need to buy from you rather than order something somewhere else. By the way, speaking of order, adjust the prices of your products to be able to include free shipping as needed. With retailers like Wal-Mart and Amazon offering free shipping, customers no longer see free shipping as an incentive. Since adjusting prices, creating bundles and putting together promotions for those bundles can take time, this is something you’ll want to starting working on early.

If you need help with marketing your business – during the holidays or year-round – contact your local Growth Coach for help: https://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/.

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Set the Stage (and your Desk) for Success

norbert-levajsics-D97n3LR5uN8-unsplashEveryone’s preferences for a work space are different but, whether you’re in a cube farm or working from a home office, having your desk set up in a way that works for you is an important part of your ability to work effectively and efficiently. While you don’t always have total control of the space where you work, there are a few ways you can turn any desk into a power desk…

Save the Prime Real Estate

Regardless of the shape, size or design of your desk, there are spots that are easier to see and reach than others. Take a few minutes to figure out which items on your desk you use most frequently and which are the most helpful. Even if it doesn’t seem like the best design choice, put those items in your prime real estate. For example, if you frequently use your calendar and your post-it notes, don’t hang your calendar behind you and tuck the sticky notes in a drawer. Just be sure not to make your most accessible spaces overly cluttered – that can be distracting.

Consider What Goes in Secondary Spaces

Now that the best spots on your desk are taken, look at the rest of the things you have on (and in) your desk. Which things can be further back on your desk or tucked into a drawer? Does your file storage need to be out in the open next to you? Or can it be in a drawer where it’s not distracting and cluttering your workspace?

Create Your Own Organizational System

If you are working at an office, you often start with the organizational tools you’re given – drawers, file trays, folders… but everyone’s minds work differently. While these tools might be perfect for you, they also might not be. Being organized is an important part of being a leader, but you’ll need to find a system and tools that work for you and that might take time. Also, if you have an overwhelming week, take 20 minutes at the end of the week to get your files and paperwork organized so you can start the next week fresh. No one wants to come in to a desk that’s covered in last week’s stressors.

Decorate (or Don’t)

Everyone needs a different amount of visual stimulation to be happy and productive – some people want a blank, open space to avoid distractions while others need colorful art and family photos to keep them engaged. Think about what works for you and then do what you can to meet those needs. If you are a blank slate person, that might mean putting as much as you can into drawers and giving yourself lots of clean, open space. If you’re someone who needs more than that, consider what you’re able to do with your space and what makes sense for both your individual desk and your office building. Maybe a bright piece of art and a few family photos would help you feel more at home?

If you have a home office or you’re able to choose the furniture in your work office, it’s also important to consider what kind of furniture you and (and don’t) need. Don’t buy a credenza you’ll feel obligated to clutter up if that wall space would be where you’d want to hang your family photo.

If you could use help getting your business organized, your local Growth Coach can help. Find a coach online at https://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/.

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A Good Team vs A Bad Team and Why it Matters

annie-spratt-604131-unsplash.jpgEven the best entrepreneurs can’t (and shouldn’t) run an entire business alone. Even if you have the skills, doing everything yourself leads to burnout, stunts business growth because of capacity and keeps you from having a diverse team that helps you innovate. Having a staff you can depend on is vital, but that’s about more than having people with the right skills… they also have to be able to work together as an effective, productive team.

The problem is that sometimes, if you’re the company president or the founder, you might not have your finger on the pulse of every issue a team is facing, especially when it’s something like a personality difference. So how do you know if your team is working well together or if you need to make a change?

A Good Team

Successful teams can work together on any kind of project that falls into their wheelhouse. They are diverse, they communicate well and they understand each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Each member of a highly-effective team has to understand what they bring to the table and appreciate the insights and skills of the rest of the team members. Great teams support each other, split work evening and are focused on goals and results. Teams also need a great leader, whether that’s a manager or someone on the team who has been assigned to a leadership role for that specific project. Great teams are also well organized so they can meet deadlines and fulfill goals in a way that works for your company.

A Bad Team

The challenge with knowing that a team isn’t working out is that, sometimes, you don’t realize it until deadlines are being missed, or there are serious complaints among the team members, or particular team members are taking on their own initiatives (and taking the credit) without working with the group. One of the first tell-tale signs of a bad team is typically that everyone (or at least the people who aren’t feeling like part of the team) are pretty unhappy. No one wants to be the odd man out or feel like they aren’t being included in the right way. The bigger implication is that those kinds of issues tend to fester and will eventually start to impact the culture of your business. It can also quickly result in you losing some great people.

Team building takes time and, as a leader, manager or business owner, it’s up to you to build those teams from the top down. You have to pay attention to more than someone’s resume when you’re thinking about adding them to a team. You have set clear priorities and goals for those teams. You have to work with those teams (or their direct managers) frequently to make sure things are running smoothly.

Once a team is established and you can trust them to operate on their own, you can take a step back, but building, training and support a great team isn’t a one-day project. The Growth Coach’s GC Insights program can help you understand the personalities, strengths and weaknesses of your employees, which can help you get those teams on the right track. Contact your local coach today to learn more: http://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/.

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Business Owners: Invest in a Vacation

VacationBlogIn a world where we’re logged in 24/7 and taking time off can be seen as a weakness, burnout is plaguing professionals in every industry, including entrepreneurs and business owners. It’s expected that, for the first few years of your business, you’ll probably be the linchpin for your company – you’re in a growth period, you’re getting systems put into place and you’re building your team. But at some point, you have to be able to step away, even if it’s just for a few days.

You need a vacation. You really need a full week, but we’ll take a few days for this year if your promise to start planning for 2020.

Taking a vacation doesn’t have to mean you’re jet-setting across the country or bumming on a beach – it can even just be a week you dedicate to spending with your family or stay-cationing to do fun things in your own city – but it’s vitally important to your business and your mental health. Taking a vacation is a great way to reacquire the passion for your business. It gives you time to relax and re-energize, which will help you be happier in the long run.

But how do you truly check out when so much of the business leans on you? Hire trustworthy business leaders, train them and trust them. This isn’t something you can do at the drop of a hat, but it’s something you need to invest in and plan for moving forward.

If you have those people in place already and you just can’t seem to find time to get away, as soon as you’re finished reading this blog post, take out your calendar. We think it’s important that you find a full week to black out in the coming months, but even a long weekend can make a difference. Look over the next three months and find at least three consecutive days you could completely take off to help you relax and recharge. Marks the dates out in your calendar.

Once you have the dates set, start focusing on how you can be out those days and prepare your team. If you have strong people and you give them the tools and support they need, it will be just fine. Before you leave, set your out of office and make it clear to your team that you will be turning off your email notifications and that you should only be called in the case of a true and absolute emergency.

This all might seem like a lot of work for a few days of peace, but it’s worth the investment. Work/Life Balance isn’t a buzzword – it’s a business strategy. If you’re struggling with balance or you don’t have the systems or people in place to clock out, even for a few days, it’s time to contact your local Growth Coach: http://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/.

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Strengthening Your Business by Thinking about Selling It

Many small business owners start businesses not because they are fabulous business owners or budding entrepreneurs, but because they are passionate technicians. They have a particular skill that they know they can market and sell without working for someone else. But, for many of those business owners, that skill that sets their business apart can also be their Achilles Heel.

It’s easy enough to tell small business owners to build systems, grow their staff, cross-train employees, find and support dependable managers, trust your leadership team, delegate, get out the weeds, focus on strategy… but sometimes those things either feel out of reach, out of budget or even just out of focus when you’re stuck in the day-to-day operations of the business. So what can you do to wrap your head around these challenges (and solutions)? Think about selling your business.

If you decided to sell your business tomorrow – would someone buy it? Do you have the systems, staff and structure in place to hand someone the keys and walk away? Can the business succeed without you or are you not only the business owner, but also the lead technician and Chief Everything Officer? Have you spent time building a loyal customer base and a strong reputation? Have you invested in marketing and growth or are your competitors on your heels?

All in all, would buying your business be a wise business decision or would it be a liability?

As business coaches, this is a conversation we often have with our clients, either in group workshops or individually. Helping them find ways to get out of the day-to-day operations of the company not only gives them the freedom to have a business (rather than a demanding job), but also makes the business more valuable.

So, if your business would be a liability, create an honest list about all the things that you, as a potential buyer of your business, would see as concerns and opportunities. And, once you have that list, start working toward improvements either on your own, with your team, with a mentor or with a business coach.

And, if your answer is that buying your business would be a wise business decision, then you come to another important question… If someone did buy your business, would they pay enough to either sustain you moving forward or give you a strong start for your new business venture? How much is your business worth when you don’t consider your own emotional attachment? You can work through this on your own or with an accountant, but The Growth Coach offers a  Business Valuation program. This program is designed to help you come up with a value and a plan for increasing that value so you can get the biggest return on your investment whenever you do decide to sell your business.

Whether you’re planning to sell the business in five or 25 years – or you’re thinking about passing it down to a family member – thinking through selling your business can help you build a stronger foundation and prepare your company for growth.

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4 Tips for Managing Your Online Reputation

Whether you are trying to build a company, secure funding for an entrepreneurial dream, create business relationships, or even land a job, you have to be confident in more than your resume and what you have to offer. In today’s market you can be sure that, before you get a call back or a client, there’s a good chance someone is going to look for your name (and your business name) online. So what does your online reputation say about you? And how do you manage that reputation? Here are four ways to get started.

Search for Yourself: Log out of your browsers and social accounts, clear your cache and cookies in settings, and then search for your name across the internet. Start with Google, Yahoo and Bing, but also go see what comes up when you search for your name on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. If you are logged out, what you’re seeing should mirror what anyone else would see, so you’ll get a clear picture of what comes up when someone searches for you.

Lock Down Your Personal Social Media Accounts: Double (or triple) check the privacy settings across all of your personal social media accounts. Log out and then see what shows up on your public profile. If you are comfortable with everything the public can see, then you’re all set. But if there is anything that’s… less than flattering, it might be a good idea to delete the content you don’t like (like maybe those profile pictures from college…) And, as you’re posting to these sites moving forward, assume that nothing you post is private, just in case.

Update Your Name and Profile Photo: Some names are just not as easy to find online as others. For example, if you are John Smith, it will be tough for people to find you in search. Although this might sound like a good thing sometimes, if you’ve invested in your online reputation and no one can find you, your work is wasted and you’ve lost an opportunity for a great first impression. If you have a common name, consider adding a middle initial to your name on your resume, LinkedIn and website, if applicable. Also, it’s a good idea to make sure your profile picture on all sites (including personal social accounts), would make a good first impression. Those profile photos will come up in search, regardless of privacy settings.

Build Your Own Online Reputation: While social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc., are great places to connect with friends and family and might be pages you put behind privacy walls, spend some time making sure your LinkedIn profile is up to snuff. Although LinkedIn used to be a place for job-hunting, it has become a serious player in the world of networking and you can be sure potential employers, partners and funders will be looking for your profile. Make sure your profile is updated, your summary represents what you do (not just your job title), your URL is personalized, your endorsements are in line with your expertise, and work to get recommendations from people you’d want represented on your profile. Depending on your individual goals, it’s also worth looking into having a website, which is a topic all on its own.

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The Importance of Business Owner Accountability

AccountableIt’s hard to hear, but… any time something goes wrong in a business, the business owner is to blame. If you’re the owner of the company (or even the president of the organization) and customer has a terrible experience, it eventually comes back to you. For example, if a customer at a restaurant has a bad experience, it’s easy to blame the server or the chef, but your managers hired and trained those employees and you, the business owner, probably hired and trained that manager and put together the training program. Or, at the very least, you approved the hire and the manual.

Although we often tell business owners that they need to get out of the weeds and work ON their business, that doesn’t mean that any faults in the daily operations or the growth of the business don’t come back to you. So why does that matter? Accountability.

Once you’ve accepted that any fault can be traced back to you as the business owner or leader, you can start to think differently about how you hire and train your leadership team, how you communicate your expectations and policies to them, how you structure your business to train and support employees and then someone, whether it’s yourself, a mentor, a friend or a business coach, needs to keep you accountable. You need to be able to step back, see that something either a success or a failure, take responsibility for that and adjust your business or organization as needed.

It’s easy to be accountable for the successes. If you’ve hired and trained a great sales team manager and then offered sales training and provided proper support to your sales team and their sales go up 20 percent, you can pat yourself (and your new manager) on the back and continue to make sure those training and supports are in place while you look for other ways to improve. Even the most humble business leader can figure out being accountable for success.

It gets a bit stickier when you talk about failures. No one likes to admit that something didn’t go the way they’d planned and, whether it cost time, money or both, those can be hard to make up. It doesn’t feel good to fail. But if you don’t accept responsibility for those failures and make a concerted effort to learn from what went wrong and then change your approach next time, you’ll never grow as a leader and it will eventually kill the growth of your business. Being accountable gives you the opportunity to find future successes. If you never admit that something went wrong or that you could have tried something different, you’ll never have that opportunity for growth.

So how do you stay accountable? At The Growth Coach, a big part of our program is coming together with a group of peers every 90 days to talk about what progress you’ve made, what successes you’ve seen and what challenges you’ve had. It’s just as much about working with a coach as it is about being accountable to the group. If you’re not working with a coach, consider forming a small business group, finding a peer mentor or looking to a mentor to keep you on track. Answering to someone other than the person in the mirror can make a big difference.

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Dealing with the Challenges of a Family Business

FamilyBizRunning any business is hard, but when you’re running a family business, you face a unique set of challenges – it’s hard to leave work at work, it’s hard to manage the emotional entanglement of family and there’s more at stake than money when something goes awry. So how do you manage and grow your family business without fraying the relationship you’ve built with your loved ones? It comes down to boundaries and business roles.

Running a business on your own can be lonely – it’s hard to find someone who can truly sympathize with the challenges you’re facing and, if your spouse or significant other isn’t involved in the day-to-day operations, it can be difficult for he or she to understand the frustrations you’re having. Unless you’re working with a mentor (including a peer mentor), a business group or a coach, you don’t really have anyone to bounce ideas off of.

When you’re in a family business, the opposite is true. Whether one person is running the daily operations or everyone is involved in some way, everyone in your family knows the ins and outs of the business and has a stake in the success. When you talk business, it’s not to a third party who can help you stay grounded, it’s to an interested party who might be facing the same challenges.

The most important thing in a family business is boundaries – both at home and at work. First of all, do your best to leave work at work. If you’re discussing the business at the dinner table and at every family gathering, you’re not giving yourself time to recharge and you’re not finding balance. That can easily lead to burn out. Equally important… try your best to leave home at home. You can’t help but talk about home life, but oversharing with non-family employees can be trouble.

The second thing comes down to business roles. These are also important because, especially in multi-generational businesses, it’s easy to be pigeonholed into the role of “Mrs. Smith’s Daughter” when, in fact, you might be running the company. Although you may happily be Mrs. Smith’s Daughter, it’s important, especially for your employees, for everyone understand the business roles and dynamics to keep things running smoothly.

Defined business roles can also keep family members from stepping on each other’s toes in the daily operation of your business. It’s nature for family members to want to help each other, but if your sister is running human resources, you don’t need to be updating the employee handbook. You can talk to her about it, but the information to employees needs to come from her.

Family businesses are a huge part of today’s economy and can be incredibly rewarding, but setting boundaries and business roles is vital. If you need help with that, find your local growth coach at http://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/. 

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Time to Go Back to SWOT?

SWOTPixabayBeing a business owner is hard – you don’t clock in and out, it’s hard to leave work at work, and, in many cases, you are wearing a LOT of hats, from marketing to HR. In the course of running the business, it’s easy to let the business run you. But if you let the stress of running the business weigh on you, it’s impossible to enjoy the benefits of being a business owner. So what do you do? How can you get to a place that allows you to enjoy the fulfillment and freedom of being a business owner without your business suffering?

We often tell our clients (and our friends) that it’s not the business tasks themselves that are holding you back – every business has challenges – it’s not knowing how to handle those challenges or not having the systems in place to deal with those challenges. Sometimes going back to a SWOT analysis is the best way to get a good grasp on the current state of your business, create a plan for the future and then build systems that connect those dots without you micromanaging the process every step of the way.

Here’s some of what to consider in a SWOT Analysis:

Strengths

  • What are your personal and company strengths, unique talents and money-making assets?
  • Which are the most promising strengths – personal and corporate – to pursue now?
  • How can you effectively leverage, maximize and multiply these strengths?

Weaknesses 

  • What are your personal and company weaknesses and liabilities?
  • How can you effectively neutralize, delegate or outsource these weaknesses?

Opportunities

  • What are your money-making opportunities at hand right now?
  • Which are the most promising opportunities with the greatest ROI?
  • How can you go about effectively seizing these opportunities?

Threats

  • What are the greatest threats/dangers facing you and your business?
  • How can you effectively eliminate or minimize these threats?

Once you feel like you have a solid SWOT Analysis, it’s important to take action. Create a strategy the focuses on your strengths and opportunities while addressing your weaknesses and threats as best you can. And, if you find that your lack of Business Systems is an issue (for example, can you go on vacation without your laptop?), then it’s time to think about creating those systems. We’d encourage you to read this 2011 blog post to get started: https://growthcoachblog.com/2011/08/04/growth-coach-challenge-are-you-a-prisoner-to-your-business/.

And don’t forget, you can refer back to your SWOT Analysis anytime – for a reminder or for a revamp – so keep it handy!

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Teamwork Matters – Here’s Why

action-2277292_960_720No matter what kind of business you own or manage, business success leans heavily on the quality of your team – not just what each individual can do on his or her own, but also what they can do together. Every person you hire brings a different skill set, a different experience and a different perspective to your company and, when they can work together effectively, it’s powerful. From a leadership standpoint, there are a few things that teamwork promotes most obviously – synergy, efficiency and productivity, which all go together.

If you go out and hire the best people in your region, but they can’t work together, it’s going to be hard to get anything accomplished. Even though every individual has an awesome skill set and understands the projects and the goals in front of them, they’ll all be operating in silos. Not having that synergy will hurt your efficiency and your productivity, which impacts your bottom line.

Think about it like this – if you have four individuals who are all tasked with building one fourth of the same robot, but none of them talk to each other about what that robot needs to be able to do or how it should work, how will the robot even come together? Either you’ll have four mismatched pieces that you hope will work together or you’ll have four individual robots that each person spent four times as much time building by themselves. Neither of those examples will work for your business. You need a robot that works perfectly, looks great and makes the most of the skill set of each individual on the team without costing extra time and money. That requires teamwork.

In addition to the most visible benefits of having teams that can work together, people who work well together also build comradery. Just like how having one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, having a staff full of team players who respect each other and value what each employee brings to the table will change the entire dynamic of your business for the better. A great team also provides cross-training learning opportunities. For example, if you have a marketing person, a social media person and a graphics person who all work extremely well together, they will be able to share knowledge, catch each other’s mistakes, bring new ideas to each other’s projects and more – all to the benefit of your business.

So how do to make sure you build a team that can work together? This article from Berkeley Human Resources has some great tips. We also recommend working with your local Growth Coach to implement our GC Insights program. By better understanding each member of your team, you can help them be more efficient and work better together.

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