Business Owner Spring Cleaning – Mindset Edition

At a time when people are opening their windows, taking a deep breath and getting their homes ready for spring and summer, it is business as usual for many business owners. At The Growth Coach, we often talk to our clients about getting out of the day-to-day operations of the business so they get out of the weeds and focus on business and revenue growth rather than the specifics. So, if your business has been running you, now is a great time to spring clean your mindset, make changes and start fresh.

Keep your business from stalling by changing your mindset and working on these three things this season:

Your Staff: If you’re going to get out of the day-to-day operations of the business, there has to be someone (or multiple someones) to step into the roles you’ve been playing. That often means a few things: rearranging current job roles to account for increased duties, promoting team members to appropriate leadership positions and then training the next level of staff members to fill in as needed. This is also a good time to make sure your staff is engaged in the growth and development of the business and perhaps consider some professional development, especially for new leadership.

Revenue Development: Once you’re able to pull back from being a personal employee handbook and manual, set meetings with yourself to evaluate goals, network, follow-up on pending leads, attend chamber events and just generally get out into the community to promote your business. As a small business owner, people are often doing business with YOU, not just your business, so it’s important to be in the community making an impact.

Recharge: If, as the business owner, you’ve been the go-to person for every question or concern, there’s a good chance you’re suffering from business owner burnout at some level. Once your staff is in place and you’ve been able to switch at least some of your focus from business operations to business growth, it’s time to take a break. For many entrepreneurs, owning a business is a 24/7/365 job. That doesn’t leave much time to dream and plan for the next big thing. Take a much-needed vacation, spend a little more time at the coffee shop and devote a portion of your time to considering the future of your business as well as your own future. This is also a good time to make sure your work/life balance is in check.

If you need help with any (or all) of these, your local Growth Coach is a great resource. Whether you’re looking for a full-on workshop program or you want to set up some time to talk one-on-one, visit http://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/.

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The Trouble with Resolutions – Start Q2 Differently

i can do itMarch is a great time to talk about Resolutions… or at least why they don’t work. If you’re sticking to your resolutions for 2018, that’s awesome, but the truth is that most of us are not. And it’s not about our commitment or desire to make ourselves better, it’s because resolutions are typically about one lofty goal. We don’t say “I want to lose 10 pounds by Easter” or “I want to save $5,000”, we say “I want to lose weight” or “I want to save money.” Without specific goals and planned rewards, it’s hard to stay motivated.

It all comes down to goal setting. If you’re focused on a goal that’s too wide or too lofty without smaller goals along the way, it’s hard to find success and fulfillment. So if your business goal is to “be more profitable in 2018,” you are doing yourself a disservice. Without clear, milestone-based goals, it’s almost impossible to see yourself achieving that goal, especially if things don’t start off strong.

So let’s talk about the second quarter. For starters, don’t stress about those resolutions – the only person holding most of us accountable for resolutions is ourselves. Let yourself off the hook so you can realign your focus and start setting more milestone-based, attainable goals. Then set yourself clear guidelines for reaching those goals and a timeline for revisiting your progress. If you are focused more closely on specific goals you’ll be able to reach your larger goal more quickly and with more motivation along the way.

Also, don’t be disappointed that you’re changing your plans. It’s called adapting and the best business leaders do it all the time. If you waited until the next New Year to set new goals and resolutions, you’d be losing at least nine months of time you could be spending on making your business bigger, better and stronger.

As we look ahead to the second quarter, schedule a meeting with yourself. Block out an hour on your schedule to think about what goals you should set, what resolutions you want to scratch and what you and your team can be doing tomorrow to make the business even more awesome.

Need help getting things off the ground? Your local Growth Coach can help. Find your coach at http://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/.

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Are You Treating Your Sales Team Like Your Operations Team?

Super TeamYou have to measure your sales success. It sounds easy, but in reality, measuring successes in sales can be difficult. Although the job is to close sales, measuring the progress can’t come down to the number of sales and looking at profit margins. You have to consider things like the demand for your product (growing or shrinking), the efforts being made my your sales team, the progress over the year, etc. You can’t assume that a slow month means your team members aren’t doing their jobs.

That’s why it helps to think of sales in the same way you think of operations. As Growth Coach Ingar Grev said in a recent article published on The Business Journal website, you can’t just “wait until the end (of the sales cycle) and rely on revenue as the only indicator of performance.”

In that article, Grev describes a client who fired a long-time, successful sales person because his performance seemed to continue to decline. After working with Grev, the client discovered that the problem wasn’t with the sales person – it was with the product – and the replacement they hired didn’t have the materials, overnight or CRM tools needed to be successful.

Treating your sales department the same way you treat operations comes down to three things – quality control, oversight and metrics. Here are a few ways to get started:

Consistent sales content: Your sales people are having conversations with prospective clients. They are talking about your product or service, describing why your business is different and making the case for why your product or service is something they should add to their lives. But what are they saying? Make sure your sales people are relaying the same information to all prospective clients by approving all the sales copy and the prospecting process. You should be able to control the message being sent by your sales people – they are representing your company to the public.

Don’t ignore the data: Sometimes data doesn’t tell us what we want to hear. If your data shows you that your product or service needs changed or that you’re no longer meeting the needs of your prospective clients, figure out what needs to change. No one benefits if you wait until it’s too late.

For more tips and to read Grev’s full article, visit https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/marketing/2017/04/how-to-treat-sales-like-your-other-operations.html.

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A Different Way of Celebrating Goals

shutterstock_526990612There are plenty of great blogs published every year about setting – and sticking to – your goals for the next year. It’s usually about changing your mindset, setting attainable goals along the way and finding a support network. We know, because we’ve written that same blog in years past. But this year, we wanted to talk about goals in a different way. This time we want to take a minute to remind you to celebrate the goals you’ve met in 2017 and talk about what might be helpful in 2018:

Formal Recognition for 2017

If you didn’t reach your goals this year, your team is likely feeling the strain of a rough year. Even though you know there’s work that needs to be done as 2018 gets underway, you don’t want your staff bogged down with worry. Help them get a strong, fresh start to 2018 by revisiting your goals, talking about the challenges and pumping them up for next year. Instead of the generic “we’ll make changes and try again next year”, try something like, “I know we can reach our goals next year and I’m excited to work with all of you to make it happen!” Sometimes a fresh start comes down to attitude and a few carefully chosen words.

If you’ve exceeded your goals for the year, there’s a good chance there’s been some celebrating along the way. But even if you’ve congratulated your team members in the hallway or bought a round of pizza during a busy week, it will be helpful to bring your team together in a more formal way to talk about what the goals were, the results and how you reached them. That’s also a great opportunity to talk about how you’re excited to help them reach even more awesome goals in 2018.

Focus on Teamwork

Even for people who are fiercely competitive, working every day in an overly competitive environment can be exhausting. Rather than focus on celebrating the success of individuals on your staff, try celebrating departments or teams who are doing great work throughout the year. This is especially important in sales where your top grossing people may be the same every month. Sure, you need to recognize your powerhouse performers, but don’t discourage the rest of your team by ignoring strong efforts that might not turn immediately into dollars or met goals. Focus on the big picture and celebrate the teamwork that makes your company stronger and, eventually, more profitable.

Schedule Regular Updates

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day of any job – including being a business owner – only to realize six months down the line that you haven’t revisited your goals since January. Rather than panic and ask your managers for progress reports that they aren’t prepared to provide, schedule regular company-wide (or senior-staff wide, depending on the size of your organization) to bring every together, review progress reports, discuss the year’s goals, make adjustments as needed and get everyone excited about the next month or quarter. Celebrate the successes and let people know their hard work is appreciated.

These are three quick ways to celebrate and stay focused on your goals at the end of 2017 and throughout 2018. If you need help setting goals, taking action or staying accountable, your local Growth Coach can help. Find a coach at http://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/.

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7 Tips for Marketing Your Business During the Holidays

christmas baubles and computerIn theory, most of want to wait until after the Thanksgiving tryptophan wears off before we start thinking about holiday shopping, but the reality is that shops were stocking candy canes before the clock struck midnight on Halloween. And you probably noticed that, on November 1, your inbox was already swamped with red and green holiday shopping guides, sales, offers and more. So what does that mean? If you own a business and you’re not already talking about the holidays, you’re behind. So, here are 7 quick ways to get on the holiday marketing train. And fast.

Decorate Your Store – Brick and Mortar AND Online

If you want people to be thinking about holiday shopping, you have to set the mood. That means decorating your story – both your brick and mortar store AND your website or Etsy shop, etc. Find ways to make things festive and put great gift ideas right by the door, in the windows, on your landing page, as checkout… whatever products or services you think would make great gifts. By decorating your shop, you’re letting people know your business is in the holiday spirit and they can find a unique gift by shopping with you.

Play Christmas Music

We’ve all stopped, listened and groaned once or twice when we catch holiday music playing in October, but just like with decorating your store, if you want people to feel like shopping for holiday gifts, they need to be in the holiday spirit. Just try to keep it from being too obnoxious – maybe skip the Alvin and the Chipmunks album this year. It’s a classic, but it makes it hard to have fun shopping.

Invite Santa and Offer Giftwrapping

If you have youngsters, you might have noticed that many of the local breakfasts with Santa are already booked… And no one wants the A Christmas Story mall Santa line. If you have a location that makes sense – or if you can partner with another business who does – invite Santa to your shop, offer free gift wrap on items purchased from you that day, give out cookies and hot chocolate and promote like crazy. Everyone wants a chance to see Santa and snap a photo, especially if they aren’t paying $20 a piece or $40 a photo to make it happen. Just make sure you have awesome gift items displayed front and center and have plenty of staff on hand to keep things (like purchases!) moving along throughout the event.

Gift Card Discounts and Bonuses

Whether you decide to give a $5 thank you card to people who buy a gift card or you offer a discount on gift card purchases, people love free money. Just be sure to make it clear that those thank you cards or bonus gift cards are for use on a FUTURE purchase. You want happy customers – not confused ones.

Prepackage Gifts

People are busy and everyone has someone on their list who is impossible to buy for. If you have items in your store that can be sold together as a gift, go ahead and pair them together as gift items. If you can package them together, great, but if not, just displaying them side by side is fine. Make it as easy as possible for people to find your best gift ideas without a lot of time or attention. Get creative on this one!

Entertain the Kids

Families are always overbooked, which means, at some point, they’ll be stopping by your store at a time that might not be ideal for their schedule. No parent wants to drag their kids through your shop when they clearly don’t want to be there. Combat this problem by making coming to your store its own activity. Consider creating a space in your store where kids can color, decorate cookies or make their own holiday cards. If you don’t want to do this every day, think about hosting family days. Even if parents don’t buy something that day (although they probably will now that you gave them two minutes to think), they’ll appreciate the gesture and hopefully come back another day.

Cross-Promote

Your business has friends – the coffee shop up the street, the antiques store around the corner, the pizzeria next door. Find ways to cross-promote with the people in your business network. Even something as simple as a coupon on each other’s registers can get people to walk across the street and see what your business is all about… and what amazing gifts you have displayed in the front window.

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Managing the Growing Pains of New Leadership

Fitting a new leader into an existing team is always hard. Even when you promote from within, there are growing pains as the team adjusts to a new management style, new goals and new expectations. But how you deal with employee complaints about a new manager? And how do you support your new leader in their new position and how do you help them through the growing pains?

As with so many things in business, it’s all about the right kind of communication – with your new hire and with your team. Here are three tips:

Talk to Your Team

New management always makes people nervous, especially if the job had internal candidates. Talk to your team openly about why you hired the person you did, what they’ll bring to the team and how they can help your new hire get settled and be successful. After all, it’s always better when the ships can rise together.

Don’t Run to Your New Hire with Complaints

There are certain to be at least a few growing pains as the new leader gets settled, makes adjustments to the day-to-day, etc. When team members come to you with complaints, take them seriously, ask for specific examples and keep track of those issues. Most of the time, it’s just a matter of getting used to the new order, but you don’t want to lose good employees in the process. However, don’t immediately run to your new hire with the issues. Unless it’s an urgent situation or problem that needs corrected, taking the complaints directly to them will undermine their confidence in the new position. Wait until the dust has settled and then go back to those complaints to start a conversation with the new leader about things that could be improved.

Don’t Undermine Progress

As new management works out the kinks they see in your team and starts to implement their normal way of doing business, you have to learn to step back and let the pieces fall into place. In some cases, you may have been in that position or you’ve filled in while you hired someone new, so it can be especially hard to step away, but you have to create that separation. Be sure your subordinates subordinates understand that you hired the new leader because you trust their abilities and you’re ready for them to take the reins.

See additional tips on this topic from Growth Coach Ingar Grev in this article published in the Business Journal: https://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/human-resources/2017/06/how-to-field-employee-complaints-about-new.html.

 

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Use Your Story to Boost Sales

boost-salesWhen people are researching a product or service, they don’t just want to know how much it costs. They want to know why it’s the best option and how it’s going to fit into their lives. People these days don’t shop from a catalog and take product descriptions as gospel. They are educated buyers, they do their research and they want to know why they should do business with you.

That means, now more than ever, if you want to be successful in sales you have to be good at content marketing. So how do you focus on content marketing online rather than just sales and advertising? It’s about creating a dialogue between your business and its representatives (your sales team, president, etc.) on your social media channels, your website, your blog and any other medium you have access to. You have to find ways to engage your audience. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Your business has a story. Your products and services have a story. And every time you meet the needs of a customer, there’s a story there too. In a recent Entrepreneur article, author Mike Wood said “Storytelling marketing is one of the best techniques you can use to keep people’s attention. It also helps with the overall quality of your articles, and it leads to more shares and engagement.” Be honest and let that story sell your product or service without a direct sale. If you need a little inspiration to start thinking about your business through a storytelling lens, this article from Huffington Post has some great tips and examples. Forbes also has a great explanation of storytelling in business available here.

Just remember your story doesn’t all have to be in long-form blog posts – you can tell a story with a photo, video, quote, snippet or infographic… And, once you’ve created a great piece of storytelling content, you can get quite a bit of mileage out of it on all your social channels, your website, your advertising, and your print materials with the right strategy. The key here is that, once your audience starts to connect with your story and your business, they are more likely to buy your product or pay for your service.

If your business or your sales team needs more than content marketing to get in the groove, your local Growth Coach can help! With our group sales coaching workshops, one-on-one coaching sessions and other services, we can help you find the right solution for your business. Find your coach at http://thegrowthcoach.com/.

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Crowdfunding – It Means More than Money

crowdfunding-v5b-2016When entrepreneurs turn to crowdfunding to help them jumpstart their next venture, it’s usually because the need the capital to get their product, service or business off the ground. But by asking for people to support the development of your business, you’re also inadvertently asking them for feedback on your product or project. It’s a bit like market testing before actually hitting the market.

Back in 2016, Smith & Bradley, Ltd., used Kickstarter campaigns to decide which of their seven watch designs to take to market. Two of the campaigns didn’t make the cut. Now Smith & Bradley uses crowdfunding to validate the market for many of their products before going into product, Forbes reported in December of 2016.

Although it’s not a business, you can also look at the success of the crowdfunding efforts to create a Veronica Mars movie. While many in the industry thought Veronica Mars had more of a cult following, the crowdfunding campaign almost tripled its $2 million fundraising goal with a final total of $5.7 million from more than 90,000 backers, according to the campaign page.

Of course not every project is a Veronica Mars movie or watch from a reputable company. According to Kickstarter’s Stats on August 7, 2017, for the 129,375 projects that were successfully funded, another 231,714 were not successfully funded. The report also shows that most successfully funded projects raise less than $10,000 and that many campaigns struggle to get the promotional support they need to find success.

So what does this mean for your business venture? If you’re on the fence about what you’re doing and you want to try to a new way of market testing, crowdfunding might be a unique solution. It won’t be right for every product, service or business, but it’s a trend that’s getting stronger every year and, last year, was projected to surpass Venture Capital investing for the first time, so it’s definitely something to consider if you can support the promotional element of building a campaign.

If you’re thinking about taking the crowdfunding route, this guide might help: http://crowdfundinghacks.com/is-your-idea-right-for-crowdfunding/.

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Supporting Women in Business

shutterstock_84555940Small business owners are the backbone of the American economy and, according to a report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research, about 29 percent of those businesses are owned by women. That’s up from 26 percent in 1997, the report says. However, the increase in the number of businesses doesn’t inherently solve all the problems. A report from the Economic Policy Institute found that women-owned businesses make only about 25 cents for every dollar earned by a business owned by a man, a much bigger gap than the labor market.

So what can we do to help women in business be even more successful? At The Growth Coach, we think that all starts with having the right support and training. In fact, The National Bureau of Economic Research found that, when women lean on peer-to-peer relationships and receive business training with friends, they are more likely to report higher business activity and household income. So grab a friend and check out these seven women-in-business resources we find especially helpful:

National Women’s Business Council: This organization was part of the Women’s Business Ownership Act to identify the barriers to success for women-owned businesses. Since then the council has evolved to be a support system for women business owners, addressing issues, providing fact sheets and breaking research down to the nuts and bolts of what matters and how it will impact the future.

National Association of Women Business Owners: The NAWBO is a “one-stop resource to propelling women business owners into greater economic, social and political spheres of power worldwide”. Their website is packed with resources, an e-learning series, advocacy information and more, and their local chapters host events, help with networking and are excellent local resources.

The Bringing Out Successful Sisters Network: The BOSS Network was founded by Cameka Smith to promote and encourage the small business spirit and career development of women. This is “an online community of professional and entrepreneurial women who support each other through conversation, online and event-based networking” and they have an especially powerful blog and success stories section.

The US Small Business Administration: This might sound obvious, but the SBA has a whole section dedicated to women-owned businesses. They have easy-to-find articles and information on financing a business, starting a business and growing a business as well as mentoring and training. They also have information and recommendations on SBA Loans, business and education centers, the women-owned federal contracting program and more.

The American Management Association: Although this organization is about women in leadership – not necessarily in business –their resources and training and are on point for business owners as well. Their Women’s Leadership Center offers webcasts (some free), training courses, workshops and a blog, all of which are specially-tailored for women.

Chic CEO: This website was built as a support network for women in business. They have tips, how to information, business plans, a blog, ways to connect with other women and more. The site says they provide the ground level information to get you started on the path to being your own boss and the rest is up to you.

SCORE: SCORE has been around for more than 50 years and they have a proven track record of providing small business advice to entrepreneurs and small business owners, including women. Although they aren’t specifically working with women, you can find a woman mentor through their mentoring service and they do have resources aimed at women.

Of course you can always contact your local Growth Coach for support.

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Turning Happy Customers into New Business

When you’re building a business, happy customers are more than good business, they’re also great marketing. People in this ever increasingly social world are happy to spread the word about your business when they have a great experience, but you have to ask for their help. So, when was the last time you asked someone for a referral, review or recommendation? Does your business have a process in place to do that? Have you considered offering incentives for customers who help you increase your business? Here’s a little about referrals, reviews and recommendations, suggestions on how to ask for them and links to other blog posts where you can learn more:

Referrals

Referrals are incredibly powerful – whether your business is 6 months old or 60 years old. People are much quicker to trust a personal referral from a friend, family member, coworker or acquaintance and, chances are, they’ll feel better about working with when the connection came through a referral. It never hurts to ask a happy customer to consider providing referrals, particularly if they are an ongoing client or they have a vested interested in the success of your business. You might also want to think about other people who can provide referrals, like your friends, family members or connections on social media, including smaller, localized sites like NextDoor. Learn more about asking for referrals witht his blog post: https://growthcoachblog.com/2012/02/02/referrals-all-it-takes-is-a-question/.

Recommendations

If you have a business that revolves around you as an individual rather than a product, commercial service or retail store, recommendations, especially on LinkedIn, can be powerful marketing tools. First, make a timely connection on LinkedIn and thank that person for doing business with you. Then, once you’re connected, you can use LinkedIn’s system to request a recommendation. Although anyone you’re connected with can write a recommendation for you, more often than not, you need to ask. Keep in mind that the person may also ask you for a recommendation too, particularly if your work together was in professional services. Learn more about the power of referrals with this blog from 2014: https://growthcoachblog.com/2014/01/23/the-power-of-referrals-and-recommendations-and-how-to-ask-for-them/.

Reviews

In a world where social media rules, people are used to leaving reviews on their preferred website, whether that’s Google, Facebook, Yelp, Angie’s List or something else. Of course people are often much more motivated to leave reviews when they’ve had a bad experience than a good one… it’s easy to encourage people to leave good reviews by asking them personally, sending a follow-up email when the work is completed, offering a future incentive for reviews, putting information about leaving reviews on your business cards, etc. However, just like with referrals or recommendations, you usually need to ask if you want someone to go out of their way to help you grow your business. Learn more about the power of reviews with this recent blog post: https://growthcoachblog.com/2017/05/01/the-power-of-reviews-in-the-digital-age/.

We’re curious to know… how are you working with your happy customers to build your business? What’s working? What needs improvement? What suggestions on this topic would you offer other business owners? Tell us in the comments!

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