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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Be Awesome at Networking by Talking Less

handshake-2056021_960_720.jpgNetworking takes time and, even for extroverts, it can be uncomfortable to talk about yourself and your business or career. But we have good news! Making a great first impression at a networking event actually requires a lot less talking and a lot more listening.

When You Meet Someone New

If you’re new to a networking group or you meet someone new, making a good impression starts like any good first impression – a smile, eye contact, a good handshake and a clear introduction. Tell your new connection who you are, what you do and what company you work for (or own). They’ll likely do the same. At that point you have a few choices – you can talk about yourself and your work, you can prompt them to talk, you can hover awkwardly or you can walk away. If you can encourage the other person to talk first – and if you genuinely listen and ask intelligent questions – chances are good that, when you get a chance to talk about yourself and your work, they’ll listen to you too.

When You Bump Into Someone You’ve Met

This one is tricky. If you remember the person’s name (or, thank goodness, they are wearing a name tag), greet them with a nice handshake a smile. If you’re able to recall anything about your last meeting, it’s nice to be able to ask a follow-up question, especially if they could be a valuable connection. Showing them that you remember your conversation and that the information was important enough to commit to memory can make a lasting impact. If you don’t remember anything about the last time you’ve met, that’s OK. It’s better to not say anything specific than to get it wrong.

When You Join an Ongoing Conversation  

If a conversation is happening between people you know or don’t know and you walk into the group, the important thing to do is listen. Take in anything you can about the conversation and then ask intelligent questions that show you were listening. When there’s a break in the conversation, you’ll have a chance to introduce yourself.

If you know you’ll freeze up, see if you can bring a +1. You can bring someone from your own company, but bringing a friend from another company can help break the ice and give you an opportunity to talk about each other in a casual way. Also, don’t overdress (it makes people uncomfortable) and don’t forget your business cards in case there’s an opportunity to hand one out.

Networking can be fun, but it can also be an important part of your business growth. You never know who people know, so value every connection you make!

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Three Ways to Improve Company Culture

application-3426397_960_720.jpgCompany culture – and the importance of having great culture – has been making the news for a few years now. Great company culture can help you attract and retain top-notch employees and, as you look for the next batch of leaders, it’s important to note that the Association for Talent Development recently found that millennials desire a strong company culture more than anything else when deciding where to work.

So how do you know if you have a good company culture or not? Whether or not your culture has actually been defined, it’s important to talk to your employees at all levels. What do they think of your company’s values and expectations? What do they know about your company’s culture? Is everyone throughout your business operating within that culture or are there issues?

Once you have a good handle on your company culture, you can decide if you need to make changes or not. If you do need to make changes, here are three places to start:

Transparency

Transparency doesn’t just mean sending accounting reports to your employees – it means regularly updating your entire team about the current state of the business, the future of the business and how you plan on closing the gap between those two places. You have to trust your employees with this knowledge and believe that, because they want your business to be successful, they’ll help your company to reach that next benchmark. In your goal to be transparent, it will also be empowering to encourage your employees to share their ideas on how to improve the company or your products or services with you.

Communication

Communication is two-part, the way you communicate with your employees and the way your employees communicate with each other. Employees wants to feel like individuals – not cogs in a machine – so making time to learn about your employees and giving them opportunities to succeed is vital. Although the individual day-to-day discussion about their goals might be a conversation with their manager, depending on the size of your business, you need to set aside time to touch base with your employees. It’s also important that your employees can work together efficiently, especially as working remotely becomes more common. Tools like Slack, Yammer, Trello and Zoom are awesome, but it’s important that using them becomes part of your company culture. You can’t have only half of your team using the communication tools you put into place.

Recognition

You don’t have to pat every employee on the back every time they do something well, but if they do something exceptional, recognizing them can go a long way. Forbes recently researched the importance of recognition and found that companies with a recognition culture have a 31-percent lower turnover rate. The trick here is that, if you’re only listening to and recognizing the employees who boast about their performance throughout the office, you’ll breed resentment among the rest of your team. Consider setting up a program where people can nominate a coworker for a special recognition or rely on your manager to help you see standout performance.

Need help making changes? Find your local Growth Coach online at http://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/.

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Are You Undervaluing Yourself? Stop Being a Technician.

holly-stratton-576521-unsplashAt The Growth Coach, our coaches have worked with thousands of small business owners over the years. One of the most common challenges those business owners face is that, in addition to being the business owner, they are the lead technician. For example, if they own a cookies and cake shop, they are the one in the back icing cupcakes (sometimes in addition to everything else). They might have hired someone to run the counter or even help make the cupcakes, but they haven’t trained and entrusted anyone to control the technical side of the business.

They are working IN the business instead of ON the business.

Now that we’re in the New Year, we want to challenge the small business owners out there to value their time, train staff members they can trust and start focusing on improving the business – not just making cupcakes. If the business hinges on you being there, then how can you ever take a vacation without closing up shop? What do you do if there’s a family emergency? How about when it comes time to retire – do you just shut down and walk away? Is your business worth anything if the whole thing hinges on you?

So take a minute and consider this: if you were to place a value on your own time, what would it cost? $50 an hour? $100 an hour? $200 an hour? Whatever the answer is, would you pay someone that much to do the technical aspect of your job? Is it worth it financially to have someone who should be making $200 an hour icing cakes or making cookies? And, if you did hire and train someone else, what could you be spending time doing? Marketing? Networking? Selling? Working on systems? Improving your products? And how could those efforts help you grow the business?

The first steps in this direction are to build systems, hire and train staff, delegate and expand your thinking. It’s hard to hand over that icing bag, but there are only so many hours in the day and, if you’re making those cupcakes, you are costing the company money.

Check out this blog we posted in June of 2018 for details on those steps: https://growthcoachblog.com/2018/06/15/celebrate-your-own-freedom-this-independence-day/.

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No Business is Perfect – Celebrate Your Accomplishments

shutterstock_708636280At the beginning of the year, you set goals, you built strategic plans and you worked with your team to put those plans into place. Your team worked extremely hard, your business grew and you found ways to work ON the business instead of IN the business – but you didn’t meet all of your goals. As the end of the year approaches, it’s easy to be bummed about the progress that fell short of your mark, but as a business leader, you can’t take time to wallow in what might have been. Your team needs you and, if you’re going to motivate them to meet the goals you set for next year, you have to start with recognizing your progress this year and celebrating your successes.

The end of the year is often a time for business owners, company leaders and managers to evaluate progress for the year, compare goals with outcomes, do staff reviews, think about raises, etc. If your company or department didn’t quite meet the mark for the year, it’s important to talk about why and make adjustments for the New Year. That said, be careful not to weigh your team down with disappointment. If they know what your goals were (and they should) then they know whether those goals were met or not. Chances are that they are already worried about the end of the year.

If you are having staff meetings, board meetings or even just sending an all-staff email about the year, take the time to talk to your team about the things that went well and put together a list of the great things you want to celebrate. A reminder of those specific examples, especially if they happened in the first half of the year and might not be top of mind, will help get your team pumped for January.

Also, don’t fall prey to putting those successes into a compliment sandwich – a success bogged down with failure doesn’t feel like a success at all. Instead, try an approach that says, “We all know there are goals we didn’t make this year, even though we all worked really hard, and we’ll make adjustments for next year, but for now, here are all the things we did really well…” If you take that approach, then your successes can stand on their own and you have the opportunity to discuss the shortcomings your leadership team or your staff as you plan strategically for the New Year.

The heart of this issue is mindset. Remember that your staff members need to feel supported and encouraged if they are going to start the New Year with their best foot forward and that starts with recognizing their work and celebrating your collective successes.

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Don’t Let Your Business Scare You

shutterstock_754234693Have you ever gone into a haunted house and then spent the whole time with your eyes half-covered, pretending you weren’t seeing everything around you? You paid money to be there, you waited in line, you knew there would be frights, and yet you walked through the whole place half-blind, just looking for the exit.

That might be one way to get through a haunted house, but it’s no way to walk through your business.

Ignoring the problems in your business won’t get you to the exit – unless that exit means freshening up your resume – but it will let those problems snowball into bigger and more challenging issues. If you want to improve your business (and your life), you have to address those problems head on.

Open Your Eyes: The first rule of enjoying a haunted house is to open your eyes. Whether or not you like what you see and no matter how scary it might be, if you have your eyes closed, you can’t see what’s happening around you. While you might not be avoiding ghosts and witches in your life as a business owner, things like broken systems, managers who need training or customer service issues can be just as frightening. Open your eyes, look into every corner and take stock of the current status of your business so you can address issues create a plan for improvement.

Walk Forward: Once your eyes are open, if things are pretty scary, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what you are seeing. Don’t freeze! If you stand still, you’ll be stuck in that haunted house forever. Once you’ve had a chance to truly examine the ins and outs of your business – and perhaps pull down a few cobwebs – it’s time to figure out how to move forward. Whether your work with a business coach, consult with a mentor or sit down with your management team, it’s time to put on your CEO hat and start planning strategically. What can be done immediately to improve your business, inside and out? What do you need to look at six months out? Where do you want to be next year? How about in five years? What do you need to do to get there? Ask yourself these questions and start taking steps, even if they are small.

Go Back Next Year: Once you’ve made your way out of that haunted house, take a deep breath of the cool October air, smile and think back about what you just experienced, no matter how scary. Take time to celebrate your success and think about what you might do differently next time. Then – and this is important – mark your calendar to go back to that haunted house next year. Sure, you’ve already been through it once, but the attractions change every year and, although you’ll be better prepared, it’s important to take that deep look at your business every once and a while so you can plan strategically and continuously improve.

And, if you need a friend to hold your hand, you can always call your local Growth Coach: http://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/. Happy Halloween!

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