Take Advantage of Summertime

daydreamIt’s hard to stay focused during the summer – from vacations and pool-side Saturdays – and as a business leader, you can actually use that to your advantage. For this blog, we talked to Growth Coach Michael Neuendorff, who owns The Growth Coach franchise in San Mateo, California.

Michael said that summer is definitely the season of relaxing and recharging and that’s a good thing. It’s vital for all hard-working people! Ideally, plans for vacations and staycations were set prior to the beginning of summer, which means you won’t have any unplanned disruptions to the business – or the activity necessary to keep the company going and growing.

“You see, the truly strategic business owner who has great work-life balance will calendar their life at the beginning of the year, then work around the life events. This is because of the clear understanding that a business’ appetite can never be satiated. If you work, then look for downtimes to relax, they will be far and few between. Looking for ways to fit in relaxation rather than plan them ahead is also a way to create stress for the family of the business owner who are looking for increased leisure activity during the summer. The key is to plan ahead! By doing so you’ll focus on work when it’s time to work and play when it’s time to play,” Michael said.

However, when you’re not enjoying your downtime, it’s important to stay on your game. The fact is that a business should always be active – activity creates momentum and that leads to growth. Stifling that momentum by reducing activity beyond an understandable rest period may impair the business’ opportunity for next stage growth. Momentum is as important in business as it is in athletics and, sometimes, you have to make a concerted effort to keep it up.

You can also look at summer as a time to get ahead. Is your competition taking it easy because things have slowed down? This is an excellent opportunity to seize and double your efforts! When your competition is getting lazy, each extra effort on your part will count for even more.

That said, if your business has seasonal patterns and summer happens to be your slowest time, then this is the time for the owner and their team to focus more energy on strategic activities. There’s no rule that strategic planning should just be an end of year or beginning of year activity. Do it now. In reality, many people do little strategic planning at any time of the year. So, you’ll gain a competitive edge by reviewing former plans, measuring progress, then updating those plans to meet what the marketplace is telling you.

Your slow season is also a great time to get trained on new skills or reinforce existing skills to prepare to be even more competitive during the next busy cycle. Again, most small businesses don’t invest in real training for their employees. Many feel they don’t earn enough to warrant training, may leave before an ROI is seen, or there’s just no budget for it. This type of thinking or planning keeps a business small and employees from growing to their full potential. Great people want to learn and grow. They are seeking opportunities to contribute to the business in a significant way. Involve them in planning exercises and put them in to training programs during slow periods.

Implement these ideas and you’ll have a summer that’s fun and productive.

Learn more about Michael’s business and read his blog here: http://www.buildandbalance.com/.

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The Growth Coach Launched Podcast Aimed at Helping Business Owners Succeed

Hosts Joshua Johns and Mary Ellen Rohrbaugh

Hosts Joshua Johns and Mary Ellen Rohrbaugh

As The Growth Coach continues to grow around the world, the corporate staff back in Cincinnati is thinking not only about ways to best serve franchisees, but also how the company can positively impact the world one community at a time. It’s that mission that encouraged The Growth Coach to offer coaching workshops in the first place and then, more recently, add services like the Coaching Club, financing for coaching and more.

Now The Growth Coach team is excited to announce that they’ve launched a podcast aimed at helping the owners of small- and medium-sized businesses be more successful – whether or not they’re currently coaching clients. The Mind Your Own Business podcast, available on iTunes and hosted by Growth Coach Digital Marketing Manager Joshua Johns and Growth Coach Vice President of Operations Mary Ellen Rohrbaugh, features Growth Coaches throughout the system highlighting topics focused on creating business success, how to get there, the pitfalls along the way and resources to help owners find balance in their lives.

The podcast rolled out this spring with five introductory episodes and new episodes are expected to be published monthly. Although the specific discussions will vary, Joshua Johns said the overarching focus is to provide listeners with tactics from other leaders and business coaches on ways to improve their business and life balance. He said adding the podcast aligns with one of The Growth Coach’s primary goals – to provide useful tools and support that will help individuals around the world have stronger businesses and better lives.

“One tool may not be enough to fix up a house, but the right expert with a full box of tools designed to match the work that needs done surely will. That’s what we’re hoping to do with Mind Your Own Business – provide business owners with the right tools,” Joshua Johns said.

You can find Mind Your Own Business on iTunes at

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Building Your Referral Network

shutterstock_88099609Referrals are a vital part of any successful business. If your satisfied customers  are talking to their networks about what makes your business awesome, those prospects are going to come to your business with a certain level of faith and trust in your credibility. Of course, if you want your customers to send their friends and family members your way, you have to ask. When was the last time you asked those people if they knew anyone who would benefit from your services? And did you turn that referral into a satisfied customer? If you struggle with building referrals, here are a few simple steps to put you on the right track:

You have to ask.

Once you’ve completed providing services to your client, make a short follow-up call. This is a perfect opportunity to solicit feedback from your client and, if they were satisfied with the work you did, it’s OK to ask them if they know anyone else who may be interested in what you have to offer. Explain to them that referrals are important to the success of your business and ensuring you can offer services in the future. Just be careful NOT to pressure your client. You can’t force them into offering you a referral and, if you make them uncomfortable, you could lose future business.

If a follow-up call isn’t your style, you can also ask for referrals through customer feedback or satisfaction surveys, messages on invoices, customer letters, the signature line for customer emails and on your website.

What’s next?

If a client gives you a referral, don’t stop there. Take time to thank your customer and reward them for helping you build your business. Building a strong relationship with your referral sources means more referrals and more success! Not sure how to show your appreciation? You can start with a thank you letter or hand-written note. If you’re able, customers are also often motivated by cash rewards, gift cards, free additional services, etc.

Clients? Check. Who else though?

Customers are great referral sources, but they aren’t the only ones who understand how awesome you and your business are! Consider who else can advocate for your business and don’t be afraid to ask them for help. Who should be happy to share their networks with you? Friends, family members, vendors, suppliers and strategic alliances are all good places to start.

Regardless of who you ask, make sure to educate them about what you do and engage them in building your business. It’s important to take the time to talk to any potential advocates about your services and what you offer to your customers. Explain how you help them and how you can help others by explaining the problems you solve and what sets you apart!

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Spring Cleaning Your Business

shutterstock_333612605Spring is a perfect time to clean your home, but it’s also a great opportunity to spring clean your business. We’re not talking about scrubbing the floors – we’re talking about clearing the clutter out of your company and making it more efficient and systematized. For this blog, we’re featuring Growth Coach Dean Bogues – Coach Dean – who owns The Growth Coach of Austin. Here’s what he had to say:

Small businesses can plateau or stall when the owner spends too much time being a technician and not enough time working on business growth and revenue generation. Since you can’t make more time, you have to learn to cut back on low-level tasks and drive change in what you do. Your business will not grow if you don’t shift your mindset.

Here is a recipe for reducing clutter:

  1. Make a two column list. The headings are “Clutter” on the left column and “Remedy” on the right column.
  2. In the “Clutter” column, list the tasks, activities, and efforts that are a waste of your time and talents. This is clutter, stuff, or low-value activities.
  3. In the “Remedy” column, write down the corresponding action you will take for each clutter item over the next 90 days to: a) not do it; b) delegate or outsource it; c) delay it; or d) destroy or redesign it.
  4. Merge this action plan you just created into your to-do list or whatever time management system you use. If you don’t use a time management system, that needs to change too.

Here are some of the clutter-reducing activities Dean’s clients have implemented:

Reduce time spent on email: Too many business owners spend too much time re-reading emails and not taking immediate action on them. Remedy: Set regular intervals of time during each day to “attack” email as opposed to letting it drive your time. Process each email once by: a) responding or taking action; b) deleting it; c) turning it into a future to-do list item; d) delegating it; e) filing it; or f) unsubscribing from it. If you receive 100 emails per day and you re-read half of them taking 30 seconds each, that eats up 25 minutes per day or over 2 hours per week. What revenue generating activity can you accomplish with 2 more hours each week?

Outsource payroll: Handling payroll takes about half a day every two weeks. Remedy: Outsource it to a payroll processor. The cost of this service is far outweighed by the return provided by using the 4 hours for business development activities.

Delegate scheduling: Working out the schedule for your team can cost several hours every day. Is this something you, the owner, have to handle? Hire an operations manager.  The first reaction that many business owners have to this is: “I can’t afford to do this.”  The reality is that they can’t afford NOT to do it if they want to grow their business.

Cut distractions: It’s easy to get distracted with social media, email links and news. This can eat up several hours a day. Remedy: Don’t do it anymore or limit the time.

Assign time to focus on leads and growth: Once you’ve freed up time using the strategies above, join quality networking groups that have a track record of providing referrals. Seek referrals from existing clients. Create alliances with other business owners who market to the same targets. Hire a web services company to optimize lead generation via the web and social media. You should also double the time spent on converting prospects to customers and dedicate additional time to focus on adding additional services or products to sell to your existing customers.

Dean Bogues opened his Growth Coach business eight years ago after pivoting from a long corporate career where he held multiple executive leadership roles with Valence Technology, Dell, American Power Conversion, and Hewlett-Packard. Bogues is a motivating, team oriented leader known for outstanding skills in building new organizations and developing top performers through challenge, empowerment, coaching, mentoring, and reward. 

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The Art of Setting the Right Price

GCBlogSettingPriceWhen you’re in business, figuring out what to charge can be stressful. Whether you’re offering a service or selling a product, you have to walk the fine line of making the money you want while keeping customers happy. For this blog, we talked to Growth Coach John Chiaro – who serves the Hilton Head and Savannah region. Here are some of his insights:

Setting the right price all comes down to knowing your market and understanding your competition. You have to know where your product or service fits into the marketplace and what your direct competitors are charging so you can keep your price on par. If something is too expensive, people are going to go with another option. On the other hand, if your price is too low, potential customers may think something is of low quality or used. So where do you start? John discussed the processes for products and services separately, so let’s start there.

Products: If you’re a coffee shop selling premium coffee, you need to look at where else people can get coffee in your community, what products those places are selling and what people are getting for their money. John said to keep in mind that Starbucks can charge more because people are expecting a certain level of quality. Are you in the same market as Starbucks? Is your coffee good enough and your ingredients quality enough to fetch $5 a cup?

Once you’ve determined your market, look at your costs. How much does it cost you to buy coffee beans, milk, sugar and equipment? What’s your rent and transportation cost? How much will you need to pay yourself and your staff? How many cups of coffee do you hope to sell a day? John advised that, with a bit of cost analysis, a review of your competition and a decent profit margin built in, you should be able to come up with a number. Just be careful not to undercut yourself. People are OK with spending a bit more if what they’re getting warrants the extra cost, John said.

Services: Pricing a service can be a bit trickier and John said he often has clients who undercharge for the services they offer. Just like with a product, it has to start with the market and the competition. If you’re offering a service customers can get elsewhere, figure out what other companies are charging and what sets you apart. John said the biggest mistake people make when pricing a service is undervaluing their own time, knowledge and expertise. Sure, you don’t want to be the most expensive option out there, but you also want to charge enough to make money and what you bring to the table is VALUABLE. Don’t be afraid to charge accordingly.

When you’re looking at the numbers, remember to account for the time you’ll be spending on any work you have to do before or after the time of the service as well as any additional costs. John gave a great example – photographers. Sure you have the few hours during the photography appointment, but you also have set-up costs, equipment costs and travel costs in addition to the time you spend editing the photos, meeting with the client, etc. Although those numbers may change from client to client, you need to be sure you’re taking all of that into account when you give a price. If your service is top-notch, you need to charge a premium price.

Whether you’re offering a product or a service, John said you have to look at your return on investment and make sure you are able to cover your costs while making enough to live the way you want to live. And if you’ve set a price and things change (like the cost of coffee beans goes up), you have to be comfortable with adjusting that number. He added that people understand that prices change and you need to be proactive in making necessary changes!

John Chiaro opened his Growth Coach about eight years ago after retiring from a long corporate career where he held multiple leadership roles with Staples, including the President of Staples International. Chiaro also has led in the merger and acquisition of multiple businesses and was the founding partner of Ward Joseph Consulting before opening his Growth Coach franchise.


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5 Ways Competition Makes Your Business Stronger

GrowthCoachBlog_competition“Competition in business is a blessing, for without it, we wouldn’t be motivated to improve.” – Nabil N. Jamal, author of A Harvest of Change

It can be nerve-wracking to have competition – especially when you’re a small business owner trying to find your stride. But rather than shunning your counterparts at networking events or stressing over their next big sale, take a moment to think about how competition makes your business better and your customers happier.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Everyone hates the age old interview question, “What’s your greatest weakness.” But that question is still as probing today and it was the first time you heard it. Identifying your greatest weakness – and being honest with yourself about it – is the first step toward making improvements. Sometimes it’s a matter of professional development and education and other times it’s about bringing in a new staff member to take on those roles for you, but you have to know there’s a problem first.

On the other hand, knowing your greatest strengths and being able to see how they make you better than the competition gives you an opportunity for grow. Improving your weaknesses while becoming even better at what you do best will give you a competitive edge with your key customers.

Keeps You On Your Toes

Healthy competition encourages change and innovation. If you’re the only business providing your particular goods or services, there’s no tangible reason to improve. That’s dangerous because it makes you complacent and gives other entrepreneurs a chance to step in and do what you’re doing – only better. Being neck and neck with another company and having to push to be better makes your business stronger and benefits your customers, employees and community.

Customer Experience

Competition is good for consumers not only because it makes companies offer quality products and services at competitive prices, but also because it means companies have to have the best customer service. When you know your customer can easily drop you and go with another business, you have to step up your game.

Get Specific

Having competition in the market can force business leaders to identify their customers and find better ways to cater to the group. That can turn into anything from providing more specialized products and services to ensuring your business locations are on target. Focusing on your key customers is a great way to build on existing business and encourage your customers to refer your business.

Also, when there are other businesses out there who do some of what you do or have a similar product or service, it allows you to target specific clients rather than trying to provide services for everyone. That means you can get better at what you do best rather than stretching to try to meet the needs of every potential customer, even when they’re not a good fit.

Professional Development

Great business leaders are always on the lookout for new knowledge and, often, expanded professional development for their team. The market changes, the customer’s expectations shifts, the technology improves, the products get better… if you’re without competition, what’s the point of staying on top of it all? Additionally, if your competition is doing better than you, that gives you the opportunity to learn from your counterparts and grow your brand.

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Why aren’t companies hiring older employees?

08347366-9f7b-41d2-b154-64e6d9d5564aIt’s a well-known stigma – getting a good job when you get older can be challenging. The positions you’d thrive in are more few and far between that they were when you were 30 and some employers are worried about bringing on more experienced staff.

But whether you’re looking for a job or you’re in the business of hiring, it’s time to ask yourself: What’s the real reason companies don’t want to hire older employees?

Ingar Grev, the managing director of the Washington D.C.-area office of The Growth Coach, recently published an article on this very topic. It’s been getting some serious attention on the Business Journal website, so we thought we’d share it with you. Are you ready to strip off the excuses and hire that person who deserves the job? Read the article here: http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/human-resources/2016/01/why-companies-dont-want-to-hire-people-over-40.html.

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Create Loyal Customers with Great Customer Service

shutterstock_288264365Creating loyal customers and keeping them coming back can be a big challenge for business owners. A study from the Harvard Business Review estimates that, on average, businesses lose 50 percent of their customers every five years. How does that relate to your business?

Whether you’re in your 5th or 50th year in business, look at your customer base and think about who keeps coming back and who you only see once or twice. What do you need to do differently with your business to grow your customer base, encourage those people to refer additional customers and keep people coming back? The basics come down to having a quality, fair priced product or service and providing top-notch customer service.

If you’ve been in business for a while – even if you have a turnover on clients – you probably have the quality and pricing elements figured out. What gets most businesses is customer service. In most cases, customers can get a product or service from one of your competitors just as easily as they can get it from you. Your first line of defense will always be the customer service experience. You have to create an experience that doesn’t just satisfy your customers, but exceeds their expectations. According to a guest blog we published a few years ago from Growth Coach Glenn Smith, that usually boils down to one of three things – having great employees who are polite, positive, caring and listen to the customer’s needs; identifying and offering the best solution for any issues and then executing that solution with quality, speed and excellence; and having a simple, clear problem resolution process.

For the next 90 days, challenge yourself to create a system of rating the experiences customers have with your business. Maybe it’s a survey, a follow-up email, a poll on your Facebook page… whatever avenue you take, make it a point to discover how people are feeling about your business and give them a chance to explain their response. Then take time to celebrate the great experiences and address the negative ones. You can learn from those mistakes and fix them in the future, but if you sweep them under the rug, you’re sure to lose clients.

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What’s Keeping You From Happiness?

“Stop wasting your time looking for the key to happiness… the door is open and unlocked… just walk through it,” – Dr. Steve Maraboli

Entrepreneurs, business owners and executives are busy people. Whether you’re launching a start-up or managing a corporation, it’s easy to get lost in the busyness of business and forget what we’re working for – a better life. Finding the ideal balance that makes you happy is challenging, but it starts with making the decision that you want to work to live, not live to work.

As 2016 gets underway, take a minute to reflect on the last year, the last five years and the last 20 years. What do you see? Are you happy with how you spent those days? How much time did you waste worrying and procrastinating? Now fast forward to when you’re 90 years old. What do you want to look back and see? Strong family? Great friends? Business success? Regardless of the specific elements of your life you want to be in place, I can bet that you want that reflection to be full of happiness.

So what are the big things in your life that are keeping you from being happy? And what decisions or changes do you need to make to live a better life? It can be scary to make dramatic changes, but you owe it to yourself to put your own happiness first. You have to be strategic about your life.

If your business is what’s keeping you from happiness, take time this week to evaluate what’s wrong and find solutions. For many business owners, that comes down to finding ways to step back and OWN the business rather than RUN the business. By creating systems and training your staff to run the business successfully without you, you can start taking off the many hats you’ve come to wear. Once you’re able to step back from the daily grind, you’ll be able to use that time to focus on improving your life. If you need help making that transition, The Growth Coach can help. Find your coach here: http://thegrowthcoach.com/find-coach/.

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Business Owner Challenge: Be the Least Important Person in Your Business

At The Growth Coach, we see a recurring challenge with small businesses – the business owner is the manager, lead technician, human resources person, marketing department, sales person and more. There are only so many hours in the day and no one can possibly be at their best when they’re spread that thin. So what’s the solution? As a small business owner, you need to learn to be the LEAST important person in your company.

A good way to become less important in your business is to think about what you need to do to SELL the business. Even if you aren’t looking to sell anytime soon, you should still be working toward that end wealth-creating goal. But what does that mean? In short, it means that the company needs to be successful AND function without you. So whether it’s because you need to step back to reclaim your life or you need to turn your business into a more stable asset, the answer is the same. You need to create systems that allow you to let go of the daily operations of your business.

Your business, long term, cannot depend upon your presence, personality, problem solving or perspiration for its daily survival.  If so, your business does not work for you … you work for your business. You’ll always remain a glorified employee and prisoner to your business. Instead, you need to create an independent, self-sustaining, cash-flowing machine.  Instead of having the business be dependent on you, have the business be dependent on the operations manual, systems, processes and people you have put in place.

Here is your wake-up call: a company is never worth its full value to a buyer if you (the current owner) have to come along with it to make it run.  No one wants to buy your JOB or a broken business. Or, if they do, they won’t pay much for it.

Rather than being the Chief Everything Officer, you need to put systems in place that allow you to be the Chief Executive Officer. As the owner, you should be a generalist and a leader. Provide the vision, leadership, business systems, and the passion, but not the blood, sweat and toil on a daily basis. Instead of working so much “in” the business, work “on” the business. Your job is to create jobs for others, not create and work multiple jobs yourself. You need to start thinking like CEO instead of a lead technician.


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