Tag Archives: Small business strategies

Balance the Drive to Attain with the Need to Sustain

I wrote an article recently about the strength of your will to survive using a decapitated dandelion as an analogy.

cactusflowerkillingcactusSmYesterday, on my morning walk, I spotted another example in nature of the determination of propagate itself. You can see the ends of the ‘leaves’ beginning to brown and curl.  (A more dramatic neighborhood example where the underlying plant was all but gone had already been excavated.)

If you live in the desert, you’ve undoubtedly seen these spires.  They are quite amazing. But if we watch them grow for too long, they begin to sap all of the nutrients from the rest of the actual plant and it eventually dries up and dies.

So what does this have to do with you?

You are probably feeling like you’re working harder than you’ve had to in the past to make sales and grow your business (or even stay even).  While it’s critical to focus on prospecting for or attracting clients, you still have to take care of the basics.

Here are some things you must continue to do while you seek revenue.

1. Document and update your procedures and processes
Make sure your documentation is current.  I recently had to update mine after the computer crash because things/applications didn’t work the way they had in the past. Always be prepared to replicate yourself and your team.

2. Create a delegation plan
Make sure you’re acting like the Captain of your ship, not an oars(wo)man.  It’s tempting to do the ‘easy’ administrative stuff but it can consume your time.  Being busy is a good thing…sort of.  Ask yourself if you’re busy and broke or busy and making money.

Look for work your employees can do. Then give it to them. If you don’t have employees, find things you can outsource to an intern, contractor or vendor.  Use your time profitably.

3.  Analyze your financial records and cash flow
My friend, Ellen Rohr talks about getting to a ‘Known Financial Position’. By that, she means ensuring that your accounting systems are recording each of your transactions accurately.  Don’t have an accounting system?  Get and use one.

While many programs ‘learn’ which accounts individual transactions should be linked to, they are not infallible.  Work with your bookkeeper or accountant throughout the year to keep your records straight. Notice if there are seasonal fluctuations in revenue and expenses.  Develop plans to even them out if appropriate.

4.  Survey your customers
The world is changing and so are the needs of buyers.  Find out how you’re doing serving them.  Make adjustments when necessary.  Ask what their current needs are.  Find out their goals.  This information will help you anticipate and respond to their needs.

5. Invest in your own development and help your staff grow
When budgets are constrained, companies often look to cut out training, thinking of it as an expense that can be postponed.  Think of it instead of an investment in productivity and profitability vehicles.

Think and act long term and your company will be long term.

The 5 Key Elements for Delivering on Your Dreams

A lot of us have dreams.  Some are more palpable than others.  Some are more likely to happen, but that all depends on you.

Here are the key elements for delivering on your dreams.

1. Clarity
You have to know who YOU are.  You have to know what your dreams are.  This may require some quiet time with yourself to remember why you are on this Earth at this point in time with the experiences you have had thus far.

You must take time to rekindle your dreams if they’ve faded away or honor and nurture them so they take flight.

You have to know who your dream will help and why that matters to you.  The more clear you are about your target market and their problems, the better you’ll be at describing why you are the perfect person to support them.

2.  A Plan
Miracles happen.  However, you can’t rely on them to make your dreams come true.  You’ve probably heard something like “God helps those who help themselves” as you were growing up.  So help yourself.  Map out what it will take to get your dream off the ground.  Don’t overanalyze it, but break the ‘delivery’ of your dreams into time chunks with dates and write them down.

3.  Know How or Resources
Some people never get their dreams off the ground because they don’t know how to get started.  If that’s the case for you, start telling people around you what you need.  Ask for help.  Find someone else who has traveled up a similar road.  Don’t wait until your ducks are all lined up.  Find the ducks you need as you work toward your goal.

4.  Act. Act. Act.
I can’t say this often enough. Step out.  Take chances.  Learn as you go.  Be willing to make mistakes.  Give up the safety of perfection.  Keep moving forward.  Your dreams needs you. Don’t disappoint them.

5.  Get support
People who make big things happen often don’t do it alone. Join a mastermind group.  Hire a coach.  Take a class. Get a committed buddy who is also working on something big.  Share information. Ask for help. Get partners. Collaborate.  Get over yourself.

You are the vessel for the fulfillment of your dreams.  If you have them, they are meant to be.  Your task is to trust your dreams and make them come true.  Release the drive to protect yourself and trust that everything will work out.

It always does.

Time is Money: Use 1 Well, Make More 2

You’ve heard the phrase ‘time is money’  When you invest your time on the right activities, it makes sense that you (and your department or company) make more money.  Problem is, we often spend our time on what’s comfortable or what’s urgent.

Here are some quick tips to leverage your time so you can make more mon’ey.

New-Years-Clock-7164031. Track your time to see where you’re flushing it down the toilet.

Create a log that allows you to track your time in 15-minute increments.  You’ll be shocked at how much time you’re spending on non-revenue or non-goal attaining activities.  I did this for three days and got recommitted to delegating and outsourcing.  I realized how much time I was losing on things that began with the thought “This will just take a couple of minutes.”

2. Create systems that allow you to delegate.

Having made that observation, I made a list of things I was committed to getting off my plate.  I hired a recent college grad who spend a Friday afternoon getting me caught up in data entry (from all those speaking engagements) that I hadn’t sent to anyone else on my team.  She registered my company with a number of corporations looking for vendors whose flyers had been sitting on my desk for way too long.

I drafted a script and set up another assistant to contact people who wanted to explore coaching with me.

3. Exhibit the courage to do the right things.

We are often reluctant to pick up the phone and call prospects.  We feel we’re intruding, begging or annoying people.  Yet the key to closing deals (especially high -ticket ones) is generally having one-on-one conversations.  That’s where the money is, folks.  Get on the phone.  Set appointments and see how you can offer value to your clients and prospects.

If you concentrate on just those three things, I promise you’ll open the doors to more productivity and profitability.

Why Big Companies Don’t Do Business with You: 7 Steps for Fixing That

This article was contributed by Barbara Weaver Smith, The Whale Hunters

The Whale Hunters like to talk about the “aperture of perception” – that lens through which you focus your prospects’ attention and govern what they see and experience.

Everything that touches the whale (big company prospects) contributes to the buyers’ overall perception of you-for example:

* Telephone answering
* Website
* Location
* Communications
* Print materials and proposals
* D&B profile
* Testimonials

Whales are afraid of smaller companies; they feel safer with other big companies, like themselves. Yet they want the advantages that a small company can offer-undivided attention, innovation, agility, speed of decision-making. Trouble is, they won’t buy advantage when they’re fearful. So the key is to allay their fears by controlling the aperture of perception. Show them many signs that look like, sound like, and feel like “large.”

Here are seven steps to looking larger:

1. Brand

Brand your product or service, not your key person or people. The founding entrepreneur often starts our selling, delivering, and managing-especially in a professional services company. The sooner you can shift the customer’s focus from an individual to a service brand, the faster you will be able to grow and the larger you will appear.

2. Team

Even whales may have bios of their leadership team on the website. But these are professional and objective. On your website and in your literature, eliminate any references to hobbies, pets, and other folksy traits; use uniform head-shot or business casual photos

3. Location

If you are based in a small city or town and want to do business with big-city whales in other states, establish a big city presence in one or more of your target areas. This can be as simple as a virtual location through an executive center or other shared office space arrangement. A professional receptionist, find-me phone service, and local address will send the message.

4. Website

Make your website all about the buyers, not you about you. Who are you trying to attract and what will they be looking for? Some good whale websites are organized according to the size of the customer who is visiting – i.e. consumer services, small business services, enterprise services. Consider how your this kind of distinction could help your website achieve the right tone for both whales and non-whale customers.

5. Niche

Be careful how you present your niche in digital and print materials. WBE/MBE designations are a good example. They position you as a subcontractor and/or a company competing for set-aside projects. If that is the position you intend to occupy, then go for it. But if you also want to be a prime contractor and compete on an equal footing with bigger companies, you will find it extremely difficult to change a whale’s mindset about that pigeonhole in which they’ve placed you. In fact, it could be a reason to have completely separate divisions or companies, one marketed as a WBE/MBE and the other not.

6. Media/News Page

Write a press release each time you sign a new customer, receive an award, achieve a revenue milestone, appoint a new employee or give a raise. Post the releases on your website and maintain a news page with links to each. These press releases have little news value except to you, but they send a message that you are a company that sees itself as newsworthy. On your media page, offer contact information for how media people should reach your PR team-even if that is through your primary phone number and a PR@yourcompany.com email address.

7. Product/Service White Papers

Invest in preparing white papers to supplement your marketing copy. A white paper is a report that makes a business case or explains technical details. It places your products/services in a broader business and technical context. Promote these as free downloads on your website and include them as appropriate during a sale. The white paper is not primarily about your product or service but about what it helps the buyer to accomplish and /or how it works. Consider including industry white papers, written by others, on your website to help educate your prospects.

Beating Out the Competition & Becoming a Client Magnet

Believe it or not, there’s a bird over there, cleverly disguised against the desert terrain.

The photo is a little fuzzy because I was zooming fast to capture this quail (I think). He beat out his competition for the female that is nearby but off screen.

Right before I snapped this picture, there were two male birds challenging each other and trying to win the attention of the nearby female bird.

She walked away while they ‘duked’ it out. When the ‘hero’ emerged and I captured him on digital film, he was following her up the hill for a little fun and merriment and family making.

So what does this have to do with you?

Few of us are in businesses that are so unique that we don’t have any competition.  So as a result, we’re constantly having to distinguish ourselves as different, better than, smarter than, more prestigious than, cheaper than…You get the picture.  It’s a primitive battle where only the strongest survive. And it’s really hard getting deals done like that.

The key is to position yourself as the go-to expert so that your reputation raises your above the herd.  When you do that, you get people seeking you out.  When they seek you out, they’re already pre-sold on you.  They’ve already decided they want YOU so there is less need for you to ‘convince’ them that you’re the best choice. You become a client magnet!

So how do you become that expert & client magnet?  There are 3 ways to do that.

  1. Speaking – Most people are literally scared to death of speaking in public.  You’ve probably heard that when surveyed, people rate speaking in public ahead of dying as their top fear.  So if you have the guts to stand up in front of a crowd (even a small one) and have your voice be heard, automatically, you’re a rock star in the eyes of the audience.  Even if you’re quaking in your boots on the inside, you’ve still accomplished a mighty feat from their perspective.
  2. Writing – Whether writing articles for a national publication or your local neighborhood periodical, having your name in print makes you look smart!  Clearly the national publication will get you seen by WAY more people, but you’ll get credibility none-the-less with the readers of your work
  3. Publicity – Being written about is even more compelling. That third party endorsement goes a long way toward building credibility.  When someone with familiarity, name recognition and credibility (like a report) writes about you, their importance and credibility transfers over to you.  It’s like having someone make a referral introduction for you.

I’ve been using all three of these strategies for years and now I get to reap the benefits of them.  Whereever I go, people tell me “I see you everywhere!”

Can you imagine how great (and humbled) that makes me feel?  Can you imagine if people were saying that about you, that you wouldn’t have to work so hard to dredge up new clients? You betcha!  So start using these three magic strategies to raise your visibility, credibility and client-magnet quotient.