Oh, The Hat’s We Wear.

As a business owner (or even a manager) we tend to wear all the hats- or at least most of them. From manager to marketer, HR to customer service. It can get overwhelming. Sometimes we need a little help.

I’m not recommending that you drop what you’re doing and post a help wanted sign or ad in the classifieds. What I am telling you is that there is way to make wearing all of the hats a little easier to manage. And someday, when you are ready to hire, you will be prepared with a job description, payroll costs v. value and an idea of the type of person you are looking for rather than general ‘help’.

Every time you start a project or task, take a quick moment and decide which ‘hat’ you are wearing. Start making a list of all the hats and which tasks you do while wearing that hat. What you are doing is defining the responsibilities of that position.

The Marketing Coordinator Hat may have a list that contains mailer for holiday sales and Facebook page updates. The Customer Service Hat would have answer phones, balance till and greet customers.

Creating these lists are going to do two things for you.
1- You are going to be able to be more productive throughout the day. Since you are doing tasks of the same nature, you won’t be spending the extra time changing hats.
2- When you are ready to hire some help, you already have clear job descriptions. If you need a part-time person but don’t have enough administrative work, look at your other hats that you wear and see if you can combine the job duties into 1 position. Maybe look for someone that can also take care of your marketing or be able to manage merchandising as well.

“Spend time working on the business, not just in the business.”

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Insanity.

I believe the term is Insanity – to do the same thing and expect different results.

There are two scenarios- when a business is losing money or has hit a plateau.

When this happens, you can’t do the same thing you’ve always done (waiting for the economy to recover is not in your budget, trust me). You’re going to have to change something. Do something different.

Maybe you need to spend less time in the office and more time on the sales floor. Maybe you need to get a new sign and clean up the front door, maybe you need a new marketing campaign.

The moral of the story is that you have to do something new to get a new result.

Here are 3 things you can do to get started.

Look at your front door. Is it inviting? Do your customers know who you are? Go stand out front with an objective lens and decide whether or not you would shop there. Is it too cluttered? Don’t litter your entrance with signs. Keep it simple: business hours and possibly one other promotional sign (NOT handwritten). I also allow “Local First” stickers if they are off to the side and in good condition. But that’s it, nothing else!

Network. Go talk to the other businesses in your area (within walking distance), start a relationship with them. Don’t sell them anything, just go be a good neighbor, learn about what they do and refer some business their way. You’ll be amazed at the effect it has on your business. Givers gain!

Self Promotion. For some reason that’s foreign to me, I find that business owners do not self promote their status as a business owner. I mean, COME ON! Your own a business! When people ask what you do, tell them. Be honest and proud, I assure you it’s not boasting, it’s factual information.

Just try it. See where these thing lead you. They may not all work, but it’s something different than what you normally do. Chances are, you’re going to get a different result.

Business Card Challenge

I have a quick challenge for you over the weekend.

Clear your mind, for a moment, forget who you are and take a good look at your business card.

What does it say about you and what you represent?

Does it accurately portray the image you want your clients and customers to grasp?

Food for thought.

Spend $$ to Make $$$$

We’ve heard it before. “You have to spend money to make money.”

It’s true, but that doesn’t mean you have to waste money! As you start your next quarters marketing strategy (I’m thinking Christmas?), keep a few things in mind. It will help you stay on the right track with your effort, outcomes and budget.

1. Demographics

That’s right, what’s your demographic? Who are you trying to reach? Where do they live, work and play? How old are they? Do they have kids?

You have to know your target before you can appeal to them. I’ve talked about this before. If you need a brush up, check out 50/60/70/80.

2. Product v. Value

What are you selling? This can be a product or a service. More importantly that the product, you need to be able to explain and show the value. Why does your demographic want what you are selling?

Once you have pinpointed the answer– sell the value. It’s truly the only thing that separates you from your competitor.

3. Voice

How are you going to reach your clients? Mail, email, web, TV, radio, etc.? Knowing your audience will help you make this decision. How you choose to contact your ideal customer is crucial. Spending thousands on a magazine ad is silly if your ideal customer is age 21-35, drinks coffee regularly and has a smart phone- just sayin’.

How you choose to contact them is going to reflect directly on your business and its vibe. Your advertising is essentially your voice. Yelling through a loudspeaker on a busy street might be exactly what you need. Maybe you need to sponsor a local event or school, maybe an old fashioned newspaper ad is more attune to your demographic. Do the research to find out.

4. Execute

Even the best plans are unsuccessful without execution.

Once you know what you’re going to do. Do it.

Don’t put it off- get it done, now. Set yourself a deadline. If you don’t have the time, find a company near by that does. Spending an extra couple hundred may be well worth the time you don’t have. If someone else can do it for you and do it better, than it’s usually worth the extra money.

5. Track Results

Sending a mailer to every resident within 5 miles doesn’t matter if you don’t know how many of your customers are here because of that flyer. You need to know how effective your efforts were. You need to know why they came in and keep them coming back.

So ask them. I mean right there, at the register ask “Did you get our mailer last week?” “Wonderful! If you would like to add your email to our list, we’ll send your our monthly offers.”

 

Plan well, plan effectively and execute.

Networking?

I’ve spent the last few months going out of my way to get to local Networking Events. To be honest, I have been quite disappointed by most of them.

I’m not sure what I expected from the first one that I went to,  but I really didn’t get much out of it (in fact, even the speakers were lame). So I turned to a few books and blogs to find out what I did wrong. Apparently, I’m supposed to command a room upon my entrance. I’m sure I turn a few heads – being a female and wearing ridiculously high heels (see, I have this thing for shoes…). However, the room is usually packed with people deep in conversation.

So the next time I listened in on those conversations. Most of the groups huddled throughout the space already have an established relationship with each other – which begs the questions as to why they even attended the networking event (free breakfast?).

Then it hit me. Sure I can go to every event I can get my hands on. It’s only a few hours and I usually do meet new people (I really have to go out of my way to be VERY social), but networking isn’t about some 2 hour conference or presentation.

Networking is the relationship.

I still go to networking events. I’ve come to quite like the free breakfast (joke). But they are no longer my only chance each month for networking.

I network EVERY DAY. I meet new people every where. The grocery store, the salon, gas station – you name it. Just strike up a conversation. Make a relationship. You’re probably not going to exchange business cards with everyone. But out of the hundreds of people you talk to every week, there’s sure to be at least one or two that can do something for you (or you can do for them).  Now that’s what I call networking.

You don’t need to spend time at special events to make connections. Make connections during your normal routine. Most likely, they’re going to be more meaningful.

Get Motivated

“Just like New Year’s resolutions, all the motivation in the world means nothing if you don’t have the determination see it through to the end.”Six Pixels of Separation.

Starting and maintaining your business is much the same as a New Year’s resolutions, but there’s more than a marathon at stake – your livelihood. At some point, we are all going to run out of gas. Working 60-80 hour work weeks while balancing your personal life (or lack there of), is draining. There have been a slew of studies on limiting your work week to 40 hours, but let’s face it, we can’t all be that lucky. And frankly, some of us like to stay busy.

What happens when the spark is gone?

There’s the challenge. How do you keep the momentum in the right direction? My trick? Reminding myself what I want to achieve.

Last year, I decided I wanted to run a full marathon. That’s 26.2 miles. Less the 1% of the US population has completed the feat. I’m not a competitive runner – in fact, up until recently, I hadn’t run more than a mile at a time. But I had put the marathon on my bucket list and figured now was better than later.

To be honest, the training leading up the race was terrible. It was time consuming, And while a had a few friends running the marathon with me, I was doing the training completely by myself (due to my work schedule). To add to the difficulty, it was summer and summer in Utah’s can be crazy hot. I was getting up before 5 am to attempt to beat the heat on my 15-20 mile runs. The first time I ran 20, I misjudged my distance and ended almost 3 miles from my stopping point. I nearly cried at the thought of having to walk back to my car and almost quit the training all together.

I didn’t quit.

I knew what my goal was. I knew that I wanted to finish the marathon training and ultimately run a marathon. I had to take a breath and remind myself of the goal. Not only that, but I was able to reflect on where I was compared to where I’d been. While I didn’t feel quite prepared to run all 26.2 miles, I had just completed 20. A year ago, I would never have thought that possible.

I congratulated myself on my accomplishments so far.

It was such a great feeling to realize what I had managing to accomplish up to that point. There had been so many hurtles along the way and I had managed to jump them all. It was so motivational that I managed to make it to my car and ultimately complete the marathon.

Your business is a marathon, not a sprint.

Every business has it’s own set of challenges, and each of us are going to have our own set of doubts. 10 years ago, you may not have imagined you would be a business owner – look at you now.

When the going gets tough – take a breath.

Remind yourself where you’ve been and where you’re going. Dig deep and find the determination and the spark that got you moving on this path in the first place. Write your goals down, hold yourself accountable to them, relax – and take action.

Find the determination to see it through to the end.


4 Employee Essentials

So you run a business. In fact, you’ve grown so much that you’ve hired a few employees. Maybe just one, maybe 20. Beyond the complications of just hiring an employee, there’s managing one. Which in the long term, will be much more work than getting them on board.

Interactions with your employees will be complex, however, I have found that breaking it down into 4 categories will make your job much easier.

1. Guidelines

Set the minimum expectations immediately. If there is a dress code, be specific. Using the term ‘business casual’ might be sufficient in your mind, but many teenagers (or even college students) don’t have any clue what you mean. Lay it out in detail – make sure they understand and agree before you assume anything.

Remember to talk about attendance, tardiness and code of conduct. If your employees are customer-facing, it may behoove you to have some type of contract. Let them know upfront what the consequences for failing to meet your expectations will be.

Sit down and make a list of your guidelines. Know them before your preach them. Conversations can get awkward if you’re making up the rules as you go.

2. Goals

It seems so simple. As business owners, we have already set more goals than we can count. If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t be in the position we are now. Think about how focused and driven you were when you had a goal to achieve. Your employees are going to be the same.

Make it tangible. Don’t ask them to work hard or be nice to everyone. Ask them to get 3 surveys per week or 5 business cards from potential clients. Maybe you’re building your email lists- ask your employee to record 10 per shift. Something worthwhile, tangible and measurable.

3. Critical Conversations

While I will go into this in detail later on, the one thing to remember is that a behavior ignored is a behavior leveraged. Critical conversations have a time deadline – immediate.

If your employee shows up to work late, have the conversation around the expectation they agreed to immediately. If your employee did not greet a customer as they walked through the door, address it immediately.

It sounds like a hassle, but if you don’t address the mistakes, they will become habits.

However, I urge you to give your employee the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they had their back to the customer and was engaged in restocking the shelves. Explain what you witnessed, ask for their point of view and ask them to keep a better eye on the door. Usually, this is all it takes to create a good behavior.

4. Recognition

I love to be praised, it’s in my personality. In fact, I would bet that most people love to get praised. This is the most important part of interacting with an employee. Find something they did right every time you see them. You may have to look for it, but it’s there, and they will appreciate the recognition. Frankly, they will work harder to receive your recognition than your critique!

Doing these things are a minimum requirement for having employees and keeping them around. Don’t be afraid of any of these steps. You are the boss- as long as you approach your employee with respect, they will respect you in return.

Time Management 101

Question: How often are you too busy to finish your To-Do List?

The better question: Is your To-Do List worth doing? And when are you supposed to get it done?

Answer: Probably not today… But I can give you a few tools to start hacking away at that list.

Step 1: Make a List
Just sit down and list everything you do for your business. I mean EVERYTHING. From checking your email to entering expenses to taking out the trash. Give yourself a working list of how you should spend your day. Don’t be overwhelmed when your list starts moving into the margins of the page. This is good stuff.

Step 2: Break it Down
Separate your list into 3 categories- daily, weekly and monthly (you could add yearly, but I find it to be daunting).  Your lists are probably long and that’s OK. You have a lot to do. Figuring out what you do and how often you need to do it are the first steps to tackling it.

This is how mine started out looking…

Step 3: Where do you Start? 
Now it’s time to figure out what needs to be done first. This is usually the hardest part, but I have a solution. It’s called urgent v. important. They are two very different things. Important are the things that just have to get done. I would say that checking my email is important, taking out the trash probably isn’t. Urgent are things with a deadline. My blog posts have a deadline, backing up my computer does not (even though it’s my most important thing).

You can do this 2 ways. The first is to make another set of lists like this:

Everything on my list gets re-listed twice. Once in the Important/Not Important and again in the Urgent/Not Urgent.

Then take this list and match it up into these boxes:

Notice that I ended up without anything in the “Urgent, Not Important Box.” It happens. Yours will look different. You can skip the first step if you really really really want to. However, it makes your decision less arbitrary.

Step 4: Make Your List
Make your list in this order: Urgent/Important > Urgent/Not Important > Not Urgent/Important > Not Urgent/Not Important.

My final daily list:
Call Client “A”
Listen to messages
Update event page
Check email
Back up PC
Take out trash
Clean up desk

This would be my working list everyday. Repeat the steps for weekly and monthly tasks. In the weekly list, pick a specific day to get it done. For example, there is no way I could finish and post my blog on and complete my expense tracker. Choose a specific day to get that specific task done and hold yourself accountable to it.

Step 5: Be Flexible
Your lists are going to change.  In fact, I would go back and change ‘take out the garbage’ to a weekly task.  I don’t have clients coming to my office (I go to them), and let’s be honest, we both know I won’t do it everyday, so rather than have to look at it everyday, I would prefer to think about it only on Fridays.

Projects happen. Hey, that’s what most of my weeks are. Follow the same steps. Know what you need to do first and get it done. Set deadlines, reminders and try to gauge how much time it will take you- but don’t stop doing your initial list. The first time you ignore your messages or don’t check your email, something important and urgent will be there.

After a while, you won’t have to look at your home-base list – it will be automatic, it will be a habit, your time will free up and your productivity will skyrocket!

Happy Listing!

3 Steps to Charisma

Charisma truly is a learned art. Some people are gifted with the ability to command attention as soon as they walk into a room.  The stage is set, the question is whether they can keep their audience engaged. Sure we want to hear about your latest product line, and of course we are interested when you tell us a marketing disaster story, but if you fail to connect with us – we’re going to stop listening, and likely stop caring. You’ve missed one of the pieces of the pie and potentially lost a sale.

There are 3 distinct features of charisma. With practice and self-awareness, there is no doubt you too can be a least little more charismatic.

  1. 1.       Confidence

Before you can begin any conversation, or presentation or sales pitch, you must be confident. Essentially, you must already know you are a success before presenting yourself (and your product) to your audience. More and more we are told through this social media age that we don’t sell a product or service, we sell its value. To do that, we sell a connection with our audience. To even begin the connection, you must exude a confidence that makes people want to hear what you have to say.

Confidence cannot be taught. The best advice I can give you is to remember that you are an expert in your field. You must know more about what you do than the average person, use that as leverage next time you walk into a crowded room.

However, if that’s just not enough, and you need a little more than a lifetime experiences check out “10 Ways to Instantly Build Self Confidence” be Editor in Chief, Pick the Brain.

  1. 2.       Assertiveness

The dictionary defines assertiveness as confidently aggressive or self-assured; positive. Notice that you cannot be satisfactorily assertive until you’ve mastered the confidence. This feature of charisma is by the far the most difficult to balance. While you want to put your ideas into the hands of your audience, there is only a thin line between confidently aggressive and overly dominant and bombarding.

Don’t be afraid to let people know that you are the owner of your company, or the head of marketing, or whatever fancy title you prefer. Not only do these titles give you a more memorable appearance (you’re not just Joe Schmoe, you’re Joe Schmoe the Owner of “insert your business here”), you also open the door to assert yourself into conversations where you can be the expert on the subject.

Being assertive is the trickiest part of being charismatic. It’s a demonstration of self-control.

  1. 3.       Genuine Interest

I personally find this to be the most difficult part to master. Of course we have a genuine interest in our own careers or family, but that’s not what I mean here. To truly be charismatic, you must show a genuine interest in what other people have to say. Ask a question then listen to the answer and respond accordingly.

Not everyone is going to enjoy talking about that same things all the time, but you will never know unless you ask. Likewise, they may have valuable information to share, or a product that you personally wouldn’t use, but you know someone who would.

Showing a genuine interest in the people you strike up a conversation with is priceless when networking and building clients.

I cannot claim to be an expert at achieving a perfect charismatic balance. However, I do my best to remember all three pieces of the pie. As long as I am keeping a decent balance, my interactions with others usually go very well.