I saw an acapella group the other evening called Countermeasure.  Absolutely amazing what the human voice can master, sounding like a full orchestral accompaniment!  What the audience saw was the result of 10 years work and constant practice.

While they do this for the love of music and performing, it is a business.  It is no different than what every other entrepreneur does for the love of their craft.  Businesses do not just happen.  They are usually the result of sleepless nights, lots of coffee, endless research, and a plan.

But it does not end there.  They must continue to hone their craft, keeping up with any changes in it as well as the needs and wants of their customers or clients.  This is the ‘practice’ that is no different than a singer caring for their voice, learning new material, and constantly looking for the ‘sound’ that will set them apart and ‘create’ their audience.

Businesses are a lot like genres in music.  Even if performers are categorized a a particular genre, they have their own particular style within it that sets them apart.  No two businesses are exactly alike, they all have their culture and style.  The product or service may be exactly the same, but customers and clients differentiate between them.  Learning what that is, and practicing it, is the key to success!

As Sam Snead once said: “Practice puts brains in your muscles.” It does the same for business.

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Health in the Business

There are always lots of books, articles and blogs about ‘Health of the Business’.  But for the entrepreneur who works alone a major concern is ‘Health in the Business’.  If the entrepreneur gets sick or injured, how does the business carry on?

In an owner/operator business, income can come to a halt when they are absent.  This can be devastating to the business.  The business plan should identify this risk and how to mitigate the issue should it happen.

One way is to have an arrangement with another provider that would be willing to step in for you and you do the same for them.  Obviously there needs to be trust for this to work effectively.  You could also have a part-time or full-time employee, if you had enough business, and give them enough training so that the business would keep going during your absence.

The business could fail in a couple of ways if you are absent.  It could fail because clients will go elsewhere for your product or service and it may be difficult to bring them back.  It could also fail as there is not enough money in reserve to cover ongoing expenses.  Without a ‘fall-back’ such as a line of credit or a lender ready to help out, creditors could cause the business to fold.

There are insurance policies that can provide some relief if the owner/operator is absent due to health issues.  These are all considerations for the business plan before opening the doors.  The business plan looks at all the nuts and bolts of the venture you are launching.  Not a bad idea to have a medical checkup prior to starting the business to ensure that you are good to go as well!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Clients, Coaching, Community Futures, Customers, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Entrepreneurs, Managing stress, self-employment | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Words and Titles

Do words, expressions, or the way things are referenced bug you sometimes? One of the ones that I detest is the reference in business to ‘Human Capital’.  I get it.  It is an accountant’s way of justifying people on the bottom line of an organization.  But to me, it is degrading to the employees.

One definition of Capital is, ‘Wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by a person or organization or available or contributed for a particular purpose such as starting a company or investing’.  In other words, the employee is a commodity to be used.

Employees are much more than this.  They bring diversity and their strengths to the organization.  Their personality preferences contribute to the decision-making and culture of the organization.  In some cases they are the face of the business in the community and all of them contribute to the bottom-line.

A small thing?  Perhaps, but in my years in Human Resources and Employment Counselling, Position Titles and the way people are addressed has, in many cases, determined whether they accepted a position, or stayed once the were in it.

Work has a lot more attached to it than money.  Simple things like respecting the employee through recognizing them as individuals and their contributions can influence their loyalty.

What’s in a name?  Perhaps a lot.

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Pursuing the Target Market

The one thing I love about new entrepreneurs is their enthusiasm.  Most will overestimate their sales forecast and underestimate the difficulty in dealing in their target market.

The difficulty is in knowing how to promote the product or service to the client or customer.  Who is going to buy the most from you?  Are they on social media and if so, which one?  Are they more likely to see your promotions on the TV or hear it on the radio?  Do they read newspapers?  Is it a word-of-mouth type of product or service?

When I ask entrepreneurs what they are going to use for advertising and promotion, many have a long list.  I have to remind them that most cost money and the ones that don’t, usually take up time, something that a sole proprietor has little to spare.

It is wise to try two or three methods initially and ask the customers where the heard about your product or service.  This will give you accurate feedback on where to focus your attention and save you money in the long-run.

Another area that can result in wasted money and time is networking.  When asked, new entrepreneurs usually say they will join business networking groups, Chambers of Commerce, Service Clubs, etc., to get known and to promote their business.  These all cost money and take time.  Are you likely to find your clients there?   Every business is different, know who you are trying to reach.

Sometimes volunteering in the community will do much more for your business than belonging to organizations.  If you are out and about, always wear something that identifies your business.  Always carry business cards with you and give them out.  You would be surprised at how many times I have been at networking events and the person I am talking to says, “Oh, I forgot to bring cards?”  Another lost opportunity!  Make sure that you can tell someone what your business is all about in 30 seconds. Unless you can hold their attention, that is all the time you have.

It all boils down to knowing your clients, their wants and needs, and exceeding their expectations.

Have fun!

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Posted in Advertising, Business Coaching, Business Planning, Chamber of Commerce, Clients, Coaching, Communication, Community Futures, Customers, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employees, Entrepreneurs, Marketing, Networking, Sales, self-employment, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Giving Back

For many of us, there comes a time when we think about helping or contributing to a cause that has meaning for us.  For some it is the result of ourselves or a loved one being afflicted by an ailment, so we want to support the organization that is looking for the cure.  For others it might be the love of the symphony or theatre.  Still others feel the need to support housing, poverty, or the local hospital auxiliary.

It is interesting that in Canada they have found that the number of people donating to charity has dropped but the amounts given per person has risen.  This means that charities are scrambling for funds as their base has dropped and, for some, this is critical.

Increasingly, I am hearing people say, “I don’t have discretionary money to give to the charities”.  While money funding certainly is important, so is time.  Charities also need ‘hands’ to help with their promotions, with their events, and with their fund-raisers.  You don’t need to have money to volunteer and support.

The younger generation likes to see progress, be involved in something meaningful to them.  They may not have money to give, but they can help in so many other ways that can make a difference.  Organizations would be wise to engage them, make the task meaningful and make use of their talents.

For those who are thinking of volunteering, do it!  It is rewarding! Yes, you can do it through service clubs or groups but that may not appeal to you, so just contact the organizations you want to support directly, and they will be only too glad to get you on board.  You don’t have to join a club to make a difference.

So, why do it?  First and foremost, it helps the organization you volunteer for, secondly, it helps the community.  The hidden benefit that you receive is the skills you learn, both hard skills and soft skills, things like leadership and project management.

Step up today and support your community, learn new skills, and have fun!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Career development, Chamber of Commerce, Coaching, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Leadership, Lifestyle, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t be Smug!

As I look outside at the swirling snow, I am reminded that we do occasionally get the white stuff!  We westerners, especially us Islanders, take delight in poking fun of our friends and relatives in Eastern Canada.  Today looks a bit like payback!

Weather pleases or annoys us in our day to day life but can be pivotal in the life or death of a business.  This winter we had heavy rain and a windstorm that knocked out power during the critical Christmas shopping days.  Many businesses rely heavily on these shopping days to bring in a substantial part of their annual income.

In the last few days we have had road closures due to black ice and snow.  Add to that ferry cancellations due to the wind.  These closures delay the shipment of goods and services from businesses to their clients as well as from suppliers to the businesses.  It also means customers will not be travelling to your establishment.

A business plan is an essential tool in managing the business through these weather challenges as it is an indicator of your cash flow and creates a history of the business to help to ensure a healthy bottom line.

We have no control over the weather, but we do have control over our response to it.  Being proactive will protect you while being reactive may hurt you.

Keep your eye on the forecast, both the weather and your business plan!

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Clients, Community Futures, Customers, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Entrepreneurs, Sales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does it Take?

What does it take to attract and retain customers or clients?

Attraction is perceived or real value to the person who is seeking the service or product.  That varies a great deal to those who seek.  It varies a great deal on the intended use or expectation of the product or service.  That, in many cases, is in the eye of the beholder.  The only thing that is certain is that they will not purchase unless it has value to them.

You need to brand your business so that it reflects who you are and what you do.  Consistency provides a sense of recognition for the customer or client so that they immediately associate your business with their need.

Retention requires ongoing work.  The sale of the product or service is not the end of the relationship with the customer, but the beginning.  This is your opportunity to thank them and find out more about them and their wants and needs.  Establish a way of keeping in touch with them and build the relationship.  Follow up with them to see if they are satisfied.

By doing this you will have better information to do forward planning for growing the business.  A realtor in the Nanaimo community works hard to build clientele.  Since real estate is a product that is very personal and, while it may have repeat customers, it is usually a long time between purchases.  The key to good sales is to have good referrals.  Over twenty years ago I referred a client to him.  She was very satisfied with the outcome.  We still get a quarterly real estate update and Poinsettia at Christmas from the realtor.  Who am I going to refer when someone asks me who I would recommend as a realtor?

What does it take?  It takes planning and consistency to keep your customers and clients.  If they are happy with their dealings with you, they will refer others.

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Clients, Coaching, Communication, Community Futures, Customers, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Entrepreneurs, Marketing, Relationships, Sales, self-employment | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment