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

The Importance of Mentorship

Most of us growing up had someone who guided our path by creating a model we wanted to follow.  For me it was my father.  He never once told me I wasn’t capable of doing whatever it was I set out to do.  He encouraged me to try and that failure was not the end, only a step to success.  It did not matter what vocation you chose as long as you enjoyed it and did it to the best of your ability.

Mentorship is very important in the teenage years as the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up,” starts to be asked internally rather than by parents or visiting relatives.  This is a time when having someone to guide them can eliminate paths that may not make sense.  There will always be times when they have to take a step back instead of forward.

As an employment counsellor, I had many clients in their thirties and forties who were starting over as their choices had not worked for them.  Many had started careers for the wrong reasons, many did not have someone to look to for guidance on the options that were available to them at the time.  One of the questions was always, “Do you have someone now?”

For those on an entrepreneurial path, many have a mentor for the type of business they want to open.  They have the skills to produce the product or perform the service for the customer, but many do not realize the skills they need to operate as a business.

Good mentors for the business functions can be crucial to the success and viability of the venture.

Throughout life we benefit from the mentors who have taken the time to pass on skills and insight.  As you go through life do not forget that you also are a mentor to those building our future.

“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well, I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” — Denzel Washington

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Career development, Coaching, Community Futures, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employment, Empowering people, Entrepreneurs, Life coaching | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Cash Flow?

By not doing a business plan with a well thought out cash flow projection, many otherwise good business ideas fail early in the game.  Even a simple business such as lawn mowing needs to give thought to their cash flow projections.  Sure, they have a truck, a lawn mower, and a rake, but what happens when the season ends or when the lawn mower breaks down?  What do they have to fall back on?

A good business plan identifies projected income, planned expenses, and an allotment for maintenance.  To do this an entrepreneur needs to identify these three financial needs; business start-up, ongoing business expenses, and personal financial needs.  This will identify what the business requires to provide for the business and entrepreneur to succeed and thrive.

The business may be seasonal or at least be affected by seasonal holidays and events.  It is important to be able to forecast these and have a plan ‘B’.  This can be in the form of savings, line of credit, availability of a loan, or perhaps a rich aunt.  Unplanned expenses can be the death knell for businesses that are under funded and have no resource to draw on to get through the rough patches.

Doing due diligence through good research will give the needed information as a base for the projections.  These projections provide the stats for the business plan.  Although good research was done the figures likely will not be accurate.  The business plan is a living document, one to monitor and adjust through the first year.  The actual financial records form the basis for planning for the second year.

The difference between projected and actual will show the cash flow for the business and the monthly trends.  It will also expose the ‘hidden’ costs associated with the business so better planning can be done.

Cash is King!  Plan well and have a plan ‘B’!

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Coaching, Team Building

Why have teams?

For years, many industries, operated as a dictatorship.  Their words were law and you either did what you were told, or you looked for other employment.  Management ignored the fact that successful competitors were taking a different approach.  To try and ‘catch the wave’, some bought the books, provided the ‘uniforms’, and declared, “We are a team”.  Unfortunately, they did little else to ensure that the process worked and, as a result, in their eyes, the experiment failed.

Teams are not arbitrary employees chosen to suddenly work together and produce results.  To have a successful team you must understand the dynamics of the members and be prepared to empower them.  This means, as a manager, relinquishing control of some aspects of the business.

Why would you do this?

To begin with the only people who truly know a job are the people who are doing it.  Have they ever been asked for their input on how to would do it differently to improve the product or service?  If they have, was there a process in place to follow through with the suggestions and show the employees that their input was taken seriously.

The first error!

The assumption in business that the employees only want to put in their eight hours and collect their paycheque.  This is a fallacy.  For every employee who thinks this way there are twenty who take pride in the work they do.  Think about it, your employees spend almost as much time each week working as they do with their families.  Why wouldn’t they care?

The second error!

We expect employees to care about the company and to give it the same respect and dedication that we do as mangers and owners.  Yet, in many cases, we don’t tell them what the company’s goals are.  How many widgets are we going to produce?  What net profits does the business want on the books at the year end?  In the way of sales, what needs to come through the door each day for the business to survive?
Many business owners are reluctant to share this information with their employees.  Why wouldn’t you?  How is the employee going to focus on your target if they don’t know what it is?  We must share our goals and expectations.  We must enroll everyone in those goals and expectations if we hope to achieve them.

The third error!

Our employees walk the front lines.  They have the knowledge to produce a good or bad product or service.  If they perceive we don’t care about quality, chances are what they do will be poor quality as usually it is easier to do.  If they know how many widgets need to be produced to earn the desired profit margin, the quality required to meet your standards, and are give recognition when they achieve this, they will feel valued and will offer suggestions. Don’t ignore them, they are a valuable resource!

The fourth error!

Many times, managers assume the person is trained or training is provided when the employee starts and that is it.  You need to constantly ‘grow’ your employees. You need to nurture them, not just in hard skills but also in people or ‘soft’ skills.  Your employees do not work in isolation.  They work as part of a team.  If the team does not function, you are at a competitive disadvantage.

Allow opportunities for your employees to develop their personal skills.  They will take this home and to their other activities throughout the community.  If your employees feel good about themselves, they will carry this forward to their job and to their lives.

When in the community, your employees talk about where they work.  What are they saying about you?

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Posted in Business Coaching, Business Planning, Career development, Coaching, Diversity, Elephant in the Room, Elephants, Employees, Employment, Empowering people, Entrepreneurs, Human resources, Leadership, Team development, Training | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Entrepreneurship

You have an idea.  You envision a need.  What more do you need in order to become a successful entrepreneur?

The idea or ‘spark’ is important and usually begins with the identification of an opportunity or need.  For many entrepreneurs this usually goes through much internal refining and tweaking before ever hitting a piece of paper.  An opportunity may be that the product or service is not yet available in their community.  A need might be that they require different employment because of finances or perhaps health issue which prevents them from continuing with their current career.

Who is going to buy the product or service you intend to market? What are the demographics of the purchaser and the market you are serving?  Is it a discretionary product or service?  Where do your potential customers or clients get it now?  What will you charge?  What is the competition charging?  Who is the competition?  Why will your customers or clients come to you for the product or service?  What is your unique selling proposition?

Where will you be located?  Is it convenient for you and your target market?  How will your customers or clients find you?  How will you reach them?  Where would you find your customers or clients, radio, newspaper, trade shows, flyers, bulletin boards, social media, web-page?  These all take money or time, or both, which ones will serve you best?

How will you track your progress?  Do you have a business plan?  This will provide a baseline for the business.  It is a living document, which gives you a record to monitor your progress and ‘adjust your sails’ during the launch of the business.

What do you need in the way of funding for the business?  Financial needs are made up of start-up costs, ongoing business costs, plus what you need to sustain your personal expenses.  If you don’t have the money, where will you get it?  Do you have personal assets for collateral on a loan?

One of the most important documents is a cash flow spreadsheet.  This tells you what has to come into the business for it to stay viable.  Many businesses have lots of assets but if they do not have adequate cash flow, the business will not sustain itself.

You might have a solid idea, but my advice is to get assistance in setting up the business and start on a solid footing.  Contact your nearest WorkBC Employment Centre as you may qualify for an assistance program and if not, your local Community Futures Office will be only too glad to help.

We need entrepreneurs, but more than that, we need successful entrepreneurs!

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