Category Archives: business

4 Useful Tips To Manage Your Small Business Finances

A small business can fail for a variety of reasons, but money related issues are one of the main concerns. Even with a high-quality service or product, you will find it difficult to achieve success without a healthy cash flow to cover business expenses. Here are a few tips to help manage the finances:

Clear targets

A simple strategy is to set the clear financial goals for the future. This should relate to both the short-term and long-term. It can be difficult to know if a small business is reaching its targets and being successful if the financial goals aren’t determined at an early point of getting setup. In the process of setting the targets, it is useful to set a worst case and best case scenario. This will give a complete picture of how successful a business is and gives more time to take appropriate action if the desired income is not achieved.

Accountancy software

The ability to maintain the finances is made that much easier with the right accountancy software in place. This type of software has a wide range of features and can help with tracking your financial picture, running reports on key metrics, and staying in touch with day-to-day expenses. The more advanced software can help to prepare tax forms or similar financial records. Plus, the accountancy software can significantly speed up the ability to manage the accounts, which means more time is available to work on other areas of the business.

Issuing invoices

A small business is certain to benefit from a system that prepares and delivers invoices as soon as a service or product is delivered. Staying on top of issuing the invoices means payments are regularly received for the work done without any extended delays. It can help to use software to speed up the process and automatically issue the invoices. Also, it is essential to chase up on any late payments to make sure a regular cash flow is maintained.

Control spending

It helps to be ruthless with spending to avoid letting the finances get out of control. It is quite easy to spend more than intended on expensive equipment or taking on too many staff being you are really ready. The best course of action is to carefully manage the growth of the business and make sure it is reaching its targets before spending high sums on purchases or extra staff.

5 Tips For Remote Tech Support for a Small Business

You may be the CEO of a new business with a lot of requests from clients or you may be an IT professional at a small firm where new infrastructure is required. No matter what position you are on right now, you need advanced technology solutions. However, you may want to keep in mind that installing and maintaining new systems can pose a challenge. So, you have to be ready to deal with this challenge. One way is to hire a dedicated employee or outsource the tasks to a good team of professionals. Given below are a few tips that can be used to organize remote tech support.

Identifying the results

First of all, what you need to do is identify your desired results. It’s important to keep in mind that each small business has its own requirements as far as tech support is concerned. So, it’s a good idea to decide on what you want to achieve. Moreover, you may want to find out about the technical issues that you may encounter. For instance, your requirements may be different if your area gets regular power outages.

Your next step is to make a list of your main IT tasks and the desired results that you want to achieve. This will help you get a better idea of your needs and choose the right type of technical support.

Choosing the provider

It’s not a good idea to take this decision without thinking a lot. You should take your time to do the research and look for the right company. The provider should have good reputation and a support plan that won’t break the bank.

Considering in-house tech support

A dedicated IT staff can help a lot provided you take into account all the important factors, such as the company size, tech challenges, and your internal and external needs related to your customers.

Considering hybrid solutions is also a great idea where you can bring a professional to handle critical issues. For other projects, you can use a remote IT support team. For instance, you can use this team to take care of emergency issues.

Investing in good software

Your business may have more than one location. Your commitments may be time-sensitive and your deliverables may be complex. Your customers or clients may be diverse with needs that keep on changing.

To meet these needs, you need to buy a reliable remote app in order to offer support to each of your client. The same app can be used by your staff to get access to important data as needed.

Consulting IT pros

If your business experiences small issues on a route basis, you can get advice from the pros whose job is to fix those issues on a daily basis. For instance, you can head to tech support forums where many pros offer advice for free of charge to those who need it. You may be amazed to know that even complicated issues can be solved with simple tricks.

Support Your Small Business With These 7 Tips for Success

How interesting to read that 19 million days of annual leave remain untaken in the UK every year, one in five people work an extra 7 hours a week of unpaid overtime, one in four of us suffer from Sunday night insomnia and some 90% of adults say they don’t get enough sleep!

Those statistics don’t specify the figures that relate to small business owners, sole traders or start-ups, none of whom would dare to record their lack of holidays, unpaid overtime or hours of missed sleep!

But in order for a small business to survive there’s a need to take care of its most important asset and that most definitely is you, especially in the early years! The business owners who continue to work incessantly, without a break, risk suffering the consequences of stress and burn out.

Certainly there are times in business when one is conflicted; urgent work situations may require input and attention whilst domestic or personal matters may be shouting for your time. If this is an occasional or emergency situation you may be able to accommodate being pulled in different directions for a while.

However, if this goes on for too long or becomes your way of life you may need to look at ways to provide a healthier work/life balance. It’s important to have regular time for you so you can bring peace and harmony into your life and be better able to support your business’s success.

Let’s look at 7 tips for success to support your small business’s growth and success:

– Appreciate the importance of looking after yourself. Take responsibility for your nutrition, water intake, exercise, fresh air and fun. When we’re over-stressed it can affect the quality of our sleep, libido, sense of humour, positive perspective and ability to cope. Evaluate what’s important to you, what you need to do to take care of both yourself and your business and then start to prioritise those various demands on your time so that you can look after yourself more effectively.

– Accept help at home. Allow your children to take on duties, even if their efforts don’t match your standards. Consider hiring help with cleaning, laundry, gardening so that you can use your personal time in better ways. Treat the money spent as a valuable investment and enjoy some free time having fun with family and friends.

– Delegate tasks at work, especially when they’re basic or routine. Accept too that you may not always be the best person for a particular job, so let others do what they’re good at and encourage them to come up with new ideas and better ways of working. You can then use your time more constructively elsewhere.

– Learn to say ‘no’ sometimes. Weigh up the viability of the different requests that come your way, either at home or at work. Saying ‘no’ can help you to maximise the best use of your time and energy. In business it’s important to respect your existing customers, plan your long-term goals and prioritise effectively so that each opportunity receives your full attention.

– Do what feels right for you. It can be easy to over-commit yourself when you want to accommodate others or be seen as popular, busy or indispensable. Taking time for you provides space in which to weigh-up those differing influences. Doing too much or agreeing to things that don’t really suit you may take you out of your comfort zone and provide valuable opportunities for challenge and growth, but ultimately the motivation to work well comes from feeling excited, enthusiastic and fully invested, not over-tired, resentful or jaded.

– Schedule regular time for yourself and allow for a more even work/life balance. Put yourself in your diary on a regular basis, plan some quiet time to read a book or go for a pleasant walk, arrange a spa day where you leave your phone behind, stressing no contact unless there’s an emergency. Make time for your hobbies and interests. It’s a fact that people who take breaks return to work with a positive mindset and support their businesses with more enthusiasm.

Aim to regularly finish work at a reasonable time, and that includes turning off distractions like work phones and social media. Treat yourself and your personal relationships as important, respected and valuable so that they thrive and reward you with loyalty, support and a genuine interest in your wellbeing.

When you take time for you it provides an opportunity to detach yourself from the stresses and cares of life. You’re giving yourself an interlude in which to recharge your batteries and balance your thinking. After which you can return with renewed energy, to focus on taking your business to the next level of success.

7 Great Tips For Finding a Freelance Designer For Your Project

Hiring a freelancer can be an intimidating venture for anyone who owns a small business or for anyone looking to partner up on a project. If you have never done this, your first thought is to go to a site like Fiverr, O-Desk, Upwork and Freelancer.com.

However, I would be very careful about hiring from these places. If price is important to you these sites might be of some value. However, odds are you are going to hire someone that is not from the US and might not understand the nuances of your specific market.

What should you pay for a freelance designer?

It comes down to two things – experience and location. If you are hiring someone in the U.S. and are looking for someone who is a senior level designer with years of experience expect an hourly rate to be somewhere in the range of $60/hour and up. Lots of designers also work for flat fee but keep in mind, designers are like any other business they need to make a profit off of their work. We have many tools, training, and software expenses that we need to stay on top of and those things come with a price for us.

You could hire a more junior designer from somewhere in the neighborhood of $35/hour but be prepared to do more managing of the designer and hand holding through projects.

I have seen several companies hire a “cheaper” solution for the design projects only to find:

  • They are half way around the world and are working on your project when you are sleeping. When you are awake, they are sleeping or nowhere to be found.
  • You have to wait 24 hours to get quick changes made which can be frustrating.
  • Sometimes are language barriers and cultural differences which lead to several glaring spelling errors or poor choice of imagery.
  • You cannot just call them up on the phone. There are small windows of time during the day or your evening to have a discussion.
  • The Designer didn’t understand something and now you have to wait another night/day before those changes can be done.

What is the key difference between a local vs international designer?

It can be valuable to have a designer locally or one that you can call up and have a screen share with to go over your changes to help you clearly communicate what you are looking for. You also can get things done quicker and last minute if they are just a quick call away and are at least in the same time zone.

Several years ago a client I was working with ran an advertising campaign in the States. It was very successful, so the client decided to run it over in Europe –

And It failed. MISERABLY…

What they did not realize at the time was the messaging for that same ad that worked so well in the United States had an entirely different meaning in Europe. Just hiring someone to translate the text for you will not always work. What they should have done was hire a consultant that knows the overseas culture before publishing the ad.

Their mistake was simply not having the right person who understands all the nuances and cultural differences that were lacking.

You ideally want to hire someone that you can have a relationship with for any projects that come up. Someone dependable and knowledgeable in areas that are weaknesses for you. You should think of the Designer as an extension of your team and someone that can help you craft your brand alongside you.

This is the number one reason why copywriters and marketers team up with Art Directors and Designers. Working together as a team helps make whatever project they are working on stronger because they compliment each other’s skill set.

If you are a business owner or just looking for someone to help round out your areas of weaknesses (for me it’s copywriting and development – and why I often team up with Copywriters and Developers)

Here are some helpful guidelines to help you hire the Best Freelance Designer for your project(s):

  1. Ask other business owners/friends/family if they have any resources for people that have worked for them. This is great because you already know the work process from your reference – no one would recommend someone they were not happy with and will give you some insight on the freelancers pricing. Social media is also a great place to reach out to associates/friends for their input and recommendations.
  2. Use a tool like LinkedIn and LinkedIn Profinder to find freelancers. Profinder is a great way to start conversations with Freelancers.Once you submit what you are looking for you’ll get up to 5 contacts from designers looking to help you out on your project. You also might get direct contacts from designers on LinkedIn that you should check out.You can always delete your connection with that person if it doesn’t work out. It’s just a tool to opening a door to meet great local designers who you can even meet in person to see if you are a good personality fit. And yes, personality fit is important. If they are to be an extension of your team (even if it’s only you in your business) make sure you like not only their style of design but also feel comfortable with them as a person too.Other great resources are Coroflot, Behance, and Dribble.
  3. If you find someone online, look at their portfolio (if it’s visual or read their sample copy). As the designer a lot of questions. Point out specifics and ask what their role in the project was. Ask if the design was mostly their idea or if they had a lot of input from the client or team that they are working on. Ask if they research the images or were they given to them. If it’s a drawing, ask if they used other art to put it together or if it was original. It’s always great to ask more questions to get insight into the designers brain and process. The other key is if you don’t like what you see or read in their portfolio, don’t expect a different outcome for your project. Stop right there don’t proceed with this freelancer!
  4. Talk to them on Skype or in Person. Getting a visual on someone is important to see if you have a connection with them. The better they understand you, the better chance your project will be a great success.
  5. Get references from the designer and CHECK THEM… Yes, it’s a pain in the tush, but it’s important. Find out what other say about their work experience. You’ll be happy you did.
  6. Start out with a small project first to see if it’s a good fit for what you are looking for. Consider this a trial run – however, expect to pay for this – Freelancers don’t work for free (well at least the good ones don’t).
  7. Don’t lowball the designer. Expect to pay at least $35/hour for a junior designer and at least $60/hr and above for senior level. Remember, you really do get what you pay for. Consider working on a flat fee but expect to pay more for anything that is out of the original scope of the project. Designers don’t like to feel like they are being taken advantage of and can hurt any future relationship you might have with them.

6 Tips for Growing a Small Business

To succeed with growing a small business, it is essential to have great organizational and planning skills, as well as having a flexible approach to work. Before starting a new business venture, it is important to put in the time for initial planning before opening the doors. Here are a few things to consider for the greater likelihood of success in the future:

Get organized

In order to set up and grow the business it helps to be very organized. An organized person is that much better at staying on top of things and completing tasks. A simple strategy to achieve this is a to-do list. This can be updated daily to give a complete overview of what needs to be done on any given day. Also, this is a great way to avoid forgetting tasks or leaving things until the last-minute.

Maintain detailed records

Any successful business will keep and maintain detailed records. A major benefit of record keeping is the ability to constantly know the financial position of a business and make it easier to see potential growth options or challenges in the future. Also, if things do start to look bad, there is more time to start creating strategies to overcome those hurdles.

Analyze the competition

Healthy competition has the potential to breed the best possible results. To grow the successful business it is always worth checking the local competition to see if there is anything to learn that could help improve your business.

Be creative

Try to be creative in the process of setting up your business and think up ideas that could potentially make your business stand out from the rest. It is worth remembering that you won’t have the complete business knowledge when starting out, so you should always be open to new approaches and ideas to expand the business.

Stay focused

Even with a lot of time spent on the planning stage, there is no guarantee the business will start to earn money straightaway. It can take a little time and marketing to get a new business recognized, so it is essential to stay focused and continue to work on the short-term goals.

Understand future risks

In the early stages, it may be necessary to take one or two calculated risks in the process of growing the business. If the worst-case scenario of a particular risk isn’t too devastating it may be worth taking the risk in the hope of a tremendous reward in return.

10 Tips For Business Startup Owners

Every entrepreneur can use some advice when it comes to making sure their business startup gets off on the right foot. From the best way to run your business to following your dreams, these tips offer sound recommendations that can help your business startup maintain its operations and find success at every turn.

Sure, your business may run into challenges, and you may make some mistakes along the way, but it is how you recover that matters. Use these tips to your advantage when it comes to ensuring you avoid the pitfalls that others have fallen into as a first-time entrepreneur.

1. Be Passionate About What You Do

When it comes to business, doing what you love makes it that much easier to do well. Find a business that you can excel at and throw yourself into. You should have an underlying passion for the market, product, service, or brand that you are selling. In order for it to succeed in the market place, you need to believe in it, and then your customers will follow suit.

2. Believe In Yourself

Every entrepreneur doubts themselves at one time or another, but you need to fully believe in your capabilities and strength. Mistakes are inevitable, but understanding that you will fail at times can help you rebound and move forward with great resilience. Recognize that you have what it takes to make it and send that doubt packing as only when you truly believe in yourself and what you are doing will success come knocking at your door.

3. Listen To Advice From Others

Many others may have come before you with their own business startups. Learn from their challenges and heed their advice. They can allow you to steer clear of potential issues and make it easier for you to operate as a business startup. From finding funding to working with an angel investor, other entrepreneurs have experience that you can gain from and use to your advantage if you are willing to listen.

4. Watch Your Overhead

You need to realize that you are business startup out of the gate. This means watching your cash flow and setting up shop in that swank office building on 5th Avenue may not be a possibility at this time. Keep things simple and observe your cost structures. You may need cash down the road and being on the hook for high rents or loan commitments can make it difficult to spread your wings. You’ll get there. Have patience and watch for the right opportunity to grow. Remember that patience is a virtue.

5. Know Your Competition

Ignoring your competition as a business startup will get you nowhere. Be sure to thoroughly investigate everything there is to know about your competition and make your products and services better. Find out where your competitors are lacking and seize this opportunity to secure market share. Knowing your competition can give you that leg up your need to get ahead in the market and appeal to consumers in a new way. Do your homework and keep an eye on your competitors at all times.

6. Practice Your Pitch

You are the greatest salesperson for your business startup. Whether you are looking to secure funding from an angel investor or looking to gain more customer loyalty, you need to have a pitch on the ready to tell anyone and everyone you come in contact with. Be concise in your approach and be sure to mention your goals, values, and vision. You never know who you’ll meet, and you need to be ready with a pitch that impresses.

7. Get Out And Network

Networking is a key part of any entrepreneur’s success. Connecting with others in the industry can help you develop relationships that may come in handy for your business startup down the road. Plus, you will continue to learn from these individuals and a new opportunity with one of them may be just around the corner.

8. Ask For Help

As much as you want to do it all, there comes a time when we all need to ask for help. There is no shame in getting someone involved in your business startup to help take it to the next level. You are going to need help as time goes on to evolve your company and reaching out to someone you trust may be the best thing that you can do for your business startup. You’ll be able to offload some of the burdens and free yourself up to focus on new projects that have been sitting on the back burner.

9. Continue Learning

With the most successful CEOs reading four to five books a month, taking a page from their playbook can help extend your business startup and move it forward in new ways. Keep the door open and continue to educate yourself by learning from others. Reading books that focus on self-help, business, motivation, leadership, and communication can continue to motivate you and your company. If you keep your learning continuous, you’ll find plenty of new ideas just waiting to be realized.

10. Don’t Give Up

Above all don’t give up on yourself. Even when times get tough, and you feel like throwing in the towel. Take a step back and appreciate how far you have come. If you have the drive and motivation to succeed the potential to make it in the market is there. You need to believe that you can do it and push yourself harder than you have ever done before. With hard work comes success and you are most likely just on the cusp of winning.

These tips will help you find the recipes for success for your business startup and set you on the path to thrive in the marketplace. If you are looking to secure an angel investor for your business startup, We can help you. It offers an array of informative resources on creating business plans as well as a diverse and extensive range network of angel investors.

New Venture Thinking

Before diving into a new project, take the time to think about its feasibility, costs, marketability, acceptability, applicability, and definition of success. Why would you want to start a new venture, usually to make money! The structure of our society compels the generation of funds. The fungibility of money translates into the ability to accomplish goals and objectives in our daily lives.

As an example, let’s assume you wish to create a website to deliver Forex services. Forex stands for foreign exchange; it’s an accessible medium for trading currencies for many traders. Low cost of entry, easy access to leverage along with twenty-four hours of operation six days a week, makes this an attractive alternative to traditional trading methods such as stocks and bonds. Services in our example will be information products, some you will create yourself, and others that you will resale.

Feasibility

Is the project feasible, can it be done, with your resources? Can a Forex website bring in enough money to pay for itself plus profits? Feasibility does indeed seem possible due to a large number of Forex websites in existence. Many sites do not constitute proof, conduct additional research to consider how profitable. What new angle can you bring to the world? Maybe your niche will be accepting cryptocurrency for all transactions?

Costs

When we ponder costs, don’t forget about the opportunity costs along with the expenses. Can you think of something better to do with your time? Most likely you will develop new capabilities, will you be building transferable skills? Creating a website involves some technical skills that you could learn if so inclined, it is possible to outsource some tasks. Again we see the old saw; you are going to pay either time or money. Take an accounting of what it will cost you to get resalable products and or what you will need to make your own.

Are you able to sustain the venture without undue hardship? A pro forma sheet can be helpful when planning future business expenses. Keep a keen eye on possible costs and hidden liabilities. Regulations and laws are ripe with surprises for new enterprises, thoroughly research any planned expansion such as hiring employees. The amount of red tape that you have to deal with may not outweigh the benefits you will receive. The goal is to eliminate unexpected obligations. There will, of course, be unforeseen events; navigatable best by the person who is best prepared to deal with the issues that are predictable.

Marketability

A website cannot be profitable solely because it exists, think regarding what value a site can bring to your potential customers. The more goodness you can give to people the more capital you can make. Do you think that the products that you offer are valuable? It is nigh impossible to sell something that you do not believe has value.

Now is the time to think about your marketing strategy? How will you attract customers? There are many methods available from, email lists, search engine optimization, advertising, blogging, joint-ventures, affiliates, cold calling, farming, word of mouth, and many others. Pick a combination of methods that agree with your marketing budget. You will pay with time or money so select your mix, make a plan and be ready to take action.

Acceptability

“Acceptance” by Bernard Goldbach is licensed under CC BY 2.0Would you be comfortable telling someone you respect that you are involved with your project? Respect is difficult to earn and easy to lose. Consider the effect your actions will have on your reputation, hiding behind a facade will not ease your soul. Just, do the correct and professional thing every time. When you know deep down that you have given it the appropriate amount of effort, rest easy. Forex websites are ripe with charlatans and hucksters, think of ways to combat the initial negative impressions that some may have of your business. Do you have the force of will to stand up to criticism?

Applicability

Do you have or can you learn the right skillset to be successful at what you wish to accomplish? Do you even like what you plan to do? If you are doing it merely for the money then good luck. Working on something you dread does not lead to long-term happiness, no matter how much dinero you make.

Do you currently trade in the Forex market, would you use the products that you are trying to sell? Have you got the coding skills to develop trading robots? Are you an exceptional organizer who can outsource everything and keep tabs on how your operation is running? Find out how to use your strengths to your advantage and figure out how to outsource your weaknesses, over time you may be able to gain additional capabilities, but at the onset of your business make plans for mitigating what you lack. It may be possible to take on a partner who is strong where you are weak.

Success

What does success mean to you? Ah, we all want to be a success, but unless it is defined unambiguously, we can never reach it. Success is not some general feeling of doing well; success is a goal achieved. So be sure to specify your goals concretely so that you can measure your achievements. In the case of our Forex website success could be defined successively with each goal being more demanding than the previous. Initially, the goal could be that the website recoups all the monetary expenses invested in the operation. Next, you could want to value your time at a particular rate say, one hundred bucks an hour? Tracking your time versus income minus investment would reveal the hourly rate that your site is paying you.

Conclusion

Should you start your venture or lay it aside. Taking time for it to fester in your brain is not a wasteful activity. Creativity flourishes when your mind is at rest, so after thinking about your new venture for some time let your subconscious dwell on it for a while. Ultimately, you could decide that what you planned to do is not feasible, and that would be a good thing, you would then know what you do not want to do, along with some skills on how to think about what you may want to do in the future. The information and research conducted will reside in your subconscious and may unexpectedly prove useful when your creativity demands it.

3 Keys To Starting A Small Business

Since the majority of startup small businesses fail, how can you succeed?

Before we answer this, who am I? I have set up and sold 4 small businesses over the last few years, all of which continue to be successful, so I know a few things about the subject.

Now, let’s get to the main points:

Planning

It is important to know what, when, why, where and how you are going to start your business. Unless you have clear focus, don’t even try, it will just be a waste of your time and energy.

In addition, you will want to do whatever courses are available that might help you achieve your goals. For instance, in my case, before starting my most recent venture, I completed a Certificate 3 in Business Studies, a Diploma in Digital Marketing, a Diploma in Sales, and, a Diploma in Project Management.

Practice

What I mean by practice is not to just dive straight in and learn on the job, no, what will really help you is to observe how SUCCESSFUL people have started the same kind of business that you are attempting to start. How can you do this? One effective way is by getting a job in the industry where you intend to work. Once you have done this, observe the process. If it truly is a successful business, they will have a highly organized and effective process.

Another possibility is actually starting the business. I know, I know, I said don’t do this, however, this suggestion has a little difference. Start the business with no expectations. Become the marketing director, accounts manager, sales director etc… do everything yourself. The problem with this approach is that it will take up huge amounts of time, amounts of time that will be saved, if you are able to work in a successful business that someone else has started. Yes, this suggestion is the harder of the two routes, however what it does do is go from theory to a complete practical knowledge of the industry, to become fully immersed in it.

Pursue

There is a reason why 4 out of 5 small business start ups fail, the rewards are hard to achieve and take inordinate amounts of time to achieve. How can you get over this obstacle?

The key is to Pursue. You need to be focused on your goal, and, never to look away or be distracted from this purpose. How long can you focus on your goal? Only you can answer that! However, realistically, it will take you some years to truly progress in your endeavor. If you are someone who gives up easily, you should really not try to start a business. Instead, look for a well paying job.

The Benefits

If it is all such hard work, why bother? The rewards can be huge. Consider just a few:

*Time – Have a flexible schedule, spend more time with your family or other priorities.
*Passive Income – Depending on the type of business you intend to start, it may keep paying you even when you are not working.
*Capital Gains – You have the possibility of achieving significant R.O.I on the outlay involved in starting your business.

Creating Repeatable Business Growth

Mix the power of today’s social media with the constant need for business growth and you get a whole lot of:

  • Hoping for success
  • Wishing for things to “go viral”
  • Comparing with someone else who “went big”
  • Being willing to pay exorbitant amounts for social media experts
  • Pleading for growth

But the recipe for business growth has not changed. It remains the same:

  1. define what you want
  2. figure out how to get what you want
  3. and then do it

Instead of hoping and wishing for success, wouldn’t it be better to control the process? Then you could push the REPEAT button as often as you like.

Thankfully, you can get the business growth you want and need, over and over and over. Whatever your industry, business growth is the goal.

Here is how you can do it:

STEP #1: Define What You Want

Starting at the top, do you know what you want? Are you looking for awareness, prospects, referrals, authority, respect, recognition, local networking, open doors, branding, more sales, retention, upselling, or something else?

Be sure you know exactly what YOU need. Specifically, what is it that will boost your business to the next level? What is it that will cause the exponential growth you seek? What exactly did you want to “go viral” and how would that have helped you?

Once you know what your business needs, the next step is figuring out how to get it.

STEP #2: Figure Out How to Get What You Want

Mike had one pressing need: RETENTION. Together, we created a book (print cost was less than $1/bk) that was given to his customers. The book explained the benefits of the nutritional supplements that Mike’s company created and sold. Each supplement order included the small book, which increased retention as people became more knowledge about the product. As a result, the company’s profits went up by $100,000-$200,000 per month because customers stayed on the product for 2-3 additional months.

Dave wanted one thing: more SALES of his core product (a $2,000 leadership program). We created a book (less than $1/bk to print) that was sold to his franchise sales reps (for $3/bk) who in turn gave the books to their prospects. Business soared! The leadership program sold faster than ever. Dave promptly reprinted 5,000 more books and repeated the process.

Beth wanted more BUSINESS. As a commercial architect, she was always looking for more jobs, leads, and referrals. We created a children’s book, full color with a glossy hard cover, that cost around $5/book to print. Every person she did business with received a copy. And when the clients went home and read her book to their children, they could not help but remember Beth! And recommend her! And her business grew.

Chris needed a JOB. We created a small book (at about $4/bk to print) that turned 8 job interviews into 8 job offers! His challenge became which job to choose.

Bill wanted REFERRALS. As a home inspector, he wanted as much business as he could handle. He bought a DIY home-maintenance book (for around $10) and gave it to his customers as a small “thank you for your business.” One customer referred Bill to everyone he knew who was selling or buying a home. One $10 book turned into countless referrals!

The stories are endless, but each of these real examples show the incredible power of repeatable business growth. To get more retention, sales, business, jobs, or referrals, all these individuals need to do us push their own REPEAT button!

They know what they want and they know how to get it. Their growth is repeatable!

STEP #3: Then Do It

When you know exactly what you need to grow your core business, and you have a proven way to get the growth you want, the only thing left is to do it. And then you can do it as many times as you want. REPEAT… REPEAT… REPEAT is now at your fingertips!

This is far better than any “viral” success because you are the one who controls it. You created it, and that means you are in charge. You can tweak it and refine it. And you can do it again and again.

6 Ingredients For Meaningful And Productive Meetings

Meaningful meetings are possible, desirable, and should be the aim of every executive. Many people say meaningful meetings is an oxymoron, and they have a point. Research shows consistently that most meetings waste time and cost significant sums. Some studies show over 75% of meetings waste time. Get a Klu, a corporate coaching and training consulting firm found that professionals lose 31 hours monthly to unproductive meetings. Besides, they show that of the eleven million meetings held in the U.S.A. daily, half are wasteful meetings.

Curtailing wasteful meetings boost personal effectiveness and morale and improve company-wide productivity. I estimate that at least half of the hundreds of meetings I attended at work, church, and elsewhere, were unnecessary. We could have achieved better results without a meeting while not impeding relationships.

We must strive to hold meaningful meetings and stop the meaningless meetings epidemic. Always err in the direction of not holding a meeting. Still, as I show below, sometimes we need to meet. Meanwhile, here are six elements needed to hold meaningful meetings. Although they are not exhaustive, when followed, the chances of positive outcomes will improve significantly.

Meaningful Meetings Ingredients

These few basics will create the foundation for attendees to be effective at the meeting and following, and will aid the productivity of the group:

  1. Convener
  2. Purpose
  3. Agenda
  4. Targeted invitees
  5. Start & End Times & Meeting Etiquette
  6. Air Traffic Controller

Convener

Conveners have a responsibility for making meetings meaningful to produce specific results graciously, and compassionately. Conveners or their delegates arrange the meetings-including developing the purpose, agenda, and expected outcomes, with relevant persons. They ensure the right people record highlights and take needed actions, but they do not perform these activities themselves-they merely ensure others do them.

The convener needs someone to assist her to look at the process during the meeting. Without concern for the process, a few people will dominate, and discussions go off topic. It is crucial folks understand that the process determines the outcome.

Purpose

Not all meetings have the same purpose. However, each meaningful meeting must have a purpose. There are at least three meeting categories: information sharing, accountability and or reporting, and problem-solving. Why would anyone call a meeting without an explicit purpose? Often, a meeting is the ideal way for some folks to procrastinate-defer a tough decision. Then again, the convener, and maybe a few other folks, know the purpose, but do not articulate it to others in advance because that’s the way things happen in that firm-poor communications is the norm.

Sometimes people call meetings out of habit. They hold weekly and other meetings because that’s been happening for years. And nobody asks, why. I recall being invited to be an elder at a church. The pastor said they had weekly elders’ meeting, and I asked why. My response shocked him. Why wouldn’t I know? Still, I said, why do we need to meet weekly? The answer: That’s what we have always done. I declined the invitation.

Measningful Meetings in Japan

I saw two differences between business meetings there and in the West. First, most of those meetings were meaningful, but long, unlike here where meetings are meaningless and long.

Second, often in Asia, they tell you the purpose before problem-solving meetings. Then, they invite folks who plan to present at the meeting. Here in the West, many people come to meetings unprepared, but ready to give their views.

Third, the group paid attention when each person spoke, likely because of respect for elders and hierarchy. Participants listened to each other and built on each other’s contributions. In the West, when one person speaks, others don’t listen but plan his and her statement, which might be unrelated to what was just said.

In the West, sometimes you don’t know the aim of the meeting until after it starts. Many times the invitation does not mention the nature of the meeting. Then again, in the meeting, we compete for airtime. People don’t listen to another person’s view with an open mind. Instead, we interrupt one another in mid-sentence to add our views, even when it does not build on the speaker’s point.

In Japan, we defined and agreed the purpose of the meeting at the outset. Then we focus on solving the problem. Each person did not compete for airtime. However, I found this system weak in information sharing and accountability meetings. For instance, I was on the board of two Japanese public firms and the dearth of data given to shareholders and the brevity of shareholders’ meetings amazed me.

Meaningful Meetings Have Agendas

The ideal vehicle to define the meeting’s purpose is a carefully crafted agenda, with a starting and ending time. It should be comprehensive and indicate clearly items for discussion: ideally, with a starting and ending time for each agenda item. Besides, it should show a person or persons responsible for each item and the expected meeting outcome. Often we spend time on the first few items, especially if they are non-controversial, and rush the remaining, irrespective of their importance.

Targeted Invitees

Folks who attend meetings need a reason to attend. If the session is to share data or receive reports from others, only those folks relevant to those matters should attend. When the session is to solve problems, the size and invitees will vary based on the issue. These sessions need careful planning and a skillful convener to make sure each person explains his view without interruption. Folks must listen, hear, and consider what the speaker says before giving their ideas. It is crucial that folks know others’ views before debating and dismissing them.

Here are procedural matters to help us stay focused during a problem-solving session.

  1. Explain fully, specific proposals before debating them.
  2. Differentiate clarification discussions from challenges to substance.
  3. Finish one proposal before moving to another.
  4. Convener should encourage out-of-the-box approaches that challenge the status quo; never suppress discussions until each person understands the issue. Unusual proposals may be the basis for the solution; don’t restrain them just because they are unfamiliar.
  5. No one should monopolize discussions.
  6. Convener should be sensitive to different personalities: some folks will need encouragement to present their views.
  7. Meeting should agree action items: Someone should record key developments and specific follow up activity for each proposal including the following:
    • Who – responsibility for specific action
    • What – nature of action
    • When – timing of next feedback
    • Cost – source of resources necessary until next feedback

Although many of the above items apply to all meetings, they are particularly essential during a problem solving meeting.

Start & End Times & Meeting Etiquette

When the convener or other person call the meeting, the invitation should show the start and end times, and time and responsibility for each agenda item. The meeting should not last longer than 45 minutes to an hour-and should stick to the allotted times.

Do not allow late attendees. Advise all invitees that the meeting will start at the appointed time, so each person needs to be there a few minutes before to ensure an on-time start-and stick to the allotted times. The most offensive thing I see happening in meetings and events is when the convener says she will wait on more people to arrive. That’s an affront to those who arrived on time and merely encourages a sloppy, lateness culture.

Meaningful meetings mean proper time-keeping and the following meeting etiquette:

  • No latecomers allowed
  • No talking on cell phones or side discussions in the room
  • If someone leaves the room to take a call or to talk with a colleague in the corridor, she is not allowed to return
  • No extraneous discussions: time spent must focus on agenda items under discussion
  • Meeting will end on time and each topic will get its planned time
  • No interruptions-each person must finish his thoughts and no one must interrupt. Further, the next comment must refer to the most recent statement unless the convener decides to move to a different topic.
  • Each person present is valuable and her views are welcomed and encouraged-nobody will be allowed to monopolize the discussions.

In my “on-going meetings” (my classes) I insist that my students be in the classroom five minutes before the start time. Students who can’t be on-time can enter during a break period, but not while the class is in session. My students get it and are on time 99.99% of the time.

Meaningful Meetings Need An Air Traffic Controller

One person trying to take over discussions is the most difficult but crucial to prevent. Often the convener or chair does not focus on the process, so people get off topic. A few folks control discussions, and the meeting ends without attaining its aim. It’s vital the convener picks someone to help to ensure fair air-time for those with needed knowledge. An “air traffic controller” or process consultant (consultant) is the person to do this.

Process Consultant

When the focus is only on the result, shy folks and others who do not want to vie for air-time won’t speak. Others will talk, but will offer little. A process consultant who sits beside the convener to focus on the process and informs the convener, with no distraction, about deviant process issues is vital for a meaningful meeting. While the convener deals with the outcome, the consultant looks at the process to ensure ample air-time for folks needing to contribute. The consultant will look at body language, non-verbals, folks talking too much, people trying to speak but unable, and so on.

The consultant’s role is tough because that he or she is not part of the discussions, but is he or she tries to promote, through the convener, maximum sharing in the group. A well-versed consultant will watch the flow of discussions and ensure folks who would be reluctant to speak, but who wish to speak, offers his and her views on central issues. My experience is that these reserved folks have the most notable positive impact on the meeting’s outcome.

When Do We Need To Meet

Today, we have many different ways to meet electronically. We must be careful we do not meet because it is convenient, and we don’t have to leave our offices. Essentially, as I mentioned before, there are three broad categories of meetings, beyond needed face-to-face, one-on-one meetings: information sharing, accountability or responsibility reporting, and problem-solving. Still, before meeting, folks should ask the following questions:

  1. Why do we need to meet?
  2. Do we need interaction?
  3. Will we merely be telling people what they can read conveniently?
  4. Do we need to work together to come up with ideas?
  5. Will being together be valuable?
  6. Do so many people need to interact with each other?
  7. What if we didn’t meet?
  8. Is this the best use of people’s time recognizing that reducing the number of attendees saves time for everyone-attending and not attending?

Zero Electronic Devices Except For Note-Taking

To increase the probability of a meaningful meeting, we should not allow electronic devices in the room except for note taking. People who are “expecting calls” should not attend. The rule should be simple: If you are invited to the meeting, we need your complete attention. If you expect someone to contact you during the meeting, we will excuse you from the meeting and meet with those willing and able to be present.

To increase the probability of a meaningful meeting, we should not allow electronic devices in the room except for note taking. People who are “expecting calls” should not attend. The rule should be simple: If someone invites you to the meeting, they need your complete attention. So, if you expect someone to contact you during the meeting, excuse yourself from the meeting and ask someone else to brief you on the result. Only folks willing and able to be present, should attend.

Meaningful meetings help firms become more dynamic. These sessions can inspire employees. Every CEO should support them. The converse is true. People getting together with no real aim except to meet, create waste, expense, and crush morale.

To be sure, we need many face-to-face meetings because of the need for human interaction. However, we should question whether we need all meetings we plan to hold. Also, we should question the need for meetings others arrange and invite us to attend, always suggesting appropriate alternatives.