Easy Strategies to Help you Leverage the Remainder of the Business Year

Summer’s over, the kids are back in school, and the holidays are right around the corner. Yes, impossible as it may seem…we’re nearing the end of another year! So, what does this mean for your business?

The best way that I know how to have a great 2017 is to end 2016 strong. This is a prime opportunity to leverage the remainder of the year to your advantage. To do just that, begin by following the three simple steps I’ve outlined below.

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3 Easy Steps to Establish Focus

I’ve been talking a lot lately about staying focused in our ever-distracted world. Today, I want to share some of my tried-and-true strategies with you for establishing and maintaining focus.

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Not Enough Time is Not an Excuse: 3 Tools to Manage Your Time Effectively

Lately I’ve been talking about focus – namely, how you can stay focused, take control, and run your business without it running you.

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Confrontation or Learning Experience? Delivering Feedback Effectively

18933836_sIn a previous Huffington Post article , I talked about why it isn’t good enough simply to say “good job” when you’re giving feedback. While it is important to acknowledge performance that is meeting or exceeding expectations, it is imperative to provide corrective feedback when things aren’t going as you’d like.

What happens when your team isn’t delivering as expected – when your expectations go unmet?

Can we just hope for it to change or go away? Not if we want to meet our business objectives without doing all the work ourselves.

Things don’t just change. If we aren’t telling people what they are specifically doing or not doing that is getting in the way of the results we want, nothing will change.

I know it can be uncomfortable. There are so many reasons why we don’t want to give people feedback- we don’t want to have conflict, we are worried what they will say or think, or we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.

Yet if we don’t … our team members (or vendors) can’t stop the behavior that is unproductive (or driving us crazy) and everyone ends up frustrated.

A Framework to Deliver Effective Feedback

A simple yet effective model for delivering corrective or constructve feedback effectively is the SBI framework:

  1. Describe the situation where the behavior was observed.
  2. Describe the behavior– be sure to include observable actions or interactions that are specific and factual.
  3. Describe the impact – the effect the behavior had on others, the work activity or results.

Here’s an example showing the SBI model in action:

Situation: Our project deadline was October 1, and we’ve now exceeded that initial date by two weeks.

Behavior: You haven’t provided us with the regular project updates that we originally agreed upon.

Impact: Regular updates are essential to the long-term success of this project, and our team depends on them. The rest of our project team is frustrated by a lack of timely, consistent updates. This lack of communication has led to other delays and is not conducive to good teamwork.

Remember that every situation will be different, but the primary goal is to describe the situation and behavior clearly, staying focused on the facts. Follow up with the impact the behavior had, and close with a question or two that encourages the person to consider what they might do differently going forward.

Ask the Right Questions

As part of the feedback process, asking the right questions can have a significant impact on the outcome. Follow the guidelines below so you know what to include – and what to avoid.

  1. Plan first. Instead of brazenly jumping into the process without thought, take a step back and plan out what you want to say. As you do this, you’ll be able to outline the questions you’ll ask as you deliver feedback.
  1. Make your questions open-ended. Questions that are open-ended often start with “who”, “what”, “how”, “where”, and “when”. Notice “why” was missing from that list…using “why” in an open-ended question as you’re delivering feedback can make the other person feel like they’re being judged.

For instance, instead of asking “Why did you do that?”, try “What was your objective behind doing that?” instead. This sounds less confrontational and accusatory.

  1. Stick to the facts. Avoid making personal judgments or criticisms. In other words, your goal should be focused on providing feedback about a behavior and the impact it had.

Don’t: “Why do you always rush through things? If you weren’t so hasty, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Do: I know you mentioned you have a lot on your plate right now. What would make it easier for you to focus more of your time on this task/activity?

  1. Change up the perspective. As you’re delivering feedback, use thought-provoking questions to guide the other party to see the situation from a fresh perspective.

For instance, if the other person blames the situation on a disagreement she had with a co-worker, direct your questions to help her consider a new perspective.

Instead of following along with the same line of thinking by saying something like, “I can’t believe she said that!”, try asking questions like “I understand where you’re     coming from. What do you think might have led her to say that?” or “What would need to happen for you and her to improve your relationship?”

  1. Involve the other person in the solution. The most effective feedback is a 2-way conversation. It is not your sole responsibility as the business leader to solve everything. Ask the person you are giving feedback to come up with a solution or alternative way of acting. Questions such as “how could you address this differently in the future?” or “what can you do to resolve this issue?” assist the other person in coming up with solutions that she or he can own and commit to.

Remember, knowing what questions to ask can significantly change the outcome of the feedback experience. Instead of the recipient seeing the feedback as a one-sided ambush, the process can actually represent a dynamic learning experience for both parties.

What tips do you have for delivering corrective feedback effectively?

How Much Did That New Customer Cost You?

33315056_sI was speaking with a new client last week and we were looking at where his clients came from the last 12 months, how much he invested to acquire them and where to focus his time and energy this year to accelerate his sales.

We had such an eye-opening discussion on the whole conversation around cost of acquisition and the effect this was having on the ROI of his time and money.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is the cost associated in persuading a consumer to buy a product or service from you. This cost includes costs associated with product development, marketing, research, and sales.

The reason this is important is so we can measure whether the investment we are putting in to attract and acquire new customers is paying off. It can be very exciting to have a new customer and we sometimes are so focused on looking at the sales that the entire cost is not factored in.

There are some costs that are kind of obvious like Direct Mail campaigns, advertisements, or Pay Per Click.

And there are others that are not so obvious and tend to be forgotten, especially for service based businesses.

Customer Acquisition Cost: A Simple Example

Here’s a way to look at an activity most business owners are involved in- networking. Let’s assume you are in a leads group, chamber or other group where you have a membership. Let’s assume the cost of the membership is $575 per year and you got 3 new clients for total sales of $10, 000. I’ve seen people say yep that’s a great investment. I spent $575 and got $10,000.

Well – maybe.

And here is the trap people fall into – looking only at the financial cost- membership.

Let’s say over the course of the year, you attended 45 meetings and each meeting is one and one-half (1 ½) hours so that’s 67.5 hours of your time.

Let’s say you had a bunch of coffee dates with members of the group to get to know them and share what you do in a deeper way. That’s an additional twenty (20) hours of your time.

Now, I know it is your time, not a physical cost. But your time is worth something, and you are an expert so it is worth a lot!

Just because I like easy math, let’s say an hour of your time for this activity is $100 per hour. So for 87.5 hours that would be $8, 750.00 for the 3 new clients ($2916.67 each). This is a lot more than $575.00.

And it may be worth it (especially after factoring in what they might buy next etc.. but we are not discussing that today).

The point I want you to takeaway is when evaluating where your clients are coming from and what are the best investments of time and money, you have to look at costs in totality. It’s not as simple as looking at sales minus hard expenses.

Items to Consider

So grab a note pad and start looking at where you made investments this past year to acquire new customers so you can identify how much it costs you to acquire a new customer. Ideally, you should account for everything you did to get that new customer so you can have a picture of the true cost so you can monitor it this year. This will also give you a picture of what you need to charge to cover all your costs and be profitable.

Here is a list of the typical costs to include (depending on your type of business):

  • Facebook ads
  • Advertisements in newspapers, journals or online publications
  • Google AdWords
  • Trade shows or vendor events
  • Giveaways like pens or water bottles
  • Direct Mail campaigns
  • Pay Per Click campaigns
  • Cost of meetings, events
  • Networking group costs, membership or dues

Here is a list of “forgotten” costs to include:

  • Time you spend on social media outreach
  • Time spent at networking events
  • Time spent converting a warm lead to a client: if you are in service based business you are most likely offering complimentary consultations- this time also adds up for the cost of client acquisition
  • Time to develop proposals and work through the procurement process if your client is an organization
  • Graphics or logos used in on-line and off-line advertising: development or purchase of
  • The time it takes to move people to your sales pipeline- this could be your time as well as time of team members involved in the sales process
  • Time to create and proof read copy for marketing

After my clients do this exercise, two things become really clear:

  • Prices may need to increase to cover all the costs,
  • Having a strategy to retain these customer’s is an absolute must (for more tips and tools on this, check out the 5 Star Customer Service Summit)

What insights or takeaways did you have after calculating the cost of acquisition for your clients? Share below!

You’re Hired!: Easy Tips to Help You Avoid BIG Hiring Mistakes

One of the big themes in 2015 that I’m seeing with all my clients is building a great team, which I love because no matter what the size of your business – you cannot do it all alone. Well you can, but you’ll be overwhelmed, tired, stressed and not having any fun 🙂

Why Having a Team is Important

Avoid hiring mistakes | Best hiring practicesHaving a team allows you to better leverage your time and talents – and focus on what you do best – so you can support your clients in getting the results they desire (and get paid well for it, too!).

Plus, you can work less so that you can have more time for other things that are important to you. Most importantly, all those tasks on your to-do list that never seem to get done will finally be crossed off your list.

To make this task a little easier for you, I am going to share some of the most common hiring pitfalls and how to avoid them. In my career, I have successfully hired hundreds of people and have encountered a few non-successes as well.

The Biggest Hiring Mistake Is…

What is that old saying- we learn from our mistakes? True, but I prefer to learn from others’ mistakes when possible. Here is a big one to learn from:

The biggest hiring mistake you can make as a business owner: hiring someone because s/he is like you.

I see this over and over – and in full disclosure, have fallen victim to this one myself. Sometimes you’re interviewing someone and she just resonates with you so closely. You find yourself really liking her and thinking you could totally be great friends. In fact, she is so much like you, you are sure this will be a perfect pairing.

What tends to happen is this: since the new hire is like you, she also likes to do the same things and has the same strengths, skills set and personality as you do.

Problem is – there is already one of “you” in the company. You hired that person to do specific tasks, and they are most likely the tasks you either don’t know how to do or don’t like to do.

So, no one is doing those tasks. But you really like the person so it feels bad to tell her that it isn’t going to work out. You think it might get better, so you put those tasks back over on your to-do list.

The result? They…Still…Are…NOT…Getting…Done.

How to Avoid Hiring Blunders

How can you avoid this? These tips below are key whether you are hiring a virtual assistant, a bookkeeper, a sales rep, an intern or a full time employee. Let’s get started:

  1. Know your own strengths and weaknesses so you can focus on finding someone who can complement your skill set. For instance, I know I love to create and I still have a little perfectionism in me. I know I need someone on my team who is more of a taskmaster and is going to push me to get things done – and keep moving forward.
  2. Clearly identify what tasks need to be done by someone other than you. Include the knowledge, skills and abilities needed to perform them, and the behavioral traits important to succeed in your company. These could be technical such as computer skills, customer service skills, or ability to handle multiple requests and deadlines. You are the boss so you get to decide what is important for your
  3. Write up a job description for the work you need done based on the information created above. It doesn’t have to be fancy or “corporate”- you just need it to share with potential candidates or for posting on various sites.
  4. Create a list of questions for candidates. This helps you get the information you need and enables you to be consistent with everyone you are speaking to.
  5. Look for candidates. This could be posting on job boards, submitting a request on eLance, asking colleagues for referrals, posting on Facebook, or reaching out to college placement offices. Where you look is going to depend on the type of team members you need.
  6. Conduct a formal interview with prepared questions. This can be on the phone, Skype, or in person – whichever works best for your business model. I recommend always having a phone interview before meeting with anyone in person just to make sure they meet the minimum requirements. If the team member is going to be virtual, then stick with the phone or Skype.
  7. Ask these two critical questions:
    1. What do you love doing that you would happily do even if you weren’t getting paid?
      You are listening for 2 things here;

      • You will find out what they are passionate about – THEIR genius zone, and
      • Their responses should coincide with the activities that are outside of YOUR genius zone (the things you don’t know how to do, don’t like to do, or don’t want to do).
    2. What questions do you have for me?
      • If they don’t have any- red flag! No questions = no interest in you – or your company.

Avoid hiring mistakes | Best hiring practices | Keys to hiringYes, these steps will take some of your time initially. However, I can tell you from experience that doing this upfront work will save you time and money in the long run.

You will bring on team members who are aligned with your needs and visions as a business owner, and who have the necessary skills, knowledge and ability to get things done so you can focus on running your business and serving your clients (you know…the reason you went into business in the first place!).

When you do the work up front, it also helps reduce the chances of having to let someone go- directly (“you’re fired”) or indirectly (“no, I don’t have any projects for you this month”).

Tell Me: What issues have you encountered building your team – and what did you do about it?

 

Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

5 Key Strategies Small Businesses Can Learn From the Corporate World, Part II

Do you want to generate more revenue and manage your business like a pro? In this two-part series, Kim Pisolkar shares five simple yet powerful strategies that today’s small business owners can learn from the corporate world.

Strategy 4: Observation and Measurement

Corporate Strategy | Small Business StrategyIn big business, there are metrics and goals. Revenue, sales, marketing, effectiveness, human capital and technology are all measured and monitored to ensure that deficiencies are quickly spotted and corrected.

It’s important not only to see what’s working, but also to learn from what isn’t working. All businesses should be using observation and measurement tools to understand where they’re at and to measure how well they’re doing. Tools like performance appraisals and SWOT analysis are great for doing this.

These same concepts can be applied in any small business setting. In my Big Breakthrough System, we use the concept of a mini performance appraisal to help business owners maximize their productivity.

Every month my clients look at their goals -what was achieved, what was learned, and what needs to change or happen for the next month. This includes looking at financials (which isn’t always fun for people), looking at revenue projections and corresponding results, and looking at how money and time were invested.

Clients ask questions like “Are we breaking even?” andHow did the time and money we invested translate into results?” When you run your business this way, there won’t be any surprises the next time you’re getting ready for tax season! You’ll know exactly where you stand and what you need to adjust along the way.

Strategy 5: Talent Engagement

Corporate Strategy | Small Business StrategyIn a successful corporation, tasks are clearly defined and the right people with the appropriate talents and skills for specific roles are hired. The CFO in a company doesn’t handle R&D, too. People are not one size fits all.

In contrast, here’s what I see happen in a lot of small businesses: Many business owners make a list of all the work to outsource and then try to hire one person to do all the stuff they don’t like to do, don’t know how to do, or maybe aren’t even wired to do. This is a mistake that leads to a waste of time, money and energy because one person simply cannot handle a myriad of specialized tasks.

Another mistake small business owners make is hiring people who are just like them. It’s natural to want to work with people who are similar to you. However, some tasks that you don’t want to do – accounting, copywriting, etc. – may be best handled by someone who is very different than you. Carefully consider the personality of each person you are giving work to – and find people who genuinely enjoy the things you hate to do.

If you’re a small business owner, resist the urge to make do with what there is in the context of talent engagement. Your VA may not be the best person to do your copywriting and editing – plus do your bookwork, too. Suzy from IT should not be made to handle the marketing in her spare time.

Stop trying to fit the work to the people at hand. Look at tasks objectively, and then go find the best people to tackle them.

Finally, thoughtfully consider and write down your job description as the CEO of your company. This will help you clearly see what you need to be doing on a daily basis so that you can stay focused. For everything else outside your job description, you’ll need to find other people to do those tasks as soon as possible.

For more ideas, tips and tools to help you run your small business like a big business CEO, go to www.SmallBizBigBreakthrough.com

 

Image courtesy of freedigitaldownloads.com

5 Key Strategies Small Businesses Can Learn From the Corporate World

Do you want to generate more revenue and manage your business like a pro? In this two-part series, Kim Pisolkar shares five simple yet powerful strategies that today’s small business owners can learn from the corporate world.

Strategy 1: Create Guiding Principles

corporate strategies | Small business successGuiding principles or values outline the culture you want to create in your company. Even if it’s just you running your business, you must create guiding principles. Whether it’s only you or you have an entire team, developing guiding principles is how you’ll show up to achieve your strategic imperatives, which I’ll discuss next.

Your personal values will serve as the foundation as you develop guiding principles. These core values are usually timeless and unchanging. Not sure what your personal values are? Ask yourself who you are and what you stand for. If you have a team, involve them in this process as well.

You’ll use your core values again and again to assist in the decision making process. For instance, if one of your core values is to stand behind the quality of the products you sell, you should have policies and procedures in place for addressing products that do not meet quality expectations and for handling customer quality complaints effectively.

Integrate your guiding principles into everything you do. Zappos, a popular online retainer, is a great example of a real-world company that lives by their core values. Zappos created ten core values to clearly outline what the Zappos Family culture is about. You can see all of their core values by clicking here, but some of the most notable include: deliver WOW through service, embrace and drive change, and pursue growth and learning.

Strategy 2: Strategic Imperatives

Corporate Strategy | Small Business StrategyFocusing on strategic imperatives is a corporate concept that can transform your small business by helping you stay aligned with your vision.

In the corporate world, successful corporations have a main focus. Strategic imperatives might also be called corporate strategies or business imperatives – these are essentially the objectivesthat the organization must achieve. They are staffed and financed, and everyone within the organization is measured against them.

I call strategic imperatives the “critical musts”. These are not merely goals or to-dos – they are the fundamental things that must exist in your business over the course of the year in order to bring you closer to your vision of success. In essence, all goals need to point to a critical must.

For instance, if you have ‘increased visibility’ as a critical must, your goals may include growing your email list to at least 5,000, blogging regularly, or maybe even doing some public speaking. Another example: You want to develop, document and delegate as appropriate, and create systems and infrastructure to make your business run more efficiently. Your goals might include creating standard operating procedures, a client onboarding process, and an interview process.

When I work with clients using my Big Breakthrough System, one of the key things we do is identify their critical musts for the year. This serves as a compass – for every to-do on the list, for every opportunity, and for everything else that comes up, we need to ask: “How is this aligned with my critical musts?” If something comes up that isn’t aligned with a “critical must”, then it’s either a “no for now” or an outright “no”.

This greatly simplifies decision-making and keeps you focused on your plans so that you can achieve your goals and be both profitable and sustainable.

Strategy 3: Strategic Allocation

ID-100114877Another fundamental concept from the corporate world, strategic allocation of resources will yield the best return on investment in alignment with your company’s strategic imperatives.

The resources allocated may be either financial resources or human resources. Perhaps it’s just you running your business. You may have a small team or just a couple of outsourced staff members that you delegate to. Are your time and money being allocated in a way that aligns with your ‘critical musts’ (i.e. your strategic imperatives)? What is the return on investment?

For instance, if you are spending three hours developing content for your blog, what’s the return on investment on your time? Is this the best use of your time? Would it make more sense to spend an hour talking into a microphone and paying someone to transcribe it? Think carefully about your business resources and how they are allocated.

My next article will share two more business strategies used in the corporate world that can be applied to businesses of any size to increase productivity and profits.

For more ideas, tips and tools to help you run your small business like a big business CEO, go to www.SmallBizBigBreakthrough.com.
Image Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 Simple Business Growth Strategies You Can Start Today To Finish 2013 With a Cha-Ching

2013 year calendar. December. Isolated 3D imageWith all the articles on wrapping up the year, setting goals for next year, and the holidays around the corner, it can feel like 2013 has already ended.

Like many of you, I still have several things I want to accomplish before the year ends.

One of the questions I regularly get from busy entrepreneurs like you is “what can I do to hit my goals before the end of the year?”.

Whether it be hitting your sales goals, completing that project or injecting some cash into your bank account – it is possible.  This is the time of year when I see folks start to slow down, assume everyone else is busy or decide to wait until next year.

Here is what I know to be true: what you accomplish in the next 6 weeks is going to be reflected in your bank balance next year AND getting them off your plate now will allow you to focus on 12 months of business growth, and more importantly, revenue in 2014, not 10 or 11 (which is what will happen if these uncompleted goals linger any longer).

I do have some tried and true business growth strategies that will help you finish 2013 with a bang and ensure you are poised to make 2014 the best year yet.

Here are three to get you started:

#1: Leverage the holidays to drive sales!

December and January are big sales months for business (if you let them be). Everyone is making and breaking resolutions (lose weight anyone?), making life-changing decisions (new house, new career, make more money) and they need your help to make it happen.

I hear you saying but Kim, everyone is so busy and people don’t want to spend money. Here’s the thing, helping your prospects make the decision and commitment NOW will enable them to go into the holidays with that weight off their shoulders knowing that when the New Year starts and the kids are back in school- you, your system, your product are there to support them in accomplishing their goals.

Think about how the holiday season plays into your business plan. What does your target market want more than anything else around this time of year? Speak to their desires and their pain, and help them achieve their goals.

#2: Cross a major project off your to-do list.

Carrying around unfinished projects weighs you down physically, mentally, and emotionally. Don’t let your to do list get in the way of serving the people you are meant to serve and being more profitable.

Pick one item from your to-do list and use the next 6 weeks to get it done. Here are some project ideas to consider:

– Create marketing calendar

– Launch (or relaunch) your website

– Set up your entity

– Create your product funnel

– Hire a virtual assistant

– Plan for 2014

– Create a new course or product

– Start your blog or newsletter

It can be anything. Just choose one project to complete within the 6 weeks and commit to getting it done. Crossing even one thing off your to-do list will reflect in your bank account next year (and make you feel awesome that is done and not nagging you anymore)!

#3: Express your gratitude to your clients.

The holidays are a great time to communicate your gratitude to your clients, colleagues and team members. Send a handwritten note to thank them for working with you and being in your life (sending chocolates or other goodies is a nice touch!).

Stand out from other business owners by eschewing a card featuring your company’s logo or your business card (they usually end up in the trash and make it about YOU when it really is about THEM) in favor of a more personalized card or note.

So, there you have it: 3 powerful action items that – if implemented correctly – will help you make December and January your most profitable months yet.

What strategies have you used to keep up the momentum during the holiday season? Please share them here.