Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's Your Inspiration II


Lou Bortone

Lou Bortone is a long-time marketing consultant and branding coach who helps entrepreneurs build breakthrough brands on the Internet. As an online video branding specialist and award-winning marketer, Lou provides services such as video production, brand development coaching, creative support and web copywriting.

Lou is a former television executive who worked for E! Entertainment Television and later served as the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Advertising for Fox Family Worldwide, a division of Fox in Los Angeles. Lou is an author and ghostwriter of six business books, a Certified Guerrilla Marketing Coach and a Book Yourself Solid Certified Coach. Lou also produces a light-hearted videoblog called LouTube and a website .


What was the inspiration for starting your business?

For me, the reason to leave the corporate world and start my own business was not a question of why, but why not?! I’ve had the entrepreneurial bug for years, but the timing never seemed right. Finally, two years ago, when my contract with a local radio station was up, I figured it was now or never! I had been freelancing for years, but I wanted to give it a go full-time.

I was one of those freelance writers who always talked about writing a book, but never made the time. Once I went into business for myself, I was able to write and ghostwrite extensively. In fact, in the two years I’ve been “out on my own,” I’ve ghost-written four full-length business books, and co-authored another.

In the meantime, I’ve been helping other entrepreneurs and solo-preneurs brand their businesses with copy writing and online video production. These days I’m doing less ghostwriting, but a lot more online video and brand development. My only regret about going into business for myself was not doing it sooner!

Working at Home Part III

ph0to courtesy of Erica Marshall of Muddyboots.org

And just when you think I couldn't talk about this any further:Still more to say.
Why do I have more to say? It's because there are so many people working at home, I'm always hearing about their issues, just in casual conversation.

Top 3 conversations:
  1. I feel like my spouse is on the computer all the time. I don't know if he/she is working, hanging out, or playing. If I interrupt at the "wrong" moment, I'm in trouble. On the other hand, do I always have to prioritize my needs every moment of the day before talking to him/her? It never ends. Any time of day or night!!!
  2. What's going on with the actual "space" I'm working in? It's becoming a dumping ground! Should I move to a more private area and try to keep it together?
  3. I walk by the computer and keep getting pulled in. I know I'm not taking enough breaks. I thought that by working at home I would actually get more breaks. I think that I work until I crash and then the breaks are too long.
I can personally relate to 2 and 3.

If we were ALL completely wireless, it would be so much easier to keep trying new places around the house to work. When you want to move your workspace or try something new, it can look like wrestling with snakes.
You may not have enough space to be really choosy about where you work but when all else fails, leave the house. I mean go to a cafe down the street if you can to just get that time to focus on occasion. Come home, see the empty place were your laptop lives and think about what you want to do with all that junk that surrounds it.

Someone just told me that because the technology of your LCD computer screen is different than the old kind, it wears on your eyes more. Even if it didn't, how may of us sit down before even the first cuppa and find ourselves transfixed. Let me tell you, my cats have become my conscience on this one. They look at me, like "What, you're kidding! When ARE you going to get up??"

The first point about relationships and working at home needs more input still. Please comment and I'm going to put it further out in the cyber community to see how folks are making it work.
Later, folks. My cats are about to take over this blog...and me.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Working at Home Part II

Last post I touched on a bunch of questions you should ask yourself about what it means or would mean to work at home. The life/work balance thing could really go both ways, and for each of us it may do that over and over again. We may find ourselves back and forth on that spectrum.
Let's say that each of us is working on a computer. That in itself is so many things to us now:
  • Communicating with friends.
  • Business communication
  • Web-surfing for work or pleasure
  • Socializing on networks like Facebook or Twitter for business or pleasure
  • Bookkeeping
  • Creating for work
  • Watching video for pleasure
  • Documenting our lives through blogs.
As I write this, I am being drawn in different directions. A problem? Sometimes, sometimes not. Honestly, if I had to do all the writing I do, just straight up, over a period of many hours, it wouldn't get done. The downside is that I am fostering a short attention span.

So, we would get more done in an office outside the home? Probably. Would we be happier? Probably not. That's where the balance comes in.

If you answered my first questions way back when about what it takes to be in business for yourself, you realize that discipline is key. How that looks can vary a great deal, but in the long run you need to get certain things done in a certain amount of time. I want to preface this also with saying that these are the needs of running a business. This is not about other parts of your personal equation like your spousal/family needs, etc. That's another post.
  • Make a daily list of to-do's for your work and realize that if something doesn't get done, it lands on the next busy day.
  • Be aware of your own energy levels and pattern of working. If you know that your attention span for detail work is at 8AM, do the bookkeeping then.
  • Give yourself little rewards for getting things done on time or ahead of schedule.
  • If you are prone to being sidetracked by personal interactions and you have a deadline, don't answer your phone without checking the caller id.
  • If you need a routine to make it feel like your work day has started, build one. Just like your body needs certain "cues" to know it's time to go to bed, it need's some direction to know it's time to get down to work.
Being in business for yourself means sticking to a plan, but not being inflexible. You know, kinda like the President. Yeah, like that.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Working at Home

The idea for this little series has come from some readers. For many of us, having our own business means working at home. On the other hand, if may be the one reason people do or do NOT want to have their own business. There's some questions about how this will affect discipline and work/life balance. Here are some things to consider:
  • What kind of room do I have available and would it physically work for me?
  • How will this affect the people I live with?
  • Do I have the discipline to stay focused at home?
  • Do I have a hard time creating separation between life and work?
  • Will I have clients coming to my home office?
  • Will I meet clients at their workplace or a neutral environment?
  • How does this change my professional identity (if at all)?
Our homes are most often the incubators for our business ideas and sometimes they turn out to be a great first home. Whether they continue to house our business as we grow and change is up to you and your business and personal needs.

I'd love to hear some personal feedback and stories on this one!

Friday, February 20, 2009

What's Your Inspiration?

Ken Kaufman
Ken is the Founder and CEO of CFOwise, the premier CFO firm for start-up, emerging, and medium-sized companies. He is a proven senior-level executive experience who enjoys helping companies grow and improve.

What was the inspiration for starting your business?

My initial inspiration to start my business came from three different sources – my boss, my wife, and entrepreneurs in general. Allow me to explain…

I was serving as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for a $100 million dollar company when I approached the President and asked him to allow to take over and turn around our only struggling division. I was confident it could be done in 6 months or less, and I would be able to keep many of my CFO duties through the process. His response became one part of my inspiration: “You are too valuable where you are.” I was looking for a challenge, and he was looking for stability. I knew I would not be happy there long-term, and this became part of my inspiration.

The second part of my inspiration was my wife. I started a business when we were first married that I had to abandon before we could get it off the ground and profitable. I had not returned to entrepreneurship since then, although it is where my heart really lies. I needed the full support of my wife, and I received it. She is a major source of my inspiration to succeed.

The third part of my inspiration is the passion I have for helping business owners, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. I have served as an executive for two entrepreneurial companies that have grown to in excess of $100 million in annual sales. I know the day-to-day challenges these owners, CEOs, and entrepreneurs face, and I was experienced at solving the cash flow, profitability, operational, and other challenges inherent to high growth firms. I had also seen the results of mistakes made by this same group. I was confident that most start-up, emerging, and medium-sized companies could use the perspective of a seasoned executive, and I was committed to delivering that service at a price they could afford.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's Next?

That seems to be the big question with everyone I'm in contact these days. There's this ultimate goal in the distance and then there's the here and now. The energy balance between those two poles is the place that I am most frequently working between. I really want to start out by saying that this is always going to be the case. These days though, it's a struggle to make peace with those two places.
I suggest a good old pie-chart. Two, really. One is a chart of what your values are. The second pie-chart is a graphic representation of how you spend your time. Ideally of course, they would be the same. They won't be. Just having those two charts around is going to give you a daily reminder of where you are and where you need to be.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Are Your Ears Burning?

You have a business and things are kind of okay but employees are nervous and so are you. You wonder how you can streamline and get your "back burner" marketing plan back up to the front.
  1. You're not sure if your systems are working anymore.
  2. You finally admit to 'yourself and another person' that you may not be reading your P&L correctly.(!)
  3. You've stopped having regular Company/Employee meetings.
  4. You wonder how your physical space is working or not working for you
  5. Since when did your marketing plan end up on the back burner???
Are your ears burning? Well, they should be! Give 'em something to talk about!
This post is coming on a day when I am particularly fired up about this. (Puns everywhere folks)
For those of you who know my other blog, you know that I'm trying to mix things up in the marketing department right now.

A marketing plan is the thing that needs to being going on, no matter what. One of the biggest downfalls in the business world is when you get busy, you concentrate on doing the work at hand and stop focusing on getting new work. If you're really busy and pulling in the dough, go hire someone to bring in even more. If it's slow, step out of crisis mode and do it yourself with a little help from, ummm, you know....a mentor.

Many of you know about this blog because of Twitter. I've already spoken about that in a previous post, so I won't go there now. What I will say is that people like to buy goods and services from people they know because they want to be assured of the content and quality. Yes, perhaps if you are selling electronics you are going to be dealing with competition of the big-box stores. But, that brings us back to the original point. Personal contact.

Marketing is a lot of things:
  • Connecting with people and networking in your social life
  • Being connected through social media online
  • Having promotions for new customers/clients
  • Giving incentives to your existing clients to bring you new business
  • Offering your products or services to those in need.
  • Sponsoring Charity events
  • Going to trade shows and (sharing space if you can't afford the whole thing yourself.)
Notice I didn't list advertising? I have serious doubts about advertising right now. It used to mean putting an ad in a newspaper of magazine. It's a much broader concept right now that includes all of the above. At a time when money is tight, it's my opinion that an outlay of big bucks for print advertising should not be taken lightly. 'Nuf said.

This is not directly under the heading of "marketing", but I think it's really important to all business owners: You and your image is The Company.

You cannot afford "bad press" because of small quibbles. You cannot afford to mis-speak in any big way through social media. If you are having a "bad day" do NOT put it out there on the internet. Be real, but step back from the computer or client contact in moments when you know you're not at your best. When you're feeling down about your business and you're about to do some marketing, find a way to get excited. If you're not, no one else will.

One last comment on Networking and putting yourself out there:
The best way to get is to give.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Meeting our Challenges

This is the start of a new series that will appear from time to time. I'm asking professionals in various fields what their challenges are on a day basis. I'd love to hear what other questions my readers would like to hear covered.


Meet Anne Bean
Anne Bean is the owner of AnneBeanVA.com, which assists retailers, designers, and manufacturers in the NeedleArts industry with their marketing and technology needs. Formerly a public school band and choir director, she has turned her knitting and computer expertise into a profession. She lives in rural Paris, Arkansas, with her husband and an elderly dog. Anne enjoys being with her sons and their families, music, knitting, being on the internet, and traveling with her husband.

What is your greatest daily business challenge?

I challenge myself every day to use my time wisely. When I don't have a clock to punch, it's easy to get sucked into spending too much time on one task at the expense of another. Along with that is the challenge to organize tasks well so that I'm getting each thing done in the most efficient manner possible.

What is your greatest career challenge?
I left behind a previous career due to burnout. Even though I'm loving every moment of this new profession, I'm being careful to pace myself and be very deliberate in my actions, because I really don't want to experience burnout again. I also feel challenged to establish my credibility in an industry where I'm creating my own job description; very few, if any, people are doing what I'm doing in the NeedleArts industry.

Meet Christian Messer
Whiplash Design is the home of Fresh, Succulent, and Organic identity and branding solutions. Created and launched by Christian Messer, Whiplash Design has thrived and succeeded in carving out an identity and branding niche for itself. Working with small to medium sized businesses, Messer has assisted companies strengthen their current branding, or create brand-new identities for them. Whiplash Design has been featured in many publications, including Jeff Fisher’s first book, “The Savvy Designer’s Guide To Success: Ideas and Tactics for a Killer Career.”
What is your greatest daily business challenge?

My greatest daily challenge hands-down, time management! I was fortunate to run across David Allen’s Getting Things Done book and system, but even thought I have it in place and try hard to follow it - I falter somewhere along the way. My weakest link I discovered is the “Weekly Review” where you really look at the upcoming week, and review all that you’ve done etc. It doesn’t help when you have what he calls “Work as it Appears” - which means things that come up and screw up your days timeline and productivity. These can be triggers like a phone call from a client, and unexpected demand from a client or something that happens personally (like falling off your porch while getting the paper. Hasn’t happened to me, but I have colleagues who’ve experienced this!)

What is your greatest career challenge?

Cash flow! It is the one thing that just happens to be part of going out on your own and being an independent business person. My profession is graphic design, both web and print. Like everyone else, I experience the revenue roller-coaster ride when it comes to projects consistently coming in. To combat this, I have scouted out several opportunities for passive income and will implement them soon. This is really the only way to be certain that money is flowing. Passive income works whether you are working, sleeping, or scuba diving!

Meet Todd Chandler

Focused on learning and performance for over 18 years, Todd is passionate about creating the ultimate customer experience. His blog is at http://toddchandler.blogspot.com/

What is your greatest daily business challenge?
The greatest daily business challenge I face is communication. Different departments operate in silos and often communicate only when they need something. I know that sword has two sides in that I don't always share everything I should, not because I don't want to, but because I don't think to. One recent example involved a change I made to a process that I didn't realize impacted another department. It's tough to foresee all the cause and effect relationships of every decision and communicate them properly.

And if that's not enough of a challenge, even though I don't get all the information I need, I do get a ton of it. So I have to weed through it to get to the stuff I need. And, yes, that works both ways too. I push out unneeded information at times as well. Honestly, that's usually just to cover myself, not to truly inform. With those two issues going both ways, I'm sure there is a quadrant model to be created in there some where. I need a Google-like solution that would allow me to get the right information in the right amount at the right time.

What is your greatest career challenge?
My greatest career challenge is figuring out what my career path is. I've reach the top of my specialized pyramid and want to keep growing. There's not an obvious next step to take within my current environment. I love the company and the people I work with, but there is no where to advance to. So the choice becomes to stay put in a place I love and not move up; or risk another environment in search of additional responsibilities. On that issue, I simply procrastinate the fork in the road by taking a Candide approach to my work and remind myself to tend to my garden.

That's a great note to end on and I want to thank all my professionals for their time in answering these questions!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Twittering About Twitter


I spend a lot of time on Twitter these days and everyone has something to say about the new Social Media. They're all experts. I'm not. I'm just going to tell you what I'm doing there, how I do it and what I'm getting out of it so far.
  • The software I use for my interface is Tweetdeck. It allows me to track various levels of conversation in columns.
  • I run Tweetdeck in the background of my day, everyday and at different times of the day, and when I can, I devote time to being "active" on it.
  • I follow people who I can help professionally, who can help me, have valuable information, expand my notion of the world or who I find entertaining.
  • I maintain a positive "face" on Twitter without being inauthentic. If I'm not in a good place, I read and keep quiet or retweet other people's content that IS worthwhile.
I find people to follow a variety of ways:
  1. I run a search on a phrase like "business plan" to find everyone who's talking about them.
  2. I devote a certain amount of time each week to do the above.
  3. I find people I know I want to follow and then choose to follow some of the people they are following.
  4. If I'm notified that someone is following me and they seem interesting to me, I follow them as well and thank them for following me.
  5. I read the RT (retweets) and check out the original author of content that interests me.
  • I am aware of my timezone, and tailor my tweets accordingly.
  • I post my knitting and business blog posts everyday to gain more readership.
  • When I notice a particular persons "tweets" are really negative over a long period of time, I stop following them.
  • I follow people in three different areas: Small biz development, Fiberarts, Friends.
Now come my generalizations about what I'm seeing out there, but it could just be me and probably is!:
  • There are a LOT of life coaches.
  • There are folks who are interesting (most likely) but only post about what they just ate or what they are going to eat next ;-)
  • There are a lot of people selling other people's perceptions instead of their own.
What I'd like to see more of:
  • Interesting people creating things and taking pictures of it.
  • People talking about why they do what they do.
  • "Famous" people realizing that they are talking to a vast audience and not everyone will understand their acronyms, etc.
  • Generosity (there is a lot, but still...)
And now, my friends, the circle is closed. I'm going to post this now on twitter....

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't Get All Spacey on Me!


You have a business and things are kind of okay but employees are nervous and so are you. You wonder how you can streamline and get your "back burner" marketing plan back up to the front.
  1. You're not sure if your systems are working anymore.
  2. You finally admit to 'yourself and another person' that you may not be reading your P&L correctly.(!)
  3. You've stopped having regular Company/Employee meetings.
  4. You wonder how your physical space is working or not working for you
This one can speak to your employee issues or you working at home. I'll take the first one right now. Some questions to ask yourself:
  • Is your space too big because you have to walk too far to see other people?
  • Is your space too small and it's too noisy to have professional phone conversations?
  • Do you generally find your space a little sad but believe it's the least of your priorities?
  • You know you want to move but how can you afford it?
Stop me here if I'm off-base, but generally woman are more concerned about the way things "look" in a work space. The word here is concerned. Everyone is affected.

Because I'm a consultant I get the opportunity to visit a really broad variety of workplaces. It's truly amazing to me how some folks just see what they have in terms of workspace as a given. What? Move the furniture? Time away from "real work". Yeah, and then there's the employee issue of coming up with a consensus regarding the changes.

Having standard issue generic office furniture does not make you more of a real business. Neither does letting employees do ANYTHING with their space make you a better boss. At the very least, providing a positive workspace is the least you can do to give yourself and your folks a positive hand-up.

The cost part of making an office a happier place may be the cost of a painting party over the weekend. It may be a big trash day where everyone gets rid of stuff they don't need that's taking space. It may be taking suggestions in a meeting with everyone about where they would like to be in the space that would make things easier for them.

Whatever it is that you and your folks need to make your space work for you, it will pay off in spades. This place that you spend 8+ hours a day needs to be a happy place. Sometimes a change (like moving the couch at home) is all you need for a new perspective.

Monday, February 9, 2009

No News is Good News?


Don't jump!


You have a business and things are kind of okay but employees are nervous and so are you. You wonder how you can streamline and get your "back burner" marketing plan back up to the front.

  1. You're not sure if your systems are working anymore.
  2. You finally admit to 'yourself and another person' that you may not be reading your P&L correctly.(!)
  3. You've stopped having regular Company/Employee meetings.
Oh, this is a huge one right now!
Quite often what I do with companies is help them rebuild their relationships with their employees. Especially in the case of their being one "Captain" at the helm, the relationship with one's employees can be the first thing to go in a stressful situation.

When things are difficult or not working well within a company, I've found that owners often shy away from employee meetings. Perhaps they want to wait until they have "good news" for everyone. Thing is, people just want news! Any information is better than no information. Imaginations run wild with worse-case scenarios.

Even when things are going well for a company, the need for regular meetings is never something that should be neglected. There have been several times that company owners have come to me said "I'm having these monthly meetings, everyone seems fine by the end but then nothing ever changes!" I talk to their employees and I hear exactly the same thing: "nothing ever changes."Have you ever noticed that sometimes it's easier to talk to your friend about your spouse/partner about what's bugging you? Yeah!

This is when a little mediation can be in order. I love having these meetings where I meet with the employees without their boss and they can tell me everything they think is wrong (and right) about the business and their boss. They share their frustrations, we as a group come up with an outline of things that they would like to address. I knock the points out that are frivolous, too personal, not best dealt with for whatever reason and come up with a basic game plan.

I go back to the business owner, talk to them a little bit about the content of the meeting and ask them to now meet with all of us, and I will host the meeting this time. Without holding the owner's feet to the grill, I am able to create a middle ground for everyone to have a chance to go over the points we brought up in the previous meeting. I can put issues out there in an anonymous way, but the owner is answering to everyone on these points.

This may sound scary to some of you, but I've never had one of these "interventions" that didn't end with a group hug and a sense of moving forward. Sure, not everything gets fixed, but everyone certainly has a sense of what needs to change. Then, regular company meetings generally move a lot more smoothly and things do begin to change, for everyone.

Even if you don't have employees, this may give you a sense of how to deal better with sub-contractors or others. For the most part, no news is NOT good news...

Go dream!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Those Tricky Reports

You have a business and things are kind of okay but employees are nervous and so are you. You wonder how you can streamline and get your "back burner" marketing plan back up to the front.
  1. You're not sure if your systems are working anymore.
  2. You finally admit to 'yourself and another person' that you may not be reading your P&L correctly.(!)
We can replace P&L with any financial statement. Are you asking yourself if there's something wrong with your ability to read a statement or is it the way it's constructed? Well, it could be both. Every business owner tells me that they have a sense of how they're doing financially without the reports, but it acts as a confirmation.

Your financial reports and how they are constructed are important for you, possible investors, and lending institutions. Making sure that all of your assets are in there will help tip the balance, in a Balance Sheet. (Ummmm.... that's poetic justice here, you can never unbalance a balance sheet).

The information that people are often missing from their reports are:
  • Personal equity spent.
  • All furniture, fixtures and equipment
  • Investments in websites
  • Correctly detailed Credit Card expenses.
  • Leasehold improvements
If you are not making something an asset, you are saying that it's an expense that will not affect your net worth. So, if you're looking for credit or thinking about selling your business, it's not going to show up. Re-think your assets.

A "Cash Flow" report is always going to be theoretical. It's based on the assumption of money coming in and money going out. The second one you can control, the first one you can't. Having a report of your expected receivables for each 2 month period can give you a basic idea. I don't have to tell that's it's not something you can count on.

Look at your receivables. Do you have invoices in there you pretty much know you're not going to collect on? Talk to your Accountant this year and write those babies off. They are doing you little good where they are. Sometimes it's better for you to take the loss.

Yes, Accountant! Do you have one? Do you love them? You should on both counts. In the same way you run things by your lawyer before signing contracts, having the same relationship with your accountant is very important.

My main point here is that if you don't "get" something, make sure you find the answers to your questions. It's your business, you should make the most of what you've got by understanding the best you can.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Moss Growin' on You, Part II

As a prelude to my post, let me tell you first that my Peach of an Offer is Still Available. I am offering incentives for free sessions for referrals as well. Ask me!

You have a business and things are kind of okay but employees are nervous and so are you. You wonder how you can streamline and get your "back burner" marketing plan back up to the front.

  1. You're not sure if your systems are working anymore
Yesterday I took one case study and today I'm going to take another, dramatic example:

This particular company brought me in during the Mother of all Crisis: Embezzlement. Yes, the CFO ran off will a million dollars by cooking the books for two years. I was brought in to find out what the "real" books were by re-creating 2 years of activity for a multi-million $ company. Yeah, fun right?

The owner then 'fessed up to allowing himself to not know parts of his business because he'd rather be selling, and hey, that's why there's a CFO. This was a sort of family run business and that there were all kinds of exciting high jinks and drama, like having my office broken into and the computer stolen, etc. But after the dust settled a little, I decided to take this once in a business lifetime opportunity to create a manual for them that described the way everything in the office was done.

This manual was created by interviewing the employees, compiling all the information and finding the blanks and filling them in with something that pulled the components together. When I had the first draft, I had those same people go through the processes and edit the manual to make it more accurate. Can you see where I'm going with this? Cross-training. Yep, now there was no Big Magic behind each job. It all made sense and the owner and everyone else could use this manual whenever they were not quite sure what should happen next. And, of course, before I left, I reminded them that this needed to be updated every time they made a new decision on how to operate. (We can only hope for these small miracles...)

Change often comes as a result of a crisis.

There are always things that are working and not working for you. What gets pushed to the front burner is the thing that's making the most noise. Just like the squeaky wheel, it may not be the most crucial thing to be dealt with.

When placed in a business crisis that lasts more than a couple of days, our thoughts can start driving us through that rut over and over until we are only responding to the crisis at hand. This is how many businesses lose their way. The 'trance of fear and crisis'.

It's takes more than a "snap out of it!" I think we can work on that one together, though.

We awake, be well and dream!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

You've Got Some Moss Growin' on You?

You have a business and things are kind of okay but employees are nervous and so are you. You wonder how you can streamline and get your "back burner" marketing plan back up to the front.
  1. You're not sure if your systems are working anymore.
I can guarantee there's at least ONE system that you have running that's not working for you:
Are sending your office manager out to the post office?

With that example, some of you will shudder, some of you will say "what office manager?" and some of you will say, "please, that's stupid." I have a feeling that most of you are going to be relating to the first two comments. There's always something. Some weird little process that only one person knows how to do, doesn't want to teach to someone else and it's inefficient and costing you time and money.

You quite possibly may not know what "systems" you have. Let me give you an example of what you can do to identify and update what you have going on. I'll use an example of a recent client:

Small office (5) but used to just be the owner and perhaps an assistant. As soon as two more people where brought on to help with the revenue stream and create more space for the owner to work on other things, it became clear there were issues.

What we did:
1.5 days together in an on-site retreat. We turned on the voicemail, notified the clients and every 2 hours took 15 minute call-back breaks so that things didn't crumble on the front side. We went through everything that happens for each person from the minute they walk in the door. What is their process?What is the process for dealing with a new client? What is the existing paper-trail?, etc.

In that amount of time we:
  • Realized that new and better way of doing things were going to make money and save time.
  • We needed to move to a different space to grow the business properly.
  • The business owner needed a schedule too.
  • There needed to be a "hub" person for all client information until there is a database created.
  • There needed to be a "lunch break" for the entire staff with the phones off.
  • A hundred more things, but most importantly, the world will not fall apart if we take some time to figure things out!
So, on that Friday everyone quit that 'old' business and on Monday when they came to work, it was for the 'new' business (not my idea but a great one).

This is such a great topic and my favorite one that I think I'll go into another case study tomorrow. Till then...

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Where Are You Now #2 Rocky?

You have a business and things are kind of okay but employees are nervous and so are you. You wonder how you can streamline and get your "back burner" marketing plan back up to the front.
  1. You're not sure if your systems are working anymore.
  2. You finally admit to 'yourself and another person' that you may not be reading your P&L correctly.(!)
  3. You've stopped having regular Company/Employee meetings.
  4. You wonder how your physical space is working or not working for you
  5. Since when did your marketing plan end up on the back burner???
Let me know if I left something out!
Seriously, I think there are very few small businesses, even the ones who are "flush" right now who are NOT asking themselves some of these questions. Each one is indicative of yet other issues. They may all play out differently, but one thing is certain, the road continues to move beneath us and how ready we are for the speed bumps has to do with how we have the everyday under control.

What I hear a lot of is: I spend the day doing all this stuff and yet there are piles on my desk and I don't really have any new business coming in. Where is my time going and how can I stop the bleed?

If out of your 40-50+ hour week you were to spend 2-3 hours on re-evaluating you could make some huge changes. Having that two hours being focused is what I'm all about. That's where I can draw you to the crucial issues and away from the mosquito buzzing in your ear. The buzz you're hearing and swatting at is probably not your core issue. Let's identify it, get it dealt with and move on.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Peach of an Offer

I'm going to take a little commercial break here between topics.

I'd like to offer new clients a deal: Book two 50 minute sessions with me and get the second one free. Two hours for the price of one! The calls can be from anywhere in the US or Canada and you can contact me Monday via email to set something up.

I guarantee you, it will be cheaper than therapy and perhaps more of what you need right now!

To quote my mother, "But that's just me, Dear...."