November 2016
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The Leading Edge - Taking Care of Business
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Give Your Business an Annual Physical

 

Give Your Business an Annual Physical

Doctors regularly advise people to have an annual physical and for good reason; finding out early that you have a health issue can occasionally be a matter of life and death. Even when it's not and your exam just discovers something that needs monitoring, you can minimize issues down the line. It's the same with our business; keeping it healthy can be a simple matter of giving it a regular checkup. Think of it as corporate Medicare.

Here is a ten-point check up for your business:

  1. How are your overall vital signs - the pulse of your business. Does it feel like it's working well? Does it feel healthy? Are you always fighting fires? What's your personal stress level? What is the company's stress level? Do you know how many units, or hours of service, you need to sell next week? If the answer is no, then you haven't got your finger on the pulse of the business.
  2. Is your business plan up to date? Do you have one? If you haven't, start pulling one together. Seriously, would you go on a long journey to a distant land without planning it? Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
  3. How strong and secure is your cash flow? Do you have more money coming in than going out? Are you able to pay your bills on time? What about in six months' time?
  4. Do you know how many sales (revenue) you need? This week, month, quarter, year? If you are not on top of sales, then you are not on top of your businesses health.
  5. Are you making money? Sounds simple, but many business owners don't know if they are making a true profit. They may be paying the bills, but what about a healthy net profit? If, for instance, you are making a profit as long as you only pay yourself a pittance, is that realistic? Analyze your financials with your accountant and see whether you are truly making a profit. Is it in line with industry averages?
  6. Do you know your cost of doing business? If you're not in control of your expenses, then how do you know if your business is healthy? The cost of running a business can be crippling, but don't accept what you are currently paying for anything - negotiate everything! Keep up to date with technology; it's reducing costs across the board.
  7. What percentage of your revenues come from existing customers? It's far less expensive and healthier to retain customers than to keep finding new ones. If you're not keeping customers, why not? Is there a reason they are not coming back?
  8. Are your staff happy? Unhappy employees and low morale is a key indicator all is not healthy in your business. Happy employees are more productive and provide better customer service - all of which contributes to a positive bottom line. Ask them!
  9. How much are you promoting your business? Sometimes being healthy means taking action even if it hurts. Ask yourself, when did cutting back on marketing expenditures ever increase sales? Ever? If you simply don't have the money, then find other ways to market the business - just don't cut your businesses life support system.
  10. Get a second opinion from someone outside of your business - getting a new perspective is vital. This can be a business advisor, or even your bank manager. Often we forget that a bank account manager is an asset to be used. What you are looking for is someone who is qualified to take a look at the vital signs of your business and ask a few penetrating, often uncomfortable, questions.

Business health is like your own personal health, it's easy to let things slip. First you stop watching what you eat, then you exercise less, drink too much and do other things that are contrary to being healthy. You may feel it happened overnight, but in reality the signs were there for a while. Hopefully, your business is just a little out of shape. A few hours every week dedicated to getting it fit again will be all that's needed to make it healthy and profitable.

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Give Your Business an Annual Physical

 

12 Ways to Market Your Business for Almost Nothing

One of the biggest issues all small businesses face is having enough disposable income to spend on marketing. The problem is, not marketing your business can only result in lower sales. It's a Catch 22 situation; if you had more business you could promote more, but to get more business you need to carry out more marketing.

If you are continuously fighting this battle, then you need to create a guerilla marketing strategy. A strategy that relies more on ingenuity than dollars. Here are 12 ways you can spread the word about your company and what you sell.

  1. Go out and sell - by far the most effective way of promoting your business and getting sales is to cold call. Yep, this means actually figuring out who is most likely to buy what you are selling and then talking to them. One by one. It's tough, a lot of businesspeople don't like doing it, but it works. You are guaranteed to get more sales!
  2. Attend networking and community events - become involved with local business associations, attend community events, go to trade shows, be seen. Promote yourself and you are automatically promoting your business.
  3. Get a decent website - you will not be seen as a credible business if you don't have a professional website. These days you can actually get one for free - spend just a little and it can be fabulous. Add a blog to provide valuable information to visitors and keep up with it.
  4. Comment on other businesses blogs and relevant forums - the more your name, and that of your business is seen where your clients or customers hang out online the better.
  5. Be active online and get a business Facebook page (see the October, 2016 issue of this magazine for an article on this). Also check out LinkedIn if your focus is B2B.
  6. Send press releases to the media - whenever you do something new announce it to the press. Editorial coverage is free and worth its weight in gold.
  7. Send out a newsletter - send it to all your customers and anyone else you know and encourage them to share it with others. Make it useful and entertaining so it's worth sharing.
  8. Become a speaker - share your expertise and people will perceive you as an expert. People buy from experts because they trust them. Speak at business events, trade shows, or create your own seminar series.
  9. Create instructional, or educational videos - we live in a audio-visual world; YouTube is the world's second biggest search engine, second only to its owner Google. People use it all the time to get help, advice, or instructions. Create your own channel. Your laptop, or desktop comes with a camera and will record your video easily, as will your smart phone.
  10. Ask for referrals - encourage your current customers to give you leads and tell their friends about you, or give you a testimonial, or mention you on social media.
  11. Hold an open house at your store, or offices. Invite people to learn more about your business, try samples, see a demonstration. It doesn't matter what it is, just so long as the offering is interesting enough to attract people through your door.
  12. Do something outrageous for your clients/customers. It can be anything that will get people talking. If you have a store why not put a table outside with hot non-alcoholic, mulled cider on a freezing cold day and offer a cup to anyone walking by? It doesn't matter what you do as long as it's unexpected and kicks customer service up a dozen or more notches!

Not all of these ideas will work for your specific business, but think of them as a starting point. Take the ones that might work for you and add some more of your own. Be creative; the trick is to figure out who buys what you sell, where they hang out (physically and online), and find a way to get your message in front of them. If you have big bucks to spend you can get your message in front of millions of people on television, if you have no (or few) bucks then you need to be far more targeted, track down your potential customers and subtly announce yourself to them.

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Give Your Business an Annual Physical

 

Coach's Corner - Are you in a Rut?

Do you feel you are not getting anywhere fast? Do you feel that you are in a rut and can't seem to find your way out?

We might use the analogies of being "In a rut," "Stuck in the muck," or "Not getting off the treadmill." Whatever the analogy, it's difficult and frustrating when you feel you aren't getting anywhere, proceeding as planned, or reaching your goal.

First, you need to ask yourself why are you in a rut? It is important to honestly figure out the reasons for why you are in this predicament and stuck on that never-ending treadmill. To answer this question, you may need to ask yourself another; how important is this to me? If it's not a priority to you, then, perhaps, it is not where you need to be focusing your time or energy. Author Maria Popova suggests that if you are attempting to do things out of guilt or prestige then you probably should not be doing them at all. In other words, if you are not doing it for yourself nor have the passion for it, then it's probably not a priority for you. Your values and desires need to be truly aligned with your actions to move forward and succeed.

Now, assuming that that the project is important to you, it's time to use some questions to kick-start or restart the process. What's holding you back? Sometimes the overall scope of a project is daunting and causing you to feel over-whelmed. Other times it's the fear of failure or the unknown. The "rut" is known and may feel comfortable. The thought of change can be intimidating. Can you identify what the barriers are to moving forward?

Once you have answered these questions, it's time to ask questions which will help you move the project forward. What are some ways to break the project down into small manageable tasks? In other words, what are the little steps you can take towards your goal and feel a sense of fulfillment and success? What can you do each day to move forward? Accomplishing bits and pieces of the ultimate goal is critical to making progress and not feeling overwhelmed.

"Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step."
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Two further questions may be useful in helping you get out of the rut. They involve the "who" in your life. Who can help me with this? What would [insert role model/mentor name here] do in this situation?

Answering questions about your predicament is a key to getting to your goal in a timely fashion.

Paul Abra, Certified Executive Coach
Motivated Coaching

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