Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Road to Hell

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Are you in a hell of ‘busy work’ resulting in mediocre achievement? Sometimes you’re in this situation because you’re doing what you love or what is easy, not necessarily the difficult or non-fun activities that will get you where you want to go.

There are very few desirable outcomes that happen without performing mundane or difficult tasks. That’s where DISCIPLINE comes in. It is said that 90% of success (or something like that) is a result of just ‘showing up’ – showing up means doing! Doing what needs to be done to achieve your goals. I believe that DISCIPLINE = FREEDOM, not self-denial as some believe. When we do what we need to do, when we need to do it, we get the results we want. Those results provide us with more options. For example, if I do what needs to be done Monday to Friday morning, then Friday afternoon through to Sunday are free for me – yippee!!! It’s soooo worth it!

When we take 100% responsibility for our actions and the consequences of those actions, we understand the power of self-discipline in our lives – for our business, our health, our relationships – you get the picture. A lack of self-discipline is a major cause of failure, frustration, under-achievement, low self-esteem and general unhappiness in life. It causes us to make excuses and play the blame game or became a “yeah… but” person.

We all take the path of least resistance at times so it’s important to establish behaviours, habits and systems for us to overcome this. Figure out what works for you – admit it, you already have a good idea of the excuses and habits that are keeping you from ‘showing up’.

The following tips may help you develop the self-discipline to achieve great things in 2012. Be honest with yourself and remember, every time you WON’T do something it eats away at your self esteem. Self discipline means that you can depend on YOU... making you feel more self-respect and a more powerful person. Self Discipline is a habit!!!

The price of success must always be paid in full – in advance!
  • Set goals – know what you want to accomplish
  • Plan your year, month, week and day in advance
  • Re-write your 10 big goals each morning
  • Set priorities each day – does this help me reach my goals?
  • Focus single mindedly on one thing – multi-tasking is not productive!
  • Feed your brain daily with great ‘food for thought’
  • Learn, Learn, Learn… stay curious and keep learning
  • Invest in yourself – professional and personal development
  • Develop a system of accountability that works for you… with yourself, with the help of others, or by hiring professional support
  • Manage your technology - don’t let IT control YOU
  • Assess the true value of everything you do, then either do, delegate, delay or drop
  • Learn to say NO – to others and yourself
  • Surround yourself with great people
Your ultimate goal in life is to achieve your own happiness. No one else can do this for you. So enough of the excuses, blame game, and “yeah… but”s – it’s your life, what are you going to do with it?

Originally published in New Life Business Newsletter December 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Could You, Would You, Did You?

I believe the little voice in our heads needs to fed daily with really great food for our thoughts. Our thoughts create our feelings. Thoughts and feelings together determine our consistent actions. Reading, learning, listening to CDs, participating in great mastermind groups, etc… I know, you get the picture.

Recently I was listening to a series of CDs loaned to me by one of my clients. My clients often give me great brain food stuff – they know what a learning junkie I am… thanks all! Back to the point – of what a gift I received while listening to these CDs.

The most difficult part of planning is the implementation – not the actual planning. There are many things that keep us from doing what we need to do in order to achieve our goals. There’s procrastination, not enough time, not enough money, not enough resources, other priorities, and on and on and on. When working with clients and monitoring activity and measuring results I often hear, “No, I didn’t get that done.” I say this to myself all the time… ”Oh self, you didn’t get that done…you’ll have to reschedule that in.” Well we all know that we DECIDE what to do… no one else. We decide what activities are going to be put into our 24 hours a day. And our achievements are a direct result of each decision we make. We decide what we’re going to do, when and how… it’s all up to us.

Well here’s my big aha moment – by changing the word “didn’t” or “couldn’t” to “wouldn’t”, see how you look at that uncompleted task or activity. Because when we are deciding NOT to do something we’re actually deciding that we WON’T do it.

“I wouldn’t exercise yesterday.”
“I wouldn’t call that client yesterday.”

Try this new word and see if can spur you into action. It’s working for me!

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on September 15, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

How to Choose Your Method of Communication

There are 2 main areas to consider when choosing your method of communication:
1.     Which type of communication suits the subject matter best?
2.     Is this the type of communication that the recipient prefers?

With the ever increasing technologies being offered, there is a staggering variety of options available to us to communicate with each other. How do you know which one to use and when? More often than not we choose the method that WE enjoy and find most efficient, without even contemplating what our client, supplier, colleague, etc, might prefer. It always makes good business sense to find out the preferred method of communication when we enter into a relationship than to default to the one that we’re most comfortable with.There are also subjects don’t suit certain communication methods. For instance, an email is usually not the best method to deal with conflict. Words represent only 7% of communication and there is no instant interactiveness when communication by the written word. There’s a lot of meaning lost and a lot of meaning added when only words are being used.

If a client leaves a message on our voice mail, it usually means that they like that means of communication and you should reply to them via telephone... and likewise with e-mail, texting etc.

As a business owner, professional or sales person the onus is on us to adapt to others’ communication preferences. Establishing a connection with a client, supplier or colleague starts with how we communicate with them. So the next time you start to compose an email, ask yourself, “Is this the right subject for an email, and is this how the recipient wants to communicated with?”

Remember – and I can’t say this too often –
it’s not about YOU!!!

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on August 30, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

7 Low Cost Tips to Increase Sales

There are only 3 ways to increase your sales:
1.     Have more customers
2.     Increase your average sale
3.     Increase the number of transactions per customer

Following are 7 strategies that you can start working on today.

Test an increase in your prices – is this a possibility? Even a small increase will make a difference in your bottom line.

Audit your customer touch points – Make a list of EVERY way you touch your clients. From your business cards to your email signature to your handshake to your Facebook page. Is each touch point relaying your brand promise and saying what you want it to?

Networking – Make your contacts count! Develop a networking strategy. Your networking contacts or “circle of influence” aren’t just people who you may do business with, they are people you can refer to others and who can refer you. It’s about learning what others do and teaching them what you do. a. Give freely with no expectations

b. Help others
c. Build connections
d. Network with like-minded people

Show your value – Your message should speak loud and clear about exactly what it is you do for your client – not what you do – what you do for them. What value do you bring to them? How do you make their life or business better? All your messages should speak about this value… your website, in person, email marketing… everything. It’s all about “What’s in for them”.

Up-selling – After the first sale, what else can you offer them that will really be valuable to them? Are there packaging opportunities with your products and services? Can you develop a passive revenue stream? If you have a service, is there an opportunity to add a product and vica versa.

Ideal Client Profile – I don’t care if you sell toilet paper, not EVERYONE is your client. Take the time to figure out who your IDEAL client is… everything about them. Once you have this profile, you can figure out how to reach them in a focused way… where they hang out, what they read, what organizations they belong to. I guarantee, if you do this, your ROI on your marketing $$ will be higher and your sales conversion rate will increase.

Improve your Sales Skills – The #1 way to increase your sales is by improving your sales skills - you will increase your conversion rate. Your revenue will increase and each sale will cost you less.

Originally published in New Life Business Newsletter August 2011

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

How to Develop Great Collaborations

We call them different things, partnerships, collaborations, strategic alliances... whatever term you use, are you developing these relationships? Do you even know what you want out of these relationships – or what you have to offer?

As a small business owner or solopreneur, collaborations or alliances can be a low-cost strategy for business development – and super effective. Following are just a few ways in which these alliances can be a win-win situation:
  • Develop a new product or service together
  • Grow your community and resources
  • Create a mastermind group
  • Support, motivation, inspiration
  • Development of new business groups
  • Sharing risk and financial commitment
Let’s talk a little about when you want to collaborate with another entrepreneur for the purpose of making money together. Partnerships of any kind can be tricky business but there are some things that you can do that will greatly increase your chances of success. Following are 6 tips for forming collaborations that work: 

1.     Choose carefully
You want to work with people who are like minded, have the same value system and that you totally trust and respect.
It always has to be a win-win.
2.     Determine your shared goals
Be clear on what you want to get out of your collaboration
Work out the time, money and any additional resources that are required from each of you.
Talk openly about the “what ifs”.
Talk money… it’s not a dirty word!
3.     Discuss Communication
Leave nothing to assumption. Discuss everything. What are the communication expectations?
Keep great notes and after each meeting provide an action list with activities assigned that have a timeline on each item.
4.     Do a big picture breakdown
Take the project and break it down into bite size pieces with action items and time-lines attached to everything, BEFORE you start anything.
This will help you both see the other’s attention to detail, commitment and follow through.
5.     Give each other an out.
Discuss exit options before you even get started. This will allow each of you a predetermined way to leave the collaboration without a bitter ending.
Brainstorm best and worse case scenarios – it’s easier to do this BEFORE anything happens, from an objective point of view.
6.     Know your partner’s working style
How does your partner process information? What is their decision making process like? Do they function on their intuition or are they thinkers? How do they spend their money? What is important to them? Are they detailed oriented and you’re a big picture thinker? Does your style and theirs make for a good collaboration?

Collaborations can be a very lucrative and personally satisfying endeavor. If you take the time to do your research upfront and you enter the relationship with both your eyes wide open, then you’re likely to have a great experience – OR – you’ll find out in the very early stages that this is not the right alliance for either of you. Even when there are major differences, as long as you know up front and have a strategy to deal with it, those differences can enhance the project.

I have a couple of collaborations that are really working for me because my partners and I are open, not afraid to communicate honestly, and most of all we truly trust and respect each other. We not only embrace each others strengths, but our differences as well.

Originally published in New Life Business Newsletter June 2011

Friday, June 03, 2011

Business is a Result of the Relationship

You’ve heard it a million times – “people do business with people they know, like and trust”. How does that happen if you’re not putting some effort into the development of that relationship?

The quality of the relationship is directly related to your sales success… yes I said that dirty word… sales! The professional sales person (and if you’re a business owner, you should be a professional sales person) looks at sales as helping someone get what they need, which is not always what you have and that’s A-OK!

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the “busy work”, that we miss doing the reeeeeaaallly important stuff that seems trivial but makes a huge difference.

Following are 15 ways to attract more clients each and every day:
1.     Join 3 organizations that your ideal clients are likely to be members of
2.     Be around colleagues that challenge and inspire you to do your best work
3.     Send a monthly newsletter
4.     Send your clients notes, articles, magazines… all by snail mail (if they’re not on strike!)
5.     Invest in training, coaching and development
6.     Always be professional
7.     Give a referral and follow up with both parties
8.     Remember… it’s all about THEM… NOT YOU!!!
9.     Learn to sell the customer-focused way – serve, don’t sell
10.   Find joy each day and spread it around
11.   Don’t be a 'yes' person – there’s no value in that
12.   Be interested – not just interesting
13.   Meet people that scare you
14.   Devote 30 minutes a week to relationship-building (for dozens of ideas, email me and I’ll send them to you)
15.   Create a support team

As your colleague, I challenge you to actually DO some of these in the next week or at least get started (some take longer than a day). Let me know how it goes!

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on June 3, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Do One Tough Thing A Day

Is there a list of niggly naggly things bouncing around your head? Are they written on your to-do list for the 78th day? Why is it that the things we commit to clients get done, (if this isn’t happening, you REALLY have a problem!) and the things we commit to ourselves don’t always hit the top of our priority list?

Each time we let ourselves down it eats away at our confidence and self-esteem. The little voice between our ears starts telling us that “you can’t do that – you never follow through on anything – what makes this different than the other 50 things you haven’t done?” That little voice can be unforgiving, negative and dangerous to our future. Start feeding the little voice a better story line.

There are many reasons why we don’t attack the tough things head on but it usually boils down to some type of fear. When you identify a fear and discipline yourself to move toward it, it grows smaller and more manageable and your confidence grows.

Set up strategies and systems of accountability to help you get the tough things done:
  • Reward yourself
  • Join a mastermind group
  • Hire a coach or consultant
  • Feed your brain with great learning (books, seminars, conferences, etc.)
  • Delegate
  • Do it first
  • Surround yourself with people that inspire and motivate you.
  • Break down the big jobs into smaller jobs and address them one by one
Facing what is eating you will make the knot in your stomach go away. Do something tough that you’ve been putting off – right now!!!! Suck it up and do it – YES YOU CAN!!! I guarantee you that regardless of the results, you will feel great when it’s done. Then treat yourself!!!

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on April 28, 2011

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Take Advantage of Programs to Help Build Your Business

It’s always a mystery to me that when help is offered, so very few people will take advantage of it. I know trainers and consultants who will offer a free hour of service to a room of 50 people, KNOWING that just a few, if any, will take advantage of the offer.

I believe that in order to succeed you don’t have to be the smartest, the best, the best looking, the nicest... none of those things. I believe that if you consistently “show up” – that’s 90% of the battle. Do what you need to do, be engaged, follow up, offer value – you’ve all hear these things before, but the trick is the implementation and the consistency.

As a business owner in Nova Scotia there are many organizations and resources available to us. Some are for free and some at a really low cost. There are also programs that provide financial support. Below are 3 programs that are being offered that I encourage you to investigate and take advantage of if it’s a good fit for you. Go on... go for it!

Export Prospector Program – Nova Scotia Business Inc.
Want to do business outside of the Maritimes? Need help financially to do so? NSBI has programs to help! Over the past year I have worked on about a dozen EPP projects, with clients taking advantage of this program up to 3 times to 3 different cities.

Go to www.novascotiabusiness.com/en/home/Grow/exportandtrade/exportprospectorprogram.aspx to find out the details of the EPP as well as other programs offered by NSBI.

I can help you prepare your application to submit to NSBI for funding through the Export Prospector Program. I will work with you to identify your goals and develop a strategy to promote your business in your selected region. I then set up face to face appointments with potential clients and NSBI pays my fees.

If I’m not the right consultant for you, there are others to choose from who specialize in a variety of areas and geographical locations that you may find a better fit for your particular initiative. NSBI will be happy to provide you with all the details.

The Nova Scotia Business Development Program
Economic Development of Nova Scotia offers this program. The details of this program are kind of broad. I did a project through this program recently with a client that included a total re-branding and website development of which they received a 50% reimbursement of the fees that were paid. The reimbursement limits are up to $10,000.

For full details go to http://www.gov.ns.ca/econ/nsbdp/ and contact the Rural Development Officer for your area.

Entrepreneurs' Forum
I am a volunteer advisor with Entrepreneurs' Forum and have been involved with several sessions with participating entrepreneurs over the past year. They have found them invaluable. They receive constructive, frank and supportive advice from business professionals in the areas needed by the entrepreneur... all for FREE!

See below how Entrepreneurs Forum describes their services and link through to their website for more information or to contact a Program Manager.

By working with volunteer advisors from the business community and employing staff with strong business experience, Entrepreneurs' Forum is better able to provide realistic suggestions and ideas. EF has developed formats for confidential business review sessions that provide the entrepreneur with a great deal of professional advice and the benefits of constructive criticism and brainstorming. Our volunteer advisors have strong business connections throughout Canada and through their personal networks can access advice, support and ideas well beyond what many entrepreneurs are able to find working alone. http://www.entrepreneursforum.com/opportunity/

Originally published in New Life Business Newsletter April 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

10 Tips for Better Planning and Increased Productivity

Planning contributes greatly to the success of any initiative – but ONLY IF THE PLAN IS IMPLEMENTED! To many this has proven to be the most difficult part of the process but the most essential. So when you’ve made the commitment of developing a business, marketing or sales plan it’s also very important to develop an implementation plan. Here are 10 tips for “getting it done”.

1.     Have your plan broken down to action items on a monthly basis. At the beginning of each month review your action items for that month and schedule them in.
2.     Have benchmarks along the way for larger goals – so you know that you’re on track.
3.     Have a system of accountability. That may be a coach or consultant that you meet with on a regular basis. It could be your participation in a mastermind group. Or it may be as simple as you and a colleague keeping each other on track with nudges, pushes and kicks along the way.
4.     Break projects down into manageable action items with a time line given to each item. Transfer these action items to your master monthly action plan. That project that you’ve been putting off forever will be done before you know it!
5.     Get organized! If you don’t know where to start, hire someone to help you. It will be worth it in the long run.
6.     Create systems in your business. This simplifies implementation, saves time and money, and increases your productivity. Again, if you have a difficult time with this, it’s worth the investment to get a pro to help you.
7.     Group ‘like’ actions - so that once you’re in ‘the zone’ you will get on a roll and actually get things done. Don’t go back and forth from e-mail to development to phone work to meetings.
8.     Schedule a time for e-mail and phone. Our instant access to everyone, anytime, any where will kill your productivity if you don’t stay in control of it. Remember – YOU are in control of IT!
9.     Try a new rule – “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” – pick one and eliminate ‘to do’s’ floating around your in-box or stuffed in a file folder. A bit of advice – pick ‘delegate’ a lot more than you currently do.
10.   When your day goes to hell in a hand basket and you can’t do everything on your list what then? Set your priorities as follows:
a. Is there something committed to a client?
b. Is there a deadline that if not completed will have something else crashing?
c. Is it going to make me money?

Our ability to be productive is directly related to our ability to relax. When our thoughts are scattered and our mind is jumbled it’s impossible to achieve stress-free productivity. And forget effective multi-tasking – science has proven there’s no such thing except for maybe walking and chewing gum. So the BONUS TIP is take time for yourself, take vacation, and take time to exercise… be with friends and family… whatever makes you happy.

Originally published in New Life Business Newsletter March 2011

Thursday, February 03, 2011

What Does Success Mean to You?

I recently enjoyed having 12 amazing entrepreneurs and professionals as participants in my Think It Plan It Do It 2011 Bootcamp. What an amazing group – what an amazing experience! We started the 2-day workfest with a ‘life criteria’ session, which is not always included in business planning. The VERY FIRST thing you need to do when developing or building a business is to identify how you are going to define success. In other words, what do you want your life to look like?

We start with a great idea that we believe we can turn into profit. We hit the ground running and make the rest of our lives fit around the business – or career. The world is full of help for people suffering from lack of ‘work/life balance’. We finally understand the dangerous effect that stress is having on our lives.

For everything you get, there’s something you have to give up… or work around. Not many people take the time to list the criteria of what a successful life means to them. Sometimes with my clients, we find contradictions in their goals because they haven’t defined what success means to them.

Take time to define YOUR idea of success – it’s not only money! Other things to consider are:
  • How many hours do you want to work a week?
  • How many weeks of vacation a year? When?
  • Time to commit to your health?
  • Time to commit to your family?
  • Time to commit to YOU?
  • What on your bucket list do you want to achieve this year?
  • How are you going to contribute to your community?
Remember, you are much more than your work. That out-of-whack feeling usually happens when we’re not feeding all the other areas of our lives. When someone asks you how you’re doing, don’t wear the answer, “Oh, I’m soooo busy”, as a badge of honour.

Originally published in Work Better, Not Harder on February 3, 2011