Services for Entrepreneurial Success

photo by

Business Process Automation (BPA) is a term all businesses, especially small ones, need to be familiar with. What is it you ask? It’s the “technology-enabled automation of activities and services, such as sales, marketing, management, operations, human resources, and information technology,” Gulf South Tech explains. Why is it so important? For starters, chances are your small business has a small staff count, so business process automation frees up you and your employees from manual, day-to-day tasks to focus on other, more important areas. In doing so, you can improve task efficiency, reduce errors, and enjoy increased sales and customer service as a result of your speedy, but efficient, processes.

Small businesses run on limited time and funds, so anything you can do to increase your chances of entrepreneurial success and gain a competitive advantage over other companies in your industry is a win-win. Keep in mind that some services are free, while others come with a fee, but you can be certain they will help your business flourish now and in the future

Don’t Agonize Over Website Design

It’s true what they say about your website being the first impression a customer has of your business, but this doesn’t mean you need to spend hours figuring out HTML code, graphics, and design. You want your website to be eye-catching, but there are online website builders that make things so much easier by simply dragging and dropping various design elements and functions to build a website that accurately represents your business and attracts customers. Website builders like Wix, Squarespace, GoDaddy, etc. all make it easy to update your website without design or tech know-how. Pick a template and build from there by adding a FAQ page, product descriptions, blog, and contact information. Do your research, as each website builder comes with its pros and cons. For example, Wix is often touted as the best all around website builder due to its advanced customization, but Squarespace offers the best design options, although it is a little more complicated. When deciding on which company to use to host your website, make sure to consider costs. Business hosting offers superior performance, but if your website doesn’t have high traffic, you can save by using a shared hosting service.  For example, GoDaddy offers shared hosting for as little as $12 a year.

Take the time to really make your website shine. You don’t have to make it complicated, but we’ve all come across more than our fair share of websites that look like they haven’t been updated in decades. It simply doesn’t make sense to spend money on a website builder only to let it sit and collect dust. Update it with fresh content and promotions, and consider adding a fun touch by switching up the design with each holiday, or at least every season. If you have a blog, try to update it at least once a month yourself, or hire a freelancer to provide you with engaging content.

Simplify Your Marketing Campaign

In order to keep your business afloat, you need to regularly attract customers and engage them via interesting content, social media activity, email blasts, etc. It’s a lot of work, but you don’t have to scramble to do it alone. Marketing automation software helps you boost and market your brand via content marketing, lead management, email, and social media management to help keep your message on target and turn those leads into returning customers. Look for software that provides the tools you need with built-in analytics to collect and organize data to help you gauge the success of your marketing campaign. You might also consider a program that is easy to integrate into your other software and systems, as well as one that is mobile-friendly for on-the-go management and progress check-ins.

This leaves you to focus on other areas of marketing, many of which are free. For example, you could follow up with customers to ask them to leave a review or give your company a shout out on their social media page. You could even turn it into a promotional tool. For every review or customer referral you could offer a small discount or freebie. Don’t forget to engage in the other tried and true methods of marketing such as networking, press releases, and email blasts.

Juggle Social Media Platforms With Ease

With busy customers that are always online, you’ll need to be able to juggle various social media platforms to capture unique and interested audiences on each via scheduled posts and promotions. It can be hard to keep up with posts and monitoring, which is where a social media management tool comes in to give you a single view of all your social media channels, enhanced workflow, better monitoring/listening, more user engagement, and an analysis of your social media marketing. Some of the popular management tools for small businesses are SproutSocial, Agorapulse, Buffer, Raven Tools, and Likeable Local. Each provide a free trial before committing, and offer their own unique features such as Facebook ads, which can be really beneficial to drive more customers to your business and website to boost sales and take a little of the marketing pressure off.

Keep in mind that using social media to further your business requires more than simply sharing your business Facebook page or gaining relevant followers on Instagram. Social media is a free tool you can use to engage your customers. Post a poll or ask a question. The question could be something fun or a question specific to your business such as gauging interest in a new product or asking for feedback on a new website feature. A great way to interact with current customers and attract new ones is with a social media contest or challenge. The possibilities are endless here. Perhaps you could draw names for a coupon from those who share a particular post or offer a prize to the funny photo that gets the most likes. Social media is your direct connection to your users, so utilize it.

You should now have a better understanding of how technology tools and services can support you or your employees in being more efficient. Isn’t that just what a savvy business owner needs? In part two you’ll learn even more ways to use technology to support your small business,… which of course supports you personally too.

by Lucy Reed

Small Changes Can Change Your Life

“Life is like an ever- shifting kaleidoscope –a slight change, and all patterns alter”. – Sharon Salzberg

Do you believe that small changes can change your life?

Perhaps you believe that the only important changes are those that are substantial and have a significant impact on your life. Substantial changes can be rewarding but can also be overwhelming. When you pursue large changes too quickly or without adequate support, you can get discouraged and give up.

Rene Descartes, French philosopher, mathematician and scientist, believes in breaking down complex problems into smaller and smaller problems. I learned this philosophy while in training to become a computer programmer and debug software. Since then I’ve continued to use this philosophy in my professional life as well as my personal life.

It’s also enjoyable to hear the same philosophy said in a more playful way: Question: How do you eat an elephant? Answer: One bite at a time.

Is there a change you’d like to make? Do you feel overwhelmed or discouraged by the enormity of that change? How can you break the large change down into smaller bites that are more manageable?

If you’re not sure what you want to change, here’s a six-step process that uses small changes to impact your life in a greater way:

  1. Make a list of the small things you do that drag you down and drain your energy.
  2. Create a second list of the small things you love to do, want to do, or that make you feel excited and energetic.
  3. Each month stop doing at least one thing on the first list.
  4. For each thing you stop doing, start doing at least one thing on the second list.
  5. At the end of the month, stop and notice how your life is being impacted.
  6. Continue the process from month to month.

Have a fabulous week and enjoy playing with those small changes!

Ditch the Resolutions

Ditch the resolutions this New Year.

ditch the resolutions

As a proponent of change and growth, you might be surprised at this suggestion. Why am I giving you a free pass this year? Three simple reasons.

1. Resolutions have been a part of our culture for decades, but over and over research shows that New Year resolutions rarely work. Half of all Americans make resolutions but 88% are never met. In fact, 75% of resolutions are only kept a week.

2. When we don’t keep the agreements we make to ourselves, it erodes our self-trust and self-esteem.

3. Einstein said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Let’s lose the insanity!

I applaud that we want to improve our lives, but I want it to work for you, not against you. Here are 6 tips to help you implement the changes you want in the coming year.

1. Get Specific. Be clear about what you intend to achieve and your timeframe. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, commit to the exact number of pounds and a date by which you will lose it.

2. Take Small Steps. We sabotage ourselves when we take on too much and in too short a time. Instead, divide a larger goal into smaller goals. Using the weight loss example, if you intend to lose 30 pounds, pick a reasonable end date, such as June 30th, and break the goal down into three smaller goals: 10 pounds by February 28th, 10 pounds by April 30th; and the final 10 pounds by June 30th. Doing this will reduce overwhelm and the sabotage that comes from having one larger, aggressive goal.

3. Track Results. Whether you’re tracking on paper, a calendar, or electronically, continually seeing what you’ve already accomplished motivates you to continue. Remember to celebrate completion of your goal as well as interim goals or milestones along the way.

4. Add Visuals. It has been proven that visuals can help you achieve the results you want. Whether you have a picture that exemplifies your achievement, create a mini vision board that visually shows your accomplishment, or spend several minutes a day visualizing your end goal, visuals will enhance your success.

5. Tell Others. Keeping your goal a secret is a sure-fire way to limit your success. When you tell others what you intend to achieve, there’s an additional layer of social pressure to keep your agreements.

6. Get Support. Clarity, focus, outside accountability, and having a trained partner all help you move forward and overcome obstacles. The added incentive in this partnership is when you pay for something you’re much more likely to take it seriously.

By now I hope you’re ready to ditch the resolutions and welcome the new year with an entirely new strategy for success.

Benefits of Gratitude

GratitudeWhat are the Benefits of Gratitude?

Research shows numerous benefits, including its strong and consistent association with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships. Quite a payback, don’t you think?

More specifically, researchers at UC Davis discovered those who practice grateful thinking have fewer symptoms of illness, see their doctors less, exercise more, and feel better about their lives as a whole.

In another study at the University of Pennsylvania, participants wrote and personally delivered a letter to someone who had never been thanked for his or her kindness. The participants immediately showed a huge increase in their happiness scores – with benefits lasting for a month.

In relationships, a study found that individuals who took time to express gratitude for their partner not only felt more positive toward the other person but also felt more comfortable expressing concerns about their relationship.

Wharton School of Business found managers who remember to say “thank you” to people who work for them may find those employees feel motivated to work harder. For example, a group of fund-raisers received a pep talk from the director of annual giving who told them she was grateful for their efforts. Those who heard the positive message made 50% more fund-raising calls than those who didn’t.

Aren’t the benefits of gratitude a huge payoff for a small effort? Although it’s customary to express gratitude on Thanksgiving Day, how many people continue it past that one day? Are you curious how additional gratitude might improve your life? It doesn’t matter what your current level of gratitude, you can cultivate it further and experience the benefits. Apply it to past experiences, current situations, or the future and see what happens.

As you explore adding gratitude to your life, consider creating one or more of these habits:

• Say “thank you” to at least one person a day
• Post on a social media site one thing you’re grateful for each day
• Say either aloud or to yourself at least five things you’re grateful for each day
• Write daily in a gratitude journal at least five things for which you’re grateful
• Send a thank you note each day or each week
• Leave thank you notes for the loved ones in your home
• Leave thank you notes for your employees and co-workers
• Take 10 – 15 minutes to go on a gratitude binge and identify everything for
which you’re grateful
• If you don’t already have a Thanksgiving gratitude ritual, start one this year

For further inspiration on the benefits of gratitude, read John Kralik’s personal journey: A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank You Changed My Life.

Relationship With Money

How does money and your relationship with money impact your life?
Relationship With Money
Women account for over 50% of the workforce, hold about half of the management positions in corporate America, and are starting businesses five times faster than the national average. Yet, even with equal pay laws, women still earn an average of 80.5% of what men earn.

The Equal Pay Act, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on gender, was passed in 1963. Eleven years later the Supreme Court ruled, in Corning Glass Co vs. Brennan, that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the “going market rate.” A wage differential occurring “simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women” was deemed unacceptable.

The pay disparity causes some to be angry about the inequality. But when you look at some of the contributing factors more closely, you’ll find women unknowingly impact the imbalance. It’s not surprising, given women’s social conditioning around the topic of money. Even with the cultural progress we’ve made, it’s still a problem. I am aware of it because of the specialized training I received to help women with this issue, through the work I’ve done with my clients on money issues, and from discussions with others.

While legislation has played a significant role in getting women closer to equal pay, women’s own actions can help make it a reality. Whether you’re an employee or self-employed, it will take both internal and external effort to help bring pay into alignment. Steps you can take are:
• Learn about your hidden money beliefs
• Discover your actual worth
• Raise your prices
• Ask for what you’re worth
• Develop better negotiation skills
• Increase your more marketable skills
• Do what’s scary instead of what’s comfortable
• Talk to other women about money

There is a cultural shift that still needs to happen to achieve pay equality. I believe this change will only come when women step into their power and take personal action. It won’t happen overnight, but any action you take not only helps you but impacts others without you even knowing it. When you begin empowering your life around money (or any other issue for that fact), you become a role model, a seed planter, and a part of the collective solution. This impacts your daughters, granddaughters, nieces, and other women around you, as well as future generations of women.

Are you ready for action? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a quick comment.

Cold Calls

Like making cold calls?

Cold Calls

Most people, even those who seem cool and confident, dislike making cold calls. The reason no one likes making cold calls is because more times than not, you get rejected. You could have the best opportunity in the world, but you will still get rejected the majority pf the time.

How do you feel about cold calls? Does the thought of picking up the phone, talking to a stranger, and trying to get them to schedule a meeting with you create fear and stress? A great thing to remember is that because it’s a cold call, the person on the other end of the phone doesn’t have a clue who you are or what you look like. If you know that this person has no idea who you are, then you really don’t have much to fear. Additionally, most people will forget the call the minute they hang up the phone.

Rejection is part of sales, so learn to not take it persoanlly. You may also find that a no may not be a flat out no forever. It may simply be that they don’t want or need what you are sharing at this particular point in time. Keep cold calling and following up. Over time you will connect with the right prospects, or prospects whose situation has changed and they’re now open to learning more about what you have to offer.

Being successful at sales means not letting the fear of rejection stop you from making cold calls. The reality is that often the big money flows to individuals who are willing to pick up the phone and risk rejection. Now, pick up the phone and make some cold calls!

Overwhelmed Business Owner

Are you an overwhelmed business owner?

Overwhelmed Business Owner
It’s common, especially if you’re a solo business owner or have a business with few resources to delegate to. The number of hats you need to wear are many and can stretch your skills, your knowledge, and your time. How’s that for a scenario that can leave you an overwhelmed business owner?

An effective first step in reducing overwhelm is to create awareness about where you spend your time. Just as you would track your spending to fully understand how money is being spent, you must track your time to see how it’s spent too. You may think you know how it’s spent, but I’ve never found perception to be accurate. You need the actual numbers in order to work more effectively.

Tracking time for a week is usually enough. Do it during a week that as much as possible resembles a typical work week. Although there are time tracking applications you can investigate, a simple way to record your time is with a sheet of paper and a pencil. Down the left hand slide of the paper list the primary activities that comprise your work. These shouldn’t be too large, which won’t provide the detail you need, or too granular. Think mid-point granularity. For example, marketing & sales can be broken down into smaller activities such as: attend networking group, meet with referral partners, write a newsletter, give a presentation, create an advertising campaign, make prospecting calls; make follow-up calls; meet with prospects, etc. Throughout the week, each time you finish an activity, record your time next to the activity in 15 minute increments using a hash mark (short vertical line).

At the end of the week, analyze what you’ve learned. Are you spending the right amount of time on the right activities? Could you accomplish more in a shorter amount of time? What could be delegated? Is it time to hire or contract resources to support you? This exercise has been a powerful tool for my clients to work differently and recapture time (some significantly). Put your ideas into action to start the shift from overwhelmed business owner to one that’s having more fun.

Forgotten Goals

Have you ever forgotten goals you wrote down?
Power of the Pen
I recently completed an annual chore of cleaning out my paper files. This year I went deeper into a personal career folder instead of taking a cursory look as I had done in the past. I was somewhat surprised when I found a small white envelope with a handful of index cards inside. I knew immediately what the cards were, even though I hadn’t seen them in a several years. How could I have forgotten them… or did I really?

The white envelope contained 33 cards with a goal written in the middle of each card and a priority of A, B, C, or D in the upper left corner. In the lower left corner was the life area(s) that would be impacted when I reached the goal. For me the life areas included: Fun, Wealth, Spiritual, Health, Relationship, and Education.

As I flipped through the cards I realized the goals weren’t very well defined. They were a far cry from the SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Action Oriented, Realistic, and Time Bound) that I learned while in the corporate world and still believe in using. That’s okay though. It really wasn’t the point of the exercise, even though I found some components of the SMART goals incorporated into those rough goals.

It appears my sub-conscious, God, the Universe, or all of the above were at work as the years passed without my conscious recognition of the goals I had written. It was satisfying to flip through the cards and see just how many of the goals had been achieved: all the A goals except one; most of the B goals; a lot of the C goals; and one of the D goals. The one A goal that hadn’t yet been achieved was a goal I’d had for a long time – taking my dream trip to Africa.I smiled in thinking how I had just booked that trip the prior month and when it’s over all of my A goals will be achieved.

I was reminded of a similar experience when I started my corporate IT career and wrote brief 5, 10 and 15 years goals on a note pad. Over time this note pad got buried in a desk drawer and didn’t surface until a few years after leaving my 19 year corporate career. To my surprise I had achieved every goal in the notebook, sometimes sooner than intended, and sometimes with greater income than I had planned.

Both of these experiences are a great reminder of the power of the pen. Even when a goal isn’t written perfectly, there’s magic in writing down what you want.

What do you want to accomplish? Are you carrying it around only in your head? I encourage you to not wait. Get out a pad of paper and start making your list within the next 24 hours.

Networking Skills

How are your networking skills?

Networking Skills
In many aspects of life, whether it’s business, career, or your private life, networking skills are important. An extreme extrovert can find networking energizing. Someone new to networking or a full-blown introvert can find it downright scary. For those who straddle the fence between introvert and extrovert, it can be uncomfortable.

Networking skills, like other life and business skills, can be learned. If you’re an extreme introvert, you may never lose that uncomfortable feeling when you network, but you learn to function and enjoy networking groups if you choose to develop your networking skills.

Here are a few tips to get you started in building better business networking skills:

1. Look at networking in a new way. Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of Business Networking International (BNI), defines networking as “The process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence or serve the community.” When you focus on the word “relationships” it gives networking a whole new perspective.

2. Invite a friend to join you the first time you attend a networking event. Sharing an evening with a friend and having moral support can go a long ways towards making it a more enjoyable event.

3. Attend a networking event with a goal. How many new people would you like to meet? Is there someone specific you want to meet? How many people would you like to reconnect with? Decide what’s most important for you and go make it happen.

4. In the early stages of networking, the key word is “developing”. As with any other type of relationship, it starts with getting to know someone. That means being genuinely curious. Prior to the event develop a list of questions to start and continue a conversation. How did they get into their business or career? How long has it been? What do they enjoy the most? What has been the most challenging? Who are their ideal clients? . Make it about them, not about you, and the latter will follow.

This is the beginning of building your networking skills. As with any new skill, know it takes time, and the process can be enjoyable.

Life Happens

Life Happens. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes not-so-good.

life happens

We all have opportunities to learn from life’s curves. I’ve had a number of my own this past year. But what I learned years ago through awareness, hindsight, and perspective is that those not-so-good times have happened “for me”, not “to me”. As a result, I’ve developed a strong trust that life’s challenges are a gift. Though I may not know exactly what that gift is when a challenge happens, I have enough past evidence that I can still trust that whatever happens is “for me”.

Randy Pausch was a man who inspired me by how superbly he handled life’s curves. He was a doctor, but “not the medical kind”, as his mother was fond of saying. Instead, he was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who became well-known for authoring and presenting “The Last Lecture” at the age of 46. Unlike other professors’ hypothetical last lectures, his was real. Dr. Pausch spoke to a packed auditorium ten months before dying of pancreatic cancer. While providing many lessons on life he wisely said, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand”.

During his 70 minute lecture he said “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.” With a beautiful wife of 12 years and three children he dearly loved, I’m sure he didn’t get what he wanted when he developed cancer the prior year. And yet, he gained a unique experience and magnificently played the hand he was dealt by offering his perspective on life to others. As a result, he was able to inspire and impact the lives of millions of people around the world.

When life happens and it’s the not-so-good kind, how will you choose to react? Will you remember Dr. Pausch for the wisdom he provided by magnificently playing a not-so-good hand? Who knows, your life curve might also be a catalyst to inspire and impact millions.