Welcome to the New Year!
Perhaps you’ve already set a traditional “New Year’s Resolution”. And while that’s great in theory, I find that in practice those well-intentioned January resolutions have a tough time seeing the light of February. I include both personal and professional goals in that category.
Perhaps we wouldn’t fall short if we had an actual plan. Not overly complicated. Call it a blueprint or a road map or a bullet point list. The plan would help us focus on the goals we set out to achieve.
That’s exactly what happened back in 1981 when George T. Doran, consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company created his S.M.A.R.T. system of effective goal setting.
He created a winner. The S.M.A.R.T acronym has been used by executives and managers across all businesses and industries for decades. Doran identified 5 criteria for effective goal setting:
Assignable – today often replaced by “achievable”
Over the years, the SMART system words have changed, evolved and been rebranded, depending on who’s presenting the information. The acronym has even been extended to SMARTER which includes the criteria of Evaluated and Reviewed. The message remains the same, however: a simple and effective means of goal setting accountability; a system built to work.
Today, I’d like to simplify it even further, using a time-tested acronym we’ve all heard before:
No, the acronym doesn’t stand for Most Valuable Player or Performer, but YES, you, too can lead your company to greatness by implementing M.V.P. The goal setting process is simple:
M is for MANDATORY. No matter your goal you must take action steps toward it every day.
V stands for VERIFIABLE. It’s easier to focus on tangible goals. Create one that matters to you or your organization. It could be the bottom line, of course, or anything else that’s measurable. For example, the number of cold calls you make each day; or a Monday morning team meeting that happens EVERY Monday.
P is the last letter in our simplified, goal-setting acronym, but it actually comes first on the goal-setting list:
P is PRIORITY
Your goal must be a priority EVERY SINGLE DAY. Be it 50 seconds, 5 minutes or 5 hours, your goal must be the focus of your energy if you’re going to achieve it.
MVP goal setting might seem like a lightweight in the world of heavy-hitting, corporate acronyms, but when it comes to accomplishing a goal, it offers the simplicity and economy to cut through the clutter, keeping you on track in the New Year and beyond.
Best of all, it doesn’t matter if it’s a new year or a new day, you can always take action to be the MVP in your organization. My advice? Be the leader. Set your MVP goal today.
How do you approach goal setting? Do you use the same method for career and personal goals? Feel free to share tips below in the comment section.
Need help with implementing your goal setting strategy? Feel free to get in touch for a discovery session.
Personal Branding has become essential for the careers of many people in the 21st century. With millions of people using social media on a daily basis, your personal (and business brands) on social media can make or break your growth potential and income.
Let's start with a definition as found on Wikipedia:
"Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands.... the personal-branding concept suggests ... that success comes from self-packaging....
Personal branding is essentially the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group or organization."
(as found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_branding)
With that in mind, I think LinkedIn is an essential tool to build your brand for all of the following types of people:
You can add the word "potential" or "future" in front of any of the above.
How can an active presence on LinkedIn help all of these people with their personal brand or reputation?
Considering all of the above, I believe that part of your reputation can be based on your presence on LinkedIn. It's the first place I look up someone I speak with, receive a call from or research people for other reasons.
Continuing along the social media theme, you may also want to check out Sara Grillo's post on "3 Easy Ways to Monetize Social Media".
Which of the above is most important to you? Do you see other reasons why LinkedIn is important - or even essential - to your personal branding and marketing efforts or do you have a different opinion?
What is your view on this topic? Please share it in the comments below.
And one more thing: If we aren't connected yet, how about changing that? Send me an invitation.
Chances are, if you’re a small business owner, you’re spending even more time than usual at the end of the year and in March/April of the following year hunched over your desk, crunching numbers. That’s because one of the most dreaded days of the year is approaching-- Tax Day. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed (or just need a break from staring at expense reports!), here are a few tips to help you reduce stress when it’s time to mail in your return:
Find help that fits your needs. “Small business” is an umbrella term that can include many different types of organizations. A small business might have 10-30 employees or more and multiple brick and mortar locations or it might be one person working out of their home office.
And just as there are many varieties of small businesses, there are many different types of tax help. Think carefully about your situation when deciding who to ask for help on your business. If you have employees, chances are you’ll definitely need a CPA and specialized W2 software that will help you prepare and distribute those forms. If you’re a one-person show and you’re savvy enough, you might be able to get away with doing your taxes yourself with help from finance apps that prepare expense and deduction info for you. Whatever you do, keep solid records so you’ll know what did and didn’t work for you the following year.
Plan for the future. When you do your taxes for the year, you’re looking at the past. If you had a good year, that look back can be encouraging and inspiring, but if you didn’t, it can take the wind out of your sails when you need it most.
Whatever you find as you gather the year’s tax prep documents, use the information to make positive changes in the future. If a particular product sold really well, make plans to run a special promotion. If you find that a certain client stays consistently behind on their payments, set up a call with them so that you can discuss (and hopefully) resolve the matter. Because so much goes into getting your tax return ready to drop in the mail, it can be easy to get swallowed up by the minutia. Don’t let that happen. Instead, make a conscious effort to keep an eye on the big picture for your business.
Resist the urge to fib. Whatever you do, don’t try to slip a few inflated deductions past the IRS. It’s natural to want to set yourself up for a healthy refund, but you must get there legitimately. Lying your way to a refund could result in a very costly audit, and that’s the last thing you want. If you’re concerned that you might make a mistake when preparing your return, then absolutely get the help of a professional. They’ll help you make sure the right info gets included in the correct spots on your return, and they may even be able to help you set up a better organization system so that calculating your deductions will be easier next year.
Get some fresh air. When you’re gathering all the documents needed for your taxes, chances are you’ll end up spending more time in your office than usual. You may opt for lunch at your desk, for example, rather than going out. Don’t forget to get some fresh air. Too much time in your office is only going to add to your stress. Take breaks and head outdoors for some Vitamin D. A quick break spent walking around your office building or taking your dog to the dog park will help you return to sifting through expense receipts with renewed focus.
The nature of tax preparation means it will be difficult to make the process completely stress free. But these tips will help keep you sane, and hopefully, when the time comes, you’ll have a big refund to look forward to!
Julie Morris is a life and career coach who strives to help others live the best lives that they can. She believes she can relate to clients who feel run over by life because of her own experiences. Ms. Morris spent years in an unfulfilling career in finance before deciding to help people in other ways.
Photo by jarmoluk via Pixabay.
It was my pleasure to interview Aida Keehner, a woman with a fascinating background and entrepreneurial spirit, not to forget a great sense of humor.
She is also passionate about building relationships and sees that as the key to her success in a male dominated industry. Other tips she shares relate to staffing, teamwork and passion.
To learn more about Aida Keehner, her company Atruent and its services, as well as her team, visit www.atruent.com
Sarah Damiani is a self-starter who built a thriving acupuncture clinic in a very short amount of time and after a major career change. She is a delight to speak with and generously shares her knowledge.
Watch the video to hear about her philosophy as a business person and learn about some great advice she received along the way that can help anyone starting a new business.
If you would like to learn more about Sarah Damiani, her clinic, Acupuncture, reviews from patients and more, I encourage you to visit her website at www.completecareacupuncture.com/
Many sales and marketing people as well as owners of small and mid-sized companies spend time and money networking in person. Unless done correctly, this can be a tremendous waste of time and resources. Here are the top 5 mistakes to avoid:
Arriving unprepared - Have you taken time to research whether the event is right for you? Did you make a plan? What is your goal when attending? A specific number of business cards? Three conversations with people you already know to deepen the trust and three with people you hadn't met previously? What types of people do you want to meet? If you want to talk to realtors but you only spend time with mortgage bankers, does that count? Did you bring business cards? A pen for taking notes so you can follow up after the event?
Spending your time only with people you already know - Yes, you should spend some time with people you already know but make sure you also meet some new people. If you are attending the event with someone else from your company or with a friend, split up!
Arriving late or leaving early - You may miss out on some key connections, especially the big one: getting to know the organizer. That person may very well be the best-connected in the room.
Talking more than listening - A networking event is not the place to "sell" your goods and services. It is where make new connections you start building relationships. Be interested rather than trying to be interesting. Ask the other parties about them, their business and whom they were hoping to meet at the event. You will be miles ahead by making an introduction compared to simply dumping your sales pitch on an unsuspecting stranger.
Drinking too much alcohol - Though I don't see this often, I have witnessed people buying rounds after rounds of drinks for each other. This can be perilous to your health (don't drink and drive!) and to your reputation. It's not just the first impression that counts but also the last. If someone meets you towards the end of the evening and only remembers that you were slurring your speech, your reputation may not recover.
What networking tips do you have? Share them in the comments below.
Your business card is one of the cheapest pieces of marketing material available to you. It is a means to share your contact information and so much more. It can create an impression, serve as a reminder of what you do and carry notes that the recipient jotted down during your meeting.
Keeping all this in perspective, there are two users for your card: You and the recipient. Unfortunately some of the recipient's needs in a practical business cards are often forgotten during the design process.
Many of the business card mistakes listed below have to do with legibility from font style to font size or background color. However, there are a lot of other things that can go wrong in card design.
Make use of your business card properly to ensure it is read, kept or potentially even passed on to someone who might be interested in your product or services.
Here is a count-down list of mistakes I see on a regular basis that impact potential follow up after meeting someone.
16.) Cheap paper stock or perforated tear off cards from the office supply store. You don't have to break the bank on the paper stock but don't go with something that is too close to printer paper either.
15.) Extra thick card stock. This makes it difficult for those that would actually be happy with taking several of your cards to pass on to their connections to store these in business card binders, or other storage options designed for these cards. BNI (Business Networking International) members know what I'm talking about.
14.) A vertical layout. Though you may not be one of them, there are still millions of business people who keep the business cards they receive in binders or special business card storage sleeves. All of them are in a horizontal format. By having a vertical card, you make your information more difficult to read and therefore easy to skip over.
13.) Unusual card sizes or formats: extra large, extra small, round, etc. Stick with a standard card size for your country. If you make it difficult for people to fit your card into their standard filing system, your information is more likely to be discarded.
12.) Insufficient contrast between font and background or a plastic see-through card. Make legibility a key design choice. If the text doesn't stand out because of the background of the card itself or because you can see something else through it, you are again making it hard for the reader.
11.) Using glossy paper stock that a standard ball point pen cannot write on. Though glossy stock - to some - may make the card look classier, glossy stock can also reduce the usability of the card for the recipient. If they can't write anything on it, key information about your conversation may be lost. Most people don't travel with a Sharpie, which is in most cases what's needed to write on glossy stock.
Glossy stock can also make it more difficult to get an accurate image for the electronic card reading software apps now available through various companies (e.g. camcard), requiring the recipient to correct data manually. Having to re-input date is just annoying.
That said, if you like the look of a glossy finish, have your cards printed locally as there are options to either make only one side of your card glossy or to use a glossy stock that can be written on. These options are generally not available when you order on line.
10.) Fancy font - as in difficult to read: Compare Arial with Brush Script or Calibri with Lucinda Calligraphy to see what I mean. Stick with a clean and simple font. You don't want to miss out on correspondence because someone can't read your e-mail address.
9.) Information overload: If you have too much information on the card, it gets difficult to read and the person may lose interest or not be able to focus on any one piece of information.
8.) No space for notes. Keep in mind that a business card has a functional component beyond just being a carrier for your pre-selected information. It can also be a great place for the recipient to jot down a few notes so they can remember information shared during your conversation or even remember to provide you something you asked for (e.g. a link to an article, the title of a book,...). Leave room for writing down a few words and remember that most people's handwriting is larger than your typical font size.
7.) An outdated photograph: Images are great and a person's head shot is certainly a efficient way to be remembered after the event. However, if you no longer look like the picture, you may be making a bad impression on the person you just handed the card to. Updates that warrant a new photograph include a change from wearing a beard to being clean shave, a new hair color, a significantly different hair style or length and the passage of time. If your picture is more than 5 years old, change it.
6.) A pattern or image as background underneath your contact information. This goes back to the legibility factor. Make it easy for people to read.
5.) Dark background on both sides of the card. There is value to "white space", which doesn't actually have to be white. It is sometimes a reference to any space without type. This space helps draw the eye to the written information and provides design balance.
An added benefit is that this space gives the card recipient the opportunity to write some notes on your card - if the "white space" is a light enough color for notes to show up. Most people who carry a pen, usually have one that writes in black or blue inc. A card recipient may want to jot down something to make their follow up with you more effective. They may want to send you an article that was mentioned, share a contact that could be helpful to you or even refer you to someone else. If they were speaking with other people at the event - especially if it was at a large conference - they may not remember any of this if they weren't able to jot down a few words on your card.
4.) Extra-small font that is so tiny that anyone over the age of 40 needs to pull out reading glasses. Make it easy for people to decipher your information. Extra small font can also negatively impact the effectiveness of card scanning apps or devices. Don't annoy the card recipient who is savvy with electronic devices and apps by forcing them to fix the card reader apps mistake because your font is too small.
3.) Leaving one side completely blank. Though certain information should always be on the same side of the card, the other side is valuable real estate that can be used for a variety of things, such as a list of services, before & after pictures, social media addresses, a QR code, space for noting an appointment date, a special offer, etc.
And the Two Worst Business Card Mistakes:
2.) Splitting essential contact information between the front and the back of the card. The following information should always be on the same side: person's name, title, company name, company logo (if used), phone number(s), e-mail address, website. Depending on the size and type of the business, you may also want to add an address and fax number. If you want any of this information on the opposite side of the card, repeat it there. Do not split the essentials between the two sides of the card.
1.) No e-mail address. It is understandable that someone with a home-based business or a service business that comes to the client (e.g. plumber, A/C repair) may not add an address to their card. However, these days having a business card without an e-mail address is inexcusable. Most people use e-mail on a daily basis and it seems that more and more dislike speaking on the phone. Don't miss out on business by trying to force people to communicate with you by phone if they would prefer e-mail. Otherwise you are making your competition happy.
Your business card can bring you new business to a greater degree than you might think. Make use of your business card properly to ensure it is read, kept or potentially even passed on to someone who might be interested in your product or services. Keep the user in mind when updating your business card design.
To me there are only two reasons to remove a connection from my network:
Beyond that every connection is valuable. Why?
Think of it this way: You wouldn't throw out a painting from Rembrandt or Michelangelo because it is "old" - or would you? I wouldn't. With age comes value. How does that relate to LinkedIn?
1.) Except for those who completely abandon a profile, most LinkedIn users add connections every year. Therefore each connection can - in turn - be a link to someone new you may want to meet. You could think of it like interest or like a fine wine. Each connection becomes more valuable with age.
2.) LinkedIn serves a variety of functions including that of a "search engine for people". There is a caveat though: Unless you have a paid account, you can only see people up to three degrees away from you. I'm sure you have heard of the "6 degrees of separation". That means that you are missing out on a lot of potential people who might be able to find you or whose profiles you may want to see, if you reduce your number of connections. Instead of getting rid of connections, I would recommend adding connections. The more connections you have, the more people can find your profile. This could be potential customers, vendors or even potential team members.
3.) Another thing to remember is that you are not the only one to change careers, cities, etc. Others do as well. Therefore the person who may not have been a "good" connection in terms of industry or location last week just so might be in a few months.
4.) On average most people know 250 people - and I do mean "know" personally from work or their daily lives (family, friends, neighbors, favorite barista,...) as opposed to just being a connection on a social media network. These people may not even be on LinkedIn. Is "cleaning up" your list of connections worth giving up 250 potential customers per connection you drop? I don't think so. After all, that would mean giving up 2000 2nd degree potential connections just by cutting out 8 connections! Think about those numbers and what they may represent in terms of business.
5.) Though LinkedIn keeps its algorithms a secret, there are several factors that impact where your profile shows up in search results. Are you at the top of page 1 when someone is looking for your name or a key word on your profile - or are you at the bottom of page 9? Two of the factors that may partially influence your standing are:
A) How many connections you have. After all, if it weren't important, LinkedIn wouldn't show a number or the mysterious "500+".
B) How active you are on LinkedIn: Adding connections is an "activity", as is interacting with them.
Therefore my recommendation is to continue adding connections instead of removing them. Use LinkedIn to build business relationships for the long term and grow your network on a regular basis.
What is your view on this topic? Please share it in the comments below.
And one more thing: If we aren't connected yet, how about changing that? Send me an invitation to email@example.com.
Also: Interested in a complimentary 5- minute live mini-audit of your LinkedIn profile by phone? Send an e-mail request and we'll set it up.
Image courtesy of KDelaneyphoto.com
Small businesses are often started based on someone's skill set, expertise, passion (e.g. web design, social media marketing, IT services, electrician, plumber, handyman, bookkeeping) or a new/improved product. Early on such businesses often succeed based on the sheer drive and determination of the founder(s).
As the business grows, more and more challenges appear on the horizon. These can encompass any number of business functions from selling to marketing the business, expense tracking, having to figure out when it's time to hire, creating job descriptions, etc. It is quite common that the business owner feels overwhelmed by having to juggle a lot of different priorities, especially those that are outside his or her expertise. Some of these challenges can be outsourced to virtual assistants, web site design and social media companies, accountants, etc.
A lot of the higher level decision making remains though. That's when business owners often feel stuck. They feel overwhelmed. This is very common. Everyone needs help with something and an outside perspective can be just what is needed. If you relate this to sports, it is obvious that even the best athletes use coaches. In fact, it is usually the case that the best are at the "top of their game" precisely because they have a coach.
Each football team that competes for the Super Bowl has multiple coaches (head coach, special teams, etc.). It's not that the players don't know the rules of the game or how to warm up and practice. After all, they have been playing for years to even be considered contenders for the Lombardi trophy.
However, like the rest of us, they too need someone else to point out things that could be improved or someone to encourage them when they feel they can't do one more drill. OK, "encourage" may not be the right word in this context but you get the picture. It is also essential for groups of athletes to have coaches that help them "become a team".
The same applies to businesses.
Even leaders of Fortune 500 companies have coaches. Both Bill Gates of Microsoft and Eric Schmidt of Google advocate using business coaches to "improve their game".
If you own a business or if you are in charge of a team at work, find out if coaching is right for you. Before you decide though, make sure you find the right coach for you.
If you would like to find out if coaching is right for you and your business, contact Heike at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-980-5299 to set up a no-commitment, no-cost conversation. It's time to put the fun back in your business.
Small Businesses, like their mid-size and large counter parts, encounter changes in the market place and business challenges as they grow. These challenges can encompass a variety of areas from marketing to sales, industry or product expertise, importing to exporting and more. A growing number of consultants and business coaches are available across the USA and beyond to assist business owners and managers in dealing with these challenges.
A small business consultant is usually a subject-matter expert who is brought in to assess the situation. After looking at various angles and speaking with multiple people in the organization, the consultant usually provides a plan of action to improve the situation. In some cases the consultant may assist in the implementation of systems, etc. while in others their job is done after they provide the plan.
Jon Denney, a fellow business coach and president of the Professional Business Coaching Alliance, explains business consulting as follows: "In traditional consulting, the consultant is hired to either fix a specific problem (IT consulting, for example) or to go through a business and identify problems and/or unmet opportunities and to provide their findings to the business owner." Jon also indicates that the consultant's purpose "is generally project-based and therefore, transactional in nature".
Another type of consultant may actually be brought into a small to mid-size company on an on-going part time basis. This may happen if the company needs to fill an upper level management position, e.g. CFO, but doesn't have the need or budget for a full-time person. In cases like this a small business may turn to an outsource CFO service or similar option for other functions (engineering, marketing etc.). With such an arrangement the business consultant may work on premises a few hours or days per week or per month, though off site arrangements are also an option.
In short, a consultant for small or mid-sized businesses will often be "the expert" on a particular topic and either provide expert services or recommendations for improvement for a limited period of time.
A small business consultant has a different function than a small business coach. For more information about Business Coaching see the blog posts archived in October 2013.
Heike Heemann, business coach and advisor, brings over 20 years of business experience to her blog.