Business Focus

Creating and running a business isn’t easy.  It’s hard to know what to focus on and how to best use your resources of time, money and people.  Depending on who you talk to, there are a number of things to focus on.  7 of those areas could be:

Mindset: your mindset in creating your business sets the tone and attitude for your business.  Your employees and clients will choose to work with you or not based on the tone you set in your business and way you treat them.  It also helps determine your success and longevity.

Niche: this is choosing the people you serve.  Depending on what you do and who your ideal clients are will determine your niche.  Early in your business you may have an idea, but as you really develop the business you may discover that your initial niche isn’t your true niche.

Product/Service: this is what you do and how you do it.  If you’re a product based company, you probably won’t have too many changes ones the product is produced and designed, unless you decide to add more features or additional products.  For service businesses you may decide to offer one service and then decide that additional services may better suit you or your clients or you may find that you want to do something completely different.

Marketing: telling people that you’re open for business and spreading word of mouth to get clients is important.  Your marketing includes the copy, communications, image, and branding that make up your advertisements.   Presenting a unified and appropriate marketing strategy is important to connecting with your potential customers.

Focus: as a business owner lots of things will try for your attention.  It’s important to keep your focus on things that only you can do.  Outsourcing or using a virtual assistant, as well as hiring employees are a few ways to help you keep your focus on the important stuff and not on the less-important stuff like paperwork or daily tasks that don’t need your direct input.  You should focus on growing and improving the business and improving the value you provide to your customers.

Actions: if you’re not taking action in your business, with new marketing and actively connecting and communicating with your customers you won’t get repeat customers nor will you be in business for very long.  Businesses that look and feel dead to visitors will soon be.

People: Starbucks has said it well: “we’re not in the coffee business serving people, we’re in the people business serving coffee”.  No matter what type of business you have, you have to remember that you’re ultimately selling to and working with people.  These people deserve to be treated well and happy people are better workers and more dedicated to you and your business.

Do you work on these 7 areas in your business?  Which area do you need to work on more?

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At The Ballpark

With last night’s game 2 of the World Series, it’s time for a little baseball food and fun!  While my favorite team didn’t make the playoffs this year, I always love finding fun and creative ways to celebrate anyway.  So gather ’round, it’s baseball time!

Fun:

Key chain pennants

Baseball wristband

Baseball party favors

Baseball applique pillow

Memo holder

Baseball scrapbook page

Baseball flag

Food:

Illinois caramel corn

Nachos supremo

Home run cheese ball

Caramel, peanut, popcorn baseball

Bats and balls snack

Texas corn dogs

Chicago style hot dogs

Bulldog hot dogs

Pulled pork sandwiches

Baseball cupcakes: one, two, three, four

Are you watching the World Series?  Who are you rooting for and how are you celebrating?

What’s Good Enough?

As a business owner you probably get your mistakes pointed out to you on a daily basis.  You know that your business isn’t perfect, although you probably spend some time trying to make it perfect.  I know, it’s tempting to try and fix all the little things that show up, but sometimes it’s not necessary.  So what do I recommend you work on?

1-your website.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, but there shouldn’t be spelling mistakes, there should be a way to contact you easily, and it should clearly tell who you are and what you do.  It should look nice and welcoming, and not from the dark ages of the internet.  Does it have to cost a couple thousand dollars?  No, definitely not.  More often than not people will look you up online before venturing to your store or calling you, so you want to make sure your site can do it’s job well.

2-your customer service.  If you can’t keep the customers in the door, you won’t have any, and won’t make any money.  You need to make sure that the things that directly touch or interact with your customers, such as your products and your employees, are focused on helping to create a share-worthy experience.

Today if you work on true and absolute perfection, you won’t make money.  In our fast paced society, you have to know when to grab the opportunities in front of you and how to make the most of the little time you do have.

Good enough won’t do it all the time, if you just try for “good enough” with your customers, they may come back but not tell anyone.  And the best way to grow is word of mouth.  But you have to decide when it’s good enough that trying for perfection will just waste time and mean that you’ll miss out on helping some people.

What needs to be improved in your business, and what have you been improving that is good enough?

Family History

October is chock full of fun events and remembrances. One of those is Family History.  It’s important to talk with your family about it’s history, not so much to share dates and to bore your kids, but because there are fascinating stories and real life people who make you who you are today.  If you couldn’t tell from my last statement, I’m not a big fan of  “textbook” history.  I don’t really think about numbers and facts in my daily life, what I do care about is the people.  Should you and your kids learn and share your family history?

As I said before, it’s the people who make up history, not the numbers, and everyone has a story.  Maybe their story isn’t a very interesting one in today’s standards, but it gives you insight into the skills, talents, and passions of those who came before you.  When you find out that your ancestor was part of the wagon train heading west, found gold in California, or mended the clothing of politicians in Washington DC, you discover your very real connection to what happened in the past.

Where can you learn about your family?  Ancestry.com is an obvious choice, but there may be documents at local and state libraries, if you know a location to start looking, that can get you other information.  And if you’re interested in hearing other people’s stories, shows like History Detectives are fun to watch.

What about you?  What fun stories do you have in your family tree?

Responsible Leaders

This year we’ve been taking some extra time to talk about leadership.  One of the biggest parts of being a leader is responsibility.  Leaders aren’t just responsible for who they are, but also for the people in their care.  Being a leader is about more than just getting the job done or having people follow you, it’s about doing the job in a way that not only gets the job done, but does it better than could have been done by someone other than a leader. Michael Korda said:

“Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility . . . . In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.”

If you truly want to be successful, you need to be responsible for yourself and for those around you.  It can be scary to be a leader, and it’s even more scary to be a responsible leader.  You have to not only make sure you’re doing what you believe is right, but what will also best serve those in your care, those following you.

Success, and responsibility, begins with you.  If you’re not attentive to your actions and thoughts (responsible for yourself), why would anyone else care about you?  It’s not about being self-righteous or arrogant, it’s about being conscious of yourself and your abilities.  Knowing who you are, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your limits, gives you the ability to not only create success in your life, but also accept responsibilities and be responsible for your actions and your life.

Once you’ve displayed responsibility, others not only see that you’re a capable leader, they know you can be trusted to be responsible for them, as well as teach them about responsibility.  As the old saying goes, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  As a leader it’s not just your job to create the success, it’s your blessing and responsibility to teach others how to do better and be better.

Are you a responsible individual?  Are you a responsible leader?  What can you do to be a better leader and more responsible person?

Family Awareness

As I’ve shared in past years, October is a time to talk about some of the more life-changing things in life, including Breast Cancer, Lupus, Diabetes and domestic violence.  In 2012, most people have been affected or know someone affected by one of those things.  Today I wanted to talk about talking with your kids about these things.

Learn about it: Although they’re not something you can “catch”, it’s important to know about them and, especially in the case of domestic violence, what you can do to prevent it.

Be open: don’t ignore the fact that people have Breast Cancer or get beat up by their spouses.  It’s become a fact of life, almost as prevalent as blue eyes or brown hair. Don’t shush your kids because they ask you about it either.

Don’t fear it: your fear will make your kids fear it and could, in turn, hurt someone who is personally affected.  Are they scary experiences? Yes, absolutely.  But your fear won’t help anyone in any way.

Get involved: getting involved in supporting others is easy.  There are tons of walks you can attend, as well as organizations you can donate to.  Find one that means something to you personally, like a walk for someone who had breast cancer in your neighborhood, or a walk remembering a little boy in your kid’s class who was killed by violence.

Getting involved personally, and with your kids, will help them learn how to treat others who are struggling, and help educate them in how to treat others right and help turn the tide against violence and fear.  Together we can do more than separate.  What will you do to help spread the awareness?

5 Website Musts

If you’re in business today you’ve probably got at least one website.  If you don’t, you’re missing out on a major marketing opportunity, and a chance to serve potential customers. One of the things I do in my business is review websites and give clients advice about how to improve them and better connect with their customers and potential customers.  Over and over I’m amazed that many websites are missing key pieces of information, so today I thought I’d share 5 things you need on your website.

Home page: your home page should have basic information about who you are as a business and why people should stick around to learn more.

About us page: if you’re running an online business this is crucial.  Not ever having the chance to meet in-person, this page creates a personal connection with your visitors.

Services page(s):  you’ve got to clearly and specifically tell people how you can help them and what problems you solve.  If you don’t, or are vague, people won’t buy or ask to learn more unless you’ve presented a really intriguing offer.

Contact us page: this page should have multiple ways to contact you including an email address and a “contact us” form.

Attention to details: if you’re not planning to update your website frequently (although I suggest you do), don’t put dates on the site for events or things that would become old (i.e. Christmas sales).  Always check your spelling, your paragraph spacing and coloring of the fonts and backgrounds.  Always check your website on a mobile device, apple computer, and several sizes/types of PC.  It may sound like overkill, but the more mistakes people see on your site, the less they think you’ll be able to help them or be attentive to the details that are important to them.

What about you?  What do you think is important to have on a website?

Vegetarian Eating at Home

October is a month, among many other things, to celebrate and recognize being healthier and eating as a vegetarian.  The North American Vegetarian Society points out these benefits:

• Reduction of the risk of major killers like heart disease, stroke and cancers while cutting exposure to food-borne pathogens.
• Offers a viable answer to feeding the world’s hungry, through more efficient use of grains and other crops.
• Saves animals from suffering in factory farm conditions and from painful slaughter.
• Conservation of vital, but limited freshwater, fertile topsoil and other precious resources.
• Preservation of irreplaceable ecosystems, such as rain forests and other wildlife habitats.
• Mitigation of the ever-expanding environmental pollution of animal agriculture.

Sure these are great reasons, so what exactly are vegetarians?  According to The Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian is someone “living on a diet of grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with or without the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or slaughter by-products.”  Now, there are varying degrees of vegetarianism, some don’t eat meat, some don’t eat dairy or meat, and some are very strict, and known as vegans.

My goal today isn’t to encourage you to become vegan, but to eat smarter and healthier.  There are lots of easy and delicious recipes that you can make using regular items from your local food store that will help your body, and family, be healthier.  To start, make one lunch and one dinner a week as vegetarian as you possibly can.  If you’re concerned about time, spend one day cooking a meal that will last you several lunches, like a stew, chili or soup.  Salads are quick and most often vegetarian.

To get started, here are a few delicious recipes:

Chickpea salad

Kung pao tofu

Chickpea burgers with Tahini

Wild mushroom risotto

To learn more, you can visit:

Vegan website

Vegetarian starter tips

Healthy ideas from Food Network

No meat ideas for the whole family

What about you?  Have you tried cutting back your family’s consumption of meat?  What recipes have you found to be a big hit?

5 Things to Organize in your Business

The first week in October is known as Get Organized week in the USA.  To help you be a better business owner, today I’ve got some tips about getting organized in your business.

1-what you do.  I’m of the opinion that if you keep track of what you do, preferably on paper or at the very least notated on the computer, you’ll be able to repeat the performance if it’s favorable, and make changes when you try again.  I keep a record of classes I teach, things that worked well in speaking with clients, what other people do that I think is interesting or relevant, and anything else I think I’ll want to be able to reference in the future.  It may even help you to be able to see what you’ve done and what you’re doing written out.  I have a file folder near my desk as well as a spiral notebook that I use to keep many of these notes in.

2-social strategies.  Everyone is on social media, but not everyone has a plan, nor do they keep track of what they’re sharing.  I have a document that holds all my social posts and tweets for the year and I use that not only to plan what I’m sharing ahead of time but also as a reference and resource for the next year of sharing.  I like using Excel to do this as it’s easy to sort and organize the info.

3-content creation.  Content is one of they ways you show who you are and your unique perspective to prospective and current clients.  It’s good to come up with a plan for monthly and yearly content you’re sharing on your blogs and newsletters so you can not only plan ahead, but also look back and see what you’ve done.  You can use a traditional wall calendar, an Excel spreadsheet or Word document to keep track and plan ahead.

4-yearly/monthly/weekly plans.  One of the worst things you can do for your business and your clients is to not have a plan for what you’re doing, what you’re offering and what you’re marketing.  I begin with a written or typed outline, from there I use a calendar, spreadsheet or document to list details and references.

5-clients. Keeping track of your clients, their needs, their wants, their locations, your contracts and any other important information will help you better serve them in the future. I suggest having a file folder for each client, as well as a file on your computer for all relevant information about them.  The more clients you have, the harder it gets to keep track of them, so set up your system as early as possible in the business.

At the very least I update all my records and files monthly, and do a yearly check-in to make sure that my notes are all up to date.

What about you?  What are your favorite ways to get and stay organized in your business?