Building Your Business with Melinda Emerson. Melinda F. Emerson, known as SmallBizLady, is America’s #1 Small Business Expert. She has been a thriving entrepreneur for nearly 15 years and is an internationally known keynote speaker. Melinda’s small business advice is widely read reaching more than 3 million entrepreneurs each week on the internet.
Carol has had a hard second year in business. She hired a so-called social media expert who promised her that she would boost her sales on Facebook. After six months and $7,000, Carol hadn’t got one customer from Facebook ads.
When Carol found out about the strategy outlined in my new eBook, “How to Make Facebook Your #1 Salesperson,” she was a frustrated, hard worker, doing everything she could to keep her business from going under. All most every dollar she made went to paying off this $7,000 marketing debt.
It took a few weeks, but with the help of Parts 2 & 3 of my new eBook, “How to Make Facebook Your #1 Salesperson,” Carol was able to figure out how to talk directly to her buyers and start doing her own marketing. Now, she’s consistently attracting quality clients and closing them with almost no effort. It has given her the boost in sales she needed to pay off her debt.
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#Smallbizchatis a weekly conversation where small business owners can get answers to their questions. The focus of #Smallbizchat is to end small business failure by helping participants succeed as your own boss. Each month different experts join the discussion, and the July 2019 #Smallbizchat LIVE was all about leadership, retaining top talent, and succeeding as a solopreneur.
Please join us live on Twitter every Wednesday from 8-9 pm ET. Here’s how: follow @SmallBizChaton Twitter and follow the hashtag #Smallbizchat and click here for directionsto join the weekly conversation.
This week on the July 2019 #Smallbizchat LIVE, our show featured three guests: How to Be a Better Leader in Your Business with Patrick Dougher, @BizSpotlighTV, How to Attract and Retain Top Talent in Your Small Business with Oginga Carr, @OgingaCarr, and How to Be a Successful Solopreneur with Pamela Slim, @pamslim.
I pulled three of the best questions from each of them to share with you. Every third Wednesday of the month, Smallbizchat LIVE is broadcast on my SmallBizLady Facebook Page, YouTube channel, and on Twitter @SmallBizLady.
Patrick Dougher is passionate about helping you build, grow, and scale a flourishing and thriving business by sharing proven and time-tested systems guaranteed to generate more engaged employees, increase sales, land more ideal clients, earning more profit. In the past 20 years, I have taught over 40k people these tools to help them create more success for themselves. Patrick is an award-winning Contract Trainer and speaker, having worked with Zig Ziglar as one of his speakers. His mission is to Mentor Leaders to activate their power so they can create their destiny. Learn more at www.DoerSuccess.com.
SmallBizLady: Where did you learn the principles of leadership that you teach?
Patrick Dougher: Where I learned the principle of leadership that I teach began first in college as the activities coordinator for one of the largest student centers at Texas A&M University. In my career, I had several opportunities to continue to teach leadership because every professional position that I held I ended up with me in the sales training position of the companies that I worked with. My biggest growth in leadership actually came from a 3-Day event that I lead from 2000 to 2010. This particular program dealt with how to process pain rather than run from it. How to find your purpose, your passion, and walk into your destiny. As a leader there, my job was to raise and mentor people that could replace me. I found I had a real knack for that. The principles that I teach begin with what is the power center in a person’s life, their passion, their gifting’s if you want to call it. I found that if you understand someone’s gifts and then place them in the areas where those gifts become in their main job, they thrive and whenever you can nurture people in their power centers people create greater results.
SmallBizLady: What are the keys to mentoring employees to create dynamic results?
Patrick Dougher: The keys to creating dynamic results in mentoring people are to first identify what their primary motivational gift is. I found that there are seven primary motivational gifts. These tend to be:
I have a short test that I administer that identifies these easily in employees. Once you understand these principles and gifts, you can easily lead people by placing them in areas where their gifts thrive.
SmallBizLady: What should an aspiring leader do to great better results in the future?
Patrick Dougher: I believe aspiring leaders that want to create better results in the future have to be continuous learners. There are so many great mentors throughout the world that are teaching keys to success in business and life. A leader has to be a learner. You half to be open to learning new things every day. I believe there are three things that will take any leader to any level in their career.
The right information.
The ability to process information faster and remember more.
These three steps will help any leader go to any level in their career.
Oginga Carr is an author, national seminar leader, organizational structure expert, and HR consultant. He brings 17 years of experience in Sales, Management, and Human Resources. His passion is in the dynamic of change; dealing with it, working through it, and preparing for it. Oginga focuses on productivity through structure and human capital development. He is the author of the book, Your Limitless Life. Learn more at www.ogingacarr.com
SmallBizLady: How do you attract top talent to your business?
Oginga Carr: It all starts with you. We must have a vision for what we want our business to be and what the moving parts are for it. Where do you want your business to be in 5 years? One Year? Start there and work your way backward. Business owners have to be able to envision the role that their employees or partners are going to fulfill. Then we shape those roles and create positions that will help our businesses reach their goal. Being really clear about our expectations in those roles helps us to attract high performers to our organization. High performing talent is attracted to positions where they can make a difference. When we are clear about defining that in our roles, we will attract the best talent,
SmallBizLady: How do you retain great talent in your small business?
Oginga Carr: Most employers make the mistake of thinking that money is the key to keeping employees. You can’t pay your employees enough money to be happy. Money is important, but studies show that whom they work with, whom they work for, and what they do are all more important than money to the average employee. Money is important, but the environment is more important. It’s all about creating partnerships within your business. When you make your employees feel like they are partners, then they want to stay and are stakeholders in building your business.
SmallBizLady: What is the biggest mistake businesses make with their talent?
Oginga Carr: One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is not communicating change well. Change is a part of life. We will always face change in the way we access our customers, that we communicate with each other, and how our organization functions, but it is imperative that we communicate those changes well. When our talent feels like they are a part of the process, they stay. So its best to communicate changes clearly and efficiently to avoid the feeling of “madness” that envelops many businesses. When the team knows the adjustments, they can make them happen.
Pamela Slim is an award-winning author, speaker, and small business coach. She specializes in helping service businesses grow and scale their intellectual property. Pam and her husband Darryl opened the Main Street Learning Lab in Mesa, Arizona in 2016, where they work with diverse entrepreneurs to solve core business challenges and generates stories, research, and insight for companies and organizations who serve them. Find her at pamelaslim.com.
SmallBizLady: As a solopreneur, how do you juggle everything on your plate?
Pamela Slim: Managing solopreneur life means you have to make planning and focus a daily, sometimes hourly part of your routine. You must take the time to identify your critical priorities and deliverables, so you don’t get overwhelmed and behind. You also have to get really good at taking things off your list that is not directly related to your goals. Say no to non-strategic work so that you can say yes to work that will make your business grow.
SmallBizLady: How do solopreneurs know what to outsource?
Pamela Slim: When you examine all of your daily tasks, identify three things: 1) what is a recurring activity that I do not need to do myself? (bookkeeping or scheduling are common categories) 2) what are tasks that really annoy me and put me in a bad mood when I even think about doing them? 3) what are tasks that are taking me away from the work I love to do, am good at, and that generates income or visibility? Once you get your list, try a short experiment to outsource a tiny project in one of these task categories. Make sure to define and start and end date and manage the performance tightly.
SmallBizLady: How should solopreneurs deal with cash flow challenges?
Pamela Slim: Every business owner faces cash flow challenges. The causes are many, but the most common ones are lack of visibility into your finances because you have not prioritized bookkeeping, lack of consistent marketing actions leading to dry spells, and lack of savings and lines of credit as a backup for unexpected delays in payment. If you focus on improving these three areas, you will be much more likely to smooth out cash flow crunches.
Now that you’ve caught up with the July 2019 #Smallbizchat LIVE – would you like to be a guest on the next #Smallbizchat?
If you are a small business owner, author, or subject matter expert, we’d love to have you appear as a guest on #Smallbizchat. This chat is focused on educating our business community. Once your topic is selected, you will be required to submit 12 questions and answers in paragraph form to demonstrate your expertise. For details on how to submit your information to be a guest on #Smallbizchat click here.
We all want to become someone that inspires and is worthy of a tight-knit, supportive franchise team. But how is it done? What approaches can you take to ensure your staff are happy and always striving for the best?
Here are five useful tips for creating a positive franchise environment that gets the most from its team.
First, though, let’s explain why it matters.
Why Do You Need a Happy and Motivated Franchise Team?
Happiness breeds success. Without it, there’s no point in working hard or going above and beyond basic duties. This is something you cannot do without when leading a franchise team to victory. People should actively want to work for you. They must feel comfortable and cared for. Most importantly, they need to be recognized for their achievements. A business that doesn’t instill a sense of self-worth isn’t worth anyone’s time or effort.
Staff members are willing to put in longer hours, better service, and additional requests if they’re part of a motivated culture. One 2015 report states that productivity can increase from 12-20 percent if people are happy when they’re asked to do something. Another argues that ‘high, hard goals’ are essential for continued improvement. Get the balance right, and you’ll have the opportunity to earn more, buy new territories, and raise wages.
5 Ways to Motivate Your Franchise Team
Now that we’ve established why happiness and motivation are so valuable, let’s go through each of our strategies for seeding it.
1. Define and Monitor Performance Metrics
To give your workers direction, set out how their activity will be quantified over weeks, months, and years. Every business has its own performance metric system. You may be tracking how many meals or drinks a staff member cooks, sells, or distributes. Perhaps they should deal with a set number of inquiries per day. Or it could be the time taken for a service job to be completed, and payments secured as a result.
Define these measurements for yourself. Explain them to every employee in detail, as well as the frequency with which you’ll compare metric scores. Members of the team can then perform different tasks to the best of their ability whilst knowing they’re part of the same overarching framework.
2. Treat People as Individuals
As much as expectations for the work itself should be clearly outlined, good leaders have to remember that everyone learns best (and responds) in their own way. Whether they’re visual, practical, or reading-led learners, never forget that one style of communication can be better for some colleagues than others.
You’ll uncover such quirks as you get to know people. But it’s useful to ask them during the interview process; questions like “How do you describe yourself?” can give you a great starting point. Then, throughout the working day, try to speak to them when you can. Even a quick catch-up can reveal more about how they best communicate, helping you adjust your approaches in a way that aids happiness and motivation.
3. Share Feedback amongst the Group
No matter how many franchises or territories you own, make sure you bring everyone together – once a month maybe – for a debrief. Individual appraisals are brilliant, of course, but these group gatherings put everyone in the spotlight. You can run over the targets you’ve hit as a team, personal achievements, and any updates on the franchise as a whole.
This will lead naturally into an open floor for questions. Does anyone have ideas or feedback? Give them the opportunity to present them, and the rest of the workforce can then contribute their own thoughts. Opinions can be supported or challenged, with full respect for diversity of ideas. When a team is listened to, they feel appreciated – and this is important if they are to be happy at work.
4. Implement a Training Program
The chances are that your franchise staff come with certain credentials. Aside from basic things like health and safety or first aid training, however, you should motivate people to learn about the industry for themselves. Competitors, innovations, and new clients form the crux of what you do. The more you let colleagues make their own judgments on these factors – as well as allow them to influence the business directly – the more satisfied they may feel.
It doesn’t have to be extensive. Just spare some time for personal development in the context of the franchise. Let a few workers try their hand at another aspect of operations. Better still, allow them to study online courses and industry material during work hours now and then.
5. Join the Team on the Job
Often, separation breeds resentment between boss and employee. If they don’t think you have any real sense of what it’s like to do the regular, labor-intensive tasks, leading them is harder. A franchise owner who is willing to join atheteam on-site every now and again can do wonders for team morale.
Additionally, you can see how well workers are adhering to the franchise’s playbook. That leaves plenty of room to focus on big administrative duties for the rest of the week. Leave a day or two aside, as often as you can spare them (even when the franchise expands), to get back in the trenches.
In summary, happiness and motivation are about stretching capabilities as much as it is making people feel valued for the work they’re doing now. Here’s how to achieve that within your franchise team:
Forge a way to gather, analyze, and compare performance data.
Modify the way you speak to and teach staff because everyone responds and learns in their own way.
Bring the team together for a mutual feedback session at least once a month.
Encourage training and development that feeds back into the business.
Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty once in a while – reminding yourself that the work of your franchise team has a direct link from the top to the bottom of the business.
About the Author: David is Rainbow International’s Franchise Recruitment Manager, who helps potential business owners decide whether this route is right for them. He is driven and determined to match up potential franchisees to their dream opportunities and is passionate about everything to do with franchising. Rainbow International is a global specialist cleaning and disaster recovery service. They operate in several countries, treating properties, commercial premises, and historic sites. Under the banner of ISS Restoration, the brand continues to do vital work and grow its franchise family. They currently have regional territories available in The UK.
Keri just got some great news. She won a new contract as the caterer for one of the largest law firms in her state. So, why is Keri stuck in her office doing payroll on a Friday night instead of out celebrating? She doesn’t have anyone else who can do it.
You’re probably thinking, why doesn’t she just hire someone. A few months ago, she did, but it was a complete disaster. The person Keri hired claimed to be an expert but didn’t have any experience working with small business accounting or her Quickbooks software. The worker did such a poor job, that Keri lost thousands of dollars in less than 3 months. So, now Keri is back to doing it herself, after her staff leaves for the day.
Small business owners are in an especially difficult position when it comes to outsourcing work for their business, because many of the so-called experts they encounter are better at selling themselves than they are at doing the work you hire them to do. On top of that, they don’t have the HR resources big companies do to run the extensive background checks and skills tests needed to truly vet a potential outsourcing partner.
As it turns out you don’t need to be a huge firm to hire the right people to help you grow your business. If you want to survive in business without burning yourself out, you can’t try to do everything yourself. In order to have sustained growth year after year, you must focus on your most high-valued activities such as sales. So, here are the important tips you need to make sure you hire a great outsourcing partner you can trust.
6 Tips for Finding the Right Outsourcing Partner
As a small business owner, you may not have a big HR budget, but you can still take these steps to vet your outsourcing partner or new hire before you bring them into your business.
1. Check Their LinkedIn Profile
Googling your potential hire or outsourcing partner should be your first step, but you should go deeper and check their LinkedIn profile. It’s like a CV on steroids. You can see the basic outlines of their experience but more importantly, you’ll see how their contacts regard them. Look for recommendations, what content they have shared and what skills they’ve been endorsed for. Determine if you have any overlapping contacts. Don’t hesitate to reach out to those contacts you have in common to see if they would give them a referral.
2. Review Their Past Performance
Ask any vendor or job candidate for references and check them. Be sure to ask their prior customers how satisfied they were they with their performance. Some key questions to ask: did they deliver on time and on budget? How was their work quality? Were they professional and easy to work with? Did they work up to the promised standard? If you can, go a step further, and dig for your own references. It can be assumed that the people will only give you customers as references who will be positive. Try to find some previous clients not listed there and contact them.
3. Check Their Work, and Test Their Skills
If you’re hiring someone to do an artistic job, like web design, logo development or copy writing, be sure to ask them for their online portfolio. It’s a great tool to assess the quality of their work and the sophistication of their design eye. You could presume that they’ve put some time and effort into assembling their portfolio and that only their best work has made the cut.
If the potential partner is a marketing firm, ask for samples of previous marketing campaigns and then ask for the results of the campaigns in terms of click-throughs, likes, followers and sales. Measure how original their ideas are, how well were the ideas were implemented and how successful was the campaign.
For more technical jobs, like project management, IT or engineering, you probably won’t be able to get samples due to confidentiality or the type of work these type of experts do, but you can test their skills. Ask them to do a simple task instead to test knowledge. Something quick, but something that will give you a little insight into how they can handle the tasks and if they know what you’re looking for.
4. Develop a Communication Protocol
Whether you’re seeking and outsourcing partner for just a short project or you’re trying to find someone who will work with your business in a key role, you’ll have to work closely with that person, and you’ll need a communication protocol and online project management database where all project documents are kept. Consider Slack, Basecamp or Teamwork.
Included in your files should be the delivery schedule, contact information on the team, a meeting schedule and progress updates of the project. It’s is critical that everyone be able to find any assets needed and clearly communicate the progress of their portion of project. If they experience any problems, they must explain where they are against the timeline and how they are going to fix it.
Soft skills are just as important as their actual experience and skill-set. Unfortunately, there isn’t an exact way to assess how easy it will be to communicate with your outsourcing partner. Conduct a thorough interview and go with your gut feeling. Do an email interview, with 15-25 questions to gain additional insight and be sure to include situational questions so that you can get a sense of their attitude and people skills.
5. Check Their Infrastructure
To minimize the chance of something unexpected happening due to poor infrastructure or equipment, create a checklist for any prospective hire on their equipment, as a condition of employment. Check if your potential outsourcing partner has a stable computer (no more than three-years-old), a fast internet connection, a webcam to connect for a Zoom or Skype meetings, and solid anti-virus software. Make sure they know your project management software, and confirm how their finished work will be transferred to you. They need to upload finished work and download new tasks. Use cloud based storage solution such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or WeTransfer.com to send draft documents. It’s crucial that information be available 24/7 and you want to avoid client delays because something avoidable happened, like a computer crashing.
6. Consider the Benefits
After the skill set is no longer needed, the contract ends without any hassle or unemployment compensation required. In addition, using a contract worker saves your small business money because you are not encumbered with payroll taxes, benefits, etc. You might also have an opportunity to develop a partnership which could give both companies an opportunity to increase capacity and go for larger corporate contracts.
Outsourcing and hiring freelancers to work for your business can be scary, but often well worth it. If you have a clear job description and hire someone who is excellent at what they do, and doesn’t need a lot of supervision, you can grow well past what you are paying them. Finding an experienced, trustworthy vendor who is good at their job will take pressure off you. This will enable you to focus on what you do best—securing the next opportunity. If you would like our help organizing your business so that you can outsource to vendors who can help your business grow, go to http://succeedasyourownboss.com and click the contact button. Someone from my team will follow up with you within 24 hours. I’m always here as a resource.
Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Rachel Stewart @UnqualifiedTool Rachel started as an unqualified office manager, but over the last decade became the general manager of a $22M restoration company and the CEO of a software development company focused on getting contractors the technology tools they need. In her new book, Unqualified Success, Rachel shares the tools that made all the difference in her achievement in a practical and engaging way. The things she learned the hard way are made available in this easily accessible format for anyone who wants to take their life to the next level. Learn more at http://www.unqualifiedtools.com
SmallBizLady: What are the biggest misconceptions when it comes to achieving success?
Rachel M. Stewart: Most of us think that when we get the results we want in our lives, then we will feel worthy or qualified. For example, we think when we get the promotion, we will feel successful. But our feelings are created only by the thoughts we think. If we want to feel successful, we need to change our thoughts, which will then allow us to get the results we want. We have to feel qualified and worthy before we can have the confidence to act and achieve the results and success we want. We usually have it backward.
SmallBizLady: Why do you think mastery of skill is more valuable than formal education?
Rachel M. Stewart: I have been unqualified for essentially every position I have ever held, and every goal I have ever achieved. I believe that achieving success in life does not stem from fancy (and expensive) education, but rather mastering some very specific traits and habits along the way. While education may be required for many professions (yes, let’s continue to go to medical school future surgeons), what is even more important is mastering your mind, your beliefs, and your habits. My success came simply because I was willing to work and learn and keep showing up. I used the word simply, but that does not mean it is easy. It requires the hard work of mastering fear, dealing with failure, and being persistent.
SmallBizLady: How does imposter syndrome relate to being an Unqualified Success?
Rachel M. Stewart: Regardless of our resumes or our accomplishments or our certifications or our degrees, each of us harbors personal doubts about our ability to succeed and reach our goals. This means that on some level, every person feels unqualified. An Unqualified Success is someone who believes whole-heartedly in themselves and their ability to accomplish their dreams, regardless of the fears and doubts that surround them. An Unqualified Success is someone who figures out the only real limitations they have are in their own mind. And they are willing to completely ignore those limitations.
SmallBizLady: So, what are some of these limitations that hold us back?
Rachel M. Stewart: Our own beliefs about ourselves can hold us back. For example, if we think we’re not the kind of person that can do “x” or if we think we’ve never been able to do “y” then we unnecessarily hold ourselves back. Our past should never dictate our future. I like to encourage my readers to clean out their thought closet and get rid of the old thoughts that are preventing the new beliefs they need to take action in their lives.
SmallBizLady: But many small business owners face real challenges attracting clients, stayingcompetitive, and managing cash flow.How does mindset play a role in these very present concerns?
Rachel M. Stewart: I love the story of Kevin and Keith Hanson. They owned a couple of successful running-shoe stores in Detroit. When Keith was asked about their success, he said, “Sometimes other shop owners will complain to me that running’s down in their area. And I think, ‘You do know you’re in charge of that, right?’” See? The Hansons are in charge of their business. They take responsibility for all of it—even the general running interest in their community and the deterrent Michigan winters. It’s all up to them.
At first glance, that philosophy may seem overwhelming. But the opposite is true. Taking responsibility means it’s up to you and no one else. What would happen in your business if you adopted this thought: “You do know you’re in charge of that, right?” Having the mindset that you are completely in charge of all your outcomes will empower you like nothing else will.
SmallBizLady: What else can our readers do to make more progress towards their goals?
Rachel M. Stewart: It’s important to recognize that our goals to build our businesses or grow our brand will always require us to do things that stretch us and are likely outside our current comfort zone. We always think about success as positive, but I have found that getting real success requires quite a bit of discomfort and negative emotion. Whenever I push myself, I find it is uncomfortable. The better we can get at feeling negative emotion without giving up or giving in, the more success we can access. This requires grit, persistence, and a deep hunger for growth. Developing these kinds of attributes will serve us as we work towards our goals.
SmallBizLady: What about when we fail in achieving our goals?
Rachel M. Stewart: Alan Mulally became the CEO at Ford at the worst time in the history of the company. They were failing. He used to tell his leaders and employees, “The situation is not good or bad. The situation is just the way it is. We get to decide what to do about it.” With this attitude, Mulally led Ford to one of the greatest turnarounds in business history. It turns out that the biggest determining factor in your ability to use your failures to generate future success is your own thoughts. What we make the failure mean is what counts.
SmallBizLady: How do we continue to be willing to learn and grow when we face failure?
Rachel M. Stewart: We all know that success is created one failure at a time, but this isn’t always comforting when we’re in the middle of one of these experiences. Recently, you might have seen Tiger Woods win the Masters tournament after not winning for 11 years—somehow he stayed persistent for all that time. Despite how anyone feels about Tiger Wood’s personal life, this is a pretty compelling example. Ask yourself how long you would be willing to fail if you knew for sure you would succeed in the end. A month? A year? Ten years? When it is hard to persist, imagine that you can see your future success and then decide: if indeed that success is inevitable, are you willing to keep going now?
SmallBizLady: What advice do you have for our followers who have big dreams and ambitions but feel stuck in taking that next step?
Rachel M. Stewart: Feeling stuck or confused about the next step in our business is natural because the next step usually involves things we’ve never done before. This is where having a clear vision of our goals and dreams can be very powerful. It turns out that our brains can’t tell the difference between the past and a vividly imagined future. When you are stuck, try the following exercise:
Imagine the future you want. What does success look like to you? Get as specific as possible.
Take a snapshot of that future and record your vision in writing. Make the description as vivid and detailed as possible.
Spend a few minutes every day visualizing your future so that your mind can go to work believing it and then creating it.
When you are feeling stuck, giving your brain a specific vision of the destination of where you want to end up, even when you don’t yet know the exact way to get there, is all the direction needed. Your brain will then get busy figuring out “the how.”
SmallBizLady: Do you have other tips for taking a business to the next level?
Rachel M. Stewart: Yes, I would say get to work to develop the traits you need. Do not simply read and consume information. Instead make sure that after you read something that resonates with you, decide how you are going to take action and start putting it into practice.
I wanted my book, Unqualified Success, to be super practical and so I included specific exercises with every chapter that people can use to apply the principles from that chapter. Practicing the skills that create unqualified success will be so much more valuable than just reading or consuming information on the subject. We live in a world with so much information; what we need is more chances to apply what we’ve learned. If you need resources, exercises can be found at unqualifiedtools.com.
SmallBizLady: Do you think anyone can be an Unqualified Success?
Rachel M. Stewart: Absolutely. Without question. My book is full of example after example, of person after person, from every socio-economic situation, from every industry, with a variety of talent or lack thereof, that have applied these proven principles and achieved massive success. Success is never limited to the “qualified.” Anyone who is on a growth trajectory is unqualified for the next step. That’s what’s so amazing!
SmallBizLady: How do you measure success?
Rachel M. Stewart: Remember that your success is not just about you. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that your success is personal, that if you try or if you don’t, it doesn’t really matter. Every success we achieve personally affects the world around us. Our success breeds more success for others. Your success makes a measurable impact on everyone around you. It affects your clients and customers, your employees, your community, and those you lead. Think for a moment how many people are depending on your willingness to overcome your own mental obstacles and achieve massive success so that they can follow you and do the same.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.
Regardless of the industry, it’s been widely touted that customer acquisition costs are always higher than customer retention costs. What I’m trying to say is that holding on to your existing customers isn’t just easier, it’s also more economical. Sounds like a good business idea to work on improving customer engagement and loyalty, doesn’t it?
So, what’s the key to improving your customer loyalty then?
The first step is realizing that customer engagement is an incredibly important part of it. The real trick, though, is figuring out the best ways to do that. Grabbing the attention of your customers is easy. But holding on to it long enough to make an impact is the hard part.
All of the intense competition out there certainly isn’t making things any easier. So what can you do to differentiate your business from your competitors? How do you keep your customers loyal and coming back for more?
Let’s take a look at some key components that your customer retention strategy should definitely include.
1. Start an Employee Advocacy Program
It may not seem like the best place to start, but that’s precisely why it’s often overlooked. For better or worse, your customer-facing employees are the faces of your brand. Their interactions with your customers are going to go a long way in determining a customer’s satisfaction.
These men and women are your de-facto brand ambassadors. If they feel unmotivated to do their best, your customers are going to pick up on that feeling of apathy.
Instituting an employee advocacy program can help your company grow and shape your company culture. People want to trust brands and relate to them. And what better way to humanize your brand than by having your employees talk about their personal stories related to your company?
Get your employees to share information about their daily operations and their motivations for working here. This helps build the image of your company as a great workplace where passionate people are doing what they love. And that will help customers connect emotionally connect with your brand.
To encourage participation, you can even maintain leader-boards and offer prizes or other incentives. You could judge them on the basis of who posts the most content or receives the most engagement on social media.
Landis+Gyr has a great employee advocacy program which you may want to model yours after. Their employees share relevant industry and brand-related content with their networks on social media. The company’s aim is to make their employees key influencers in their industry. The program garnered 1800 content shares, 1500 engagements, and an earned media value close to $11,000.
2. Keep Them Emotionally Connected
The best way to increase customer engagement is to find ways for customers to interact with your brand—even when they aren’t necessarily interested in buying one of your products. Let’s take a look at how to do that.
Build a Community
A great way to keep customers engaged with your brand is to build a sense of community around your product or service. This could take the form of a web forum where people meet and interact with one another and company reps as well.
The key is to draw your customers into a social circle based on your brand and their mutual enthusiasm for your products. People in a group are more likely to continue using or buying your products because a number of their friends are.
What’s more, when the time comes to make a purchase, their ongoing involvement in the community will play a role. It ensures that they are aware of your latest products already. And with little to no marketing effort required on your end.
Officially backed “Owner’s clubs” are popular among car manufacturers like BMW. There’s a host of perks, from a customer perspective, which encourages people to be a part of the club. Their forums are a place for “Beamer” lovers to share their enthusiasm about their cars and exchange stories.
Host Live Events
Events and conferences are great too. They allow your customers to interact with your brand in a positive and non-transactional environment.
For your customers, it’s an opportunity to see what your company is working on and meet like-minded individuals. It gives them a good platform to voice their opinions to manufacturers and developers. For your brand, it’s a way to source insightful feedback from your customers and a way to improve your offerings.
Several gaming studios take advantage of live events to meet with and get feedback from some of their most loyal fans. BlizzCon, organized by Blizzard-Activision, and QuakeCon, organized by ZeniMax Media, are two such events. Both draw in thousands of attendees each year with tens of thousands more watching the live-streams of the events online.
Attending larger conventions is also an effective (and more frugal) way to promote your products and meet with your fans. However, hosting your own event allows the focus to be solely on you. Another plus: the attendees clearly have a vested interest in your brand. They make for a more qualified audience, which makes customer acquisition and retention much easier.
Gamify the Customer Experience
Gamification of customer experience can be difficult to pull off, but it is worth it in the end. Consider introducing a sense of progression whenever a customer interacts with your brand. This way, you can tap into that primal part of the human brain that thrives on the feeling of instant gratification.
Award badges or special promotions to customers who achieve a certain milestone or complete a particular task while using your product. The video gaming industry is already known for employing such a concept.
But you can expand the concept to work for your brand as well. Companies like Fitbit have achieved good success by introducing similar aspects to their products, such as Fitbit Badges that are awarded upon completing Fitbit achievements.
4. Target “Whales” for Customized Services and Options
Loyalty programs are a great way to increase customer engagement with your brand. Why not take them one step further with a tiered system? You want to be in a position to identify customers who tend to spend significantly more than your average customer. Consider giving them a special premium tier within your existing loyalty programs.
While more points and better perks or discounts are nice, being able to offer customized services would be even better. For instance, if you have a clothing brand, you can offer your best customers the service of a personal stylist.
Besides offering advice when solicited, you can use a customer’s purchase history to identify their taste and preferences. Then you can suggest clothes from new lines and collections that they may be interested in.
Services like this are a great value-addition for customers and a way to improve customer engagement and loyalty long-term. The personal touch is extremely valuable when it comes to instilling a sense of loyalty to a brand.
Now, you may not have the resources to offer that sort of service to all your customers. But making sure your “high-rollers” feel like they’re getting the V.I.P. treatment makes fantastic business sense.
Just look at Sephora’s VIB Rouge and Beauty Insider program. Top-tier members have access to several experiential rewards that aren’t available to others. The clear distinction between the tiers has built an aura of exclusivity. It’s made wanting the VIB Rouge status all the more alluring.
5. Be Socially Responsible
While often maligned by older generations, millennials are more environmentally and socially conscientious than any other generation. 90 percent of millennials would prefer taking their business to brands which they think are socially and environmentally responsible. 95 percent of them would even recommend the brand to their friends.
Millennials are easily one of the biggest generations in the United States, demographically. Their spending habits and the values that win their brand loyalty will determine the long-term growth of your business.
Consumers prefer supporting brands that offer products they enjoy and brands that are involved in social or other causes that they can get behind. Any failure to meet their standards can have extremely undesirable consequences.
87 percent of consumers would rather buy products from a company that advocates for a cause they believed in. 76 percent would take their business elsewhere if they learned that a brand has views contrary to their own.
Clearly then, being socially responsible is the way to go if you want to win over and keep your customers, particularly younger generations. Consider picking a cause that you are interested in and promote it regularly in your marketing efforts. It can be anything you want as long as you care deeply and sincerely about it.
Leesa, for example, donates a mattress to a homeless shelter for every tenth mattress sold as well as planting a tree for every order received. On the other side of the world, furniture retailer, Koala in Australia, uses a percentage of funds from each sale to go towards conservation efforts for the cuddly critters their company is named after.
6. Streamline Your Customer Experience
This could require a lot of time and effort on your part, depending on how your business operates. The key here is to reduce the number of steps needed to complete a transaction from start to finish. That includes everything from the first time you catch a customer’s eye to the post-sale service.
Regardless of whether you’re a brick and mortar business or an e-commerce one, streamlining your customer journey is the way to go. Each extra step in the journey increases the chances of your customers walking away.
So, how do you go about it then? One emerging trend is relying on automated CRM tools. They’re capable of organizing your entire sales process and making it easier to engage your leads and clients. But the biggest benefit of CRM tools is how well they help you manage your relationship-building activities.
Fast food giants like McDonald’s have attempted to improve the sales process with the addition of self-service ordering kiosks. This allows them to drastically cut ordering wait-times without needing to increase their staffing requirements.
When it comes to online shopping, platforms such as Amazon introduced features like 1-click ordering. This allows existing customers to purchase items with a single click. It’s facilitated by using the billing, delivery, and payment information that was already linked to customers’ respective accounts.
While some of these customer engagement tactics may seem easier to implement than others, they all have their own merits. You need to figure out which strategies will work best with your business and then go ahead and implement them. While a winning strategy may not be cheap, losing otherwise loyal customers will be far more expensive in the long-term.
About the Author: Gaurav Sharma is the Founder of Attrock, a digital marketing company. He works closely with top marketing influencers and has helped numerous brands, ecommerce firms, and SaaS companies grow. He is also a certified Google Analytics and Google Adwords specialist and regularly contributes to reputable publications like HuffPost, TechCrunch, and many more.
It is harder that ever to promote your business online. No longer is a website that looks good on a mobile device enough—you must also consider investing in video content, SEO and online ads to make sure you get found by your target customer online.
As small business owners, we have challenges everyday including cash flow, staffing and managing our online brands with our website. Many of us are tired of snake-oil salespeople promising to get us to the front page of Google or paying for AdWords or Facebook ad campaigns that don’t that deliver. We need easy tools to help us promote our businesses, and Google has provided a new resource to help. Now keep in mind that Google wants to sell you ads, but these Google tools also offer helpful advice for your small business.
Introducing Google Tools for Small Business Owners
The internet has created new opportunities for small businesses, but it can be hard to know where to start. Most of our issues come down to saving time and money. To that end, Google has launched Google for Small Business, a suite of Google tools to help your business (including the benefit of helping you transition your Gmail email account into a professional email—i.e. email@example.com). This is a new ‘Grow with Google’ initiative to help small businesses find the right Google tools to reach business goals. The website is quite easy to use. You just enter your business name, answer a few questions about your business, and select a goal.
It’s Provides Personalized Plans: Then you’ll receive a step-by-step plan of recommended products tailored for you. Google’s services are divided into three areas how to reach more customers with online advertising, create a professional presence with the right Google tools, (G-Suite Tools), and engage more customers with video (Get a free YouTube Channel). The recommendations will include products to help with all three, but with a special focus on the goal that’s most important to you.
Kim Spalding, Global Product Director, Google Small Business Ads, is a former small business owner herself. She joined the internet giant two-years ago and her team launched this new tool. Spalding explains her goal, “The internet has created new opportunities for small businesses, but it can be hard to know where to start; we just want to help business owners get there faster.” This new site also provides information on FREE live workshops happening near you for hands-on help, and you can stay updated on Google tools and services for small businesses as they continue to roll out.
With Google, it’s never been easier to create an online ad, but before diving in, focus on these three things: a) you must know which product you’d like to promote; b) Have a budget in mind to spend; c) Set you goal for what success will look like. The Google tools will give you suggestions, but keep in mind that Google is trying to make money.
Get started at google.com/smallbusiness to figure out if Google AdWords, the G-suite or YouTube is what you need to grow your business.
Congratulations! You’ve just secured your first manager role.
You’re no longer responsible for just your own performance, but for the performance of an entire team as well. It’s heady stuff and a little intimidating. That’s good — it helps you grow as a professional and a person.
You’ll certainly learn as you go, executing new and broader duties. Even before your first day though, there are helpful ways you can prepare yourself. Let’s take a look at our top five preparation strategies for first-time managers.
5 Preparation Strategies for First-Time Managers
1. Learn Everything You Can
Devour any learning resources you can get your hands on — management training materials, articles on leadership, exercises in effective communication skills, and the like. Read through your company’s HR policies and employee handbook so that you have a better idea of what to do in any situation.
Also, bone up on the latest developments in your area of expertise. If you’re managing developers, can you confidently discuss the full scope of programming language or software tools that your team uses? If you’re in marketing, are you able to evaluate the range of skill sets being utilized by your team, and introduce new ones that can be leveraged for greater success?
2. Get to Know Your Team
If you’re being promoted internally then this is easier — you probably already know a little about the people you’ll be working with. If you’re new to the company, then you’ll need some help. Ask for the names of the people on your team and look them up on LinkedIn and elsewhere on the internet (it’s not at all intrusive; in fact, your team is likely looking you up as well).
Also, research the people managing you. Get familiar with your immediate boss, and all other executives to whom you might indirectly report. Ask HR for a company organization chart to get a view of all reporting structures. If possible, ask around about some of the key players you’ll be associating within your new role: find out what kind of personalities they have, how they manage, what type of people succeed or fail under their management, and so on.
3. Shift Your Perspective
You’ve not focused only on you anymore. Your job has now grown from executing a given set of tasks of your own to helping your employees accomplish their tasks. Take the time to step back and shift your perspective. Learn how to focus on the big picture, and to look beyond your needs to that of your team.
4. Clean Up Your Act
As a manager, your team will be looking at you as both an authority figure and as an example. You set the mood of the team. If you as a manager are consistently 15 minutes late, then it tells the team that it’s okay for them to be late, too. If you are constantly in a bad mood or are impatient, then that affects team morale and productivity.
As a first-time manager, you don’t have to be the “cool” manager (and in fact, you probably shouldn’t be), but you do have to set a good example. If you want to lead a team of professionals, act professionally yourself.
5. Adjust Your Relationships
First-time managers who’ve been promoted internally have an additional challenge, in that the dynamic of their office friendships has now changed. People with whom you’ve shared jokes and secrets are now people you have to manage. Friends who’ve covered for you and vice versa are now employees you have to direct and may have to discipline.
It’s very important to step back from these relationships in order to function properly as a manager. You can’t afford to be seen showing favoritism to old friends; you absolutely want to be objective and fair when engaging each member of your team.
In closing, first-time managers have a job that is as challenging as it is exciting. With the right preparation, you can get a big head start and hit the ground running. Go into your new role with a smart approach and an open mind, and you’ll do a stellar job!
About the Author: Mark Lewis is the Co-Founder and CEO of HelloCecil, a SaaS-based automated video interviewing platform. Mark has some serious HR chops after twenty-five years in the trade. In the early days, he was Sr. VP, Business Affairs and Human Resources for an international publicly-traded company. Later, he owned a health care business in Los Angeles where he hired, trained, and managed hundreds of team members.
Ann is a 43-year-old single mom from the east coast. Ann is a great photographer, but no one knows it because she spends most of her time helping to run her parents cleaning business. Recently, at Ann’s parent’s 40th wedding anniversary celebration, her dad made a huge announcement. In his most prideful voice, Ann’s dad said, “My wife and I are retiring at the end of the year and turning over the family business to Ann.” For some people this would be great news, but not for Ann. She likes things just the way they are. She works a few hours in the morning, then spends the rest of her day taking cool pictures of odd and interesting people and events in the community. But now Ann is torn, she really wants to pursue her photography business full-time, but she doesn’t want to disappoint her parents if she decides not to take over the family business.
This isn’t a scene from your favorite Netflix series. This is a tough situation that many children of Baby Boomer business owners are faced with every day. Their parents are retiring and expecting them to put their lives aside to take over the family business. Running a family business isn’t a “no brainer.” In fact, many businesses fold after the second generation takes over, and rarely do family businesses survive to the third generation.
6 Things to Consider Before You Take Over the Family Business
Your parent’s dream of having you take over the family business can become your personal nightmare if there’s not a strong transition plan. Before you say yes and sign your name on the dotted line to buy the company from your parents, here are a few things you must be crystal clear about before you take over the family business.
1. Decide What You Want to Do
Get clear about your personal and professional goals. What do you want to do with your career? Will running the family business make you happy? Are you prepared to buy your parents out? How will your mom or dad handle the transition? Do they respect you enough to really let you run it? Will they support your leadership? Make sure you really want the job before you take it.
2. Get Ready to Not Know Everything
Even though you may have grown up in and around the family business, you likely still need to brush up on specific operational functions. You might be able to leverage your professional education to grow and expand the business, but the most important thing to do is embrace the business culture. Define the business objectives and goals with care and make sure that you’re keeping the business relevant and generating the revenue the business needs. Digital transformation might be necessary, but rely on key experts within the company for advice. Engage outside consultants slowly. Hire people you know and trust. You must know what each of the employees is good at and help them grow. The key is knowing where to turn when you need expertise. Do not connect only with managers, but those at the front lines of service to make sure you are getting an accurate view of the company and customers from all angles.
Studies show family business successions tend to be more successful when there is more support in place to give incoming leaders assurance and resources. However, 70 percent of these businesses fail due to a disconnect between incoming leaders and their employees.
To avoid becoming a statistic, shadow as many key employees as possible to gain insight into your company’s workflows. Spend the day or two in customer service, ride along with a salesperson, spend time in the shipping department. Get involved and connect with the employees to garner their support and trust. By meeting with staff and involving them in the transition, instead of maintaining business as usual, you may be able to refine their workflows as well as identify untapped staff with skills that can provide the business with more value in a different department. Build rapport and empathy for your employees. Ask them how things could be run better. Engaging staff early also mitigates potential turnover and other losses to your business.
You are the new generation and you must earn respect before making major changes to improve the business.
3. Maintain the Company Culture
From handwritten notes to simply remembering an employee’s names, the personal touch will ensure that your company’s values are always realized in every aspect of its operations. My mother taught me a lot about business ownership. As a former manager of senior citizen apartment buildings, she built bridges between residents, staff and the community, and made sure the staff and residents felt valued. Holiday celebrations were planned for tenants who had no family; school children would come and sing and make valentines cards. The most fundamental value of any business culture is that everyone feels like they are a part of something bigger. Treat employees like you care about more than the bottom line. Provide them with care and support—and they will work harder for your company, as a result.
In addition to offering generous benefits, it’s crucial to have frequent and open communication with staff. It’s important to do regular informal check-ins with employees between formal managers meeting, which should be weekly. Even if you can’t be everywhere at once, leverage technology to communicate with staff. Don’t let the rumor mill take over in your business.
4. Mastering the Hand-Off
It could be tough for your dad or mom to give up control. You might need a consultant or exit planning coach to help develop a plan. You also need to gently but firmly restructure any stake they hold in the business to reflect the move forward. Encourage them to become involved in activities that do not immediately affect your bottom line or outside philanthropic and community initiatives. If you are in charge, you need to look like it. Your parent in the CEO role will need to give up their office and they must not allow people to go around you and use them to intervene. As an incoming leader, it is important to acknowledge those who’ve paved the way. Reach out to decision-makers across all departments and offer to have them serve as your mentor. Also, empower managers to give you constructive feedback. This secures their support over the long-term and reassures them that the change in leadership doesn’t threaten their livelihoods or alter company culture.
It is important to create allies early on and weed out those who may not support you and, intead, hinder growth. It’s not always easy, but having honest conversations earlier on prevents damage to your business. Successions are not only a great way to enhance your organizational structure, but also an opportunity to evaluate the business model and pursue new target growth in areas that may not have been apparent to the previous leadership.
6. Putting It All Together
As you assume your new role, keep in mind your job is to not only achieve success for your organization but to cultivate the next generation. Family businesses are often entrenched in the local community, so reach out to leaders in nearby business organizations as well as supportive peers to help your transition go smoothly.
Immerse yourself in business operations and the organizational structure as soon as possible. Make sure to empower managers to share ideas and feedback to ensure a smooth transition. Finally, make sure that all family members are on board in terms of your objectives for the firm and boundaries in terms of communication and management style. A successful succession maintains the integrity of your family’s legacy, maintains employee morale, and most importantly, prepares your company for its next phase of growth.
It is one thing to grow up in the family business and another to be truly qualified to take the reins. Whether the business is a mom-and-pop shop or a manufacturing company or you are an emerging leader in a given field, it’s important to have a deep understanding of the business as well as demonstrated skill in navigating your organization’s culture. Taking over your family business may be a daunting task, but establishing clear objectives early on—from onboarding to team-building—can save you huge expense and relationships in the long run.
One last thing…
If you’ve taken over your family’s business and it has cash flow or staffing problems, fixing them on your own is the worst thing you can do. So, before you have another long night or tough conversation, let us help you get your family business back to running smoothly. That way your parents remain happy, and you can keep your stress down! Don’t worry; not only can we help you but we are very discrete, so go to http://succeedasyourownboss.com and click the contact button. Someone from my team will follow up with you within 24rs.
Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview about intellectual property and trademark with Andrea Evans @evansiplaw. Andrea is the owner of the IP law firm, The Law Firm of Andrea Hence Evans, LLC. She is a graduate of George Washington Law School, Spelman College, and Georgia Tech. For more information:www.evansiplaw.com/book
SmallBizLady: What is intellectual property (IP)?
Andrea Evans: Intellectual property is divided into three types – patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Patents protect inventions. Trademarks protect brands. And copyrights protect written works.
SmallBizLady: What types of things can be trademarked?
Andrea Evans: A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols, or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others. Names, words, images, sounds, objects, scents, and colors that are used to identify and distinguish goods and services and that are used as a source identifier can be protected by federal trademarks.
SmallBizLady: What is the benefit of registering your trademark federally with the USPTO?
Andrea Evans: The key benefit of federal registration is the legal presumption of ownership of the mark and the exclusive right to use the mark for the goods and services identified on the federal registration.
SmallBizLady: How do you determine the cost of your trademark application?
Andrea Evans: The USPTO has 45 classes. Each class has a fee starting at $225/class. Expect to pay attorneys fees plus the USPTO fees.
SmallBizLady: What makes a trademark weak or strong?
Andrea Evans: Brands are on a spectrum ranging from weak to strong. Weak terms are generic, and generic terms can never be trademarked! Consider creating a word or using a term that is arbitrary, similar to Apple for computers.
SmallBizLady: What’s a common myth about trademarks?
Andrea Evans: A common myth is that owning a domain name means that you own the trademark and vice versa. The truth is that owning a domain name does not necessarily mean that you own the trademark or vice versa. If the domain name functions as a source identifier, it can be registered similar to match.com.
SmallBizLady: Is a trademark search necessary?
Andrea Evans: Although it is not required, it is recommended to search your trademark before filing a trademark application. Searches can be conducted at www.uspto.gov but consult with an attorney for a professional search.
SmallBizLady: What is the difference between TM and symbol ®?
Andrea Evans: The ® symbol may be used once the trademark registers at the USPTO. The TM symbol can be used prior to registration.
SmallBizLady: How long does it take to register a trademark at the USPTO?
Andrea Evans: It can take at least 2-3 months for the trademark application to be assigned to a Trademark Examining Attorney at the USPTO. Once examined, the mark is published for a month, and if it is not challenged, it registers. The entire process can take up to one year.
SmallBizLady: Is it required to work with an attorney to file a trademark application?
Andrea Evans: Although it is not required, it is recommended that you work with a qualified trademark attorney. Remember, the application is a legal document, and you want to ensure that you have been counseled and understand all options.
SmallBizLady: Do international trademarks exist?
Andrea Evans: There is no such thing as an “international” trademark, but trademarks can be registered in other countries. Each country has its own laws, and it’s recommended to consult with foreign counsel, as needed.
SmallBizLady: Do trademark registrations expire?
Andrea Evans: Yes. However, if renewal documents are filed timely and you continuously use the mark, the trademark will be maintained. Coca-Cola has owned their registration since the 1800s!
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.