Small business consulting and coaching for self-employed people. Increase your reach and revenue. Boost clarity about your business and marketing models. Get practical tips, advice, training and techniques.
At this time of the year, we’re encouraged to set our business goals for the next 12 months and beyond. But when I speak with small business owners, you consistently tell me that you can’t figure out what the future of your business looks like. You can’t imagine a year from now, and you certainly can’t imagine three or five years from now.
I think you’ve put the cart before the horse. Instead, first figure out what you value, then design your next year to create a meaningful life and career.
Here’s an eye-opener exercise that’s sure to help:
Take a piece of paper and divide it into thirds. (Here’s a More/Less Worksheet PDF you can use.) In the first column, write down all the things and feelings you’d like more of. In the middle column, write down what you’d like less of.
Don’t try to do this exercise in one sitting. Instead, do a quick, initial brain dump of your wants and needs, then walk away and let it rest for a few hours. Come back later to review your worksheet, and continue to add items as they bubble up to the surface.
At this stage, just list ideas for any and all projects that could help you achieve what you want. If you begin to edit your thoughts, you might remove a project before you know whether it would be viable.
Slowly, your future unfurls before your eyes. By imagining what you want more of and less of, you begin to imagine a future that’s exactly right for you.
When planning for 2019, remember that there are 8 ways to increase your income:
Sell more quantity of your existing offers. If you typically have 25 people in a workshop, aim for getting 30 or 40 in your next workshop. If you work one-on-one with clients, add more private clients to your roster.
Increase the price of your existing offers – Without changing your offer, increase your fees. If you’re still charging the same fees as you did five years ago, it’s time to look at your pricing model.
Increase the price and increase the value. Change your offer to be more complete and compelling, and increase your fees. Make sure that you haven’t increased the value by adding more of your personal resources, otherwise, the offer isn’t scalable. For instance, if you previously offered a six-session consulting package, and now you’re making it an eight-session package, you’ve just used up two extra hours of your time. Even if you charge more for it, are you actually making more income from it? Instead, consider adding something valuable to your clients that doesn’t require you to spend massively more money, time or resources to deliver. Do the math to be sure that the cost doesn’t outweigh the income.
Decrease the size/quantity of your existing offers without reducing the price. You see this all the time in the supermarket – a 12-ounce box of cookies now becomes a 10-ounce box of cookies, but the price stays the same. Where can you cut back and still deliver value? Which parts of your offer are not used by your clients?
Create new offers that leverage your time and resources. If you’ve maxed out of offering private, one-on-one consulting with clients, can you offer a mastermind group or workshop that maximizes your time by working with groups of clients rather than individuals? Can you create an online self-study program?
Upsell existing customers to the next level of your offering. Your clients love you and they want to work more closely with you, or they’re asking for a specific resource that you can provide. When my existing consulting clients wanted a systematic way to manage their projects, tasks, and time, I wrote a book and created a class to help them. How can you serve your existing customers better and provide what they’re asking for?
Go to the master level – teach others how to do your work. For instance, after 20 years as a small business consultant, I now teach people how to become small business consultants.
Hire others to do some of the work for you. If you typically bill out at $200/hour, can you hire others at $150/hour do the client work, and you keep the extra $50/hour as your commission for bringing in the clients? This is especially helpful when you have limited time and too many clients to handle personally, or if you want to create an agency model for your business.
Do you ever have that disturbing feeling that trying to squeeze one more piece of new information in your brain will render you senseless?
Information overload causes stress and a loss of productivity. We’re so busy gathering information that we never seem to get into action around implementing all these great ideas. And we can’t seem to put our fingers on the important information that we’ve gathered!
Here’s even more bad news: when you take in too much information, according to a Temple University study, you begin to make more errors, and worse, make more bad decisions. Can your business really afford that lack of clear thinking? (Don’t even get me started about how a hyper-connected lifestyle is bad for your physical and emotional health!)
Here are 10 tips for managing information overload so you regain control of your brain, your time and your tasks:
Remember the most important rule: YOU are in charge of your To Do list and YOU are in charge of your calendar and YOU are in charge of how much information you’re willing to receive each day. Don’t set yourself up for information overload by trying to take multiple classes at once, or trying to read more than one book at a time without setting up “assimilate and implement” time. Be selective and base all your decisions on achieving your goals while mirroring your values.
Get things out of your head and on to paper. When you take in a lot of information, your brain naturally tries to process it, to make connections, and apply it to your real life. When you try to keep all that thinking in your brain, you feel muddled, anxious, confused. Doing a brain dump and writing down your ideas, even in a quick list format, will help clear things out.
Take the most recent class you’ve attended or the most recent book you’ve read, and create a Top 3 Action Items list. Don’t create a massive To Do list of every great idea from the class or book. Instead, choose the top three things that you can take action on within a month, and put only those three things on your Action Items list. Once they’re done, you can always go back and choose three more. The point here is two-fold: start implementing what you’ve learned and do it in such a way that you don’t overload yourself.
Make a decision to make a decision. I know, it sounds silly, right? But if ideas and information are running around in your head and you’re not willing to either act on them or let them go, you sabotage yourself and hold yourself in a perpetual state of overload. Stop doing that to yourself. Instead, tell yourself, “Today I will make a decision,” then do it. You’ll feel immediately better.
When you are drowning in information, stop piling on more. It’s okay to stop watching the evening news. It’s okay to stop reading articles or checking social media sites several times a day. Each time you interact with an information delivery system, guess what? More information is shoved in your face. By taking a vacation – even a short one – from any information delivery system, you get immediate relief from information overload.
Use tools like Evernote or One Note to have a central location for storing information. As important as storing information is, retrieving it easily is even more important, which is why I moved from paper notebooks to Evernote for storing notes when taking classes, reading books or perusing articles. Evernote allows you to tag each note with keywords and sort them into folders. Notes are completely searchable, so you can have all the information and ideas you’ve accumulated at your fingertips.
Do you have competing goals? Work on one at a time. For instance, today I wanted to accomplish three things: write this blog post, create my class schedule for the next nine months, and work on a class agenda for a new program I’m designing. All of these things are exciting, and all need to get done and all required research and paying attention to incoming information. But only one of the three had a deadline: writing this blog post. So I put the other things on the back burner, and focused solely on writing this blog post. Once it’s done, I’ll choose ONE of the other two projects to work on next. You have to be willing to let go of some information, even exciting information, so you can focus on your priorities.
I’d love to hear from you: how to you cope with information overload? Are there techniques or software products you use to help you manage absorbing, processing and retrieving information?
I know you’ve heard it a thousand times: make your prospective customer feel welcome and safe while they’re learning about your products and services, and they’ll buy from you.
But when you actually see this in action, it’s a miracle to behold.
One afternoon, with several hours to spare before I had to appear at a speaking engagement in New York City, I wandered into Macy’s Herald Square. It’s one of the busiest department stores in New York, and it didn’t help that it was pouring rain and everyone wanted to get inside to dry off a bit.
So how does Macy’s welcome its customers? With the most brilliant — and inexpensive — solution that can be handed out at the door on a rainy day: Umbrella Bags. A very nice man in a very nice business suit stood at the door for hours, offering people plastic bags (with the Macy’s logo on it, naturally!) so that they could tuck their wet umbrellas away while they shopped.
You might think this is no big deal, but if you’ve ever shopped in a crowded store, trying to figure out what to do with your web umbrella is a real distraction.
Macy’s made every person who walked through the door feel welcomed and cared for. Net result: less distracted people who could focus on buying.
Now apply this to your business:
If you have an office or a place where you meet customers, how welcoming is it? What color is the decor? Do you see to their basic and common needs, like bathrooms, water, etc.?
If your business has a website, do you give them the information they’re looking for, in a simple and speedy way? Are your text, graphics and colors friendly and welcoming?
When you answer the phone or connect via video conference, how is your voice modulated? Do you act rushed or do you relax into the conversation and create a great environment?
When you answer emails, what’s the tone of reply coming off your keyboard?
Make your customers feel welcomed and cared for, and they’ll return again and again.
Did you know your business runs in cycles? The key to a successful business is to begin the process of change, growth and/or innovation before the preceding cycle of success runs out.
Over the years, I’ve had an influx of prospective clients come to me with these exact words: “I want to rethink my business.” I thought: Cool! Me, too!
For me, I want to shake things up a bit. Running my business is too easy for me. There’s not a lot of day-to-day challenge and I don’t feel like I’m reaching my full potential. I don’t know what my full potential IS — but I know I’m not there yet. Have you ever felt like that?
A great way to keep growing personally and professionally is to keep rethinking and redesigning your business model without completely wiping away everything you’ve done in the past. Take all your experience and knowledge, plus any new goals and lifestyle changes, and make a plan for your future business.
Redesigning Your Business Model
There are lots of reasons why people redesign their business model. Here are some of the ones I’ve heard recently:
One of my clients needs to take her business completely virtual so that she can travel extensively with her husband, who retired early.
Another client said he wants to make more money so that he can send his kids to college in a few years.
One of my business colleagues wants to expand the services and products he offers to his customer base, to be more “full service” and have multiple streams of income.
One of my favorites is a colleague who wants to make her business completely based on passive income by selling educational products about her field of expertise. So not only is she redesigning what she offers her audience but her marketing model as well!
And last but not least, one colleague wants to completely redesign herself, sell her existing business, and take everything she knows and loves, creating a whole new career/business for herself.
Do any of these sounds like you? If yes, are there specific reasons why you’re transforming your business or marketing model, or just a gut feeling you have? I’d love to hear your comments!