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If you are thinking about hiring a small business coach you want to make sure that you hire the right one for you. You want a coach with a great track record of helping other business owners. However, how can you qualify a small business coach as the best one when you don’t know what you should look for?

The truth is that over the last few years there has been a surge of small business coaches, life coaches, and consultants. Many of these people take a weekend course and jump into the market. There is a huge variety of people who decide to begin coaching others when in truth they’ve never owned a business.

Here are 8 things that you need to look for when hiring a small business coach:

#1: You Should Share Mindset And Chemistry:

When you want to hire a small business coach, you want to make sure that you both share the mindset as well as you have chemistry. So, in order to discover chemistry, be ready with questions. If you are speaking with a competent coach, they will have lots of good questions for you too. Try to see what’s going on their minds and see how you can relate to them. A small business coach will be there to help you, but you want to make sure that the coach is the right kind of person that you will want to receive help from.

#2: The Small Business Coach Needs To Hold You Accountable:

One of the most important things that you should look for in a small business coach is that he is able to hold you accountable to things you want to accomplish. He needs to be pro-active and not reactive. He doesn’t need to say yes to all the things you believe are are true. A small business coach needs to understand your company, its mission, vision, values and your overall goals. It is then up to him to hold you accountable for your actions.

#3: A Small Business Coach Needs To Be Honest:

Honesty is always the best policy. And as a small business coach, the person that you decide to hire needs to be honest, to tell you what you need to hear and not what you want to hear. After all, you are hiring a small business coach based on his past experience as well. An experienced business owner and coach will be able to coach you out of real business experiences.

#4: Look For A Small Business Coach Who Has Different Skills From Yours:

Are you a gifted sales person? Then you need someone who can teach you operations. Are you strong in accounting? Then you may need someone who is strong in sales and marketing. There’s no point in hiring a small business coach who’s best skills are your best skills as well. Instead, ensure that the small business coach that you hire has different strengths than yours.

#5: Ensure The Small Business Coach Level Of Commitment:

One of the things that can be said about the best small business coaches is that they are not just one more employee. He needs to be someone who truly wishes you and your small business the best and that he is willing to work hard, side-by-side with you.

#6: Look For Someone Who Likes To Teach By Example:

The reality is that reciting idealisms can be done by almost everyone, no matter if they are a small business coach or not. However, it will be a bit harder to find someone who is not only willing but who actually likes to teach and lead by example. And these are the true leaders: the ones who do less talking and more walking.

#7: Don’t Search For A Coach; Search For A Mentor:

While the best coaches can work pretty well on almost any industry and at every business states, the truth is that it is rare to find someone with this degree of experience and who is willing to work with you and your small business. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t step aside from experience. In fact, the best small business coaches have a lot of experience since they are also entrepreneurs, just like you.

#8: Hire A Small Business Coach Who Accepts His Failures:

We’re not perfect. And you can’t assume that your small business coach will be perfect either. It’s undeniable that he will make mistakes when he is working with you. However, the main difference between hiring or not hiring someone for the job is their ability to accept their failures.

The truth is that you can learn a lot more from failures than from successes. So, you need to see them as a way to learn, to discover new things, new approaches. So, by taking failures this way, a good small business owner should be willing to talk about his past failures and what he learned from them.

The fact is that you are a small business owner looking to grow your business. You not only acknowledge that you have limitations and that you don’t have all the skills you should have. Take a pro-active attitude to deal with it. Find the best small business coach for you!

The post What to Look for in Hiring a Small Business Coach appeared first on Small Business Coach Associates.

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The reality is that running a small business is no piece of cake. Between managing employees, administration, marketing, taking care of the clients, chasing leads, managing your online presence, among so many other tasks, you just don’t have time for anything. In this article we will discuss how the best small business owners manage their time.

While we would like to tell you that you can relax, the truth is that a small business owner carries a lot of responsibilities and he never ends up being busy. However, there is a noticeable difference between being busy and being overwhelmed.

So, in order to stop being overwhelmed, you need to manage your time the best way you can. Here are some of the best tips that every small business owner should use to better manage their time:

#1: Set A Schedule And Stick To It:

Yes, sticking to a schedule is easier said than done. But if you don’t even try setting a schedule, how can you be sure that it won’t work for you?

When setting a schedule, you need to have a daily calendar that displays all your tasks and goals for that day. The truth is that if you’re not an organized person, you need to improve your organizational skills. When you’re not organized, you end up losing a lot of time throughout the day. You can even have specific days for more generic tasks. You can set Mondays for billing, for example, Tuesdays to have stakeholders meetings, employees meetings, and so on. Even better, block specific times of the day for your most important tasks such as marketing. Besides defining your entire schedule, you need to stick to it. This is crucial.

#2: Stop Multitasking:

Whoever said that multitasking was a great skill everyone should have clearly doesn’t understand keys to success. The truth is that when you are not focused on a single task, this task will take you a lot more time to complete and it may not even be done correctly. And all because you weren’t focused on it. Learning to focus on the important will pay huge dividends.

#3: Start Delegating:

Many small business owners are terrified of delegating. We even understand this feeling up to a certain point. The truth is that you made a strong bet by opening your small business and you believe that you just need to be on top of everything; that no one knows how to do things like you.

However, this isn’t the right approach when you are looking to grow your business. The reality is that as a small business owner, you likely spend a lot of time doing tasks that could be easily delegated to others. And your employees may be able to do it faster than having you do the tasks yourself. And the truth is that no matter how hard you work, there are skills that you have and others that you can develop. But you just can’t do everything well. So find someone you can trust for a specific task and delegate it. Start slowly. Show them how to do a task, let them help you do it, then help them while they do the task and finally watch them do it all by themselves. One of the persons who can be a great help in the process is a small business coach. He can tell you which areas you should keep for yourself and the ones that you should delegate.

#4: Don’t Forget To Include The Time To Rest:

We are not just talking about resting during the holidays or over weekends. We are also saying that you need to take frequent and regular breaks throughout the day. While you may think that this is only a way to lose even more time, the reality is that your brain needs to pause to keep performing at peak levels.

#5: Take Good Care Of Your Space:

Organization is one of the skills that every small business owner should have. The truth is that when you have your desk filled with papers, with file folders all over the place among others, you can’t even find anything. So make sure that you unclutter your desk right away and maintain it organized. This will increase your overall productivity.

 #6: Get Rid Of Your Time Wasters:

 Every small business owner has their own time wasters. It may be checking your email, checking social media, or deciding on where you are going to lunch. These can all be time wasters that can be easily avoided. So, just identify yours and do whatever it is necessary to get rid of them.

 #7: The 80/20 Rule:

This is the most important thing to master. You probably already heard about the 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle. In case you’re not sure about what it says, it simply states that 80% of results come from 20% of effort. While this may seem exaggerated, the truth is that you just need to make a clear difference between what requires your attention and what is actually important. So, you should then focus 20% of your time on those really important tasks. Block your calendar every day for inclusion of the most important tasks into your routine. Don’t allow anything or anyone to distract you from doing this every day.

 As you can see, there are many things you can do that will allow you to be productive, busy, but not overwhelmed. The best small business owners manage their time with these strategies. And you’ll even have the time to take several breaks throughout the day. So, what are you waiting for? Start creating your own schedule today. For more ideas, read this article on how to profit through time management.

The post How the Best Small Business Owners Manage Their Time appeared first on Small Business Coach Associates.

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Are you frustrated by not being able to attract top employees to your company? Do you find it hard to know how your competitors manage to attract top people? Or are you asking yourself why they choose another company instead of yours? There are many questions to ask yourself when it comes to attract top quality employees to your business. These questions need answers.

For many companies, it’s becoming difficult to attract top quality employees, particularly if the people you are after are a younger demographic. Attracting and retaining younger employees gives you the opportunity to manage performance, create leadership teams, reduce overhead cost and above all increase your ROI. Here we have put together top techniques that will help you on your quest of attracting top employees to your company.

Make your company well-known in your respective industry

No one wants to associate with a dying brand. Frequently top employees will go for companies that are well known. If you are well known many will go out of their way to be associated with your company in one way or another. How can you attract skilled employees if your company is not even known locally? The best way to make your company known is through:

  • Building and engaging following on social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+.
  • Run informative blogs and ads that attract the attention of prospective employees.
  • Join in community initiatives in and outside your locality.

Make sure you offer employees flexibility

Most talented candidates love where they have bargaining power. They perform better when they have flexibility in what they are doing. Nowadays, most people don’t want to be tied behind their desk all day. Some will ask for reduced working hours, other will ask to work certain days a week, while others want to have the time to work at home taking care of the kids and other family issues. The sooner you notice this, the sooner you are going to attract top employees to your company. Instead of focusing on the time your employees clocked in and out, concentrate on what they deliver; did they meet their target?

Have magnetic salary offers

One secret that successful companies know is how the use employee value proposition or EVP. Most employees love to get what they deserve for what they give. This may come in a variety of ways, but the most appreciated one is through salary packaging. To attract top talents, you need to offer pay flexibility in addition to work flexibility. Allow them to use purchases out of pre-tax income to get benefits like a car, retirement savings, and even personal computers.

 Establish your unique selling proposition

The whole idea of wanting to employ top employees is for your brand to stand out from the rest. To attract potential applicants, you need to establish a unique selling proposition for your employees. Let these applicants know the reasons why they need to choose your company. Your brand’s unique selling proposition could be your workplace culture, employee benefits or dress down Fridays. Come up with something unique to attract potential applicants.

Recognize achievements

After attracting top skilled employees, you need to make them feel valued. Chance are, if they don’t feel like you value them, they will look for someone else and move on. Fancy staff awards or holiday trips are not necessary though they are great options. Complimenting them on their achievement is most certainly a way to start. Also, a “Thank You Note” will go a long way to motivate them.

Mentoring and training

Top employees want to improve themselves and their careers. They want an environment where that can progress and develop both as a person and a professional. Offering mentorship and training programs are an excellent way to attract quality employees. You don’t need to send them to expensive management courses. There are informal ways you can use. It might be launching a development program, internal mentorship program or an educating management course.

Offer clear development pathways

For quality professionals, personal and professional development is something they value. Ask yourself:

  • Do you offer clear development pathways for growth?
  • Do you offer your employees challenging and rewarding tasks?
  • Do you promote them when openings are created?
  • Offer development pathways, especially for senior leadership and high-level executive roles.

Winning the hearts or top talents is something that requires more than just telling them you want them. It involves creating clear career pathways, offering mentorship and training, using technology as a game charger and above all creating your company’s unique selling proposition. Remember that quality workers do the most work and most certainly the quality work. Finding and keeping them should be your company’s priority. Here’s a link to more information about retaining your employees.

The post 7 Ways to Attract Top Quality Employees appeared first on Small Business Coach Associates.

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I’ve been coaching small business owners for 16 years and during that time I’ve used a number of free marketing strategies to grow their businesses. Some might refer to these strategies as Guerilla Marketing Strategies. Here are 7 free marketing strategies that work well for my clients:

  1. Create a “Drip Campaign.” Most business owners focus on “now buyers” only, which make up between 1% and 5% of buyers. Doing so ignores over 95% of buyers: future buyers and soon-to-be buyers! Furthermore 80% of all sales are made between the 5th and 12th point of contact. Most business owners will try a marketing tactic once or twice and give up. A drip campaign is a way of contacting your prospects in multiple ways over a period of time so that they will come to know, like and trust you. You can use email, postcards or other media to stay in touch with prospects. Developing a strategic, long-term approach by marketing to your prospects will position you to be the go-to company when your prospects get ready to buy.
  2. Enter into the conversation in the head of your prospect. When your prospects arrive at your website or see your other marketing information the last thing they are interested in is you, your team, your name, or your story. All they care about is themselves and what they need. Create your messaging that directly addresses their need; that includes your content and your images.
  3. Make your client the hero. Many business owners set themselves up as the hero on their marketing materials. You are not the hero; your client is! Show your prospects that your clients are the real heroes in the story. You are just the guide that helps them to win the day.
  4. You have 5 seconds to do this. In our “A.D.D.” world when someone visits your website you have five seconds to 1. Communicate what you are selling. 2. Show how your product/service benefits their life. 3. Shows how they can buy what you are selling. If you can convey these three things in five seconds you have a chance at keep them on your site for longer.
  5. Create Joint Ventures. One way to get plenty of leads to your business is to create joint ventures with non-competitive businesses that also serve your client base. An example could be businesses that do pest control, pool service, lawn service, and painting. These businesses can keep their eyes open for referral opportunities for each other. Meet with your potential joint venture partners and setup a referral fee to one another. Now you will have several other salespeople representing you.
  6. Be proactive about getting testimonials and referrals. Word of mouth advertising is one of the most effective ways to grow your business. Check out this article to get more information about social proof and getting testimonials.
  7. Reactive past customers. One of the fastest ways to grow your business is to go back to past customers and reengage them. They already know you and trust you. Simply go back to them and ask them what it would take for you to win them back. You may be surprised to see how many you can win!

In summary you don’t have to pay a lot of money to be successful in marketing your business. Keep your customers in mind as you create your free marketing strategies: show them that you care, and persist in reaching out to them and you will see your sales and customer satisfaction grow!

Questions about free marketing?

Call us at 1-888-504-0777, or email us:

The post 7 Free Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Business appeared first on Small Business Coach Associates.

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With our robust economy, unemployment levels are at record lows. To find and retain your employees is one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses. And costly! Experts estimate that it costs between $10,000 to 1.5 times their annual salary to bring on a new hire.

What can business owners do to keep their employees? Here is a top ten list.

1. Keep Your Vision, Values and Mission in Front of Your Team

There is a saying that “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Once you have clarity of where you want your business to be in five years, what your company does for customers, and how you want your employees to treat each other and your customers then make sure you reinforce your VVM at least weekly in your meetings and other communication. Having a compelling vision keeps employees excited, and more importantly keeps YOU excited!

2. Encourage Your Employees To Grow Within and Outside Your Business

Offering promotion from within is a powerful motivator to your employees. To demonstrate that you are preparing them for promotion, find ways to train them.  Some examples of this can be implementing a training program, or using outside resources and tools (such as workshops, books, online courses, etc.). Doing this can create a powerful incentive for your team members to stay over the long haul. Something as simple as creating a book of the month club can work wonders.

3. Involve Your Employees in Your Strategic Planning

Once you have developed your plan, bring your employees in and share your vision, values and mission with them. Enlist their ideas and input in brainstorming sessions to create actions for the plan and then assign the employees with the ideas to carry out the task. This creates buy-in from your team.

4. Encourage Employees to Be Creative

Many companies say they value creativity but they don’t have any initiatives to support creativity. Below are some possibilities:

Offer rewards for creativity. Recognize and reward employees that contribute ideas that you implement.

Provide a private and public way of sharing ideas. Some employees don’t want attention and others do. This can be as simple as a suggestion box for private comments and a meeting forum for public comments.

Develop a fun working environment. Foster a caring and fun working environment to encourage spontaneity.

5. Deploy and Reinforce Your Values In The Workplace

The Golden Rule in the workplace when fully deployed can create a great sense of belonging and loyalty. A culture of respect can be fostered by implementing many of the following strategies: feedback, recognition, encouraging creativity, collaboration, and so on.

It is essential to empower your team members with kindness and thoughtfulness and to reinforce those values when practiced(and confront team members when not practiced).

6. Catch Your Employees Doing Something Right

Leaders tend to focus on problems and sometimes employees can get burned in the process. Stephen Covey wrote about making “Emotional Deposits” with people. If you build up their “Emotional Bank Account” then you position them to make a withdrawal when you need to provide constructive criticism.

Make it a point to look for positive acts from your team members and build up their accounts. Tell others about what you “caught” your employees doing.

7. Offer Competitive Compensation

Many business owners are stuck in the past with wages and are losing their employees to their competitors.

Your team members need to be able to cover their cost of living, and to feel like they are doing good, rewarding work. Research what a competitive salary would be for your employees and start paying them what they’re worth. If necessary, raise your prices to give you room for pay increases.

8. Resist Changing Things Too Quickly

Changes are constant can also be very stressful. New initiatives and system changes in your company should occur, but forcing too much change too soon can cause good people to leave.

When changes are necessary, involve your employees in the process. In the same way that you involve employees in planning, get their input and ideas on how to make the changes.

A thought to remember with leadership: leaders determine “the what” and employees determine “the how.”

9. Maintain a Clean and Safe Environment

Your employees spend 1/3 of their day in your facility; you want that time to be positive. You want to maintain a safe and comfortable working environment. Conduct a walk through of your facility and write down issues that need to be improved. Ask your employees for input with this. Or bring in a friend to give you a “fresh set of eyes.”

Cleaning house should not be limited to clutter. That can also include dismissing employees that are harassing, causing distractions, or not cooperating.

10. Provide Your Employees With Technologies and Tools That Set Them Up for Success

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook new technologies and tools that can make your employees and your business successful. Check with your industry association to learn about the latest offerings.

In summary, let your employees know that you care about them. Listen to them, pay them well, promote them and involve them in your success.

The post Top Ten Strategies to Retain Your Employees appeared first on Small Business Coach Associates.

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Are you beginning to consider how you will pass your business along to your child, partner or a new business owner and experience the joy of business freedom? Do you wish to get the maximum value, pay the minimum amount of taxes, protect your family and business interest, and live the rest of your life on what’s left?

If you identify with these feelings you are not alone!  The Upcoming Boom’er Bust Business Breakfast Workshop will focus on the theme: Am I Prepared to Sell My Business? There will be 2 packed hours of practical business training for small business owners. Best of all each teacher knows the local business community and understands the needs and challenges we face in Upstate SC. You will learn things that you can take home and put to practice the same day!

Here’s a brief schedule of the Boom’er Bust Business Lunch Workshop.

Location: Commerce Club 555 Beattie Place, 17th Floor, Greenville, SC 29601

Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 7:30am- 9:15am

Cost: Early Bird $30 per person until March 6, 2018, $45 after March 6th or at the door

RSVP by March 6, 2018. Register online here: Eventbrite

7:30am Registration and Breakfast

7:45am Emcee of the Event:

by Starr McKinney, Southern Starr Productions

8:00am How Do I Maximize the Value of My Business? (The Five Steps to Freedom)

 by Alan Melton, Empire Business Brokers and Small Business Coach Associates

8:15am  How Do I Minimize Taxes Whether I Sell or Not?

   by Courtney Epps, Master Accountant, Outside the Box Business Solutions

8:30am  How Do I Protect the Interest of My Business and Family?

 by Justin Hamrick, Attorney at Law, Hamrick Law

8:45am  Retaining Your Employee Knowledge Base to Maximize Your Business Value

by Roy Janse, CFP®, AIF®, Dehollander and Janse Financial Group

9:00am Questions and Answers

Visit the link above for a full description of the topics and other details. The ultimate goal of the Boom’er Bust Business Breakfast Workshop is to prepare you for what you want; the freedom to enjoy life in or out of your business! Space is limited so reserve your seat today!

The post Private BOOM’ER BUST Business Breakfast Workshop in Greenville SC appeared first on Small Business Coach Associates.

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Do you know where your leads for your business come from?

  • Most business owners would choose “advertising” as an answer. Or word of mouth. Or referrals. Or direct mail campaigns. This may seem true, but it’s not really accurate.
  • Your customers come from leads that have been turned into sales. Each customer goes through a two-step process before they arrive with their wallets open. They have been converted from a member of a target market, to a lead, then to a customer.
  • So, would it not stand to reason then, that when you advertise or send any marketing material out to your target market, that you’re not really trying to generate customers? That instead, you’re trying to generate leads.
  • When you look at your marketing campaign from this perspective, the idea of generating leads as compared to customers seems a lot less daunting. The pressure of closing sales is no longer placed on advertisements or brochures.
  • From this perspective, the general purpose of your advertising and marketing efforts is then to generate leads from qualified customers. Seems easy enough, doesn’t it?
  •  

Where Are Your Leads Coming From?

 

    • If I asked you to tell me the top three ways you generate new sales leads, what would you say?
    • Advertising?
    • Word of mouth?
    • Networking?
    • …don’t know?

The first step toward increasing your leads is in understanding how many leads you currently get on a regular basis, as well as where they come from. Otherwise, how will you know when you’re getting more phone calls or walk-in customers?

I find that most of my clients are not measuring their leads when we begin coaching. So that’s one of the first things we begin doing.

If you don’t know where your leads come from, start today! Start asking every customer that comes through your door, “how did you hear about us?” or “what brought you in today?” Ask every customer that calls where they found your telephone number, or email address. Then, record the information for at least an entire week.

When you’re finished, take a look at your spreadsheet and write your top three lead generators here:

1 .__________________________________

2. ___________________________________

3. __________________________________

From Lead to Customer: Conversion Rates

Leads mean nothing to your business unless you convert them into customers. You could get hundreds of leads from a single advertisement, but unless those leads result in purchases, it’s been a largely unsuccessful (and costly) campaign.

The ratio of leads (potential customers) to transactions (actual customers) is called your conversion rate. Simply divide the number of customers who actually purchased something by the number of customers who inquired about your product or service, and multiply by 100.
# transactions / # leads x 100 = % conversion rate

If, in a given week, I have 879 customers come into my store, and 143 of them purchase something, the formula would look like this:

[143 (customers) / 879 (leads)] x 100 = 16.25% conversion rate

What’s Your Conversion Rate?

Based on the formula above, you can see that the higher your conversion rate, the more profitable the business.

Your next step is to determine you own current conversion rate. Add up the number of leads you sourced in the last section, and divide that number into the total transactions that took place in the same week.

Write your conversion rate here:

Quality (or Qualified) Leads

Based on our review of conversion rates, we can see that the number of leads you generate means nothing unless those leads are being converted into customers.

So what affects your ability (and the ability of your team) to turn leads into customers? Do you need to improve your scripts? Your product or service? Find a more competitive edge in the marketplace?

Maybe. But the first step toward increasing conversion rates is to evaluate the leads you are currently generating, and make sure those leads are the right ones.

What are Quality Leads?

Potential customers are potential customers, right? Anyone who walks into your store or picks up the phone to call your business could be convinced to purchase from you, right? Not necessarily, but this is a common assumption most business owners make.

Quality leads are the people who are the most likely to buy your product or service. They are the qualified buyers who comprise your target market. Anyone might walk in off the street to browse a furniture store – regardless of whether or not they are in the market for a new couch or bed frame. This lead is solely interested in browsing, and is not likely to be converted to a customer.

A quality lead would be someone looking for a new kitchen table, and who specifically drove to that same furniture because a friend had raved about the service they received that month. These are the kinds of leads you need to focus on generating.

How Do You Get Quality Leads?

Know your target market. Get a handle on who your customers are – the people who are most likely to buy your product or service. Know their age, sex, income, and purchase motivations. From that information you can determine how best to reach your specific audience.

Focus on the 80/20 rule. A common statistic in business is that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. These are your star clients, or your ideal clients. These are the clients you should focus your efforts on recruiting. This is the easiest way to grow your business and your income.

Get specific. Focus not only on who you want to attract, but how you’re going to attract them. If you’re trying to generate leads from a specific market segment, craft a unique offer to get their attention.

Be proactive. Once you’ve generated a slew of leads, make sure you have the resources to follow up on them. Be diligent and aggressive, and follow up in a timely manner. You’ve worked to get them, now reel them in.

Go here to read Part 2 of this article.

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Step 3. Your Competitive Advantages

This is the last part of a three part series. We have looked at your personal mission, your business purpose and what your customer wants. Let’s look at your competitive advantages and telling your story.

Competitive advantages are simply the things your company does better than your competitors.  They influence your customers and potential customers to use your company, rather than the competition. You and your team (especially your sales team) can brainstorm to identify what your competitive advantages are, and the ones you want to acquire.  You can begin your brainstorming meeting with reading your company purpose statement, and ask your team, “What are we really good at?”  “What do we want to be really good at?” Your final product is simply a list of things your company does well.  Knowing this will help your employees to tell your story (more about that later).

In summary, the marketing foundation of your business should incorporate the needs of owners, customers, employees, and all other stakeholders. Some other things to consider as competitive advantages could include your facility, business affiliations, and credentials such as certification, company awards, service guarantees, value-added services, technology, and the best employees.

Step 4. It’s time to tell your story

At this point, your task becomes crystal clear!  Your job is to close the gap between where your company is, and where you want it to go.  Your role as leader is ensuring your business is living it values (starting with you), heading in the direction of your vision, and accomplishing its mission daily. You set goals that will move you in the right direction, and lead your company toward the goals.  As you achieve the goals, you celebrate, and set new goals.  The process never stops; you keep taking “baby steps” toward your long term purpose.  The most important part of this process is “Telling Your Story.”

As the leader, you keep articulating your business purpose and your competitive advantages to your employees, your customers, your vendors and your other stakeholders.  You keep the vision alive by “Telling Your Story.”  Every time you tell the story, you energize yourself and your audience!  It is amazing to watch employees, customers, vendors, and other stakeholders line up behind you, and begin to help you in the achievement of your purpose.

There are limitless ways to tell your story. You can use employee meetings, customer presentations, a company newsletter, a printed purpose statement for each office, new employee orientation, discussing it during employee interviews, printing it on the back of your business cards, recording it on your telephone hold message, brainstorming with your employees how to make one aspect of your purpose statement reality, the list goes on and on.

As you do this again and again with your employees, and encourage them to get the word out, they get excited and become part of your marketing team. And speaking of marketing, your business purpose and competitive advantages will serve as the foundation to share with your advertising team, vendors, and your community.   But to keep this excitement and momentum building, you have to make sure you “practice what you preach.”

Dr. Richard Cole, COO of Blue Cross Blue Shield, says the following about product differentiation: “When positioning your company in the marketplace, don’t let anybody fool you.  It is the behavior of your organization, not what you say about it, that counts.”  You, the leader, must ensure that your employees are “walking the talk.”

In summary, to differentiate your company, write a personal and business purpose statement, find out what the customer wants, develop your competitive advantages, and tell the story again and again.  Like anything else in life that is worthwhile, differentiating your business is plain hard work.  There are no shortcuts to success.  But if you are diligent and persist, you and your customers will eventually begin to see the difference in your company, and you will have a reason to celebrate!

This article is Part 3 of 3. Read Part 1

Alan Melton co-founded and led the award winning East Coast Transportation until 2001. He has started and led 10 companies and presently serves as owner of three growing businesses. Alan is sharing his experience with entrepreneurs and executives who want to get on the fast track to achieving their personal goals.  President of Small Business Coach & Assoc., Alan is a nationally known writer, speaker and business leader.  He can be contacted at amelton@smallbusinesscoach.org or 888-504-0777.

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Alan Melton, you are the Founder of Small Business Coach Associates. Can you explain the gradual evolution of the business?

In my former business we had won some awards and I was being interviewed about our success. A magazine editor in my industry asked me to become a featured columnist for their publication. I became a board member in our industry and soon became president. Trade show leaders asked me to present seminars at their events. All these opportunities began to lay the foundation for coaching.

I began to coach local business owners, and then started Small Business Coach Associates in 2002.  My desire was to help other business owners to become successful and to avoid some of the mistakes we made. Over the years I’ve coached, taught, and mentored thousands of business owners. I now have the best job in the world!

What were you doing before then?

I had experienced the powerful impact of business coaching in my own business. After being in my first business for 7 years, we had all of the classic problems. We had grown our sales to $1million but had problems with customers, employees, cash flow, and debt. I was working way too many hours and was making too little money. I made the good decision to hire a business coach. Within 6 months my salary doubled and my work hours were cut in half. The problems we had didn’t completely disappear but they became a lot more manageable. We grew to $8.5 million and sold the business to a publicly-held company.

Why do people come to you? What prompts them to call?

Many want to dump their business. They are experiencing owner burnout, a large bad debt, loss of customers, negative cash flow, etc. Many are going through an economic turndown, divorce, or health crisis.

Others want to grow to the next level. They may have been referred to me by a friend or business contact.

Coaching is fundamentally about attitude, behavior, change and refinement. How challenging is it to help modify significant facets of your client’s lives?

For most that engage me it is easy to change attitude and behavior. They are paying for that change and they have come to a point that they must sink or swim. We work with them to develop a clear life and business vision, and then the steps needed to achieve the vision.

Some however are more challenging. Old habits die hard. We may have to change our due dates for activities, or find another person on their team that can implement the activity, or change the strategy. This is when we move more into the pure coaching aspect of the relationship and guide them to propose an alternative solution. Sometimes the expectations may need to be lowered.

Is there a commonality in the issues they are dealing with?

The most common problem I see is the business owner tends to revolve the business around themselves. All decisions are made by them. They get to be the hero. As a business grows the owner who will not delegate will eventually become overwhelmed and will burn out. They are personally performing activities that they don’t enjoy, because they think they are the only one suited to do the job.

And, what impact does your coaching have on their business? On their personal lives?

The results are dramatic and life changing. It is not unusual to see sales double, triple or quadruple. We frequently see business owners who are getting more time with their family; dates with their spouse, they can attend ball games and dance recitals. They sleep better at night. They are excited about their life.

When looking to find the right coach, what should a coach possess?

In my opinion business coaches must first have experience in running a business. They need to know what it’s like to meet payroll and to struggle with cash flow and how to sell and lead employees. Secondly they should enjoy helping others. They must be good at brainstorming and leading their clients to find their own solutions. What kind of skills and trust-instilling techniques should they have? A good business coach will be a great listener. They will be great at asking questions and going deeper with clients.

And, what kind of results do people and organizations get?

We regularly see clients with a business in the million dollar revenue range see annual profit improvement above six figures.  We guarantee that they will get double their investment in coaching back, but it’s not unusual to see a ROI of 10 to 15 times.

6. Authenticity is absolutely key towards achieving leadership. How do you define authenticity?

To practice what you preach. To walk the talk. To be what you tell others you are. Why is authenticity important in leadership?  Leaders will inspire followers to be like them, good or bad. If you are not authentic you will replicate that throughout your organization and it will likely fail.

Explain how you are taking a more proactive approach to encouraging strong business managers, CEOs and leaders to become even stronger performers?

I help business owners do what they love to do and what they are passionate in doing. Doing what you love will lead you to success because you will not quit if you are doing what you love to do. Those who persist will succeed.

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If you are like most entrepreneurs, you give little thought to planning. You are great at helping others get to their destinations, but what are you doing to get to yours? Think of business and life planning like  planning a trip; you first need to decide on your destination. In the same way that you write out a travel itinerary, write out your plan.

Begin your plan with a personal mission statement:

Your Vision. Where do you want to be in five years?  Where do you want to end up?  “We should begin with the end in mind” says Stephen Covey, author of one of the greatest self-development classics, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People or else we may “climb the ladder of success, and then realize it is leaning on the wrong wall.”

Your Values. What do you believe about ethics, spirituality, morals, customers, employees, vendors, community, etc.? How do you behave toward others? How do you treat your fellow man? What do you do to make the world a better place?

Your Mission. What will you do today to achieve your vision and live by your values?  Your mission should transport you from where you are to where your vision is. In other words, it should narrow the gap between your present condition and your future aspirations.

Your mission statement provides daily direction, purpose, and a sense of personal power. It helps you to know what makes you a unique, valuable, important individual. If you do not have a personal mission statement, set aside some quiet time to answer the questions above, and write out your own statement. Then review it every day and decide on one action to get you to your destination!

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