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Every day, everywhere around us, there is an abundance of fear. No matter who you are, your age, or your profession, you are afraid of something (and probably more than just one thing). These fears can be anything from creepy crawlies, heights, public speaking, and natural disasters. These fears aren’t completely unwarranted. Fear is a basic instinct; a means of survival ingrained in our fight-or-flight response. But just because fear is a natural reaction, doesn’t mean that fear has a place in your business, especially if your fears are holding you and your business back from being a success.
The world of self-employment is ripe with opportunities for fear to creep up and rear its ugly head. Making follow-up phone calls, resolving customer issues, or presenting to potential clients can all feed into many kinds of fears. The difference is if you choose to take the opportunities to face your fear and push your business to the next level.
One of the first steps toward overcoming your fear is to identify the fear itself. You can do this by taking a mental inventory of your fear and jotting them down. If you find you’re having a difficult time compiling your fear, consult a colleague, peer, or business coach to help you brainstorm the fears that are possibly holding you back in your business. Once you’ve written down these fears, review each and assess if these fears are based on real-life experiences or if they are based on your own assumptions.
Of the fears that are based on real-life experiences, recall what about the experience led you to your fear. Take time to really analyze and reflect on the overall situations and circumstances. Was this a one-time experience or is this reoccurring? How did you handle this experience? Was everyone involved satisfied with how you handled this experience? Did you garner any lessons learned from this experience?
Of the fears that are not based on real-life experiences, try to identify a common thread or theme between them. Do they tie into fears of rejection, confrontation, public speaking, failure, or something else?
After you have identified and assessed your fears, then talk them out. Confide in your network, discuss them with other trusted business owners, and get other perspectives. You don’t have to face your fears alone! Work with an experienced Business Coach to create a specific action plan to help you overcome your fears, gain closure, and move forward.
Working for yourself is scary enough! The last person you need getting in your way is YOU! Choosing to work hard and face your fears isn’t easy, but it sure is worth it!
An old adage encourages us to “stop and smell the roses.” However, in our fast-paced world, it seems as if many of us heed this advice. We rush through life, constantly dashing from one appointment to the next without ever stopping to breathe. We like everything fast: fast food, fast internet, fast cars, etc. Although there is a time and place for busyness, it is crucial for everyone, be they management or staff, to relax. Everyone needs a break.
My son has a teacher who shared feeling consistently overworked. Everyone seems to want his attention and demand a great deal of his time. It became extraordinarily difficult for him to keep up. Even his weekends became filled with school activities. As a result he instituted a new policy for his life, once a month he would be taking a day off. This helped tremendously with relieving stress and reevaluating what was important, and made him a more effective teacher and leader.
All too often, I see people who are burnt out. Business owners who are worked constantly and eventually become tire of everything. They quit; sell the business, and either retire or go back to their old job, in many cases abandoning a lifelong dream. Pro athletes do this all the time.
Their lives become so consumed with the sport that they no longer enjoy it. It becomes a chore rather than what they love. However, if you asked someone who burned out 5-10 years ago if they regret it, he or she would respond “absolutely.” Don’t be afraid to take personal days, at least once a quarter. Don’t get so caught up in your work that you begin to hate it, and don’t forget to see the forest through the trees.
All too often, I hear excuses for why something did not happen the way it should have. People always search for ways to absolve their guilt by blaming their issues on something else. I have found throughout my career that there are three major categories of excuses:
The “It’s good enough” excuse
This is one of the most common excuses. Someone will do a passable job, scraping by, but quit as soon as possible with the excuse that what they accomplished is good enough. They are not striving for an “A” or for real quality work. Merely scraping by with a “C” or adequate work is good enough. However, if you want to make your business truly exceptional, meaningful, a true world-changer, this is not acceptable. You will never get ahead with “good enough”. Would you yourself do business with just “good enough”?
The “I’m new at this” excuse
Along this same line, people who are new at something feel that they have a right to give themselves a bit of slack. Although there is something to be said for the learning curve, all too often it becomes an excuse to slack off your first few months. However, the opposite is true; you need to be ready from day one. Otherwise, you get trapped in a cycle where the “I’m new at this” excuse becomes a “good enough” habit.
The “I didn’t plan for that” excuse
We all have moments that make us go “Oops!” If you have any doubts about that, I have a board game called Leverage to show you. Even though there are some unexpected developments, you cannot simply say “Oh well.” You need a plan B, as well as a Plan C, D, & E. Be prepared for any and all eventualities, because you never know what will happen in the future. An employee may walk out on you, or there may be a sudden shortage of your product. When that happens, what will you do? Seriously think about a variety of scenarios and create plans to put in place before you need them.
Ultimately, complaining about a situation does nothing productive for you or your business. What you need to do is isolate the problem and identify a solution. Don’t waste ages explaining your problems to your friends and colleagues, only to ignore their advice. Instead, get to the root of the problem, follow through with the corrective solution, and move on with your business. The art of self-correction is among one of the most important business lessons you will ever learn.
Whether you’re buying your morning cup of coffee, holding a door open for a passerby, or letting a fellow driver merge in front of you, most likely you hear two magic words: Thank You. You hear it most every day, probably more than once. But how often do you SAY it? Do you feel that you say it enough? And do you make it a point to show it?
Steven Covey, bestselling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, puts it this way: "Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival, to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated." [emphasis added]
Chances are your clients have a number of providers, services, companies, and products to choose from, and they have chosen to support you and your establishment. With the holidays just around the corner, this is one of the best seasons to show your gratitude and appreciation for all of the people who make your business possible!
Here are some easy ways to show your appreciation throughout the season (and all year long):
- Mail your clients a thank you card. In the hustle and bustle of this email age, correspondence can get buried in junk boxes, scanned over and quickly forgotten, or overlooked completely. Sending a good old fashioned card in the mail provides your customers with a token of appreciation they can hold in their hands, feel with their fingers, and display for their friends and family.
- Pick up the phone and actually tell them how much you appreciate them. When is the last time you actually spoke to your customers, not about business but about them? Building a lasting relationship is crucial to keeping quality customers. To build relationships, you must seek to understand the uniqueness of each business and make time to verbally share how much you appreciate them and why.
- Give your clients special offers or promotions. This is an especially great way to show appreciation to your patrons who purchase in high volumes or frequency, who often refer you to their network, and who have been loyal customers to you and your business. Speak with a business coach to plan the best way to offer these promotions and also stay within your budget.
- Give your clients an inexpensive thank you gift. These gifts can be as simple as a coupon or discount on their next transaction. They can also be gift certificates for coffee or yogurt, housecleaning, courier services, etc. Giving gift cards can be a great way to refer your favorite small businesses to your clientele. Again, you may want to speak with a business coach to assess a good budget for you to give gifts without breaking the bank.
If you already incorporate customer appreciation into your business, then pat yourself on the back for a job well done. If you would like to start doing so, work on focusing your attitude on gratitude this holiday season...a little gratitude can go a long way!
The holidays are upon us, and too many times we find ourselves procrastinating during the last fiscal quarter of the business year. Have you evaluated the success of your annual goals? How much time and research have you put into setting new goals for next year? What is the state of your office and equipment? Will you be making any changes? Are there expenses this year that you will not need to add to your budget for next year? Are there additional major expenses that you will need to be planning for? What is your marketing plan going to entail for the next twelve months? These are just a few of the questions that are waiting for you to answer in the upcoming weeks.
What inevitably happens is that we feel like we have a lot of time to complete these final tasks, but in reality we have very little time between October 1 and December 31. Between holiday closures and holiday parties, the actual work days are significantly reduced. If you want to have a successful 2014, you have to begin planning for it now!
Here are 5 incredibly important tasks to complete by December 31!
- Revisit successes from 2013. Are there identifiable actions that made the difference in your success this year? Are these actions transferable in other areas of your business? If so, plot a time frame in your calendar to implement action steps in the first or second quarter of 2013.
- Revisit failures from your 2013 experiences. What are the lessons you learned from your failures? What are the specific actions that led to the downfall, and can you identify the same type of potential course in other areas of your business? Plan for an intervention to prevent experiencing the same type of failures during the next fiscal year.
- Contemplate how the year end of your business will look this time next year. What will be the major difference between the last quarter of 2013 and 2014? Have you set the appropriate goals in place to get you there?
- Plan for success. Some of the most successful achievers meet their goals because they write them down, dissect them into their simplest form, and set dates to meet every little baby step along the way. One of the most valuable tips they share is to read through your goals EVERY DAY.
- Get another person’s perspective on your achievements for 2013. Talk to a business coach, mentor, financial advisor or other business professional. You may be very excited that you ended the year with a great deal of money or may be concerned because you sold to less people this year than last. A professional can help ask questions you may have not thought about. It’s nice to have a bit of money in the bank at the end of the year, however if you have a large amount of credit card debt as well, there may be another perspective on how successful this year really was for you. You may have had less clients, however if the quantity of purchase from those clients has significantly increased, you have successfully gain the trust that your company can handle large orders and indeed, you had a fantastic year.
Don’t head into the New Year blind. If you plan your time, thoughts, and actions wisely during the last three months of this year, you will be setting yourself and your business up for an incredible 2014!