Three Keys to Finding the Gold in Your Business

Gold is certainly a hot commodity in today’s economy. Any gold you have is worth more today than it was a year ago. I’ll bet you have some gold you’re not even aware of, right there in your own business. Let’s see if we can find it. If you could make twice the income in half the time, would that be as good as gold to you?
Would that increase the value of your business? Sounds like a marketing rant, doesn’t it? Well, there are three basic underlying truths that, once learned and applied, will allow you to make more money while you work less. Here they are.

Simplify

Spend more time on goal-oriented activities, less on non-essentials. You want your daily activities to be adding value to your business and taking you closer to your goals. Block out specific time on your calendar for these activities and make sure they get done first. E-mail, telephone and personal interruptions steal a lot of time. Dedicate specific time to these tasks also; just work
hard to keep them from interfering with your goal-directed actions and time.
Tasks get simpler when they’re broken down into “baby” steps. When approaching a big or long term project, break it down into small segments that can be worked on and completed within a short time period (a few hours). You’ll gain satisfaction from completing the small task, and will be prepared to take the next step forward.

Tip: One of my clients says it’s much better to start with the easiest step first. That makes the next step seem easy too. Working through from easiest to most difficult prepares him for the level of thinking required at that point.
He said “I used to start with the hardest first, but that didn’t work very well because I was overwhelmed immediately. I had a tendency to put off working on such a project. Now I just do what’s easiest and get started.”

Assignment: Identify at least 3 activities that you know are stealing your time or are non-essential. Plan to allot X amount of time each day (30 minutes to 2 hours) to handle low-priority activities. Focus and schedule your time on activities that lead to your goals. Break them down into tasks that can be accomplished in a short period of time.

Standardize

Standardize repetitive tasks so that much of the work is already done before you start.You use standardized accounting
systems, computer operating systems and communication systems. It makes sense that the rest of your business can apply these same principles also. Let’s say you want to reduce the time you spend preparing a report for clients, which frequently can take you 5 to 7 hours. What are the underlying consistencies that you do each time you complete this task? What interchangeable modules
are appropriate for different circumstances? For each report you’ll start with the basic template and simply apply your thinking and your material where appropriate.
Any function which is repeated frequently can be simplified by identifying its core elements and organizing them to expedite the process. Same money; less time spent. What would it be worth to save 2 or 3 hours of your time on every project?

Assignment: Identify all the “routine” tasks in your business. Determine how you can standardize these tasks so that part of the work is already done each time. Templates, forms and worksheets are a good way to organize and standardize actions. They also help provide assurance that nothing gets lost or dropped.

Systematize

Approach your business as an overall operating system.Is it working at its most efficient or are there bottlenecks and gaps
that steal time and money? Consider the operating systems of your business: marketing, sales, production, delivery, communication (internal and external), customer service/support. What are the core elements in each of these? What is repeated consistently? These core elements (when refined and applied) are the real value of your business. It’s what keeps your business functioning and doing its job. When the systems are working properly you can go on vacation
and know that the work is getting done. It’s what a potential investor or buyer will value. The simpler and more streamlined the process, the faster and less expensive to achieve the result. More for you in less time.

Assignment: Identify which systems in your business are working well? Which could use some attention and refinement? Take those random ideas and actions that happen on a regular basis in your business; corral them, organize them and put them to work in one of your operating systems.

Apply these three principles to your business and I’ll bet this time next
year your business will be worth a whole lot more and your satisfaction level
will be much greater. You’ll know you’ve found gold.

Information Overload: 5 Ways to Cut Through the Clutter

Two or three years ago you could create a marketing campaign, send out a series of e-mails and expect a reasonable response rate. Things have changed. We’ve hit information overload and we just don’t have time to read and respond to everything we’d like.

Information overload has become a chronic problem, so if you want to reach your target you must cut through the clutter. Something has to really grab me and be super easy or I’ll just delete it. And that seems to be true for many people I speak with. So how do you move beyond information overload to reach those who will want to respond to your outreach?

Here are some strategies to consider.:

Create a Compelling Message

What are the most urgent issues your ideal customer is facing? You can ask when someone signs up for your mailing list, downloads an online item or purchases something from you. Don’t just get their name and e-mail address, send an autoresponder asking them to send you a reply. Keep it simple and as easy as possible.

Ask people you meet at networking and events what are their urgent issues. Create products and services that address the most common ones. Then create your message using keywords that have surfaced during your research.

Make It Super Easy

The other day I wanted to sign up for an event and when I looked for the time and how to sign up I couldn’t find it right away. Within 20 seconds I was gone. I just wouldn’t take the time to wade through the content to find it…and neither will your prospects.

I offer the One Page Marketing Plan, which makes it super easy to create your marketing plan. It’s a step by step do-it-yourself system with everything you need to not only create your plan, but use it as well. Simple, step by step is what you want.

Offer to Do It For Them

But some people would rather have me do it for them. Obviously I will need information from them, but once I have that I can apply my own techniques to create their plan. It costs more, of course, but for those who want a strategic plan to follow, my consulting services are perfect for them.

People want results, but they often don’t want to or don’t have time to do the work to get them. If you can do it for them or at least partially do it for them, you’ve got a strong selling point.

Make More Direct Connections

I have found that I’m much more successful when I reach out directly, one-to-one to people who are in my network. These are people who have purchased something from me in the past, have participated in an event I hosted, or are a prospect I’ve had a meaningful dialogue with.

The telephone is still a wonderful business tool. What I’ve learned works best when you’re reaching out to someone you haven’t communicated with recently is to make a phone call telling the person you’re sending them an e-mail. On the call or in the voicemail tell them what it’s about briefly, making it as compelling as possible so they will read the e-mail. Otherwise it may just get deleted without being opened.

Leverage Social Media

Business is still built on relationships. It’s just that the way in which those relationships are managed has morphed somewhat with the advent of information overload. The social media offers great tools, but be careful, because they can add to the sense of overload. Be selective and consistent and people will begin to know, like and trust you. I’m much more likely to respond to something from someone I know rather than someone I don’t know.

Newsletters are still a viable option for staying in touch, but the open rate has dropped. So I need to apply the other options as well.

Apply as many of these strategies as you can and you’ll be ahead of your competition.

The 9C’s: Help for Achieving Your Goals

Humans seem to be naturally goal oriented. We look to the future as the place where we can have more of what we want in our business and our lives. Goals are what help us bring the future into focus. By knowing where we’re going, it makes decisions a lot easier and produces better results.

In addition to determining where we are now versus where we want to be at some specified time in the future, I find it’s helpful to understand the goal achievement process in terms of sequential conceptual stages. This offers another way to look at what might otherwise seem straightforward and colorless.

The 9 elements that support goal achievement are Courage, Commitment, Clarity, Communication, Consistency, Confidence, Credibility, Completion and Celebration.

When you first consider the goals you want to work toward, you may not have confidence in your ability to reach them. So how can you reach that state of confidence? I find the best point of departure is to establish a level of courage.

Acting from a feeling of courage and commitment is the foundation upon which confidence is built. Confidence begets confidence. Credibility is confidence returned. It comes when others believe in you and your message. Completion finishes the process and sets the stage for gathering courage for your next goal. And Celebration acknowledges and reinforces it all.

Courage

— Aware of who you are and what value you offer.

Courage comes from knowing yourself, your assets and limitations, and what you can and want to do that others will value. Courage provides a feeling of strength. Aligning all your assets makes you feel strong and courageous. Supporting your limitations adds more strength. Feeling courageous prepares you to take action.

Commitment

— Making a commitment to a goal is the first step toward achieving it.

Using the courage you’ve gained from defining and aligning your assets, you must look deep in your heart for what puts the fire in your belly, what motivates you to stick with it regardless of the challenges faced. Commitment is what makes you unstoppable.

Continue reading on my blog…

The Secret Ingredient: YOU

Want to create a strong brand, add to the sustainability of your business, increase your confidence and really enjoy being an entrepreneur? Just add the secret ingredient. Billion dollar businesses have been built on the secret ingredient.

In your business the secret ingredient is “YOU” and your personal assets. It’s up to you to know who you are: your strengths, your motivators, your values, and to apply those liberally to how you conduct and present your business. A good part of what attracts customers and clients is you.

Early in life you may have been discouraged from using your personal assets by well-meaning family, friends, teachers and others. It is, however, these qualities that have the strongest potential to attract what will make you successful and happy in your business and your life.

Marcus Buckingham, noted author and speaker on the subject has shown that “people will be dramatically more effective, successful and fulfilled when they play to their strongest skills rather than attempting to improve their weaknesses”.

Think back to when you were a child. I’ll bet there are things you can remember having fun doing or that were important to you then that somehow got lost in the growing up process. Chances are they’re still there, but have been forced underground because you wanted to “fit in” and be accepted as one of the group – or there was no obvious way to use them at the time.

The wonderful thing is you have choices all the time. With every choice comes the resulting impact on your universe. Each option will bring a different set of results. If you are conscious of who you are – your strengths, passions, talents, etc., you can make choices that will allow you to benefit from these assets.

I believe we use only a small part of our brain power to a large extent because we are out of alignment with our innate nature and strengths. It’s an exercise in basic physics. We’re designed to receive our awareness energy from many sources. If our basic receptors are out of alignment, some of that energy will be deflected as it enters our multiple consciousness levels, thereby substantially reducing the energy we can use.

By realigning ourselves with our core strengths we receive the full force of that energy. This means we gain maximum awareness from our environment. We become stronger, more intuitive and express ourselves with more passion and confidence.

So how do we realign ourselves to benefit most from who we are?

Continue reading on my blog…

Got Goals? Here’s a System to Achieve Them

Which of the following scenarios describes you?

* You have specific, defined goals for next year. You’ve quantified and are prepared to carry out a written plan of action.

* You have mental goals that you think are going to take you in the direction you want to go, but you have not been taking consistent action toward.

* You know you should set goals and be working toward them, but you’re not really clear about what you want to accomplish or even what’s realistic.

If either of the last two describes you, I predict you could be in for disappointment come the end of next year. What I’ve learned in coaching business owners is that goal achievement is something everyone knows about and wants, but frequently are at a loss Brain Exchange about how to attain. Goal setting and achievement is a process with a beginning and end point with specific interim steps in between.

The game of football offers a good analogy; always seeking the end goal, but setting and achieving short term yardage goals that eventually add up
to a touchdown.

Continue reading in my blog…

7 Strategies to Prepare for Recovery

Road to Recovery.  No matter our circumstances, we all have been affected by the deepest recession in our lifetime. This summer seems to be even tougher than usual for many small businesses.

Now is a great time to take a hard look at the realities that exist, get help where needed and rethink our business strategy in preparation for recovery.

Here are seven strategies that will help.

1. Open a dialog with those you know. Mutually beneficial relationships are now, and always have been, a key to success. Reconnect with former customers, former prospects, business colleagues and friends. Ask about their plans and their challenges. How have things changed for them and what do they need now?

2. Identify your personal value and offer to give that on the terms of your choosing. Incorporate your personal values into your business. Support programs you believe in. Join selected organizations and find a way to contribute your personal value.

3. Expand your network. Seek to connect with those who are either in your target market or do business within it. Be sure to have a follow-up plan for all new connections. Limit time on social media and networking activities to only those that produce results for you. The volume of information and interactions in online networking can be overwhelming, so be ruthless with sticking to your strategies and plans.

4. Consider alliances, joint ventures and partnerships with those already in your network. These are typically low cost, high return arrangements if structured to the benefit of all parties. Such business relationships can provide flexibility, new resources and stability in a sea of chaos. For more information on growing your business using partnerships review my recent webcast,

5. Make informed decisions and take calculated risks. Before making any decisions gather all pertinent information from your business, your market, your community and the economy in general. Take calculated risks based on all the pertinent information you have gathered and analyzed. Consider the risk vs. reward relationship. You’re bound to come up with new options. As some doors close; new ones will open.

6. Remain flexible. Test your ideas on a small scale. Adjust and modify based on what you learn. Make small investments in new ideas. Set very short term goals and determine early what works and what doesn’t. Innovative ideas that prove themselves now could position you to lead in a recovery.

7. Provide yourself with ongoing support. Create a small, close network to help provide perspective. Get feedback on your ideas and concerns. Find out what others are doing that is proving successful. Ask for what you want and need.

These are actually good business strategies for building a strong business in any economy, but they are especially important in maintaining and growing a healthy business now. It’s how many small businesses are taking the lead in creating a recovery for themselves and the economy.

To learn more about business success strategies and actually apply them to your business check out the Business Success System Course. It’s the Prime Strategies self-study program that walks you through the fundamentals of building a strong and profitable business.

7 Questions to Ask If Your Business Is Struggling

Struggle
Are you one of the many small businesses whose market has dried up? Some industries that I’ve seen hit particularly hard are financial advisors, consultants, graphic designers, event planners, photographers, catering companies, esoteric retailers and many others that depend on discretionary expenditures. For some entrepreneurs it may mean cutting both their business and personal expenditures to the bare bone.

Continuing to pursue a declining or oversaturated market is only going to put you closer to the edge. When there are a lot more suppliers than there are customers something has to give. It’s time for some strategic decisions and action.

Many are taking creative, and sometimes drastic, actions to stay alive. They have recognized it’s time to save their business. [Read more…]

Planning: The Roadmap to Success

Think of a plan as a map. It’s meant to be a guide. The planning process helps us focus on the “how” of what we want to accomplish. It organizes our thinking, identifies the steps and gives us tools to monitor how we’re doing.

Those who create and write plans have a much better chance of success, yet so many people don’t follow through. Why not? We may think there’s little value in spending the time to create a plan. Also, it’s unfamiliar territory and we’re not sure what we need to do. We may carry the plan in our head, but it’s always in an abstract state. We want to take it from the abstract to the next stage of realization – putting it in writing.

Let’s assume you have taken the steps that lead you to the point of needing a plan.
After you’ve decided what you’re going to do (goals) and how you’re going to do it (strategy), you’ll need to decide the specific actions that will fulfill your strategy and lead you to your goals.

How do you know what actions to take? Keeping in mind your goals and strategy, together with the business intelligence you’ve gathered and evaluated, brainstorm a number of possible actions. You might review these with key staff and advisors; then select those that seem to have the most potential to produce desired results. At this point it might be a good idea to discuss your plans with the people who would be involved in carrying out the actions. This could save you money, time and unproductive actions. [Read more…]

How to Add Innovation to Your Business

Earlier this year a client in the executive search industry told me she was beginning to see the need for executives who can bring innovation to their position. Based on her research she chose to add innovation as a practice specialty. Her article summarizing findings are on my blog at http://primestrategies.com/?p=615 .
Innovation

Doing a bit of my own research I learned there’s an amazing body of knowledge on the subject.

Innovation is certainly not a new business concept. Jack Welch, former GE leader, was known for introducing innovation into the corporate culture there. His mission was to create the world’s most competitive enterprise. One of the ways he did that was through innovation.

The goal of innovation is positive change, to make someone or something better; to increase value in some fashion. Today’s thinking is not just about managing change; it’s about leading change.

As the leader of your business it’s up to you to set the stage for innovation.

Research the market.
Consciously be alert for new ideas that might be applied to your business. Reading what others have done (in any industry) can often trigger your thinking. Surf the internet for innovative ideas. [Read more…]

7 Strategies to Recession-Proof Your Business

We don’t yet have confirmation that we’re in a recession, but the media are certainly leading us to believe it’s imminent. I’ve spoken with a number of small businesses who are already starting to feel a slowdown.

That tells me every small business needs to take a hard look at the status of their business to make sure it can withstand a downturn. The secret is to have your Plan address spots where you may be vulnerable. Prevention n0w definitely beats fixing things after they become difficult to turn around.

Following are top strategies for weathering a downturn. They are actually good business practices in any economy.

1. Get your house in order.

Start by solving as many problems as possible n0w. Unresolved problems hurt even more in difficult times. Get your cash under control. Choose strategies that conserve and manage it. If you need help, get it ASAP. [Read more…]